Swarnajaleshwar Temple is situated 200m south-west of Parasuramesvara Temple in a residential area on the way to Bindu Sagar Tank in old Bhubaneswar.
This late 7th century temple is thought to have been built by the Sailodbhava dynasty, in a Kalinga Triratha style with only a vimana and no jagamohana. Surrounded by buildings and trees, getting any sort of photograph of the full temple was not possible unfortunately. However, this temple’s beauty is in the proliferation of carvings that necessitate a more closer inspection.
This is one of the earliest temples still standing in Bhubaneswar, or indeed in Orissa. Prior to the 1980s it was in a dilapidated and ruined condition but was subsequently excavated and reassembled by the State Archaeology Department. Fresh clean sandstone was used to replace any missing parts, and carved masonry that was in a good condition was repaired and fixed in the original location.
The towered sanctuary in its original state was a near duplicate of the Parasuramesvara Temple, although here the temple faces east as opposed to west. The excavations in the 1980s did not provide any evidence that a jagamohana ever existed. Scholars have concluded that this temple probably post-dates the construction of Parasuramesvara and the Shatrughaneshwar group of temples by a number of years. Unfortunately, no foundation inscription has been found here, so we will never determine an exact date.
The carvings are a joy, and a little unexpected as this temple doesn’t seem widely known about. The central niches have the usual parshva devatas, Parvati (north), Kartikeya (west) and Ganesha (south).
The panels of carvings above Parvati are particularly interesting, with scenes of people worshiping a linga, and what appears to be Shiva’s marriage. This is another example where parallels can be drawn with the Parasuramesvara Temple, as a very similar scene exists there above the temple’s eastern niche.
The temple is covered with many other scenes of episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and also the common theme of wild elephants being captured which seems to regularly appear on local temples from the 7th – 9th century A.D.
There are also illustrative carvings of a myriad mythological creatures.
There are also some fragments of sculpture lying around the temple, I presume their original location is unknown. One particularly interesting piece is a fragmentary naga (serpent) figure holding a foliated purna ghanta (full jar).
In the sanctum which was thankfully unlocked is the presiding deity, a Shiva linga within a circular yoni pitha.
Swarnajaleshwar is conveniently located between the cluster of temples near to Mukteshwar Temple, and the ancient structures around Bindu Sagar Tank. As such, it’s easy to plan your route around old Bhubaneswar to include a stop-off here, and it is well worth doing so.
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