Located on the right side of a small alleyway connecting Rath Road with Bindu Sagar in old Bhubaneswar, the temple precinct contains three temples, although the largest structure here is often incorrect known as Sukasari.
The main temple here is in fact Sari Temple, the smaller structure to the south-west is Suka Temple, and the third partially ruined temple for which the laterite compound wall diverts its course to include I am unfortunately unable to find a name for.
Recent excavations here have revealed evidence of further structures, some of which there are hints of within the compound today.
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The west-facing Sari Temple has been dated to the 13th Century A.D, and so was constructed during the Ganga rule.
The temple is wonderfully ornamented with carvings of human figures, deities, scroll work and floral motifs. Although subjected to quite severe weathering due to the soft sandstone fabric of the building, the more sheltered areas have survived particularly well.
Of particular note are the carvings on the face of the temple platform, preservation here is far superior and there’s a very good reason for that. Prior to 2014 much of this platform was buried under soil, thus protecting the carvings from both the elements and any potential damage.
The temple was then under the protection of Odisha State Archaeology, who granted permission for the ASI to take over possession prior to excavations commencing. The conservation of the neighbouring Sari temple was already the responsibility of the ASI.
The excavations started in July 2014 and in addition to fully excavating Sari and Suka Temples, the archaeologists found remains of a further five temples, some of which may date back as early as the 7th century A.D. One of the items on my bucket list is to get involved in an archaeological excavation in India, it would be wonderful to get involved in such a project.
In terms of major iconography, the only surviving parshva devata image is that of parvati in the north-facing central niche.
For me this was one of the highlights of my visit to Bhubaneswar, so much so that I returned here three times during the course of a week. I’m glad I travel with so many SD memory cards :-).
The variety of carvings is spellbinding, with meandering creepers, flowers, mythological animals, elephants, lions, and divinities, as well as secular motifs like warriors and royal figures.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the west-facing Suka Temple is considered contemporary with its larger neighbour, being built during the Ganga period in the 13th century A.D.
There is clear evidence that this temple once had a jagamohana, the footprint of which is still visible in front of the structure. Also strewn around are remains of carved masonry, almost certainly associated with this temple.
Although subjected to some serious weathering over the last 800 years, there are a handful of very well preserved carvings worthy of a closer inspection.
The third temple still standing in the complex is a bit of a mystery, as I have been unable to attribute a name to it.
It is possible that it was originally part of the neighbouring Bindhya Basini Temple, and it’s curious that the compound wall makes a point of diverting and mirroring the footprint of the temple before resuming its original alignment.
The Suka and Sari Temples seem to be rarely visited, on all three occasions I came here was was nobody around and I had the place to myself. If your time is limited in Bhubaneswar, I consider this complex one of the must see monuments in the city.
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