Gangeswara and Yamuneswara Temples – Bhubaneswar

The twin temples of Gangeswara (Gangesvara) and Yamuneswara (Yamunesvara) are located on Ganga-Jamuna road, about 80m north-east of Debi Padahara Tank in Old Bhubaneswar.

According to local legend, the Goddess Parvati (or Bhabani) was residing in Ekamra Kshetra (the old name for Bhubaneswar) disguised as a cowherd when the demons Kirti and Basa confronted her. She killed them by crushing them underground, and became incredibly thirsty as a result. To provide Parvati with water, Lord Shiva struck his trident into the earth and a spring appeared.

In order to consecrate the spring, the river Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna were summoned. To commemorate this incident, these twin temples were constructed during the Ganga period of rule, sometime in the 13th-14th century. You can visit the supposed site where the demons were killed at Bhabani Shankar Temple Complex a short distance from here. There you can also see two small burial temples of the two demons.

The twin east-facing temples made from grey sandstone that stand here today are not the earliest structures in the compound. Scholars believe that the Gaga Yamuna tank immediately to the north predates the temples, surrounded by an embankment with outlets for excess water. Local residents still use the tank for religious rituals and bathing purposes, the sacred water is thought to keep them free from skin diseases.

On my visit here the tank was indeed busy with bathers. As a result I felt somewhat uncomfortable walking around with my camera, and tried not to intrude as much as I could. Both temples have a square vimana with a small frontal porch, but were also both locked.

It’s interesting to note that the ground surface upon which the temples were built is at least 2m lower than the present day ground surface. I’ve seen this a few times now with temples close to Lingaraj Temple, such as Ekamreswar Temple, Kartikeswar Temple and Gouri Shankar Temple. Here some effort has been made over the centuries to preserve the original ground surface, I suspect the presence of the tank and its continued use explains how this came to be.

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