The Two Categories
The temple sculptures are of two broad categories, namely the cult image and the decorative motifs. The first category includes such images as "Ganesa Kartikeya" and Durga on the external walls of a Shiva temple "Varaha", "Trivikra Nrusimha" and the ten 'Avataras' on the outer walls on a "Vishnu temple" the Dikpalas, each in its specified corner, the 'Digacharinis' and 'Vetalas' in the prescribed places, the eight or nine planets ('Astagrahas' or 'Navagrahas') in a panel on the Intel with Gajalakshmi above the panel in case of all temples.
Inspired By Religious Events
There are also gods and goddesses, and depiction of religious episodes to create a religious atmosphere. Although the cult images in a temple are the largest in number, they need not all be confined to the cult alone.
Religious synthesis is reflected through the images of 'Ardanarisvara' and 'Hari-Hara' such as at Gandharadi. The sculptors were highly imaginative for instance; all forms of Bhairavas and Durga images of conceivable types are to be seen in the temples.
The decorative motifs consist of the male and female figures, erode sculptures, semi-divine beings as 'Gandharvas', 'Nagas', 'Yakshas', 'Kinnaras', griffins, enigmatic figures, senses from military and courtly life, secular pictures, fables and stories, scrolls and arabesques, 'Chaitya' arches and lotus medallions, flora and fauna and decorative.
Some of the finest temple sculptures of Orissa are found at "Muktesvara", "Rajarani" and "Lingaraja" temples. The temple walls teem with youthful figures, delicately modeled. Their chiseled smiles defy the passage of time and the onslaughts of decay.
Presence of Erotic Sculptures
A significant feature of temple art is the presence of erotic sculpture on the outer walls to signify the fact that religion cannot he separated from real life. It also means that life is full of illusions and that desires bind us to the wheel of life and death. There are also figures of female musicians and dancers and their sculptural qualities are superb. Massive elephants, horses and lions dominate the Konark temple premises.
Besides, there are numerous sculptural treasures strewn all over Orissa. There is a sculpture of an elephant, half hewn from a huge stone near which Ashoka wrote his edicts. The nine-feet colossal figure of Lord Nrusimha in black granite is enshrined in the Jagannatha Temple premises at Puri . It is really an imposing figure depicting the fearful mood of the god with great artistic skill.
The Lion Gates
The lion-gates are an important feature of Orissan architecture. Lions are installed at the entrance of temples. That is why the temple door is called "Simhadwara". The lions are not sculpted naturalistically. They have big sharp noses and thick moustaches. Elsewhere the lion is shown atop an elephant and this is symbolic of the triumph of the spirit over matter.
Thus, it is evident that the main temples of Orissa possess soaring grandeur unequalled by any other temple in India. Orissan sculptures too have majesty, grace and beauty rarely to be found elsewhere.