ORISSAN TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE

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Famous Ones : Temples Of Bhubaneswar




The Duel & The Jagmohana
The typical Orissan temple proper is composed of two structures: the 'Deul' and the 'Jagamohana'. The 'Deul' is the sanctum, containing the principal image of the temple and surmounted by a curvilinear spire.

Bhubaneswar Temple, OrissaThe Jagamohana is a porch for the congregation. It has a pyramidal roof composed of receding steps. In conformity with the Hindu pattern, the interior of the sanctum is generally smaller and darker than that of the porch.

All the energies of the holy are concentrated in this introverted little chamber. It is used for a glimpse of the sacred image or ritual, or individual worship under the watchful eye of the priest. The porch is more public, and used for group celebration, dancing, meditation, or reading.

The Well Planned Structures
The internal plan of both Deul and Jagamohana is square. The outer walls, however, are broken by various projections into sections known as Rathas. In the earliest temples there was only one projection, and the temple is thus 'Triratha'. This projection, whether on its own in the simplest temples or as the central one of several in the later ones is called the "Raha".

As time goes by, these projections increase in both number and ornateness. Thus the later buildings are 'Pancharatha', 'Saptaratha', and so on. These outer projections are also carried over to the spire of the Deul and are called "Pagas".

As the abode of the gods, the Hindu temple is the body of the Cosmic Man ('Prajapati') who, by self-sacrifice, created the world. It is also an idealized representation of the human figure, for the human nervous system contains the universe. Thus, the temple unites macrocosm to microcosm.

This function is particularly clear in the names of the principal parts of the Orissan temple. Both the Deul and the Jagamohana are composed of four main sections: "plinth", "base", "trunk", and "head". The plinth is optional and is missing in many temples, including some of the most important. The 'Bada' consists of the "foot", "lower and upper shin" and the 'Varanda', which separates the Bada from the 'Gandi'.

The base of the Deul is similar to that of the Jagamohana, but with the "trunk" the buildings take their distinctive form. The "trunk" of the Deul is a spire that rises steeply upward, until it flattens out near its summit. This creates the "shoulder" style of 'Shikhara', which is unique to Orissa. The "trunk" itself is divided into horizontal tiers, each marked off by fluted disks. These disks are miniature versions of the ribbed cushion, which crowns the spire.

The Jagamohana "trunk," on the other hand, is composed of a number of layers of diminishing size. They ascend to form a pyramid; the top 'Pidha' being about half the size of the lowest one.

The Head
In both buildings the "head" is separated from the "trunk" by a "neck", a recessed cylindrical portion. In the fully developed Jagamohana, this is followed by a huge bell-shaped portion. This supports the 'Amla', which is named after the 'Amalaka' fruit. The resemblance is not merely visual. The fruit is believed to have great purifying properties, and is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and yogic diet. The Amla also represents the thousand petaled lotus that opens above the head in the enlightened being.

Next comes the "skull", which is crowned by the "vessel of immortality". In the macrocosm, this pitcher stands at the summit of Mount Meru. It is from here that the goddess Ganga begins her descent to earth. In the microcosm the pitcher contains the 'Soma' juice, that flows down inside the yogi's head, purifying the subtle with bliss. In accordance with a universal symbolism, the base and "trunk" are square, representing the grounding stability of the earth, whereas the "head" is circular, as befits the creative movement of the heavens.

The "divine weapon" of the resident deity crowns the whole temple. In the case of Shaiva temples, this is Lord Shiva's mystic trident.

Inner View Of Sun Temple, Puri, OrissaThe Unique Features
The inside of the Deul also has several distinctive features. As with all truly Hindu building, the basic technique of structure is that of corbeling. Heavy slabs are laid on top of one another so that they gradually close off the inner space at the top. But there is an inherent weakness in this design, which can be seen by the numbers of spires that have collapsed inward over the centuries.

To counteract such a possibility, the Orissan architects devised a system of "false ceilings" to span the inner space of the sanctum. Opposite walls were joined by massive slabs that formed ceilings. In all the temples, there is one of these ceilings directly above the Cella, known as the "Garbha-Muda".

Moreover, in the larger temples, the hollow chamber created by the Garbha-Muda was in turn roofed off by a second ceiling. The taller the temple, the more such hollow chambers were needed. They not only insured structural stability within the corbeling system but also provided hidden chambers in which the most esoteric rites of the temple were performed.

As so often in sacred architecture, the form is perfectly suited to its purpose. Because these recondite chambers were above the image and thus "nearer" to the transcendent deity, they were the ideal place for the "higher" initiations to take place. Access to these secret chambers was often through an opening above the lintel of the sanctum doorway.

It is also noticeable that the interiors of the temples are almost invariably plain and austere in comparison with their highly ornamented exteriors. This is to encourage "one-pointedness" in the mind of the devotee. Free from the distractions of carving and embellishment, he is better able to concentrate on the image of the god within the womb-like darkness of the holy of holies.

The Sandstone Temples
The temples are nearly all built of sandstone, around an inner core of laterite, which is also the material generally, used for compound walls. The sandstone was quarried in the nearby Khandagiri and Udayagiri Hills. On the evidence of contemporary sculpted panels, it seems likely that the stones were brought to the building up wooden ramps, which were supported on wooden posts to form an adjustable type of scaffolding.

The stones were carried slung in ropes from poles. They were then laid with great precision into place on top of one another and kept in position by their weight and the use of iron dowels and clamps. No mortar was used. One unusual feature of the external decorative carving is that, to judge from unfinished temples, it was done in Situ, after the stone blocks were placed in position.

Categorization Of Temples Of Bhubaneswar
As at other sites, such as Konark and Khajuraho, the carving on the Bhubaneshwar temples may be broadly divided into four categories:

1) Hieratic deities, with characteristic iconographic features.
2) Human beings in a variety of domestic scenes. Prominent among these are the "relaxed damsels" ('Alasa Kanyas') - the nymphs that radiate on the human level the sensuous enjoyment of the divine realms.
3) Composite and mythological figures, including 'Nagas' and 'Vyalas'.
4) Geometric and floral decorative motifs.

At Khajuraho Indian temples can blur the distinction between sculpture and architecture, as whole wall surfaces writhe with figures. But here at Bhubaneswar the skill is even more refined, as the carving becomes miniscule, pitting the stone with relentless ornamentation.



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