Jajpur, Odisha: A place of many attractions

River Baitarani at Jajpur
River Baitarani at Jajpur

The Mythology of Sati/Sakti Pithas

As per Hindu Mythology, once Goddess Sati (Durga) committed suicide when Her father Daksha showed disrespect to Goddess Sati’s consort Lord Shiva by not inviting Lord Shiva to a Yajna (Fire worship) organized by him. Lord Shiva was furious at this & started dancing Tandava, the dance of destruction carrying the body of Sati on His shoulder. Everybody was afraid of the Tandava dance of Lord Shiva as it would destroy the Universe. Lord Vishnu , in an attempt to stop lord Shiva, started surreptitiously cutting up the dead-body of Sati by His weapon Sudarshan Chakra. Sati’s body was ultimately cut into 51 pieces & fell into 51 separate places. These 51 places were called Sati/Sakti Pithas, & they are all highly important holy places for Hindus. Jajpur is one of these places, & it is said that the Naavi or navel of Sati fell here.

Returning to the story, when Lord Shiva realized that the body of Sati is no more, His anger subsided, & He stopped dancing, & the Universe escaped inevitable destruction. But that is not related to our topic here.

According to another mythological story, the mid portion of the body of the demon Gayasura fell here when he was killed by Lord Vishnu, & hence it is also called Naavigaya.

According to a third mythological story, Lord Bramha performed Aswamedha Yajna ( an ancient Vedic ritual where a horse is sacrificed to the holy fire) here on the bank of the river Baitarani.

Jajpur : The Place

Jajpur is a town in the Jajpur district in the Indian state of Odisha. It is popularly known as Biraja Khetra, which translates as "the place sacred to Goddess Biraja", and is located on the banks of the holy river Baitarani, which almost encircles the town. The town is rather dusty & congested, with innumerable temples dotting the area. The river Baitarani is also considered holy by the Hindus, & in certain auspicious dates, hundreds of thousands of devotees from several parts of India take a holy dip in it.

History of jajpur

It was the capital of Odisha during the Keshari dynasty & is believed to be named after the Somvanshi King `Jajati/Yayati Keshari`, who ruled here in the early 10th century CE. Prior to that, this area was ruled by the Bhaumakaras.

King Yajati Keshari performed ten Ashwamedha Yajnas on the bank of Baitarani, & the spot became known as Dashaswamedha Ghat.

Dashaswamedh Ghat on the river Baitarani at Jajpur
Dashaswamedh Ghat on the river Baitarani at Jajpur

Places of interest

Jajpur is a temple-town, & there are a lot of temples here. The most important temples include The Biraja Temple, The Jagannath temple, Saptamatrika temple, Ganesha temple, Varahanath temple, Sun temple, different Shiva temples of which Siddheswar temple is a majestic one.

Besides temples, other places of interest are the Dashaswamedha Ghat on the bank of the river Baitarani & the Ashokan pillar known as Subha Stambha.

Biraja Temple

This is the chief attraction of Jajpur. Also known as Biraja Khetra/ Khshetra, a place of extreme importance to the followers of the Shakti cult, it is an ancient temple, though the present temple was built in 13th century. The temple is surrounded by a fort-like boundary wall with a huge gate, adorned by fine stoneworks depicting Tantrik motifs, floral designs etc.

The main temple is an Odisha-type of temple with a prominent Jagmohan1 & a tall Viman2.

Inside, the main temple is situated at the centre of a wide courtyard. The inner sanctum contains the idol of Goddess Biraja, a Shakti figure representing Goddess Durga. The Goddess sits on a lion, has two hands & holds a Shool (lance) in one hand & the tail of the demon Mahishasura with the other. The outer wall of the temple is adorned with high relief figures of many gods & goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.

Just on one side of the temple is a smaller one dedicated to Naavigaya, the spot where the navel of the Goddess Sati & the mid-portion of the body of the demon Gayasura fell. Many people perform the ritual of Pindadaan (Hindu funeral rite of offering Pinda or food to the deceased ancestors) here.

The temple of Goddess Biraja
The temple of Goddess Biraja
The temple of Goddess Biraja : a closer view
The temple of Goddess Biraja : a closer view
Decoration on the door frame 1
Decoration on the door frame 1
Decoration on the door frame 2
Decoration on the door frame 2
Decoration on the door frame 3
Decoration on the door frame 3
Decoration on the door frame 4
Decoration on the door frame 4
Decoration on the door frame 5
Decoration on the door frame 5
NaaviGaya  (see text for description)
NaaviGaya (see text for description)
Temple of the goddess Bagala Mukhi just behind the Biraja temple
Temple of the goddess Bagala Mukhi just behind the Biraja temple

Dashaswamedh Ghat

This Ghat, or fortified river bank with stairs to approach the water is a holy place on the river Baitarani. Here many people perform Hindu religious rites. During auspicious occasions, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims take a holy dip here

Dashaswamedh Ghat  on the holy river Baitarani with the temples of Saptamatruka & Lord Ganesh on the background
Dashaswamedh Ghat on the holy river Baitarani with the temples of Saptamatruka & Lord Ganesh on the background
Dashaswamedh Ghat 2
Dashaswamedh Ghat 2

Saptamatrika/Saptamatruka temple

Situated near the Dashaswamedh Ghat, there is an ordinary looking temple dedicated to Saptamatrikas (Seven Mother Goddesses) namely Chamunda, Barahi, Indrani, Vaisnavi, Brahmi, Kaimari & Maheswari.

The Temple of Saptamatruka, Jajpur
The Temple of Saptamatruka, Jajpur

Ganesh temple

Adjacent to the Saptamatruka temple, there is a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The idol of Lord Ganesha here is a huge one.

Jagannath temple

Just behind the Saptamatruka temple, there is huge temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra. Built in classical Odisha style, this temple has a big Jagmohan1 & a tall Viman2. This is said to be the oldest temple in Odisha dedicated to Lord Jagannath.

Inside, there are the idols of the three, Lord Jagannath (black coloured) & Balabhadra ( white coloured) on either side with Subhadra in between.

Outside, the garden area is dotted with many fine stone sculptures of gods , goddesses & different religious motifs.

The temple of Lord Jagannath, Jajpur
The temple of Lord Jagannath, Jajpur
The idols of Lord Jagannath with Lord Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra
The idols of Lord Jagannath with Lord Balabhadra & Goddess Subhadra
A child priest at the Jagannath temple: carrying the tradition
A child priest at the Jagannath temple: carrying the tradition
Sculpture at Jagannath temple : a stone Ganesh
Sculpture at Jagannath temple : a stone Ganesh
Sculpture at the Jagannath temple
Sculpture at the Jagannath temple

Varahanath temple complex

This temple complex has a number of temples dedicated to several gods & goddesses. Situated on the other bank of the river Baitarani, one can reach there by crossing the river over a newly built bridge. On the left as one approaches the area, is the temple dedicated to the Sun God & a huge banyan tree called Banchhataru (the tree which fulfils all wishes). The temple houses the stone idol of Sun God characterized by seven horses at he lower part.

Interestingly, there are several broken stone idols of gods like Narayana, Kurma Narayana etc at the base of the Banchhataru, lying neglected & dirty.

The temple dedicated to Lord Varahanath (Lord Vishnu as the avatar of a boar) has the idols of Yajna Varaha, Swet Varaha, Maha Lakshmi & Lord Jagannath inside. The outer wall of this temple is decorated with high relief of several gods & goddesses, one of which looks like a Buddhist goddess.

There are a number of other temples here in this complex, dedicated to Navagraha (Nine planets), the Shashti ( the goddess of fertility), Laxmi- Narayan & Lord Shiva.

The Varahanath temple complex, Jajpur
The Varahanath temple complex, Jajpur
Young priests at the Varahanath temple
Young priests at the Varahanath temple
The idols in Varahanath temple (from left Swet Varaha, Yajna Varaha, Mahalakshmi & Lord Jagannath)
The idols in Varahanath temple (from left Swet Varaha, Yajna Varaha, Mahalakshmi & Lord Jagannath)
The priest Dhaneswar in one of the temples
The priest Dhaneswar in one of the temples
The ceiling of the Varahanath temple
The ceiling of the Varahanath temple
Stone Ganesha
Stone Ganesha
Looks like a buddhist godess in "Bhumisparsha Mudra"
Looks like a buddhist goddess in "Bhumisparsha Mudra"
A stone figure of Goddess Ganga
A stone figure of Goddess Ganga
Har-Parvati Lingam (In this Lingam, both the symbols of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati are there together)
Har-Parvati Lingam (In this Lingam, both the symbols of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati are there together)
Stone work : Musicians
Stone work : Musicians
High relief stone figures of Savitri & Satyaban
High relief stone figures of Savitri & Satyaban
Stone idol of Goddess Shashthi, the goddess of fertility
Stone idol of Goddess Shashthi, the goddess of fertility
Stone idol of the Sun God
Stone idol of the Sun God
The Sun temple
The Sun temple
The idol of the Sun God in the Sun Temple, Jajpur
The idol of the Sun God in the Sun Temple, Jajpur
Neglected heritage : priceless sculptures at the base of the Banchha Bata
Neglected heritage : priceless sculptures at the base of the Banchha Bata
Neglected heritage : Another priceless stone figure lying in trash
Neglected heritage : Another priceless stone figure lying in trash

Siddheswar temple

Situated about one kilometer away, this is a fine example of Odisha architecture. Built in the classical Odiya-style with the traditional Jagmohan1 & Vimana2, this temple, dedicated to Lord Siddheswar ( another name for Lord Shiva) has many excellent sculptures. The Vimana or the main temple is characterized by classical Ratha-Paga3 pattern of Odiya architecture.

Siddheswar temple, Jajpur
Siddheswar temple, Jajpur
Siddheswar temple
Siddheswar temple
Siddheswar temple
Siddheswar temple
Sun God : stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Sun God : stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture of Lord Kartikeya at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture of Lord Kartikeya at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture of Lord Shiva at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture of Lord Shiva at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Ratha-Paga at the base of of Siddheswar temple
Ratha-Paga at the base of of Siddheswar temple
Ratha-Paga at the base of of Siddheswar temple
Ratha-Paga at the base of of Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple
Stone sculpture at Siddheswar temple

Some interesting sculptures

There a number of interesting sculptures like two lions with a single head or three men with four legs & four arms. The manner in which these were crafted is a proof of the skill of the sculptors.

Three men with four arms & four legs
Three men with four arms & four legs
Two lions with a single head
Two lions with a single head

Subha Stambha

Also known as the Chandeswar Stambha, this monolithic pillar, 11.22 metres tall & with a diameter of 1.05 metre, was erected probably by King Jajati I in the 11th century CE in the classical Askokan Pillar style. The top of the pillar is adorned with Kirtimukha heads with Pearl-string garland-pendants. The topmost portion is flat &probably contained a Garuda4 figure which is not there at present.

Subha Stambha
Subha Stambha
Subha Stambha 2
Subha Stambha 2
The top of Subha Stambha with Kirtimukh heads
The top of Subha Stambha with Kirtimukh heads

The Chaitanya Deva connection

Chaitanya deva, the 16th century religious leader & social reformer of Bengal, who spent his last years at Puri, Odisha, visited this place. There is a small temple dedicated to him at the Varahanath temple complex where his footsteps are engraved on a stone slab.

It is also said that his ancestors originally were from this region.

The footprint of Chaitanya Deva
The footprint of Chaitanya Deva

How to reach

Jajpur is about 33 km from the connecting rail-head Jajpur Keonjhar Road (Station code JJKR) railway station of the south Eastern Railway (340 km from Kolkata) & about 125 KM north from Bhubaneswar. It is about 16 km from National Highway-5 (NH 5) & can be approached by road easily.

The junction of NH 5 & the state highway to Jajpur
The junction of NH 5 & the state highway to Jajpur

Conclusion

This place has many things to offer to both the pilgrims & the casual visitors, & is really worth visiting.

Postscript

Jagmohan1 : This is like ante-chamber in front of the main temple or Vimana. The roof is usually built in Pirha or step-pyramid fashion.

Vimana2 : It is the main temple with a tall turret built in the Shikhar (pinnacle) pattern.

Ratha-Paga3 : These are vertical projections on the outer surface of the Vimana.

Garuda4 : The half-man half-bird mount of Lord narayana

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