Lingaraj Temple, This most magnificent monument is also the loftiest. It dates back to the 11th century and represents the mature and complex 'Nagara' style of Orissan temple architecture. Its tower, dominating the surroundings, is visible from miles around. The temple, set in a huge walled compound measuring 520 feet by 465 feet, originally consisted only of the sanctum and the mandap or the entrance hall. The dancing hall and the hall of offerings are later additions. Around the main shrine there are many smaller votive shrines. The outer walls of the temple are lavishly decorated with beautiful sculptures which mark a climax of Hindu decorative architecture. Birds, beasts, creepers, flowers, men and women in erotic poses and postures, a host of gods and goddesses all are there in their full majesty and grandeur. The inner walls of the shrine, containing the phallus symbol of Shiva, are plain and without any embellishment. Just north of this temple is the sacred lake of Bindu Sagar with a tiny island in the centre, where there are many lesser shrines. Here, once in a year, Lingaraj himself is brought for ritual ablutions.
These temples epitomize a comprehensive history of the Orissan style of temple architecture from its very inception to perfection spreading almost to two thousand years from 3rd century B. C. to 16th Century A. D. These magnificent monuments dominating the city skyline, are within a reasonable walking distance from one another. The 46 metre high Lingaraj Temple marks the culmination of temple tradition of Bhubaneswar.
Rajarani Temple : This temple with its sculptural excellence, profuse decoration and wonderful proportions, is a unique example of Orissan temple art. The erotic mithuna figures, fascinating nayikas, nymphs and gaja-simhas, all are there in great details. Its plain but majestic jagmohan (mondap) presents a great contrast to its lavishly decorated main shrine.
Other temples worth a visit include Luxmaneswar, Satrughaneswar and Bharteswar (6th century A. D.), Parsurameswar and Swarna Jaleswar (7th century), Vaital (8th century), Mukteswar (10th century), Brahmeswar (11th Century) and Anant Basudeva (13th century).
The Anant Basudeva Temple, built in 1278, is the only temple dedicated to Vaishnava worship, standing on an ornate platform, continues the decorative and mature Lingaraj temple tradition. Brahmeswar temple built in 1060, with its most elegant sculptures, is a miniature version of the great Lingaraj shrine. It is open to all including foreigners, and is a must for the visitors who care to have an idea of Orissan temple architecture.
Mukteswar Temple, with its elaborately ornate and famous torana or stone arch at the entrance, is profusely decorated on its outer walls. These embellishments include celestial beings, armed processions, and amorous figures. It is regarded a gem of Orissan architecture on a account of its exquisite carved details and lavish sculptures. The nearby Parsurameswar Temple has equally excellent carvings and sculptures on its walls. It is most noted for its latticed windows, one of which is embellished with a relief of gay dancers and musicians of great charm. It is one of the earliest and the best preserved Orissan temples.
Museums :Bhubaneswar also has three very interesting museums. The Orissan State Museum is centrally located and has a rich collection of sculptures, coins, copper plates, armory objects, rare palm leaf manuscripts, lithic and bronze age implements, paintings, traditional folk and musical instruments and other art objects. The Handicrafts Museum on the Secretariat Road houses a good collection of Orissan handicrafts.The Tribal Research Museum is another interesting place.