September 5. 2021: Odisha is a land of temples but we mostly end up visiting the popular Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri. However, Odisha has several temples which have rich history and religious significance. One such is the Baitala Deula Temple in Bhubaneswar.
History of Baitala Deula Temple: Nataraja above Surya
Christened after Lord Shiva, Bhubaneswar marks a city of great historical, archaeological and religious significance. The capital city of Odisha is home to hundreds of ancient monuments in the form of temples and forts.
It has thus held a mystical and pious charm throughout the ages, providing an enchanting revolutionising to all the history lovers across the globe! While Bhubaneswar enjoys the luxurious tourist spot credit mainly on account of its centuries-old temples and historic sites, there are still several sites of religious importance which are left untouched and unexplored. Acing that unique list is the beautiful Baitala Deula Temple, also written as Baital and Vaital Deul Temple.
Vaital (Baitala) Deula seems to share the same architectural style to that of its very close neighbour (Sisiresvara), the timeline that holds that it must have been built slightly later. Scholars agree that construction of this temple probably occurred during the last quarter of the 8th century A.D, possibly by the Bhaumakara (Bhauma or Kar) dynasty queen Tribhuvana Mahadevi.
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Chamunda and is also known as Tinimundia Deula on account of the presence of three spires on its top. These three spires represent the three major powers of Goddess Chamunda.
Several theories have been coined by historians and men of religious insight regarding the story as to how this temple got its name. Some are of the opinion that Vaital is derived from the word “Vaita”, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word “Vahitra” which means sea-going vessel or ship. The appearance of the upper portion of the tower does look similar to the shape of an upturned hull of a ship, but I’m not completely convinced of this theory.
Band of carvings near the top of the temple depicting soldiers on foot and on horseback, seemingly attacking elephants.
Another distant theory is that the name is derived from “Vaita”, a variety of pumpkin which is popular and relished by the people of Odisha. I think this is probably even less likely !
The most accepted theory on the origin of the temple name is that Vaital is derived from “vetala” (spirit), invoked by the kapalikas and tantriks to attain siddhis (extraordinary powers of the soul).
Form and features of Baitala Deula Temple
The form of the Baitala Deula Temple is for the most part unique in Bhubaneswar, the only parallel to be seen in Odisha prior to this being the Varahi (Barahi) Deula Temple in Chaurasi.
A rectangular sanctuary is roofed by a tower capped with a vaulted roof, very reminiscent of some temple architecture in south India.
Three sides of the exterior sanctuary wall contain niches with wonderful gracefully posed females and couples.
These carvings are particularly well executed, as good as anything you will see in Bhubaneswar. Upon observing the western exterior of the sanctuary, T.E.Donaldson commented in the 1990s:
“The western facade in particular is one of the greatest testimonies to the sanctification and apotheosis of Woman created by the Indian sculptor”
The tower is divided into horizontal elements, covered with friezes of miniature figures. The front (east) projection has figures of Surya riding his chariot driven by seven horses, with a dancing Shiva (Nataraja) above, framed decorated arches, makaras and carved monster heads surround these panels.
The added bonus is being able to see the neighbouring Sisiresvara Temple at the same time. However, as you will soon read (once I’ve written the blog!), it’s actually impossible now to see all of that temple thanks to some diabolical urban development.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit the Baitala Deula is anytime but during the summer season as the region in and around Bhubaneswar experiences a hot and humid climate, and hence it is advisable to avoid visiting it during the summers.
The appropriate time when the climate is perfectly fine is from October until the end of March.
How to visit or reach the temple?
The Vaital (Baitala) Deula Temple is located 100m west of Bindhu Sagar in Bhubaneswar old city, and shares the same temple compound as the now much encroached upon Sisiresvara Temple.
By Air: Bhubaneswar is well connected to other major cities of India by air, and hence you can take a direct flight to Bhubaneswar. Once you have reached the airport, you can use public transport to Basisthanagar, where the temple is located. The distance between the airport and the temple is 4 km.
By Rail: You can catch a direct train to Bhubaneswar railway station and then from there, a bus or a cab to reach the temple.
By Road: Being a part of the capital city of Odisha, the region of Baitala Deula Temple has good road connectivity and is easily accessible.