About the Temple
The 12th century temple is an architectural marvel and represents the Kalingan School of Architecture in its most evolved form. However due lack of conservation , natural elements and hastily done renovation has bereft the temple of its past grandeur. Its only when one enters the temple compound does one wonder, how beautiful it must have been in its original form. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva worshiped as Harihara . As with all Shiva temples in Prachi Valley, its a patal linga and has been christened as Lord Sobhaneswara.
It is believed to have been built during the last phase of King Ananga Bhima Deva-II (of the Ganga dynasty) reign. On entering the premises one cant help but notice the beautifully laid out “Natya mandap” (dancing hall), the open air hall is like an auditorium with beautifully placed pillars which gives it the character. At the beginning of the hall is a pedestal (throne) where the representative of Lord Sobhaneswara used to sit and watch the Devdasis perform. It is believed that the temple was one of the few Shiva temples in the city which followed the Devdasi culture.
Devdasi literally meaning servant of the lord. In ancient times, select few young girls were married off with a deity usually the presiding deity of a village or region. After marriage, the girls were expected to serve the Lord as a wife would discharge her duties. They were trained in music and arts and performed for the Lord in the Natya Mandir of the temple usually in the evening. The girls remained in the temple lifelong and were detached from their families and society at large.
According to the inscription on the wall of the temple, one finds a mention of Nagavamsi King named Vaidyanath. The inscription says that King Vaidyanath built the temple. However historians opine that Vaidyanath must have been a vassal of the Ganga Rulers and could have possibly carried out renovation work after the fall of the Ganga dynasty.
One can find another inscription on the entrance door of the sanctum sanctorum, written in devnagri, it mentions the name of the architect as “Kumuna Moharana” and mentions King Ramachandra . In absence of proper historical records its difficult to decipher whether Kumuna Moharana built the temple or renovated it. What role did King Ramachandra play in the temple preservation.
The architecture of the temple as mentioned is sublime and evolved. During the phase, Kalinga Architecture was at its peak and many new features were introduced in temple architecture in Odisha like the “Natya mandap” and the “Bhoga mandap” (place where prasad is served to devotees). The high base with prominently articulated columns and moulding coupled with the ornately carved Vimana (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple along with prominently carved dainty female figures and female dikpalas (guardians of directions) are signature of Kalingan School of Architecture in its most evolved form.
The sculptures gives an insight into the day to day life of people during those days and the various gods worshiped by the people.
One can also find an image of Lakulisa the preceptor and propagator of Pashupata Sect of Shaivism adorning the walls of the temple.
The huge statue of Nandi- a recent addition within the temple premises catches your attention as one enters the temple.
It is believed that the temple was revered by the Sadhabas (sailors) who offered prayers to Lord Sobhaneswara to save them from a yogini Chandraghanta Harachandi who used to harass the sailors during their voyage.
The temple premises also has a small museum where ancient idols of Lord Vishnu and a Varaha idol are kept on display.
Mahashivratri is a major festival observed at the temple.
The temple also observes festivals related to Lord Vishnu.
The temple is located near the famous Madhaba Temple of Niali.
Having your own vehicle or hired taxi or auto is the best option to visit the temple.
Niali is approximately 45 KM from Bhubaneswar and 58 KM from Cuttack.
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