Together with Puri and Konark, Bhubaneswar forms the Swarna Tribhuja (Golden Triangle). One of India's most visited destinations the capital city of Odisha is well-known as the "Temple City of India". Boasting of some of the most ornate Kalinga styled temples in the country, the city is a confluence of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist heritage. While the new town of Bhubaneswar is home to booming industries, the old town houses many of its temples erect alongside residential areas. Narrow and winding roads can pose a problem when navigating though getting lost is a good thing on your trip to the old town. Highly recommended during mornings when the mellow blue and blurred orange skies provide a perfect backdrop to these Kalinga constructed marvels. So for the architectural and cultural enthusiast in you, discover the diverse cultural essence of this historic city by following our temple trail.
Start your morning off by finding your way to the Mukteswara Temple. Considered to be a gem of Kalinga architecture, this 10-century Hindu sanctuary was built as a tribute to Lord Shiva. Look closely at the walls of this holy space and you'll see the history of Bhubaneswar play out. Ornate stone carvings of a lion over an elephant are placed all over the structure symbolising the dominance of Hinduism over Buddhism during that era. As you walk around the sanctum of the place, observe how the women carvings are defaced. As the Muslim invaders strengthened their grasp over India in the 14th century, they defaced the carvings to hurt Hindu sentiments representing the dawning of a new age.
A short walk away from the Mukteswara Temple lies the Parashurameshvara Temple. Stone carvings of seven different furious forms of Parvati are highlighted in the complex due to their unnatural darkness. These maiden goddess known as the saptamatrikas are group of mother goddess always depicted together. The temple which happens to be one of the best preserved anecdotes of the Nagara style of Hindu temple architecture focusing on vertical structure hosts an annual festival between June and July every year attracting devotees in large numbers.
The next destination on our temple trail will require you to cleverly maneuver through the congested streets of old town. On your way, observe the hordes of other temples dispersed across the area which happens to be home to nearly 50 different sanctums. Twine baskets holding overflowing with garlands and sweets to be taken inside the temples as offerings hang to the sides of the many shops that flood the streets. Stop over for a light breakfast at any shop selling hot jalebis. Get your blood flowing with this sweet breakfast item which is sure to recharge your engines for the day ahead.
The Lingaraja Temple, built in the loving memory of Lord Shiva, is the largest temples in the city. A prominent figure of quintessential Kalinga architecture, the temple has over 50 different temples within the complex. The compound, which is not open to non-Hindus, hosts the grandest of Shivaratri celebrations across India. The Kalingas with an eye for the devil refined the stone carvings erected on the walls of the temple to produce an architectural marvel serving as an inspiration for future temple construction across India. There's a viewing platform outside the temple from where you can view the entire complex if you are unable to go in. The sheer size is certain to leave you awestruck.
Make you way next to the Ananta Vasudeva Temple. One of the few temples deviating from Shaivism, the temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. Closely associated to the Lingaraja Temple, this vast shrine has innumerable vaishnavite sculptures that embellish its ancient walls. A key highlight of this gorgeous sanctum is the Ananta Bazaar where you can get a plate of the food cooked within the temple compounds. The food served uses ingredients found centuries ago at the time of the temple's construction. Sweet rice, delicious kheer, and exquisite vegetable dishes make up a delectable menu. Do have a hearty lunch on your visit here.
Having gone around the most classical temples in the area on this trail, there are several other temples we have missed out on. If your legs still have the will to continue, I'd highly recommend visiting the Chitrakaraini Temple which uses the Panchaytana form of architecture or even the Vaital Temple, a tantrik temple, incorporating the Gopuram style of architecture.