Resting amidst plush gardens, the Rajarani Temple is an 11th century temple with more than one distinction making it one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites as well as tourist spots of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha.
The temple is locally known as “Love Temple” for ornately carved erotic carvings of couples and women beautifying it. But the temple is also renowned for the fact that no God or Goddess is worshiped in it.
However, its associations with Shaivism are strongly indicated by the figures of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati carved on the walls. It is also believed that formerly it was known as Indreswara, a form of Lord Shiva.
The temple is made from beautiful red-and-gold colored sandstone locally known as Rajarani, giving the temple its name. Various historians have found it to have been constructed at some point between 11th and 12th century AD, roughly around the same period as that of Jagannath Temple of Puri. At present, the temple is a ticketed monument maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
The temple is most known for the breathtaking intricate and elaborate carvings of women in various postures such as fondling a child, looking into a mirror, caressing a pet bird, taking off an anklet, playing a musical instrument, dancing and many more. Other sculptures on the walls of the temple are that of Goddess Parvati, scenes of marriage of Lord Shiva, and Lord Nataraja.
Among the other sculptures that catch the attention of the visitors are those of ‘Guardians of the Eight Directions’. Placed from the entrance in a clockwise direction, these figures are carved in eight directions around the shrine, projecting its base to these directions. These eight guardians are Indra, Agni, Yama, Nirriti (God of suffering), Varuna, Vayu, Kubera, and Ishana (Shiva).
The Rajarani temple is constructed in pancharatha style, resting on a raised platform with two structures. The pyramidal porch, i.e. viewing hall, is known as Jagamohana and the central shrine is known as the Vimana and has a bada, a curvilinear spire having a height of about 59 feet. It is also believed that the architecture of some of the most noted temples of central India, including Khajuraho temples and Totesvara Mahadeo temple of Kadawa have originated from the Rajarani temple.
Every year from January 18 to 20, the tourism department of the government of Odisha organizes Rajarani music festival at the temple. Music artists from various parts of the country participate in the three-day long festival, of which, classical music is the highlight.