Goddess Kichakeswari Temple at Khiching

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Goddess Kichakeswari Temple at Khiching

September - October 2011

Orissa Review

Goddess Kichakeswari Temple at Khiching

Balabhadra Ghadai

150 Kms away from Baripada, the headquarters

of Mayurbhanj District and 25 Kms from

Karanjia, the Sub-Divisional headquarters is

situated at modern Khiching (Khijinga Kotta), the

ancient capital city of the Bhanja Kings from about

the middle of the ninth

century AD. to the middle

of the twelfth century AD.

It lies between 21.50

degree north latitude and

85.50 degree east latitude

near the confluence of the

rivers Khairibhandana and

Kantakhairi. This

wonderful land of

fascinating beauty and a

long tradition of art and

architecture, exquisite

temples and historical

monuments speak volumes

of its past glory.

The religious

history of the Bhanja Kings

of Khiching is

cosmopolitan, for

Buddhism, Jain ism and other cults flourished side

by side with Hinduism. The worship of the

Panchadevata, namely Vishnu, Siva, Surya,

Ganapati and Sakti were widely prevalent here.

The Bhanja Kings were devout worshippers of

Sakti as borne by the fact that Kichakeswari

(Khijingeswari) or Chamunda was the tutelary

deity of the Bhanja dynasty. Several images of

Durga, Mahisasuramardini and Saptamatruka

bear evidence of the

popularity of Saktism.

The existing temple of

Goddess Kichakeswari is

not the original one. It was

during the rule of Maharaja

Purna Chandra Bhanja Deo

that a systematic

excavation of the Thakurani

compound was first started

by Raibahadur Rama

Prasad Chand, who had

been deputed for the

purpose by Sir John

Marsal at the request of the

Maharaja. Mr. Chand

during excavation of the

Thakurani compound in

1922-24 came across the

foundation of a great temple

which measured 35’ square at the base.

This foundation represented an old

temple’s vestiges which had long since

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Orissa Review September - October 2011

disappeared in the limbo of history. The installation

of Goddess Kichakeswari on the ruins on an

earthen platform was an impromptu affair

accomplished at a time when the circumstances

were quite unfavorable. Chanda observed two

things: (i) the old temple had enshrined a life-size

image of Hara with many other life- size images

as Parsadevatas / Parivaradevatas and

Dwarapals (now preserved in the site Museum)

and (ii) the temple had collapsed due to weak

foundation. It was quite unbearable for the Bhanja

ruler, Maharaja Purna Chandra that the family

deity was being worshipped in a provisional

structure. There was no dearth of material.

Standing on the ruins of the Thakurani’s compound

it was quite natural for the king to search for and

think of the possible ways and means to restore

the monuments besides providing a temple for the

family deity. The Report on the Administration of

Mayurbhanj 1923-24, p.81 para 5 clearly

records.

“Foundations of the original temple in

which the God Siva was enshrined have been

traced. Over the shrine of the original temple

stands small brick-built temple wherein the

Goddess Kichakeswari is at present enshrined.

At the request of the people of the locality, the

Maharaja (Purna Chandra Bhanj Deo) with his

brother, the Chhotrai Saheb (Pratap Chandra

Bhanj Deo) visited the shrine on the 24th January

1924 and promised to restore the original temple.”

In his conservation note J.A. Page,

Assistant Superintendent of the Archaeological

Survey of India, Central Circle, suggested that

the brick-built shrine of the Thakurani be removed

from the compound as its ugliness did not conform

to the surroundings. The demolition of the shrine

would make construction of a new shrine

imperative, he wrote. At the request of the

Maharaja the Director General of Archaeology

asked Mr. Page to make a plan for a simple

structure of Indo-Aryan style. Since it was

decided to use the doorjamb, door lintel and three

images on the three niches of the old temple in

the proposed new temple, the Khandiya deula

(ruined temple) was demolished. Therefore, the

idea to arrange a plan / design was mooted. The

weak foundation of the old temple was considered

unsuitable for erecting the proposed new

structure. The Administrative report of 1933-34

informs that the Maharaja was in favour of

building a temple of Khiching style.

In 1924-25 the construction of a new

temple for Goddess Kichakeswari was proposed

and accordingly J.A. Page gave a plan of Indo-

Aryan style of temple design. As the style of the

Khiching temples were different from that of

temples of Bhubaneswar, it was decided by the

Maharaja to have a design of a temple of Khiching

style. The first thing the Maharaja did was to build

a site museum for the better preservation of

sculptures for which a large plot of land was

acquired to extend the temple compound and to

fence it with wire. The non-descript brick temple

of the Goddess was demolished and removed

from the compound. The Goddess was put in a

newly constructed shed till a proper temple was

built.

Due to tragic death of Maharaja Purna

Chandra Bhanj Deo in 1928 the progress in the

matter was delayed for a few years and ultimately

Babu Sailendra Prasad Bose, the Archaeological

Supervisor of the department made the design

on the data obtainable from the existing temple

and his design finally received the approval of the

Maharaja. This challenge of Mr. Bose was

formidable one demanding hard work, dedication,

perfect skill, integrity and leadership. The work

for the temple began before the close of the 1933-

34 financial years and completed by the end of

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September - October 2011

1941. The deity was installed on 14th March

1942 amidst pomp and ceremony. The height of

the temple measured 68’ above the ground level

and a sum of Rs.80,000/- was spent in its

reconstruction and conservation.

The temple in its restored form also

adheres to the Orissan Rekha type of architecture

with a peculiarity of its own i.e. absence of a

porch. It is otherwise a Pancharatha temple

consisting of five pages (Pilasters). The sanctuary

is square in the ground plan, rectangular parallelopiped

from above the base, and surrounded by a

curvilinear tower. The original temple was built in

the tenth century A.D. and as such it is almost a

contemporary of the Brahmesvar and Lingaraj

temples at Bhubaneswar.

The image of Kichakeswari, now being

worshipped at the main temple at Khiching is the

grim figure of the Goddess Chamunda. This figure,

although broken in three parts has been joined

together and inspires awe and fear among the

devotees. According to N.N Vasu this image is

one of the forms of Bhima, the emaciated body

disclosing a hideous skeleton with the bones and

ribs all laid bare.

Orissa Review

The Goddess is seated on a lotus issuing

from the naval of Purusa. Over the head and back

of the Goddess rises the figure of Airavata. On

other side of her crown there is a serpent with

uplifted hood. Of the eight hands the left ones are

in Abhaya and Varada poses and hold rosaries

and a head where as two right hands hold a

dambaru and a cup, the other two being

completely damaged.

Thus the temple of Goddess

Kichakeswari is a priceless embodiment of

superb charm and inimitable grace, and occupies

a significant place among the famous monuments

of Orissa like Konark, Puri and Bhubaneswar as

a sacred sanctuary of religious activities and the

Goddess Kichakeswari in the form of eightarmed

Chamunda of Sakta pantheon stands

gloriously betokening the heyday of royal dignity

and aristocracy.

Balabhadra Ghadai, Principal, M.K. College, Khiching,

Mayurbhanj.

Genius does not argue, it creates. – Rabindranath Tagore

29

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