Rajarani Temple is an 11th-century Hindu temple located in Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha (Orissa previously), India. The temple is originally believed to be known as Indreswara and locally known as “love temple” on account of the erotic carvings of women and couples in the temple. Rajatemple is built on pnahcratha style on a raised platform with two structures; a central shrine namely the vimana (sanctum) with the bada(the curvilinear spire) over its roof raising up to a height of 18 m (59 ft) and a viewing hall called jagamohana with a pyramidal roof . The temple was constructed of dull red and turbid yellow sandstone locally called “Rajarani”. There are no images inside the sanctum and hence it is not associated to specific sect of Hinduism, but broadly classified as Saivite based on the niches.
Various historians place the original construction date between the 11th and 12th centuries and have placed it roughly belonging to the same period of the Jagannath Temple at Puri. The architecture of other temples in central India is believed to have originated from the temple, with the notable ones being the Khajuraho temples and Totesvara Mahadeo temple in Kadawa. The are various sculptures in the walls around the temple and the vimana depicting scenes of marriage of Shiva, Nataraja, Parvati, tall slender sophisticated nayikas depicted in various roles and moods such as turning her head from an emaciated ascetic, fondling her child, holding a branch of tree, attending to her toilet, looking into mirror, taking off her anklet, caressing her pet bird and playing instrument. Rajarani temple is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as a ticketed monument.
Based on the sculptural art architectural style, the temple is dated to mid-11th century. Brown groups the temple along with Anant Vasudev Temple and places it around 11th-12th centuries. Another survey of Orissa temples carried out by S.K. Saraswati in 1953 places the date as per Brown’s theory. Panigrahi, who did comprehensive analysis of Orissan temples, gives an unspecified date between Lingaraj Temple and Mukteswara Temple. Fergusson believes the temple might have been initiated by around 1105.George Michell believes the temple was built during the same time as Lingaraja Temple. It roughly belongs to the same period of the Jagannath Temple at Puri. The architecture of other temples in central India originated from the temple. The notable ones in the category are the Khajuraho temples and Totesvara Mahadeo temple in Kadawa. Scholars believe based on the style that the temple might have been built by Somavamsi kings who migrated from Central Indis to Orissa during the perio. Rajarani temple is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as a ticketed monument.
Temple plan of Rajarani temple, scale 50 ft to 1 inch
The Orissan temples have two parts namely the sanctum (deul or vimana) and the other is place from where pilgrims view the sanctum (called jagamohana). 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 are variegated by ressaults (called rathas or pagas). Amalaka (also called mastaka), a stone disk with ridges on the rim is placed over the bada (tower) of the temple. Rajarani Temple stands on a raised platform. The temple was constructed of dull red and turbid yellow sandstone locally called “Rajarani”.
It is pancharatha in plan with a curvilinear superstructure (rekha sikhara) 18m(55 ft) tall. The vimana (tower) is clustered by miniature towers with double crowning elements and appears round, unlike other temples in Bhubaneswar, but like the towers of Khajuraho temples. The temple stands on a plinth with three mouldings. The bada consists of five divisions instead of three divisions, usually found in other temples. The vimana rises to a height of 17.98 metres (59.0 ft) from the basement. The vimana (sanctum) measures 10.25 ft (3.12 m)*10.25 ft (3.12 m) from the inside, 31 ft (9.4 m)*29 ft (8.8 m) from the outside. Its spire is decorated with clusters of turrets (replication of the spire itself) emerging form the rib of the spire. The temple has panchanga bada or five divisions namely, pabhaga, talajangha, bandhana, uparajangha and baranda. The lowermost division is called pabhaga having five decorative mouldings namely, khura, kumbha, patta, kani and basanta. The superstructure (gandi) of the temple has a number of miniature turrets (angasikharas). The superstructure is crowned with a fluted disc shaped architectural members called amalakaand a vase (kalasa) surmounts it as the crowning finial.
The front portion of thejagamohana depictednagins and guarding deities in the doorjambs, with vimana in the background
The jagamohana (porch) though demonstrating a pyramidal structure is yet to take on as a complete structure of its own. It bears signs of repair in 1903 when it collapsed into ruins. The jagamohana measures 17.83 ft (5.43 m)*17.83 ft (5.43 m) from the inside and 36 ft (11 m)*36 ft (11 m) from the outside. The tiered (pidha) jagamohana and the interior is plain, possibly left incomplete. The plan of jagamohana is square compared to the rectangular ones present in earlier temples.
The sculptures have a depth that was lacking in the Mukteswara Temple sculptures. The slightly projected entrance is flanked by round thick columns entwined by naga on the left. Guardians of the eight directions project from the base of the temple in the eight directions, starting from the gateway in a clockwise direction around the porch and the deul to end back at the torana (entrance). The other noted sculptures are naga-nagi sthambha, saiva dwarapalas on the entrance doorjambs and Lakulisa on the lintel of entrance above which is the architrave of Navagrahas are present. The best preserved sculpture of the temple are the standing astadikpalas on the central façade of kanikaappearing on the jangha portion of the bada clad in diaphanous drapery. The image of Varuna is intact and notable for its body ornamentation, coiffure and facial expression. Scenes of marriage of Siva, Nataraja, Parvati are the cult images present in the temple. There are tall slender sophisticated nayikas gracing the walls of the sanctum depicted in various roles and moods in amorous dalliance with actions such as turning her head from an emaciated ascetic, fondling her child, holding a branch of tree, attending to her toilet, looking into mirror, taking off her anklet, caressing her pet bird and playing instrument. There are also erotic (mithuna) figures carved in high relief on the projecting portions of the uparajangha. The other decorative motifs are carved in the shape of vyala, jagrata and gajakranta. The scroll motifs are the foliages, creepers and vines (vanalata), each containing lush foliage independent of any stalk or vine.
Sculpture around the walls of the sanctum
The historian, M.M. Ganguly examined the Khuraprista (upper plinth) carved like lotus with its petals and described the temple possibly dedicated to Vishnu. The names of most Shiva temples in Bhubaneswar end with “Iswara” like Parasurameswara, Brahmesvara and Mitresvara. But Rajarani Temple bears a peculiar name and it contains no images of any deity inside the sanctum. There are certain features of the temple which indicates its Saivite origin like the presence of Saiva doorkeepers: Prachanda and Chanda, Dvarapla with jatamukha and a garland of skulls reaching up to and a snake. K.C. Panigrahi believes that based on the Ekamra Purana, the temple was originally called Indrevara and it was positioned to the east of Siddheswara temple. The image of Lakulisha, the founder of Pasupatha sect of Saivisim, in a seated posture with yogamuthra along with his disciples is found in the lintel of the jagamohana. There are images of eight bearded ascetics along the image of Lakulisha on both sides of the images of Lakulisha. There are three panels on the facade of the main temple showing images of Shiva dancing with his consort Parvathi in the company of attendants playing musical instruments. A carving indicating the marriage of Shiva and Parvathi is depicted in the western side below the central niche. The presence of Naga and Nagini at the entrance led to a local belief that it is the king (Raja) and queen (Rani) who are associated and hence the name Rajarani is derived, but this belief is not accepted by historians.
The Department of Tourism of the Government of Odisha organises Rajarani music festival in the premises of the temple every year from January 18 to 20. The temple focuses on classical music and all three styles of classical music namely Hindustani, Carnatic and Odisi are given equal importance. Musicians from different parts of the country perform during the three day festival. The festival was started in 2003 with the help of Bhubaneswar Music Circle (BMC).