Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Odisha (Orissa) State
Historic sites in Odisha
Asurgarh Fort - Narla, KalahandiA well civilized, urbanized, cultured people inhabited on this land mass around 2000 years ago for which Asurgarh was its capital. This fort is situated near Narla about 35 km from Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi. Asurgarh served as an advanced civilization around 300 BC to 500 AD. and was the capital of Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara around 4th century AD. It was the capital of Kantara through which trade and commerce between Kalinga, Kantara, and Soouth Kosal were made. The Asurgarh Fort is almost rectangular in shape having four gates piercing the surrounding mammoth wall that is made of brick, rubble and earth. After the wall, a wide and deep moat girdles the fort on three sides respectively on the north, south and east. The fort area measures 24.29 hectares of land. On the west of the fort, the river Sandol flows close to the western rampat towards north to meet the river Utei, a tributary of the Tel, at a distance of about 3 km from the fort site. Close to the eastern ditch, the builders of the fort excavated a huge water reservoir measuring 200 acres of land. It is popularly known as Asursagar. It has been pointed out that the water of the reservoir could be trained into the ditch of the fort through two sluices gate. On the southwest corner of the fort, another small tank was dug, which is known today by its name Radhasagar. Habitation zone of the peoples is being documented towards the south and north of the fort immediately after the fortified wall. Lowe town or habitation area is further superimposed by another mud wall within 100 hectares radius at each settlement zone, the mud wall has single gate in the middle
Ranipur-JharialRanipur-Jharial is an important archeological site situated in Balangir district of Odisha The site is situated at a distance of 104 km from Balangir town and 35 km from Titilagarh town. The site consists of the twin villages of Ranipur and Jharial. It has been mentioned as Soma Tirtha in scriptures, the place combined a cross section of religious faiths like Saivism, Buddhism, Vaisnivism and Tantrism. In the past, queens used to live at Ranipur and Jharial was a fort.
The Somavanshi Keshari kings built many temples here that can be dated back to the 9th/10th century AD. It is said that there were at least 200 temples covering an area of about half a mile in length and a quarter of a mile in width. The largest stone temple is 'Someswar Siva', which stands on the banks of the river. It was constructed by a famous Mattamayura Shaivacharya Gagana Siva whose inscription can be found on the lintel of the temple.
The twin hamlets Ranipur and Jharial are located in Bangomunda Block in the Titilagarh subdivision of Balangir district of Odisha on the Titilagarh - Kantabanji road. This site is approached through a kacha road of 8 km. from Mundpadar. The ancient archaeological complex is found to be situated on the ancient trade route that connected Titilagarh, ancient Taitalya Janapada referred to by Panini in fifth century B.C. with Madhya Bharat and Dakshinapatha. The river Tong or Tong Jor, a tributary of Tel flows nearby. The Tel valley is archaeologically very rich and Ranipur-Jharial occupies a central position, being surrounded by a chain of historical sites like Narisinghnath, Maraguda, Podagarh, Asurgarh, Belkhandi, Saintala and Patnagarh all around. At present the archaeological complex is found spread on a vast flat rocky surface. The one near Ranipur may be called Ranipur complex and the other one near village Jharial may be called the Jharial temple complex. The rock surface seems to have been exposed fully by erosion in remote antiquity. Taking advantage of the sedimentary rock deposit, the builders of the monuments, palpably have removed the stone pieces layer wise to use in the monuments. In the south-west, there is the famous Someswar Sagar locally called Jogibandh and in the north-east, we see a deep nala. Temples of varied dimension, deserted and forlorn, stand in isolated splendour on the rocky outcrop, giving an impression of divine solemnity. Brief History Archaeologists like Kedar Nath Mahapatra, Prof. Dr. N. K. Sahu and J. D. Beglar assigned the monuments to early medieval period. However, from personal observation we assign an anterior date to Ranipur-Jharial. From the epigraph inscribed on the lintel of the Someswar temple, we know that one Saiva Archarya “Gagana Siva” was the donor and in the inscription the site has been described as Somatirtha, which finds mention in the Puranas of 3rd/4th century A.D. Thus it is evident that since 3rd/4th century RanipurJharial has assumed the reputation of a Saiva Tirtha. More over, Saivism was popular in ancient Kosala and Kantara region since the days of the Nalas who ruled over this region from the middle of the fourth century A.D. This is corroborated by the recent excavation at Maraguda in Nawapara district where a Saiva Vihar of circa 4th/5th century A.D. has been excavated. Archaeological probe of Maraguda valley excavations have indicated that many Saiva Vihars had been destroyedruthlessly by the invaders, probably the Vakatakas or the Sarabhapuriyas, who were staunch Vaisnavites. After the destruction of the Maraguda Saiva Vihar, the Saivacharyas seemed to have proceeded to the northwesternly direction and established the Saiva establishment at the ancient Somatirtha referred to in the Puranas. The kernel of Tantricism that originated at Maraguda had fuller efflorescence at Ranipur-Jharial. The Tantric Vajrayana and Sahajayana which Indrabhuti and Laxmikara of ancient Sambala (modern Sambalpur) propounded, were very much popular in this region. However, Ranipur-Jharial witnessed great religious development during the time of the Somavansis who ruled over this tract in 8th/ 9th century A.D. Most of the existing monuments can be assigned to this period. When exactly, this place was deserted is difficult to say due to want of evidence. The Muslim invasion in the 15th century might be a factor for its downfall. We believe systematic exploration and excavations in this locality will throw new light on the history and culture of this place. From surface observation, it appears that the site might have still greater remote antiquity. We noticed here foot print emblem, the reminiscent of early Buddhist worship of anoconic diction. Thus prior to 3rd century A.D. probably Ranipur-Jharial had Buddhist association. Important Monuments Hypaethral 64 Yogini Temple This circular roofless temple dedicated to the 64 Yoginis is a monument of the Somavansis who ruled over this territory in 8th/9th century A.D. It is built of sand stone of the local variety. The temple is in good condition. At the centre there is a roofed porch enshrining a six-handed dancing Siva. All around in the niches we find Yogini images. Beglar who visited the place in 1874-75 has also noted them. We count now 62. There might had been two more on both sides of the southern entrance. The niches measures 100 x 50 cm. The wall measures from 2.60 to 2.65 m. The niches begins in the third course of stone slab. The wall is covered wit Leharigudi Originally this temple was in Khakhara order. It is in a dilapidated condition. The name of the temple is perhaps derived from Luipa a tantric Siddha. It is located on the bank of the Someswar Sagar. This temple seems to be a prelude to the Vaital temple of Bhubaneswar on stylistic consideration. The ‘Leharigudi temple’ now in utter deplorable condition, with its semicylindrical roof like the Vaital temple of Bhubaneswar of the Dravidian Salasikhara order (Kalingan Khakhara order) furnishes an anterior datum line of the building activities of this place. The Vaital temple of Bhubaneswar with its developed architectonic and artistic characteristics is being dated to the 6th century A.D. A similar date or even an anterior date, Somesvara Temple, Ranipur Jharialatleast by half of century for the ‘Leharigudi’ of Ranipur-Jharial is not wide of the mark in view of the obvious archaic and early tectonic characteristics of the temple. Sculptural representation is conspicuous by its absence in this temple which in our opinion appears to be a marked feature of the early temple architecture of this type of Sakta shrine, and so we are tempted to suggest a date by the close of the 5th or beginning of 6th century A.D. for Leharigudi. The antiquity of temple building activities of this place thus, could be convincingly taken back at least to 5th century A.D. to the days of the Nalas, who were having undisputed sway in this tract as late as 7th century A.D. During 6th/7th and 7th/8th century A.D. the movement appeared to have continued unabated and the literally hundreds of extant temples of varied dimensions at various stages of preservation and the similar number of already vanished ones amply speak of the glorious epoch of the area. Someswar Temple It is comparatively in a good state of preservation. Here we find the inscription of Gangana Siva which reads “Somasvami Siddhesvara Laxminama Chaturthanam” We noticed here an i nigudi The name of the site is perhaps derived from the term Ranigudi or Ranipur (Queen’s Palace). This temple seems to have derived its name from this. Somewhere near the temple, probably the place of residence of the Queen was there. This was a Siva temple and is in utter ruin. It gives the impression of a four chambered temple and may be of a little later in date. In the Ranod Inscription of Madhya Pradesh we find reference to Ranipadra, which may be identified with present Ranipur. Indralath Brick Temple It is a unique brick temple, variously described as a Siva or Vishnu temple. The sikhara is more than 60 feet high. It is standing on a high platform of sand stone. Some scholars opine that originally it was a Vaisnava temple. Later on it was converted into a Siva temple. However, after careful observation we think that it was a Siva temple. In the temple we notice images of Siva-Parvati, Ganesh etc. The water channel traced out from the lingThe builders of the famous Indralath brick temple as well as the hypaethral temple of 64 Yoginis are not known for certain. Beglar and Williams suggest a 7th century date for Sirpur temple, and therefore, Ranipur Indralath temple being a phototype of the former can be dated in the same epoch as well. The Nala rulers of the 7th century A.D. were preeminently Vaisnavites and their political and cultural activities were mostly confined in Rajim, Kalahandi and Balangir region and so the possibility of their association with the construction of this temple may not be ruled out altogether. Beglar is also inclined to take back the antiquity of 64 Yogini as well as the Somesvara Siva temple to the 8th century A.D. In the present state of our knowledge, we cannot say with certainty the precise time and the regime, when and by whom these temples were built. This much we can say here that the accumulated artistic and architectonic accumen of the post-Gupta age seemed to have had significant contribution to the building activities of this centre. We believe that our comprehensive survey of art and architecture of South Kosala with special reference to Ranipur-Jharial during the period under discussion reveals that there was unprecedented outburst of artistic activities. Keeping pace with the theoretical concept of the multiplication of gods and goddesses of the various pantheons, the rulers of this region sincerely attempted to reflect them through the medium of stone. The economic prosperity of the kingdom combined with the benign patronage and zeal of the rulers seem to have offered a most conducive atmosphere for prolific attainment of the artistic excellence of this age. In fact, with numerous monuments Ranipur-Jharial can well be designated as a temple town of an estimable importance in the remote past. Somatirtha Somatirtha is identified with the present twin hamlets of Ranipur-Jharial in Balangir district of Odisha. Beglar who visited the temple town in 1874- 75 counted 57 temples of varied shape and size at various stages of decay and preservation and noted about the existence of about 120 t temples in early times. We made a systematic survey of the temple complex and traced out the outline of the foundation of twenty temples and we believe that not less than 200 temples of various dimensions existed here in the heyday of the sacred place over an area of 2 x l km. Beglar further writes “the occurrence of so many temples at this spot is sufficiently account for by the inscription which records the existence here of a tirth or place of pilgrimage”. He assigns the latest date of the structures to 8th century A.D. and noted historian K.N. Mahapatra between 650 to 950 A.D. Now so far the antiquity of the place as a tirtha is concerned, we are inclined to date back as early as 3rd/4th century A.D. Our contention is based on the fact that Somatirtha apparently, named after the presiding deity of this sacred centre Somesvara Siva, finds mention in the Vamana Puran
InchudiInchudi is a village situated 19 km from Balasore town. It is famous for the historic Salt Satyagraha of 1930. It is said that after Dandi (where Mahatma Gandhi himself led the movement), the mass civil disobedience against Salt Laws was most successful in this village. The participation of several women in the Inchudi campaign was regarded by the then Congress High Command as the highlight of the movement.
KaliakataKaliakata is a small village in Chhendipada, situated north-west of Angul town. Kaliakata has pre-historic sites that were discovered by Valentine Ball in 1876. A recent investigation has revealed that the sites are very important for study of pre-historic antiquities.
Kuchai and KulianaKuchai is a pre-historic site situated at a distance of 8 km north of Baripada. Excavations at Kuchai yielded yielded some Neolithic possessions of man. Potteries found here indicate the development of Microlithic culture of the late Stone Age in this area.
Several palaeolithic artifices have been found at Kuliana, which situated at a distance of 18 km from Baripada,
Vikramkhol (Bikramkhol)Vikramkhol is a cave containing pre-historic, undeciphered pictographic inscriptions. The cave is situated at a distance of 26 km to the west of Jharusguda.
The inscription is in a natural rock-shelter, six feet below the top. The rock is a rough sandstone. The rock-shelter is 115 feet (35 m) in length and 27 feet 7 inches (8.41 m) in height from the floor (35 m by 8.4 m). It faces north east. The inscribed portion is about 35 feet (11 m) by 7 feet (11 m by 2.1 m). Some of the letters are sharply cut, but the incision-marks of the majority do not show sharp cutting. It seems that an iron chisel was not used. Some of the letters are partly cut and partly painted, while some letters are only in paint, but the majority are completely cut. It is evident that all the letters were first painted before being incised, which was the method regularly employed in the period of Brahmi inscription. The color of the paint is red ochre, with which we are familiar in the pre-historic and historic caves and cave-buildings in India.
The inscription was discovered by an educated Sadhu, Swami Jnamananda. An examination of the letters, which at first sight give the impression of having Brahmi forms, showed that the writing was a mixture of Brahmi forms and a developed type of the Mohenjodaro script.
Prehistoric cave painting sites
GudahandiGudahandi hills are situated near the Khaligarh village, at a distance of 7 km from Ampani hills in Kalahandi. A row of caves is situated at the foot of these hills. These caves bear pre-historic pictographic paintings.
Pictographic paintings in red and black colours appear at the entrances of some of the caves. Even though these paintings are yet to be studied thoroughly, it is widely believed that they belong to the period of Indus Valley Civilisation. All the three hills taken together have the appearance of a pot with a lid on it.The name Gudahandi, meaning a pot with molasses, may have originated from this.
SimlikholSimlikhol is situated 60 km from Padmapur in Bargarh district. The site has a 13 feet (4.0 m) high cave that consists of pre-historic rock paintings and other things of palaeontological interest
The cave was probably a natural rock shelter for the primitive man. During British Raj, the cave was used as a shelter by many freedom fighters evading arrest or detention.
During Dussehra, a festival is observed at a Durga temple located besides the cave.
UshakothiUshakothi, situated 20 km from Sambalpur, is a rock-cut cave situated at the foot hill of Maheswar hill, in the midst of deep forests. It measures 150 feet (46 m) in height and more than 200 feet (61 m) in width. This cave contains yet to be deciphered primitive paintings.
YogimathYogimath, situated 124 km from Bhawanipatna, is notable neolithic cave paintings. The unique brick temple of Pataleswar at Budhikomna is situated at a distance of 40–50 km from Yogimath.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )