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Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar Overview

The Lingaraj Temple is an ancient temple situated in the city of Bhubaneswar and is the largest one situated in the city. Dedicated to Lord Shiva as the name suggests, the temple was built in the 7th century by King Jajati Keshari. It is highly revered because of the fact that the Linga here, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, is believed to have appeared naturally. It rises to a massive height of 8 inches above the floor level and is about 8 feet in diameter as well. Lingaraj Temple is located in the old part of Bhubaneswar Town and can be easily reached using local transport.

The edifice of the temple is a great example of the Odissi style of architecture and has intricately designed stone vaults covering the main sanctum of the temple.  A small temple dedicated to Goddess Bhagawati is located in the northwest corner of the courtyard as well. However, entry is restricted to the followers of the Hindu faith only. The Lingaraj Temple is especially famous for its Mahashivratri celebrations when the whole sanctum is dressed up in flowers, lanterns, and lights. The temple has as many as 6,000 visitors on a daily basis with Shivratri being a major day of celebrations when this number surges to as many as 200,000 visitors.

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History of Lingaraj Temple

Lingaraj Temple as we know today is believed to have been in place since the 11th century. This shrine was erected by King Jajati Keshari when he shifted his military capital to Bhubaneshwar from Jaipur. However, the historians believe that the temple existed since the 6th century in some other form, as it has been referred to in the 7th-century manuscript, Brahma Puran, focusing on the significance of Lord Shiva in Bhubaneshwar. According to historians, the temple also puts some light on how the peaceful worship of Lord Vishnu and Shiva co-existed during the ancient period.

Architecture of Lingaraj Temple

Lingaraj Temple is a spectacular specimen of Orissa style of temples with a hint of Kalinga style of architecture. This remarkable structure is crafted out of darkest shade sandstone looking exemplary in its form. The main entrance of the temple is towards the east, while smaller entrances exist towards the northern and southern sides. Covering a vast area of 2,50,000 sq ft, it is built around the huge Bindu Sagar Lake and is bounded by fortified walls carved beautifully with sculptures. The compound wall of the Lingaraj Temple measures 160 metres and is mounted by a plain slant coping. The towers of the temple on the other hand measure at  45.11 metre. As many as 150 smaller shrines dot the temple complex. 

The temple has four distinct parts, namely Vimana, which is a structure containing the main sanctum, Jaganmohan which is the assembly hall, Nata Mandira or the festival hall and Bhoga - Mandapa or the hall of offerings which are arranged in the order of descending height. The Bhogmandapa has four doors on each of its sides, with the exterior walls being embellished with various Hindu motifs. The roof of this complex is pyramidal in shape and bears an inverted bell and 'Kalash' on its top. Natamandir, on the other hand, has only two doors adorning sculptures of men and women. It has a flat roof sloping in stages. There are thick pylons inside the hall. The Jagamohana has entrances from south and north and has a 30 metres high pyramidal roof. It is decorated with honeycomb windows and images of lions sitting on its hind legs. The Shivalingam in the inner sanctum, the main deity of the temple, rises up to 8 inches above the floor and 8 feet in diameter. The towers are 180 feet high carved intricately.

Legend of Lingaraj Temple

The Lingaraj Temple is said to have a fascinating mythological tale which goes like this: Lord Shiva, once told Goddess Parvati why he favoured the city Bhubaneswar over Benares. In order to explore the city, she disguised herself as an ordinary cattlewoman and ventured out. While she was out exploring, she came across two demons named Kritti and Vasa, who wanted to marry her. The demons continue to pursue Parvati despite her continuous refusal. In the process of protecting herself, she destroyed the two of them. It was then that Lord Shiva descended and formed the Bindu Saras Lake and resided there for eternity.

Mahashivratri and Jagannath Rath Yatra At Lingaraj Temple

Every year several festivals are celebrated in this temple which adds more charm and allure to its divinity. Chandan Yatra, Rath yatra and Shivratri are among the most popular festivals, presenting a sight of pure devotion.

Perhaps the most famous festival at the Lingraj Temple is Shivratri, which is celebrated annually in Phalgun month. Thousands of devotees throng the temple to make offerings to Lord Harihara as they fast throughout the day. The main celebration takes place during the night when devotees break their fast after the lighting of the Mahadipa which is an enormous earthen lamp.

Chandan Yatra or Sandalwood ceremony is another one of the main festivals of Lingaraj Temple. The celebrations of the same last over a period of 22-day when those who serve the temple disport themselves in a specially made barge in Bindusagar tank. Both the deities and devotees are sanctified with sandalwood paste to protect from the heat. Dances, communal feasts and merrymaking are arranged by the people associated with the temple.

Ashokashtami sees splendid celebrations of Lingaraj's Rath Yatra when the deity is taken to the Rameshwar Deula Temple seated atop a chariot. Devotees pull the colourful chariots of Lingaraj and his sister Rukmani to the temple, which is considered to be the greatest service of the Lord.

Tips For Visiting Lingaraj Temple

1. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple.
2. Make sure you stay away from anyone who offers the service of pooja, except the temple priest.
3. Photography is strictly prohibited in the temple.
4. Remove your shoes before entering the temple.

How To Reach Lingaraj Temple

You can easily reach to Lingaraj Temple through a taxi, auto-rickshaw or a good network of local buses that drop you right at the temple are available from the city of Bhubaneshwar.

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