Go on a spiritual sojourn in Bhubaneswar, Odisha

Hitaishi Majumder | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state of Odisha in eastern India, is one of the earliest planned cities of modern India. At the same time, it is one of the most ancient cities in the country with its mention found in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, the happenings of which may have taken place in 3067 BCE. The ruins of a city called Sisupalgarh, dating back to the sixth or seventh century BCE, have been excavated only a few kilometers away from here. So, Bhubaneswar is unique in its heritage as an ancient cultural hub and its gloried present as a distinct industrial centre in eastern India. The city has an abundance of architectural marvels, especially religious monuments, belonging to different religions and different eras. This is why Bhubaneswar is famous as the Temple City of India. Whenever you visit eastern India, a spiritual sojourn across this city is a must! To make things easier for you, here is a list of the most iconic monuments that you must visit during your time here.

Lingaraj Temple

© Wikimedia Commons/ Pattnaik.chandan

This stunning temple bears testament to the heights attained by the Kalinga style of architecture towards the end of the early medieval period in India. Built in 1100 CE by King Jajati Keshari, the Lingaraj Temple is made from laterite and sandstone. The intricately carved central tower in the temple complex is 180 feet tall and is surrounded by 150 smaller shrines and several massive wells adorned with captivating relief sculptures! The temple is dedicated to Harihara, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Do ask your guide to fill you in on the fascinating legend of Goddess Parvati surrounding the temple. Located five kilometers away from Bhubaneswar Railway Station, the Lingaraj Temple remains open from 6 AM to 9 PM on all days of the week.

Brahmeswara Temple

© Wikimedia Commons/ Ssriram mt

This temple, located at a distance of three kilometers from the Lingaraj Temple, is one of the finest instances of Kalinga architecture. The Brahmeswara Temple is built in the panchatanaya style of temple architecture where four smaller shrines stand to the four corners of the main shrine. Built in 1058 CE during the rule of King Udyotakesari, the sandstone temple complex is famous for the beautiful relief sculptures that adorn the exterior of all the five shrines. Look out for the exquisite carving of Lord Shiva as Nataraj (the divine dancer) on the wall of the main shrine. The  Brahmeswara Temple remains open for visitors from 6 AM to 8 PM. 

Udaygiri-Khandagiri Caves

© Wikimedia Commons/ Bernard Gagnon

These are 33 ancient rock-cut Jain caves located on two adjacent hills, Udaygiri and Khandagiri, which are nine kilometers away from the Bhubaneswar Railway Station. These caves were built around 100 BCE, under the patronage of King Kharavela of Mahameghavahana dynasty and were discovered only in 1825. The caves, used initially as monasteries and abodes of Jain monks, are treasure troves of stunning sculptures. The Queen’s Cave or Rani Gumpha (rani-queen, gumpha-cave), a two-floor monastery, is the largest cave of the complex and a sheer delight to witness. The Hathi Gumpha is famous for housing relief sculptures that chronicle King Kharavela’s reign in what is known as the Hathi Gumpha inscription. Make sure you explore the caves with a guide to get an in-depth understanding of the art, architecture and history of the caves. You can visit the caves anytime between 9 AM and 5 PM. 

Dhauligiri Hill

© Wikimedia Commons/ Ankush Bagga

Dhauligiri Hill on the bank of Daya River in Bhubaneswar is a site of great historical and spiritual importance. It is here that the ancient Kalinga war of 265 BCE was fought and the great Emperor Ashoka turned into a benevolent man from a barbaric one, after witnessing the Daya River turn red from the bloodshed caused by the war! He renounced warfare, adopted Buddhism and built several pillars, pagodas and monasteries around this hill. Here, you can view the rock edicts of King Ashoka that were excavated by the Archaeological Survey of India. Above the edicts, there is a rock-cut elephant that was constructed in 300 BCE and is India’s oldest rock-cut sculpture! The Dhauligiri Shanti Stupa (peace pagoda) is a Buddhist monument built here in 1972 by the Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangh and the Japan Buddha Sangh. The Shanti Stupa is a pristine white dome-shaped structure that people frequent to meditate and pray. The Shanti Stupa has speaking stone panels; look out for Lord Buddha’s footprints in one of the main panels. You can explore the peace pagoda between 7 AM and 7 PM. 

How to reach Bhubaneswar

© istock/ Kamlesh_Sethy

Being the capital of Odisha, Bhubaneswar enjoys great connectivity by air, rail and road. The city has one international airport, the Biju Patnaik International Airport. Trains from all major Indian cities arrive at and depart from the Bhubaneswar Railway Station. Bhubaneswar experiences extremely hot, humid and uncomfortable weather conditions during the summer from March to June. If you cannot stand such weather, it is better to plan your trip during some other time of the year.

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and come to India for a pleasant, soul-stirring, spiritual sojourn in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.    

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