More Just A Pitstop For Puri, Bhubaneswar’s Ekamra Kshetra Is A Hidden Gem Of Ancient Temples & Lord Shiva’s Resting Place

Bhubaneswar boasts a heritage stretching over 3,000 years...

by Tejashee Kashyap
More Just A Pitstop For Puri, Bhubaneswar’s Ekamra Kshetra Is A Hidden Gem Of Ancient Temples & Lord Shiva’s Resting Place

Often, Bhubaneswar is viewed through the narrow lens of being a mere transit point for travellers. The capital city often finds itself overshadowed by the nearby coastal allure of Puri, Jagannath Temple and the grandeur of the Sun Temple at Konark. This perception diminishes the rich historical, cultural, and architectural tapestry that the city offers. On my recent visit to Bhubaneswar, the city opened up as a treasure trove of architectural splendour and profound mythology. Bhubaneswar boasts a heritage stretching over 3,000 years, particularly centred around the deity Shiva in Ekamra Kshetra.

Legends Of Lord Shiva In Ekamra Kshetra

Those who delve deeper will find that Bhubaneswar harbours a historical and spiritual gem, Ekamra Kshetra. Take the place as an open-air museum of ancient temples, each narrating the story of Odisha’s architectural and artistic journey through the centuries. It is home to over 500 temples, many of which date back to the 7th to 12th centuries.

Svanir Homestay was a delightful find, tucked away from the bustling city streets and offering a serene retreat amidst nature. The warmth of the owners was immediately apparent, and they took great pride in showcasing the rich cultural heritage of their city. On my first evening there, we talked over a home-cooked meal about the must-visit places in Bhubaneswar. To my surprise, they insisted that I explore Ekamra Kshetra, a heritage-rich area that they described as the heartbeat of the city. I soon discovered that it was more than just a collection of temples. Walk around Ekamra Kshetra and explore the hidden gems, including lesser-known temples, ancient water tanks, and bustling local markets.

At the core of Bhubaneswar’s spiritual allure is the legend of Lord Shiva. According to mythological lore, Bhubaneswar, referred to as Ekamra Kshetra in ancient scriptures, was once a dense mango grove blessed by Shiva himself. The name ‘Ekamra’ translates to ‘one mango tree’, signifying the sacred grove that once stood in this region. The legend goes that Shiva, enamoured by the beauty of the region and its serenity, decided to reside here as Lingaraj, the king of the lingas.

Discovering Ekamra Kshetra

Start with Godabari Kunda which is a lesser-known yet profoundly sacred site. A sacred pond, according to local legend, was created by Lord Shiva himself, and its waters are said to possess the same sanctity and purifying properties as those of the Godavari River. It is said that the divine couple, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati used this pond for their daily ablutions. Next, visit Ananta Vasudeva Temple, a Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and constructed in the 13th century. This temple is a significant landmark in Bhubaneswar’s religious landscape amidst the city’s majority of temples, focusing on Lord Shiva. The temple was built to house the deities Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra, which mirrors the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri.

Often overshadowed by the more famous temples in the area, Gouri Shankara is a hidden gem. It is believed to have been built around the 9th to 11th centuries. This was a time when the Kalinga dynasty flourished, and the rulers patronized the construction of numerous temples. The temple’s dedication to both Shiva and Parvati (Gouri) symbolises the divine union and balance of male and female energies. The next stop should be the Chitrakarini Temple. This is the only temple in the world dedicated to the goddess “Chitrakarini,” who is the heavenly form of Goddess Saraswati. This monument is dedicated to honouring and worshipping women for their contributions to art.

The Rajarani Temple, often called the ‘Love Temple’ due to its erotic carvings, was another highlight. The temple, built from reddish and golden sandstone has intricate carvings of celestial beings, guardians, and dancers on the temple walls. Amongst all, the Lingaraj Temple stands tall and majestic. The homestay owners explained the significance of the temple and the legend of Lord Shiva choosing this place as his abode.

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Why It Deserves More Attention

Despite its rich history, architectural brilliance, and cultural vibrancy, Ekamra Kshetra remains underappreciated in the broader tourism landscape. This place remains relatively underexplored. This oversight stems partly from the overshadowing fame of Puri and Konark. However, those who venture into Bhubaneswar’s historical heart are rewarded with an immersive experience that rivals, if not surpasses, the more popular tourist circuits. This part of Bhubaneswar is a treasure trove of history, spirituality, and culture that deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. This underrated charm makes it a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by discerning travellers.

The morning spent exploring the temples, the serene lake, and the medicinal garden offered a profound connection to the city’s soul. Bhubaneswar is much more than just a gateway—it is a destination in its own right. So when the next time you’re here in Bhubaneswar, take an unparalleled journey through the glorious past of Odisha.

Cover image credits: Wikimedia Commons