Mukhteshwara (Lord of Freedom) temple, often called the “Gem of Odisha culture” is a 10th century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Mukhteshwar temple has a typical Kalinga architecture featuring a Mukhasala, a Jagamohana and the Vimana. Mukhteshwara temple, though a dwarf, when compared in size to other temples built during that golden epoch of 300 years like the humongous Lingaraj temple or the Jagannath temple at Puri, is no short in sculptural magnificence. Mukhteshwara temple boasts of ornate pillars, artistic columns and a splendid vimana; all featuring excellent stone carvings on the red sandstone.
There is an archway in front of the temple which has sculptures of monkeys and floral carvings along with few other sculptures. The walls of the temple and the temple precincts has many sculptures of women with distinct facial expressions with attention to hairstyles and jewelry. There is a lion sculpture atop the entrance of the jagamohana. There are many other idols and sculptures as well, but it is extremely difficult to figure them out without a guide.
Inside the temple, there is a Shivalinga in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Though there is a placard mentioning the roof of the jagamohana to have a lotus structure with eight petals, it was not visible due to improper lighting inside the temple.
There is a small well, known as the Marichi Kund, on the left side and a small pond behind the temple. Within the temple premises, there are few other small temples along with the Siddhesvara temple which is larger in size. However, Siddhesvara temple seems to be an incomplete structure with very fewer decorations and stone scrollwork on its walls and the vimana. The idol of Lord Kartika and Lord Ganesha are the only conspicuous carvings on the walls of this temple. I spent about 20 minutes in Mukhteshwara temple premises which is enough to explore everything.
There is another important temple at a walking distance of 10 minutes from the Mukhteshwara temple – The Raja Rani temple. Although the inner sanctum of this temple has no deities, the entrance pillars of this temple has sculpture of a Nag and a Nagin (a male and a female snake) which the locals believe to be the king and the queen and hence the name Raja Rani temple. Others believe that the name is derived from the name of a stone, rajarani , installed in the temple. The temple is sometimes referred to as the love temple owing to a large number of erotic carvings that can be found on the temple walls. This temple is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and Odisha Tourism and has an entry charge or Rs. 15. There is a long path from the entrance gate to the temple, flanked by lawns on both sides. The temple premises are well maintained and clean. There are sculptures depicting the celestial wedding of Shiva and Parvati on the western wall.
The Raja Rani temple does not have any deities or idols in the inner sanctum which gives an impression that the temple is either incomplete and was never consecrated or as some believe, it was used by the king and the queen as a private leisure place. A 10 min stroll around the temple is all one requires to explore this place.
Given the historical importance of these places, the government should strive to provide guide services in these temples so that the visitors can correctly decipher the actual meaning that these stone monuments behold while relishing its beauty.
If you are in the temple city of Bhubaneswar and are enthusiastic about history and culture then you must visit these 10th century temples. It provides a vivid insight into the expertise of the sculptors of the bygone centuries. These temples are very close to the famous Lingaraj temple and together they make for a perfect divine beginning to your day in Bhubaneswar.
You can read my post on Lingaraj Temple here: