It is undeniable that the Lingaraj temple was historically significant to Hindu tradition, and it continues to prevail today as a cultural icon. From its vast architecture both inside and out, to the detailed sculptures of the deities, the temple draws pilgrims in from across India to worship. Built during the Somavamsis era, this temple features Kalinga architecture prominent in its depictions of Harihara throughout the compound. The separate portrayals of Siva and Visnu, their vehicles, and their gatekeepers, are captivating and detailed. Within the temple, the Mallia and Badu both have very important jobs in the function of the worships and in the presentation of the deity. The Lingaraj temple also plays a very important part in the festival of Sivaratri as devotees go to the temple to offer food and recite passages from different Hindu texts. Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple is the home to many important aspects of Hindu practice, and has a detailed history of its development and role in modern day Hindu tradition.
For two hundred years, from the ninth century to the early twelfth century, Somavamsis (often referred to as Panduvamsis) were in political power over Odisha (Sahoo 14886-14887). This era brought together Kalinga, Utkala, Kondoga, and Kosala which gave rise to one of the most unique cultures in India and resulted in an increase in the richness and development of architecture and art. Identifying with the Kshatriya, who claimed that they descended from either the Sun or the Moon, the Somavamis were said to be a part of the Chandra, the family of the Moon (Sahoo 14886-14887). When they rose to power, they became very important for bringing culture, religion, and many different types of art to Odisha. As a result, Kalinga style developed substantially during this era. Many of said Kalinga style sculptures, art, and architecture can be found in the capital of Odisha known as Bhubaneswar. However, among them, the Lingaraj temple, standing tall above the rest at one-hundred and eighty feet, is the center of attention (Sahoo 14886-14887).
Built in the eleventh century between 1025 and 1065 CE first, although some argue the sixth century, the Lingaraj temple began construction under Yayati II and finished under Udyota Kesari. It is enclosed by a large wall (five-hundred and twenty feet by four-hundred and sixty-five feet) and has four parts (deul): vimana (main sanctum), jagamohana or mukhasala (assembly hall), natamandapa (“dancing hall”), and bhogamandapa (“hall of offering”) (Sahoo 14892-14893). Three gates provided entryways to the courtyard from the north, south and east; the east entrance was the primary gate. The vimana and the jagamohana were built first, with later constructions of the natamandira and then bhoga-mandapa (Shodhganga 2 237).
The vimana was built in pancaratha, meaning it has five pagas or rathas (“cart” or “chariot”), were rounded, and continued their shape to the bisama (top of the temple) (Shodhganga 2 235-244). Within the vimana there are five sections called the bada (vertical walls of the temple). These five sections of the bada are also divided by five to create the pabhaga (mouldings). The first three pabhaga create different levels in the bada which had sculptures and art, designs of flowers, and carvings. Depending on the level, different designs are featured on each creating uniqueness on each of the stories within the temple. The other two pabhagas are situated on top of each other, the bottom one being thinner. All of the pabhaga create the shape of a pilaster inside the bada (Shodhganga 2 235-244).
The assembly hall (mukhasala) was built against the main sanctum (vinama), with two windows facing north and south. The south window has been changed to an entrance, although it is unknown exactly why this happened. The most likely explanation is that when the natamandapa (dancing hall) was built the initial door was covered, so a new opening was needed. Furthermore, the later two of the four sections of the temple, the natamanpada and bhogamandapa (hall of offering), were built using different stone and materials to build the sculptures, thus making them more detailed and adding the unique architecture found within the Lingaraj temple (Unknown 242-243).
The main architecture in the Lingaraj temple is called Kalinga architecture, which originated in eighth century CE, and possesses multiple distinctive phases of development including: pre-Kalingan, formative, transitional, mature, and decline (Bhuyan 40-42). Similarly, it also has three groupings, Rekhadeula (tallest building with a mountain peak), Pidhadeula (square shaped with a pyramid shaped roof), and Khakharadeula (rectangular with a shortened roof). Kalinga style has features similar to the Nagara of Northern India, the Dravida of South India, and the Vesara. Kalinga temples also have copious amounts of sculptures. These sculptures are mostly of humans, animals, or icons, and often feature scrolls, mystical figures, plants and flowers in great detail. Often in Odisha the Kalinga temples feature very plain insides, with a great deal of pillars; the outside is where the majority of the detail is found (Bhuyan 40-42).
Throughout the temple, images and sculptures of Visnu and Siva are depicted as Harihara, the form of Visnu and Siva together as one equal god where they are worshipped as Hari (Visnu) and Hara (Siva). Although mainly dedicated to Siva, the Lingaraj temple worships the two gods as equals; thus, each gate into Lingaraj delineate the gatekeepers of the deva. This is shown by the portrayals of Jaya and Vijaya on one gate for Visnu, Nandi and Bhrkuti on the other for Siva. Seen amongst many of the other structures outside the temples is the depiction of the vehicles of Siva, Nandi, and Visnu, Garuda, next to Harihara sitting in dvibhanga pose (Mishra 147). According to some, Nandi, a bull, is named after Aanandi: “a realized soul is full of bliss” (Shodhganga 3 138). Therefore, when Siva is shown with Nandi, it is important because it is depicting the vehicle as blissful and always with his god. In addition, his large neck and body, and strong horns show his strength (Shodhganga 3 138). Garuda, on the other hand, has two wings and is bending backwards. In this specific display, the vehicle is also highly decorated, and is said to be powerful and strong (Mohanty 1022-1023). Furthermore, there are many portrayals of the nayikas (heroines), known for their gracefulness, elegance, and beauty. They are depicted clutching a tree branch, taking off jewelry such as an anklet, and taking care of an injured bird (Shodhganga 2 243).
The Lingaraj temple is a very important aspect of festivals and ceremonies for the Hindu people. One of the many that is dedicated to the lord Siva is called Sivaratri. This festival is celebrated sometime in February/March, and is a day when devotees bring holy water to Siva temples where they bathe to cleanse their souls (Shodhganga 3 153). This day also includes fasting, bathing in the morning, and is followed by dressing in clean clothes before beginning their journey to the temples. Sivaratri is celebrated by men and women; however, it is more auspicious for women since it is the day that Siva’s wife Parvati prayed and fasted to hopefully keep evil spirits away from him (Shodhganga 3 153). Thus, women who are married pray for their sons’ and husbands’ well-being, and women who are not married pray to one day have a husband who is similar to Siva. On this day, the devotees pray to Siva and recite “Om Nama Shivaya” (Shodhganga 3 153).
The night of Sivaratri is different because the night is divided into four quarters (yama) in which the devotees perform Vrata (penance) (Vepachedu 1-2). To achieve penance, there is a different offering to Siva in each yama. First, they worship Siva with the lotus flower, and offer him pongali. Pongali consists of a rice and mung bean cooked in milk. During this quarter of the night, they recite the Rg Veda until the end of first quarter. During the second quarter of the night, they repeat the Yajurveda, and offer Tulasi leaves and payasam which is rice turned to a liquid when cooked in milk. Next, they say the Samaveda, and offer bael leaves and foods with sesame flour. Finally, devotees recite the Arthaveda and offer to Siva the lotus flower and a simple food. Once morning arrives, the foods offered to Siva can be consumed by the devotees (Vepachedu 1-2).
The Mallia are a caste of temple servants who are found only in Kapileswar. With a population of one-thousand and twenty-eight people, they are the largest population in the village (Freeman 125-126). In the village of Kapileswar, they are considered “high caste,” but their status overall is unsettled. Even though they do not have any hereditary services at the Lingaraj temple, they are a part of the community of worshippers because Kapileswar is within the sacred boundaries of Bhubaneswar (Freeman 125-126). It is said in Hindu mythology that these sacred boundaries are marked by four branches of a mango tree, where the trunk reaches the heavens. The Mallia are also part of this sacred community, because the Lingaraj temple is devoted to Siva and Kapileswar temple is dedicated to Dewan who is the advisor to Lingaraj. Therefore, there is a yearly ritual to worship when Lingaraj’s deputy visits the Kapileswar temple (Freeman 125-126).
The Mallia also work at the Lingaraj temple because the Kapileswar temple does not have very many devotees that visit. In addition, Lingaraj temple priests employ Mallia to bring in more pilgrims, offer them housing and provide them with food. Because Brahmin cooks are able to cook food and sell it to the worshippers, many Brahmins have left Kapileswar in search of employment at a larger temple because they have the hereditary right to cook at Lingaraj (Freeman 4). This has led to conflict and termination of work duties in Kapileswar as Mallias heavily rely on Brahmins for food (Freeman 125-126).
There is also a caste known as the Badu within the Lingaraj temple who serve within the temple, but are not Brahmin (Mahapatra 96-108). The Badu (sometimes “Batu”) credit themselves as the initial servants of this temple and claim their lineage to Badu. While Badu was journeying to Ekamravana to pray to Lingaraj, he was captivated by the beauty of a woman. They copulated with one other, which resulted in Badu being late for the scheduled worship time. He begged Parvati to forgive him, and when she did she gave him the upanayana (sacred thread) and made him her servant. The woman that Badu was intimate with had a son, creating the Badu lineage (Mahapatra 96-108).
Each Badu male goes through three rituals: ear piercing (Kanaphoda), marriage, and God-touching (Mahapatra 96-108). Kanaphoda rite happens when the Badu boy turns twelve. He and his caste brothers are invited to a meal, and through the day he wears a thread around his neck. In modern day rituals, he is accompanied by musicians as they wander through the servant areas of the Lingaraj temple. In the Badu tradition, a marriage rite is performed during the night. This is one of the many reasons why it is believed that they are not Brahmins because Brahmin marriage happens during the day (Mahapatra 96-108).
Other reasons that the Badu are not considered Brahmins include that they wear the thread around the neck, unlike the Brahmins who wear it on the left shoulder (Mahapatra 96-108). Another difference is how the Badu and the Brahmin refer to their family members. A Badu calls his father “Bapa,” older sister “Apa,” and older brother “Bhai.” In contrast, the Brahmin call their father “Nana,” older sister “Nani,” and older brother “Bhaina.” Badu, because of hereditary right, are not allowed in the kitchen of the temple, whereas Brahmins are given the right because of hereditary allowance (Mahapatra 96-108). Another aspect of the marriage rite for Badus is that even those who are not wealthy spend copious amounts of money on their weddings and the meals provided, so much to the extent that they will sell property to pay for the wedding (Mahapatra 96-108).
Finally, God-touching is the rite that gives the Badu male the certification to perform worship to the Lord Siva within the temple (Mahapatra 96-108). They start the day dressing in new clothes provided by the family, and the priest dresses in new clothes as well. The meal is eaten by the caste members and the servants who are working in the temple at that time (Mahapatra 96-108).
In the Lingaraj temple, the Badu are responsible for five services: Paliabadu, Pharaka, Pochha, Pahada, and Khataseja (Mahapatra 99, 103). Paharaka and Paliabadu are the two most important of the daily rituals because they involve the protection of the deity both day and night. The Paliabadu guards are responsible for the presentation of Lord Siva and other deities, such as cleansing, clothing, and decorating with flowers and leaves. They are also given the task of bathing the other most important linga. The Paharaka guards the deity at night. The role of the Khataseja is to make the bed for the deity before the closing of the temple. The Pochha dries the deity with a cloth after cleansing, and the Pahada is at the entrance throughout the food offering times (Mahapatra 99, 103).
Ultimately, the Lingaraj temple provides unique historical and cultural significance to the city of Odisha and to the Hindu tradition.
Bhuyan, Ramakanta (2017) “Evolution of Kalingan Style of Temple – A Study” Vol. 1:12 pg. 39-44. Odissa: Behampur University.
Freeman, James M. (1971) “Occupational Changes Among Hindu Temple Servants” Indian Anthropologist Vol. 1:1, pg. 1-13.
Freeman, James M. (1975) “Religious Change in a Hindu Pilgrimage Center” Review of Religious Research Vol. 16:2, pg. 124-133.
Mahapatra, Manamohan (1973) “The Badu: A Service-Caste at the Lingaraj Temple at Bhubaneswar” Contribution to Asian Studies Vol. 3, pg. 96-108.
Mishra, Kishore Ch. (2000) “Religious Syncretism and the Jagannath Cult in Orissa” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 61:1, pg. 144-151.
Mohanty, Prafulla Kumar (2010) “Garuda Images of Orissa – An Iconographic Study” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 70, pg. 1018-1027.
Sahoo, Abhijit (2015) Contribution of the Somavamsis to the Odishan Culture: A Critical Analysis. Bhubaneswar: KIIT School of Social Sciences.
Shodhganga 1. “Chapter III – Symbology of the Weapons and Vehicles of the Little Mothers” pg. 106-141.
Shodhganga 2. “Chapter IV – Temples of Bhubaneswar” pg. 236-243.
Shodhganga 3. “Chapter V – Pujas and Festivals of the Shiva and Vishnu Temples” pg. 122-157.
Vepachedu, Sreenivasarao (2004) “Maha Shivaratri” Mana Sanskriti (Our Culture) Vol. 74:2 pg. 1-8.
Related Research Topics:
Kalinga Style Architecture
This article was written by: Janelle Harasymuk (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.