About the Temple
Built during the later stages of the 8th century AD is popularly known as “Tini Mundiya Mandira” (the three headed temple). The temple is dedicated to goddess Chamunda. The temple was built during the reign of the Bhaumakara dynasty. The three projecting spires are said to represent “Mahasaraswati, Mahalaxmi and Mahashakti” together they are the powers of Goddess Chamunda.
The architecture of the temple belongs to the Khakara group of temples – an offshoot of classical Kalinga School of Architecture which are essentially dedicated to goddesses and have a typical style- a truncated pyramid shaped roof sits over a rectangular building. The architecture bears close resemblance to the Gopuram of the South Indian temples.
The presiding deity Goddess Chamunda (a form of Shakti) is depicted sitting on a corpse flanked by an owl and a jackal, the ferocity of the eyes over an impoverished frame with just a garland of skulls as her ornament, she is the all powerful enraged woman on the prowl. Though as of today the practice of offering any kind of sacrifice to the Goddess is abandoned, the sacrificial altar in front of the Jagamohana is proof of its tantrik (sorcery) past.
Though the main “deula” (sanctum) of the temple is beautifully carved, the Jagamohana is surprisingly bereft of any carvings and is at best a crude projection, many believed the temple remained incomplete, which may have some resonance considering the Bhaumakaras during that time were in the last legs of their reign in Odisha and constantly being engulfed in power struggle.
The name “Baitala” is derived from “Betal” or spirit which the Tantrik’s ( people practicing witchcraft) invoked to attain supernatural powers.
The cult revered the female form as the creator of the universe, the temple unequivocally expresses this. Hence one finds images of women instead of gods at the temple. The few male figures that are there are always accompanied by a female. Save for the image of Lord Shiva depicted as Ardhanareswara ( half man and half woman) right at the top of the entrance gate of the sanctum sanctorum.
Apart from human forms, one can kind carvings of scenes depicted in nature as the cult was based on worshiping the forces of nature
The presence of the miniature rekha deula at the four corners of the Jagamohana, which is symbolic of the “panchayatana” temple plan where the main temple is accompanied by four subsidiary miniature shrines at the four corners. Since the temple was built during the evolution phase of the Kalingan Architecture when new concepts were getting introduced the experimentation might have been tried out with a Khakara Deula.