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Swarnajalesvara Temple, Orissa, 7th c

Svarnajaleswara Epic Panels

The Svarnajaleswara temple is one of the earliest in Bhubaneswara, dated to the early 7th century. It is located off Koti Tirtha Road, near the Parasuramesvara temple, with which it is considered contemporary. The temple has several sculpture panels from both the epics.

Scenes from the Ramayana adorn the recessed portion of the bandhana (moulding) above the north jangha (wall). One such panel shows Sugriva and Rama seated in discussion. Rama has a tuft of hair forming a knot on the centre of his head. He is speaking while Sugriva listens intently. The next panel shows Sugriva instructing his vanara sena. The monkeys are exceptionally well sculpted. Another series of panels shows the Maricha scene. On the left panel Rama, Lakshmana and Sita are seated in a cottage in the forest. The next three scenes show the golden deer, then Rama pursuing it as it runs away, and finally, Rama shooting it as it assumes the Maricha form.

In the western wall are two remarkable panels in the recessed portion of the bandhana. The panel at the right depicts the story Vali, though some of the figures are damaged. The narrative moves from right to left, in the normal direction of circumambulation. The first image is of Sugriva talking to Rama. In the next scene Rama is shooting at seven sal trees to prove his worth to Sugriva. Next, Vali and Sugriva are fighting and Rama, concealed, is shooting at Vali.

On the same wall, the panel on the left has the Mahabaharata story of Arjuna obtaining Pasupata-astra from Siva. The narrative starts with the a forest where Arjuna (head of the image missing) is praying. In the next scene Arjuna and Siva as Kirata (hunter) are quarrelling over the boar, while Parvati stands behind Siva. Next Siva and Arjuna are seen fighting, then Arjuna is kneeling before Siva (image missing) while Parvati stands behind. In the last scene Shiva is presenting the weapon to Arjuna, who is kneeling in anjalimudra.

Bangalore, 2006

Photos and Text © Amit Guha