Temple Architecture of Orissa
The Indian Silpasastras recognize three main types of temples - the Nagara, Dravida and Vesara. Nagara temple belongs to the part of country from the Himalay to the Vindhyas; Vesara from the Vindhyas to the Krishna and the Dravida from the Krishna to the Cape Camorin. However, an inscription of 1235 AD in the mukhamandapa of the Amritesvara temple at Holal in Bellary distrct of Karnatak speaks of a fourth style i.e Kalinga Pratistha. Lakhsyanasara Samuchaya by Vaivochana a silpa text of 11th-12th century AD mentions Kalinga temples as of rekha order. Indigenous texts from Orissa like Bhubana Pradip, Silpa Prakasa, Silpa Ratnakosha etc. deal exclusively with the Kalingan style of architecture. These silpa texts mention three types of temples of Orissa - Rekhadeul, Pidhadeul and Khakaradeul. The rekha and pidha form two component parts of one architectural scheme, the former is represented by a sanctum with its curvilinear spire and the latter by the frontal porch having pyramidal roof of receding tires known as pidhas. In the earlier phase, there was no pidha deul and the Jagamohan or the frontal hall had a by a flat roof. In course of time to meet the growing need of the rituals two more structures were added during the Ganga period (12th century) namely natyamandapa (dancing hall) and bhogamandapa (offering hall). All the four components are arranged in one axial alignment and often the temple complex is enclosed by prakara (boundary) wall. The khakara order is noted by a semi-cylindrical vaulted that looks like a inverted boat (boita) or a pumpkin gourd roof. The temples of this order are usually meant for sakti worship.
Architecture of temples of Orissa constituted a sub-style of the Nagara style of north Indian temples. The building activity of this sub-regional style continued for nearly one thousand years from the 6th- 7th century to the 15th-16th century AD in unbroken continuity. Bhubaneswar, the ancient Ekamra Khetra served as the experimental ground of these temple building activities without being distracted by the change of ruling dynasties or their cult affiliation. As a result the temples are identified with the land Kalinga rather than the royal families or Patron such as Pallava art, Rastrakuta art, Chandella art, Chalukyan art etc. It is worth while to mention here that temple building activities, of another tradition, was prevalent in ancient Orissa as attested by epigraphic evidences.
The Orissa temple is remarkable for its plan and elevation. As a rule, the interior ground plan of the temple is square. The temples are distinguished by vertical offset projections called rathas (on plan) or pagas (on elevation). Depending on the number of pagas, the temples are classified into triratha, pancharatha, saptaratha and navaratha. The earlier temples are characterized by triratha plan. On elevation, the temples show interesting features. Both sanctum and the porch can be divided into three parts along the vertical plane viz. bada, gandi and mastaka. From bottom to top or final, each part of the temple has a special name corresponding to that of limbs of human body standing on a pista or the platform on which the temple stands. This is however not a compulsory element in early temples and is generally found in later temples. The bada or the vertical wall portion of the temple is divisible into pabhaga, jangha and baranda. This type of three fold division of Triangabada is found in early temples and in later temples, bada has five elements namely pabhaga (or the foot portion is composed of five mouldings called khura, kumbha, patta, kaniand basanta), tala jangha (lower thigh), bandhana (mouldings joining the two thigh), upara jangha (upper thigh) and baranda (the waist portion).
The baranda, forming the top most part of the bada has a set of moldings, starting with one molding in the early phase progressing into seven and ten moldings in the later and last phases of the classical tradition. The gandi (or the torso) of deul has a curvilinear super structure; in the temples of early phase gandi is devoid of any sculptural embellishment. Fully developed temples have ornamental bhumis, chaity motifs and angasikharas (miniature shrines). The gandi of jagamohana is of pyramidal shape (designed with receding tiers in a sequence so as to reduce the top most tier to the half of the lower tier). The mastaka (the head) consisted of the beki (neck) or recessed cylindrical portion above gandi, amalaka (ribbed circular stone, resembling the amla fruit), khapuri (skull), kalasa (auspicious pot) and the ayudha (weapon of the enshrined deity) in succession.
The mastaka of the Pidha deul has the same features except for the addition of ghanta (bell). The horizontal cross- section of the bada and gandi in both the rekha and the pidha deul are square, while the mastaka is circular. The ground plan of khakhara deul is oblong. The temples are remarkable for abundance of sculptures. Stella Kramarisch has aptly remarked, "Architecture in Orissa is but sculpture on a gigantic scale". The sculptural repertory consists of human figures, kanyas, erotic motifs, cult icons, animal figures including mythical and composite figures, decorative designs like variety of scrolls and architectural motifs like pidha mundi, khakhara mundi, vajra mundi etc.
The temple style was in full vigor in the wake of vast religious and cultural resurgence that took place when the Sailodbhavas ruled from the middle of 6th century A.D till the first quarter of 8th century A.D .The temple building activities gained momentum under the Bhaumakaras (736-950 A.D) and the Somavamsis (950-1112 A.D) and reached the climax during the Ganga period (1112-1435 A.D) .The activities however continued even under the Suryavamsi-Gajapatis (1435-1542 A.D) though on a very small and impoverished scale. To a keen observer, the temples of Orissa portray a picture of organic evolution from Parasuramesvara to Lingaraja through Muktesvara and Vaital, which ultimately culminated in Puri and the gigantic Konark.
Architecture of temples of Orissa is like the soothing symphony that whispers the greatness of the glorious Oriya culture in the indelible history of mankind. They have been symbolic of the indigenous culture of a great civilization and a gift to the present from the past.