Bhubaneswar Buzz

A detailed blog on Brahmeshwara Temple in Bhubaneswar by Sudhansu Nayak


Who? When?

King Uddyota Kesari of Somavamsi (or better known as Kesari Kings) dynasty built the Brahmeshwara temple in the eighteenth year of his reign. He was the son of queen Kolavati and Yayati Kesari-II (also called Chandihara). Queen Kolavati is also credited to have built the Jagamohana (hall between the Garbha Griha (santum sanctorum) and the entrance to the temple) of the famous Lingaraj Temple, Bhubanshwar.

For the year of construction completion of the temple, there are two different views not much farther away from each other. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts ( gives the precise date of construction completion as 1058 A.D. in its report. However, eminent archaeologist and historian, Dr K C Panigrahi, in his exemplary work “Archaeological Remains of Bhubaneswar”, details how he arrived at the year studying in detail multiple inscriptions, cross-referencing, and validating the dates of the scriptures. Dr. Panigrahi pegs the year at approximately 1061 AD.

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This panel is seen on the south wall of the Jagamohana of the temple. A woman is surrounded by musicians playing instruments (could they be gandharvas; two women are in-flight raising garlands (could they be apsaras). (In Hindu culture, Gandharvas and Apsaras are skilled divine singers and dancers respectively). Holding a temple structure, the woman poses in Tribhanga (triple bend in Odissi dance and is still used in live performances. A similar case in point is Shrinika performing Abhinaya on stage (taken from wiki-commons)

Shrinika wikimedia commons


Whether Odissi precedes the year of the temple or not needs more research. 🙂

With fair measure of certainty, she is considered queen Kolavati (shown young as an artistic concession)

Other similar panels also show male and female ascetics/ teachers leaning against bolsters and preaching to the disciples or engaged in banter. None of them hold a staff (staff was the identifying element of Lakulisa (as discussed in my note on Vaital Temple)) or any other such evidence.

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Top façade of the temple:

Mastaka (head):

There are normally two kinds of mastaka we come across in Kalinga temple architecture: Kirtimukha (large grotesque head of a lion sprinkling pearls to sanctify and coronate the head of some famous or revered person) or a Vajramastaka (a similar structure in the Raha-paga with or without the famous person inside).

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In Brahmeshwara temple, raha pagas are designed with a modified-version of kirtimukha above a vajramastaka and finally surmounted by an udyotasimha as is seen from the photograph shown above.

Let me show what I mean by modified-version of kirtimukha.

If you remember from the Vaital temple notes (can be seen here, Vaital temple was built in 8th century AD. Brahmeshwara temple was built in 1061 AD. Some of the designs from the former have been metamorphosed into a new design. In the following photograph, one can see the elaborate Kirtimukha with Lakulisa seated inside holding a staff (this is part of the Vaital temple) and the other one is from Brahmeshwara temple.

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Now, if one observes very carefully, the design concepts metamorphose and become simpler as follows. I have tried to draw out the similarities with red highlights.

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In the Brahmeshwara temple, these modified kirtimukhas have been sprinkled all over the facades alternating with other motifs. Please note all these modified kirtimukhas but two have no heads or persons inside of them. Let me give you a glimpse and then take you into those two.

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Were you able to find them? Well, with all due respect, the earlier archaeologists and historians were constrained by tools to zoom onto the topmost portions of the temples. They could analyse only what could be captured. I was lucky to capture the top portions as well. Let me zoom them for you.

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Let me zoom it further. In the following photograph, you will be able to see a person gazing into infinity. He doesn’t have a halo to justify divinity. But that he has been placed so high on the temple and hidden far from the access of the devotees suggests he is royalty. I will like to suggest him being Uddyota Kesari with the usual artistic concessions. Similar one is also hidden from vision high up on the temple façade and is of a woman. I am inclined to believe she is his queen.

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Read the full blog and more pictures here