Once sages asked Brahma, the creator God: ‘Which is the most excellent place on earth that bestows virtue (dharma), love (kama), wealth (artha) and salvation (mokshya)’. Brahma replied: ‘Bharata, the Indian Subcontinent…in particular, however, Utkala and its four great religious centres, Puri, Konarka, Ekamra and Viraja’. In describing Ekamra (Bhubaneswar), the holy city of Shiva which yields worldly pleasure and salvation on this very earth itself, Brahma further replied: ‘In Ekamra dwell the most beautiful women on earth. With their slender waists, plump breasts, ample and beautiful buttocks, lotus eyes, sweet languor due to intoxication they represent the celestial ladies of heaven. They remain gay and jolly days and nights. They speak pleasing words. They are clever and skilled in arts and crafts. They are expert in dancing and singing. They are proud of their feminine virtues. These beautiful women pleasing to behold are expert in flirting with men. Young men are fascinated the moment their slight glances fall on them’.
The words of Brahma somehow reached Kashi where Shiva and Parvati lived happily for a pretty long time. But they found the city getting overcrowded. Once heard about Ekamra they decided to leave Kashi and settle in Bhubaneswar. The couple happily spent long fifteen years in the Ekamravana. During the period of their sojourn at this place, Parvati once expressed a desire to indulge in ratikrida (sporting dalliance) with Shiva.
Shiva agreed to the proposal and emanated himself in eight different forms. To play the game of dalliance, Parvati also emanated herself into 8 different forms. The Chaitra Purnima (April-May) was selected as the most auspicious time for the purpose. The sport continued for the whole night and when the curtain was drawn Shiva installed eight Sambhus and eight Gauris around the banks of Bindusagar Tank.
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Bhubaneswar is the capital of Odisha and a vibrant metropolis. Also known as ‘The Temple City of India’ Bhubaneswar hosts the largest concentration of Hindu Temples built in Kalinga School of Architecture between 7th and 16th centuries CE. The city also has been known for its incredible Jain (the caves of Khandagiri and Udayagiri) and Buddhist heritage (Dhauli Hill).
Bhubaneswar is well connected by air, rail and road with all important cities and other state capitals of India. The city has a plenty of choices for accommodation of various categories, from budget to high-end. The city is best known for its seafood delights, Pahala Rasagola and a variety of snacks and street foods.
These descriptions in the Puranas are best expressed through images of lovemaking in the temple walls of Bhubaneswar. These images appear in all parts from simple and seemingly innocent mithuna (amorous couples) to explicit erotic friezes.
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Beginning in the late 8th Century CE, images of women make their appearance in the walls of Bhubaneswar temples. Around this time the homage is not just directed to Devi but also to women as sensual and graceful being, alas kanyas or ideal females represented in everyday life. It was part of the belief system that alas kanyas were auspicious apart from their beauty and protected temples.
By the 10th Century CE, the decorative programme was dominated by the images of women who may appear alone or as partners in mithuna images, carved in high reliefs on temple walls.
In the 11th Century CE, with the introduction of two storied janghas, their images were shifted to the upper storey along with mithuna and maithuna images, so that they appear more like celestial damsels, being high above eye-level.
Pleasure gardens surrounded the temple complex and the entire Ekamra Kshetra as the realm of Kama.
According to Puranas, in the marriage procession of Shiva, the physical beauty of God is such that the women of the city leave all household duties to catch a glimpse of him. One in her haste runs out half-dressed holding her cloth and girdle in her hands. Another, in the midst of her bath and toilet, come out with the shampoo powder still held in her hands while still, another come out with her garments worn inside out.
It is evident that the amorous activities of gods and celestial did, in fact, serve as models and behaviour and conduct for the luxury living aristocratic society by the 12th century. The constant interplay between human conduct and celestial behaviour, the changing moral ethics, behaviours and aesthetic tastes of the aristocracy and the priesthood were being constantly incorporated into the religious texts and temple iconography.
Author – Jitu Mishra
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