Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar is one of the oldest known Shiva temples in India. The word Lingaraj translates to King of Lingas. Here Lord Shiva is worshiped as Harihara and Tribhuvaneshwara.
Best time to visit: Nothing in particular, but try to visit early morning or in the evening.
Photography: Not allowed
How to reach: The temple is easily accessible through city bus or auto rickshaws from the Kalpana chowk of Bhubaneswar.
Although primarily a Shiva shrine, many vaishnavite traditions are also followed in this temple along with the shaivite traditions. For example, the Shivalinga here is offered Bilvapatra as well as Tulsi leaves (Tulsi leaves is customarily offered to Lord Vishnu). The flag of the temple is also fixed to a Pinaka bow instead of the trishul which is usually found atop the Shiva temples. The gatekeepers of the temple are Jaya and Vijaya (The dwarpals of Lord Vishnu). The amalgamation of vaishnavite and shaivite features makes this temple unique. Lingaraja temple was built in the eleventh century by the kings from the Somavamsi dynasty, with later additions from the Ganga dynasty rulers. The temple is built in a typical Kalinga architecture with features like the vimana, jagamohana, bhoga mandapa etc. The 180 ft vimana of the temple has elaborate sculptures and carvings. Lakhs of devotees visit Lingaraj on the eve of Shivaratri which is the prime festival of the temple.
On reaching the temple, on the left side, there is a counter to deposit footwear, mobile and electronic gadgets. I am not exactly sure why photography is prohibited in this temple. There isn’t much crowd on normal days and there isn’t much security threat either. You enter the temple through a security gate. On entering on the left, there is water facility to wash hands and feet. Then on moving ahead, you reach a pillar with a bull on it. It is the Nandi bull, the divine mount of Lord Shiva. People embrace this pillar and move into the temple. On normal days, contrary to its reverence, the temple is almost empty and you can easily go inside. The devotees who reach the temple within 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM can visit the inner sanctum of the temple and have darshan of the divine Shivalinga in the sanctum sancotrum. During other hours, devotees can have darshan from a close distance.
The temple has a large courtyard around it which has many smaller temples. While you circumambulate the temple, on the left, there is a huge statue of Lord Ganesha etched into the vimana of the temple which can be reached by iron stairs. Similar statues of Lord Kartikeya and Mata Parvati can be found on the back side and right side of the temple respectively. There are other smaller shrines like that of Shani Dev, Lord Hanuman, Lord Narashimha, etc in the temple. Apart from that, there are over hundred smaller temples having many Shivalingas. The temples of Lord Somnath, Lord Kalbhairav are the most discernible. There is another temple dedicated to the Nandi bull.
There is nothing much to see here and 1 hour is enough to thoroughly explore the temple. However, if you are in the temple city of Bhubaneswar and are willing to explore some history and culture, this is the perfect place. Foreigners and non Hindus are not allowed inside the temple. Overall I had a good evening there. You can also visit the Ananta Vasudeva temple which is close to Lingaraja temple and was constructed around the same time. The Vishnu idol in this temple is very beautiful. However, this once beautiful temple has succumbed to negligence and is fast losing its significance. Still, you can just pay a visit to the Ananta Vasudeva temple if you are going to Lingaraj.