Lingaraj Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Harihara, a form of Shiva and is one of the oldest temples of Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Odisha. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city and the state. The Lingaraja temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. Rising to a height of about 180 ft (55 m) and dominating the entire landscape it represents the quintessence of the Kalinga Architecture and the culminating result of the architectural tradition at Bhubaneswar. There is also a railway station named after it, called Lingaraj Temple Road.
Lingaraj means "The king of Lingam", the symbol of Saivism. Shiva is here worshipped as Tribhuvaneshwara, the master of three worlds, namely, heaven, earth and netherworld. His consort is called Bhuvaneshvari. The temple is more than 1100 years old, dating back in its present form to the last decade of the eleventh century, though there is evidence that part of the temple was built during the sixth century CE as the temple has been emphasized in some of the seventh century Sanskrit texts.
By the time the Lingaraj temple was constructed, the Jagannath cult had been growing, which historians believe is evidenced by the co-existence of Vishnu and Shiva worship at the temple. The temple is believed to be built by the Somavanshi king Jajati Keshari, in 11th century CE. Jajati Keshari had shifted his capital from Jajpur to Bhubaneswar which was referred to as Ekamra Kshetra in the Brahma Purana, an ancient scripture.
The Lingaraj temple is the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. James Ferugsson (1808 – 1886), a noted critic and historian rated the temple as "one of the finest examples of purely Hindu temple in India". It is enshrined within a spacious compound wall of laterite measuring 520 ft (160 m) by 465 ft (142 m). The wall is 7.5 ft (2.3 m) thick and surmounted by a plain slant coping. Alongside the inner face of the boundary wall, there is a terrace to protect the compound wall against outside aggression. The tower is 55 m (180 ft) high and the complex has 150 smaller shrines in its spacious courtyard. Each inch of the 55 m (180 ft) tall tower is sculpted.
The Lingaraja temple faces east and is built of sandstone and laterite. The main entrace is located in the east, while there are small entrances in the north and south. The temple is built in the Deula style that has four components namely, vimana (structure containing the sanctum), jagamohana (assembly hall), natamandira (festival hall) and bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings). The dance hall was associated with the raising prominence of the devadasi system that existed during the time. The various units from the Hall of offering to the tower of the sanctum increase in height. The Assembly hall (jagamohana), sanctum and temple tower wer built during the eleventh century, while the Hall of offering (bhoga-mandapa) was built during the twelth century.
- Bhogamandapa: The bhogamandapa (Hall of offering) has four doors in each of the sides. The exterior walls of the hall has decorative sculptures of men and beast. The hall has a pyramidal roof made of up several horizontal layers arranged in sets of two with intervening platform. It bears an inverted bell and a kalasa in the top.
- Natamandira: The natamandira (festival hall) has one main entrace and two side entrances. The side walls of the hall has decortive sculptures displaying women and couples. It has a flat roof sloping in stages. There are thick pylons inside the hall.
- Jagamohana: The jagamohana (assembly hall) has entraces from south and north and has a 30 metres (98 ft) tall roof. The hall has a pyramidal roof made of up several horizontal layers arranged in sets of two with intervening platform as in the Hall of offering. The facade to the entraces are decorated with perforated windows with lion sitting on hind legs. The inverted bell above second unit is adorned by kalasa and lions.
- Rekha Deula: The rekha deula has a 60 m (200 ft) tall pyramidal tower over the sanctum. It is covered with decorative design and seated lion projecting from the walls. The sanctum is square in shape from the inside. The tower walls are sculpted with female figures in different poses.
This temple has images of both Shiva and Vishnu. It is attributed the raising prominence of Jagannath cult that became predominant during the construction of the temple. Vishnu is present as Sila and the Shiva idol surrounds the Vishnu idol.
As per Hindu legend, an underground river originating from the Lingaraj temple fills the Bindusagar Tank and the water is believed to heal physical and spiritual illness. Swayambhu is worshipped both as Shiva and Vishnu. The harmony of the two sects is seen in this temple where the deity is worshipped as Harihara, a combined form of Vishnu and Shiva. The presiding deity, is the Swayambhu Lingam. The granite block image of the Linga is said to be bathed daily with water, milk and bhang (marijuana). Almost all the Hindu gods and goddesses are represented here, reflecting the innate element of harmony within the religion.
Shivaratri is the main festival celebrated annually. Celebrated in Phalgun month every year thousands of devotees visit the temple to get a darshan of God Lingaraj. Apart from a full day of fasting, bel leaves are offered to Lingaraj on this auspicious day. The main celebrations take place at night when devotees pray all night long. The devout usually break their fast after the Mahadipa (a huge lamp) is lit on the spire of the temple.