It took us a good fifteen minutes to cross the busy road to get to the muddy lot on the otherside. The patch was overgrown with weeds and strewn with urban waste . From here led a mud path to an enclosure sprouting a set of kalinga style spires. A dismal point of entry to an enchantment called MUKTESHWAR.
Of the nearly 1000 temples in Odisha's Ekamra Kshetra or Bubhaneshwar, Mukteshwar seems to be the most elegant . It looks like a smaller, compact "pocket edition" of the magnificent Lingaraj temple in Bubhaneshwar. Built in 950 AD, it is profusely ornate ; the intricacy of the stone embellishments , simply stunning. Not an inch of stone left unworked.
No wonder it is called the crown jewel of Classical Kalinga Art.
The most eye-catching detail here is the splendid doorway, the "torana", influenced by Buddhist architecture.
Of the carvings, a vast proportion portray scenes of skinny ascetics engaged in what looks like ayurvedic medicine preparation rituals, assisted by young lads and goblins. Or are they alchemists ? The scenes portrayed in the accompanying panels are very intriguing.
Noteworthy are the decorative medallions on the pilasters , which show warrior like figures with elaborate hairdos and clunky jewelry, some with wide smiles displaying their teeth!
I loved those female warriors. Feminine, yet strong and determined in action.
Many panels show familiar Panchatantra stories. But I wonder whose faces are those, sculpted within round "picture-frames", placed at regular intervals all around the outer walls. They have markedly Buddhist and Jaina features.
Though it is a small building, it demands a lot of time to take in each and every little interesting detail embroidered on stone.
While looking up in wonder and amazement, one can catch sight of some solitary yaksha figures, crouching on the edge of high ledges and peering down , with a smirk on their faces. I found those fellows quite unnerving !
The temple pond, once thought to contain holy water with curative powers, is now unfortunately a green pool of stagnating rain water. Nevertheless, the reflection of the temple spires in the still water did make a very enchanting sight.
Accompanying this small gem of a temple , within the enclosure well maintained by the ASI, is another, plainer mini temple, the Siddheshwar and some nondescript pavilions. The temple complex , it is said, originally stood within an octogonal compound, of which nothing much remains now. Over the years, the temple has undergone many improvements and renovations thanks to the patronage of kings and now, the ASI.
We are lucky Mukteshwar has been preserved. But it hurts to imagine how many other treasures may have been lost !
( Photographs : By nephew, Shravan )