Exploring the Temples of Jajpur: A Spiritual Tour of Biraja Kshetra
Jajpur has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. The town was once known as "Viraja Kshetra'' and was an important center of worship for the Hindus. It was also the capital of the famous Odiya King Yayati Keshari in the 10th century CE and the glimpses of its past glory can be seen in its historic buildings and temples.
During the medieval period, Jajpur was ruled by various dynasties such as the Somavamshis, Eastern Gangas and the Gajapatis. These dynasties contributed significantly to the development of the town and built numerous temples and other structures. The temples of Jajpur are renowned for their unique architecture and intricate carvings. Most of these temples are made of sandstone and have a distinctive Kalinga style of architecture. We take you on a tour of the historic temples of Jajpur -
Biraja Mata Temple
The Biraja Mata Temple in Jajpur, is the most important Shakitapitha in Odisha where the Goddess is worshipped in the form of Shakti. This ancient temple houses a magnificent idol of Goddess Biraja sculpted out of black stone, depicting her slaying the demon king Mahishasura in the form of a water buffalo. The temple is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in India, attracting lakhs of devotees each year who come seeking the blessings of the Goddess.
Historians believe that the temple's history dates back to the Gupta empire in the 4th century CE, when the Tirtha on the banks of the River Baitarani became important. It is also believed that pieces of Goddess Sati's body fell from heaven to earth, where different Saktipithas emerged. The Biraja Mata Temple is said to have been built at the spot where Goddess Sati's navel fell. In addition to the main temple, visitors can explore smaller shrines and temples, including those dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Ishaneshwara. Priests perform daily rituals for pilgrims, and offering a 'Pinda Dana' to one's ancestors is said to give them moksha.
The Jagannath Temple in Jajpur, located near the Dashashwamedha Ghat on the Baitarani river, is a more than 800-year-old temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath. Originally built by Anangabhima Deva III of the Eastern Ganga dynasty in the 13th century, it still retains its divine grandeur. The temple is built in the traditional Kalinga style of temple architecture. The main temple is resplendent in white and comprises two parts, the high shikhara and the assembly hall. The sanctum sanctorum has the idols of Balbhadra, Lord Jagannath, and Subhadra placed on a high masonry pedestal. The temple complex has numerous sculptures of deities like Ganesha, Parvati, and dwarf-like beings, along with other architectural fragments, which are remnants of the temples that once stood here.
The temple was patronised by the Gajapati rulers until the late 16th century CE, and after two centuries of decline under the Mughals, it found a new lease of life in the 18th century. Today, the Jagannath Temple is an important centre of worship for devotees who come from near and far to seek blessings.
The Trilochaneshwar temple in old Jajpur town is one of the most important Shaivite temples in the region. During the rule of the East Ganga dynasty, Shaivism rose in the region. The Eastern Ganga kings embellished the town with several temples, some of which survived to this day, with Trilochaneshwar being one of them.
The temple is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures, including architectural fragments, inscriptions, miniature temples, and votive Shivalingas, dating back from the 8th to the 14th centuries. The Jagamohana or the assembly hall of the main temple is a masterpiece of architecture decorated with images of multiple mythological figures. The Trilochaneshwar temple complex has three small temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, built-in different periods in history. The Chaturmukha Shiva temple was constructed during the 11th century under the Somavanshi rulers, while Champeshwara Shiva came up under the Marathas in the 18th century. The temple complex is truly an archeological gem.
The Siddheshwar Temple, located just outside Jajpur town, is a 14th-century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Renovated by the Gajapati dynasty in the 16th century, the temple complex features numerous 'Sahastralingas' and fragments of historic sculptures. Once a part of a larger temple complex, only a few shrines remain. Between the 14th and 16th centuries, it was the main religious centre along the Baitarani River, before moving upstream towards Jajpur town. Devotees still offer ritual prayers to the river at the ghat by the Siddheshwar temple.
In Jajpur, the temples reverberate with the echoes of ancient prayers, transporting seekers of solace into a realm where the sacred and the earthly converge in divine harmony. So do visit Jajpur to marvel at these divine wonders.
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