On January 14th every year, the day of Poush or Makar Sankranti, as the sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makar), the Mukteswar –Siddheshwar Temple complex at Bhubaneswar comes alive with the foot beats and ankle bells of acclaimed Odissi dancers from all over the country and abroad .The Odisha Tourism and the Department of Culture once again lights up the small otherwise sleepy lane leading to the lovely green Festival compound with brightpatchwork cloth lanterns, from nearby Pipli, proudly displaying this characteristic handicraft of Odisha. Colorful vinyl posters at the entrance welcome the rasikas. Rows of plastic chairs for the general public and sofas for special guests in front of the specially constructed large stage, with the towering temple cluster at the backdrop, make for comfortable viewing. Officials from local and National television channels, TV cameras on the trolley with talkative photographers seated on their ‘reserved’ bench in front, add annoyanceand spice to the presentations.
The huge flower bedecked statue of Nataraj, the tall brass lamp, and above all the daily inaugural Shiva Vandana in chorus emanating a devotional fervour, with the diffused moonlight washed Majestic Siddheshwar Temple at the backdrop add a mystic touch to the auspicious evening and the implicit significance of lord Shiva.
Situated on the southern parts of the old city of Bhubaneswar, the 10th Century AD temple built in 970 AD by Somavansi ruler JajatiKeshari in red sandstone is one of the most beautiful architectural wonder of India and a monument of singular importance in the study of the development of Hindu temples in Odisha. The plan is a “Pancharatha”(Sikhara temple with five pilasters) and the platform (pabhaga) with five mouldings. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva. Stylistically it plays a pivotal role in Odishan temple architecture bearing some significant cult images, like the mouse and the peacock as ‘vahanas’(consorts) of Ganesha and Kartikeya respectively, babies in the arms of saptamatrikas and Ketu among the planets , which were associated with temple iconography later. There are distinct influences of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist architecture on the walls with carvings of figures from Hindu mythology, Jain munis and depiction of skeletal ascetics in various poses of meditation, appropriate to the name of the temple as Mukteswar. The porch marks the beginning of the stepped pyramidal temple with images carved in alto-relievo. The ornate Mukteswar Temple is a gem for its famous and exquisite arch gate or torana in front, decorated with languorously reclining females embellished with delicate scroll work. Diamond shaped latticed windows, frolicking monkeys and tales from Panchatantra are carved to reveal an arresting design. “Bho”amotif of a grinning face of a lion with beaded tassels emerging from its mouth, flanked by two dwarfs, the pattern resembling a coat of arms, is a special attraction. The temple complex in the lush green lawn is enclosed by an octagonal wall which also surrounds a small well, known as MarichiKund. The water of this well is believed to cure infertility of women. A daytime visit is a must and wondrous but the three-day Annual Dance Festival organised by Odisha Tourism in the evening in the temple precincts is a Divine spectacle that boasts of attracting thousands of tourists to soak in the enchanting music and dazzling movements of solo, duet and group performances of the distinguished Odissi dancers.
Rajarani Temple Music Festival
With just a gap of a day the 11th century Rajarani temple in Bhubaneswar echoes with the strains of captivating Classical music, be it vocal or instrumental, as Maestros like HariprasadChowrasia, PanditAjoyChakravarty , Guru Ramhari Das. Kala Ramnath, Tanmoy Bose and other internationally renowned musicians of Carnatic, Hindustani and Odissi styles give an opportunity for the listeners to savour the treasure trove of enchanting music. The once unkempt temple complex is now a beautiful manicured lush green garden with flower beds, cobbled pathway and an aesthetically decorated, flower-bedecked stage with a large idol of Goddess Saraswati and the floodlit, spectacular temple at the backdrop. The long walk through the narrow path, lit withmulti-colored fairy-lights is itself a travel into a dreamland where transcendental music mingles with the enchanting architecture to uplift the soul to new heights.
Apart from the exquisite fine carvings and elegant proportions, the pilasters are embellished with alasa –kanyas, amorous couples and Varuna holding a club. The corner segments, though littered by pigeons are still a visitors delight for the number of facets, richly carved with intricate floral and plant designs. The upper half of the vertical walls has erotic sculptures. Rampant lions on crouching elephants occupy the recesses .The temple stands apart for its tall, slender and sophisticated ‘Nayikas” carved in high relief in various roles and moods. Of special attraction are the one in amorous dalliance and another turning her head from an emaciated ascetic yet fondling her child. An evening visit before the soiree suffices to enjoy the fascinating facial expressions of the carvings. Myth has it that Rajarani Temple was a pleasure resort of an Odishan King(Raja) and his Queen (Rani).Another version of its nomenclature comes from Rajarania, the fine-grained yellow local sand-stone of which it is made .The Temple is now without a deity. Even though the crowd is rather selective and generally not as large as the Mukteswar Dance Festival, Rajarani Temple and the music Festival is a perennial favourite not only for the visitors from home and abroad but also for poets ,musicians and artists for the inspiration it’s immaculate lawns, gardens and the temple sculpture offers.
Written byNita Vidyarthi
Writer and Critic of Performing arts , trained in Rabindrasangeet, kathak and Bharatanatyam with exposure to manipuri . specialises in Dance, Light music(vocal) Rabindrasangeeet and theatre.Commonwealth scholar with a Ph.D. in Polymer Science Nita Vidyarthi is a retired Professor in Chemistry is widely travelled and devotes her time in travel writing, science communicating and writing in The Hindu,TheStatesman,Sruti, narthaki.com and Nartanam and other publications.