Image of the temple showing the tower and worship hall in the foreground
|Primary deity||Parsurameswar (Shiva)|
Parsurameswar Temple, located in the East Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa, is considered the best preserved specimen of an early Orissan Hindu temple dated to the Sailodbhava period between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is one of the oldest existing temples in the state. It is believed to have been built around 650 AD in Nagara style and has all the main features of the pre-10th century Orissan-style temples. The temple is one among the Parasumeswar group of temples.
Parsurameswar Temple has a vimana, the sanctum, and a bada, the curvilinear spire over its roof, rising to a height of 40.25 ft (12.27 m). It is the first temple to have an additional structure called jagamohana, compared to the earlier temples that had only the vimana. Though the temple is dedicated to Shiva, it contains sculpted images of Sakta deities, which are otherwise normally part of Sakta temples. The temple is the first in Bhubaneswar to contain depictions of Saptamatrikas, namely, Chamunda, Varahi, Indrani, Vaisnavi, Kaumari, Sivani and Brahmi. The temple is maintained and administered by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as a ticketed monument. Parasurashtami is the major festival celebrated in the temple during June–July every year. The temple is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the state of Odisha.
Parsurameswar Temple is one of the Parasumeswar group of temples, considered to be the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar. Some historians believe Parsurameswar Temple to have been built in the early 8th century AD., subsequent to the construction of the Satruguneswar, Bharateswar and Lakshmaneswar temples in the late 7th century, although K.C.Panigrahi places the date as 650 AD. Fergusson believed that the temple might have been initiated at around 500 AD. A mid-7th century date is agreed by most scholars based on style and the presence of the eight planets which appear over the door to the inner sanctum as the later temples portray nine.
Parsurmeswar Temple was built by the Sailodbhavas, who had Shiva as their family deity. The Sailodbhavas also respected the Sakta deities and depicted Sakta images on the walls of the temple. The temple was repaired in 1903, with some changes in the roof of the inner sanctum, whilst retaining most of the original structure. Being located in the eastern coast, Parsurmeswar, like other Orissan temples, was not much affected by Muslim invasions of the 12–13th centuries. In modern times, the temple is maintained and administered by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as a ticketed monument.
The Orissan temples have two parts: the sanctum, called vimana, and a place from where pilgrims view the sanctum, called the jagamohana (hall of worshippers). Parsurameswar Temple is the first to have this additional structure. The initial deul temples were without the jagamohana as seen in some of the older temples in Bhubaneswar, while the later temples had two additional structures namely nata-mandapa (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). The vimana is square in plan and the walls have sections called rathas or pagas. The vimana has a curvilinear tower (called bada) in the form of a pyramid composed of horizontal planes. The sanctum of the temple measures 9.88 × 9.75 ft (3.0 × 3.0 m) from the inside, 19.75 × 21 ft (6.0 × 6.4 m) from the outside and has a height of 40.25 ft (12.3 m). Amalaka, a stone disk with ridges on the rim, is placed over the bada of the temple.
The jagamohana is rectangular in shape and has a two-element sloping roof with clerestory windows between them. The jagamohana measures 24.94 × 18.33 ft (7.6 × 5.6 m) from the inside and 29.33 × 28.58 ft (8.9 × 8.7 m) from the outside. The latticed windows are classified as pata jali where perforations are square or rectangular in shape. In addition, there are trellised windows with slabs of stone sculptures depicting dancers and musicians. Light enters the interior through doors and the latticed windows. The junction of the vimana and the jagmohana is not cleanly built, leading some scholars to postulate that the porch was added at a much later date; however, the primitive connection is attributed to the building technique. The temple was constructed by burying completed portions in inclined layers of earth up which heavy pieces of stone were dragged. The temple is one of the earliest examples of the Nagara style of architecture that emphasises vertical structure, as seen in subsequent temples like Mukteswar, Lingaraj and Rajarani in Bhubaneswar and the Sun Temple at Konark.
The temple contains the earliest representation of a six-armed Mahisamardini Durga image. From chest upward the image is sculpted with headdress, karna kundala (ornament), mala (garland) and kankana (anklet). Durga is seen holding a sword in the upper left hand while in the upper right hand, she is seen pressing the face of the demon buffalo. In her left middle hand, she is seen piercing the neck of the demon with a trisuhla (trident), while in her lower left hand she holds a pointed weapon. In her right middle hand she holds Khetaka while in her lower right hand she holds a bow. A similar image of Durga is found in the Vaital temple, which is a famous Sakta center. Though the temple is a Saiva shrine, it contains the images of numerous Sakta deities as Parsvadevatas sculpted on its walls. The temple is the first among Bhubaneswar temples to contain Saptamatrika images, a group of seven goddesses. These images are located in between representations of Ganesha and Virabhadra. Except for Ganesha, all other images are depicted with their respective vahanas (vehicles). An eight-armed dancing Ardhanarishvara, an image of Siva-Parvati and the images of Ganga and Yamuna are also found on the wall of the temple. There are also images of Vishnu, Indra, Surya and Yama in the rectangular niches around the base of the porch. A sculpture of Kartikeya riding on his peacock vehicle is present on the southern wall. Other noteworthy carvings are those of Shiva subduing the demon-king Ravana, who is seen trying to uproot Mount Kailasa, the abode of Shiva. Shiva is sculpted as Nataraja in various tandavas (dance poses) in the temple. As with other Orissa temples, the interiors are not sculpted but left plain. Other carvings on the temple depict a variety of fruits, flowers, birds and animals in scenes and parts of designs. A floral motif trailing from the tail of a bird is common between this temple and the ones in Vaital Deula, while a motif of vase and flowers is common between it and the ones in Mukteshwar Temple.
There are grotesque figures of vetalas (ghosts) on the pilasters of jaga mohan and on the faces of vimana of the temple. The figures of nagas (snake-man) and their female counterparts nagins and other females show many graceful but chaste poses. Pilgrimage is the theme of many of the scenes on the vimana. The other notable descriptive representation on the vimana is the hunting scene above the central niche on the south side, where stags are depicted running away from a hunter. On the outermost frame around the latticed window of the jaganamohana, delightful scenes of monkeys playing all manners of pranks are depicted. The vimana of the temple is a triratha with a distant semblance of a Pancharatha as evident from the projecting niches flanking the central projection. The bada of the vimana abruptly starts from the talapatna or pavement which consists of three elements instead of the usual five and encloses a parallelepiped instead of the usual cubic sanctum.
Parasurameswar represents Shiva as the lord of Parasuram, one of the avatars of Vishnu. According to Hindu legend, the temple derives its name from the penance of Parasuram and the resultant grace of Shiva. Parasuramashtami is the major festival celebrated in the temple on the 8th day of Ashadha (June–July) when the festival image of Lingaraj is taken to Parasurameswar Temple and feasted.
Parasurameswar Temple, along with Rajarani Temple and Vaital Deula, substantiates the existence of the Devadasi tradition during the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Devadasis were girls dedicated to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of their lives and usually enjoyed a high societal status. They were usually transferred to the king's palace and subsequently performed for the general masses.
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