This book has been in the making for a long while, for nearly a
decade, ever since I first saw Bhubaneswar and its great temples in connection with the work on my Holy Cities of India. Not the germ, no nascent
notion that was to grow later, but a definite resolve to do a study of the
amazingly rich monuments of this temple-city of the Hindus was formed then.
That the book should have taken ten years to see the light of the day, proves
nothing. After all, the temples there took centuries to be; and there are so
many of them and some of them such gems and jewels—and giants ! and they
constitute a most valuable chapter of the history of the temple art, especially,
of the Nagara variety of temples. The philosophic concepts, the canons of
architecture, the exuberant sculpture, the million and one details that make
up the total tale—how can one do justice to all this? No, an appraisal of
Bhubaneswar’s temples and sculptures is not an easy task. Indeed, the
wonder is that one should have been able to complete any study thereof.
Considering their chronology, a study of Bhubaneswar should have
appeared before and not after my books on Khajuraho and Konark. In a
way, it did, for the Holy Cities of India dealt with Bhubaneswar also and
examined its temples—rather cursorily, no doubt. As I stated above, it was
then that an intense interest in Bhubaneswar’s temples grew in me. For the
many-splendoured and truly maginificent Lingraj, that perfect monument, in
particular, I felt a love at first-sight which has lasted without abatement.
Compared to many other Indian places and towns, Bhubaneswar is
hoary with age. Of course, in the total story of man, its few thousand years
hardly count. But measuring the period of its existence against the length of
human civilization, it is an ancient city, certainly. Its roots are long and deep.
Because of its holy associations as Ekamra tirtha or kanan, one-mango
grove, it has received the zeal and devotion of king and commoner for tens
of centuries. Countless temples were raised in the past to Shiv, the City’s
presiding Deity, many of which have withstood the onslaught of Time, and
the installations are, in many a case, intact. In the meanwhile, Man has
apparently discarded the old gods and adopted new ones. Thanks to the
scientific and technological progress, he has made it to the Moon and with
his nuclear weapons, alas ! to the edge of Doom also. Torn and tortured,
he seeks peace and finds it not. He needs strength to bear whatever may
come; instead, his hands tremble, and his heart sinks with fright at the
prospect, for true faith is lacking.
In his celebrated account of the region, published nearly 150 years
ago, Andrew Stirling wrote about Bhubaneswar as follows:
"If we are to judge of its extent and populousness, during the period
that it formed the seat of government of the Rajas of the Kesari Vansa,
from the almost countless multitude of temples which are crowded within
the sacred limits of the Panj Kosi, we might pronounce it to have been, in
the days of its splendour, one of the greatest cities which India ever saw.
Standing near the Chief Pagoda, one cannot turn the eye, in any direction,
without taking into the view upwards of forty or fifty of these stone towers.
The natives say that there were originally more than seven thousand places
of worship consecrated to Mahadeo, within and around the city of Bhobane
ser containing no less than a crore of lingams, and the vestiges that remain,
fully warrant a belief, that the place may have comprized some hundreds of
buildings of this description, when in its most flourishing state."
Though time has played havoc with these symbols of the Eternal,
enough still remains to justify serious enquiry whether old values are really
that old and out-moded as we think. To millions, they still offer the solace
that passeth the understanding of scientific minds. In any case, the
advantage that Bhubaneswar. enjoys is that it is both Religion and Att.
And the latter, Art, can happily serve, asit should, as a bridge between
Religion and Reason. That is why temples and sculptures of Bhubaneswar
are worth seeing, worth studying, worth talking and writing about, are
worth all this, any time.
A word about the pictures. There are about a hundred of these
and yet a thousand would not cover the theme adequately. What is offered
is, therefore, a mere sampling, an introduction to the wealth there, that
should point out the salient features of architecture and sculptural decoration.
None the less, an attempt has been made to present, within the
limitations and scope of this volume, a fairly representative visual idea of
what the reader may expect to see there. Indeed, a number of seemingly
unimportant items have been put in, for fuller documentation and to help
those, who may not visit the place, get at a true picture of the origin,
development, culmination and decay of the temple art of Bhubaneswar.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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