Papanasini Temple Complex – Bhubaneswar

Papanasini Temple Complex is located at the junction of Rath Road and Tarasundri Road, directly opposite Makareswar Temple in Bhubaneswar old city.

The complex consists of four temples, all situated to the north of the large Papanasini Tank. There is much confusion as to the names of some of these monuments , in particular the identification of Papanasini Temple from which the complex takes its name.

I think in the past people have assumed that the name of the complex must come from either one of the two larger temples on this site, which is not the case at all. I’ve done considerable research to try and attribute the correct names to these temples, so hopefully this will prove useful to people in the future.

Click on any of the images below to view in a larger format.

Papanasini and Baneswar Temples

Papanasini Temple

It may seem counter intuitive, but Papanasini Temple is actually the smallest temple in the complex, and could be easily missed as your eye is inevitably drawn to the larger more impressive buildings here.

Papanasini Temple is in the far north-west corner of the complex, and consists of a sanctum sanctorium with no attached jagamohana, it’s too small to have ever had one. Thought to date to around the 14th century A.D. and originally dedicated to Shiva, this tiny south-facing temple has no presiding deity. There is a Navagraha panel above the entrance.

Immediately to the east of Papanasini Temple is Baneswar Temple, right next to the north boundary wall. Dedicated to Shiva and with a small Nandi facing the entrance, this temple is likely to be the earliest structure in the complex now, potentially dating to the 9th century A.D.

Maitreswara Temple

Often incorrectly thought to be Papanasini Temple, Maitreswara Temple is identifiable as the structure with a partially ruined Shikhara in the complex.

It was built sometime between the 12th and 14th centuries during the Ganga rule in a Pancharatha style. The jagamohana is mostly built from laterite whereas the rest of the temple is built from sandstone, so visually the two do not blend very well together. I’m almost certain that the jagamohana is a later addition or subsequent rebuild, but I have failed to find any other source that makes reference to this fact.

There is quite a lot of beautiful sculpture on the exterior of the temple, including nagas, yalis, women dancing or in various poses, and elephant processions.

Inside the temple the sanctum entrance has a Navagraha panel with an image of the Goddess Lakshmi.

How this temple got the name Maitresvara is open to debate. Some believe it was named after Mitra, one of the four disciples of Lakulisa. Others have argued that perhaps it was constructed by Mitravati, a queen of Kashi.

Varunesvara Temple

The second largest temple in the complex I had a hard time identifying the name of, but thanks to one of my readers I think I can confirm it now. Although it is sometimes referred to as Papanasini, the actual name is Varunesvara Temple. Google Maps has the temple labelled as Labanyeswara Temple, but I have failed to find any other reference to this temple name or any variation of it. I have included it here to assist anyone who picks up the name from Google Maps.

The carvings here are not quite to the level of the neibouring Maitreswara Temple, and what does exist has been subjected to quite a lot of weathering over the centuries.

The temple is thought to date to the 15th century A.D, potentially attributed to Kapilendra Deva who founded the Gajapati dynasty. He claimed descent from the Surya Vamsha (Sun dynasty) of the Mahabharata, and ruled over much of eastern and southern India

The entrance to the jagamohana has a Navagraha panel together with an image of the Goddess Lakshmi, a further Navagraha panel is above the sanctum doorway.

Make sure you look out for a small Ganesha shrine built into the west complex wall behind this temple, it’s easily missed !

Papanasini Kund (Tank)

Immediately south of the cluster of temples is the large 11th century Papanasini Kund (or Tank). It wasn’t particularly clean on my first visit which was disappointing to see, but on a return visit later in the week some workman were there stripping the sides of unwanted vegetation, I just hope they pick up the garbage as well.

According to legend, a sage named Sajoti performed severe penance here without taking food and water for a very long time, meditating and worshiping Lord Shiva. Satisfied with his penance, Shiva appeared before the sage who convinced the Lord to allow the construction of a tank that would be filled with holy water to cleanse the sins of human beings.

Thus the tank was created and aquired the name Papanasini, meaning “cleanser of sins”.

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