The Temples of Sonepur
Main Temples :
Suvarnameru, Gopinatha, Sasisena & Dadhivamana Deva
Also Known As:
: A Pilgrimage Centre
From very ancient times, Sonepur is considered as a holy city. The Kosalananda Kavya of Kavi Gangadhara Mishra, written in 1664 A.D., describes the temple city of Sonepur as "the second Varanasi of India".
Sonepur came under the 'Chauhans' during the days of 'Ramaideva', the founder of the Chauhan rule in western Orissa in the middle of 14th century A.D. But Sonepur got the status of a separate state in the first half of 17th century, with 'Madana Gopala Deva' as its king. The work of the court poet, 'Kavi Gangadhara Mishra' shows that there were many temples at Sonepur prior to the Chauhan rule.
The 'Somavamsi' charter also confirms this fact. The copper plate inscription issued in the 17th regional year of the Somavamsi King 'Janmejay' I (850 A.D.- 885 A.D.) states that the temples of "Sri Kesava" and "Aditya Deva" were very famous. This inscription has been unearthened near the "Stamvesvari" or "Khamvesvari", situated in the heart at the present Sonepur town. The 'Maranjamura' Copper plate of 'Yayati' II, the Somavamsi ruler, issued in his 3rd regional year from his capital Suvarnapura, also makes a reference to the temples.
According to the inscriptions, there several temples and gardens, which enhance the beauty of the town. After that there are no references about the temples of Sonepur till the coming in of the Chauhans in mid-14th century A.D. The temple building tradition might have continued in Sonepur, but no inscriptional or architectural evidences are available.
Among the present 'Saiva' temples of Sonepur, the temple of "Suvarnameru" is very famous. It is situated on the left bank of river Tel towards the southwest of the confluence of river Mahanadi and Tel. It stands slightly on the outskirts of the town proper.
Scholars differ on the date of the temple. According to B.C. Mazumdar, though the existing temple was built during the reign of Maharaja 'Madan Gopal Singhdeo' (1630-1660AD) 'Suvarnameru Mahadeva' has been the presiding deity of the State since a very remote time. But other scholars have got another opinion that it was built during the reign of Maharaja 'Lal Saheb' (1660-1680A.D.), son of 'Maharaj Madangopal'.
The temple of "Gopinatha" is situated near the 'Jagannatha' temple. Its construction work was started during the time of Raja 'Prataprudra Deva' and completed during the reign of Maharaja 'Vira Mitrodaya Singh'.
Situated in the 'Ghodaghatpada', Sonepur, the temple of "Dadhivamana Deva" was built during the reign of Maharaja 'Prithvisingh Dev' (1786-1841). The presiding deity of the temple is Lord 'Jagannatha', Lord 'Balabhadra' and 'Devi Subhadra'.
By the orders of Maharaja Vira Mitrodaya Singh, the then tehasildar, Mr.Keshab Chandra Guru, raising a huge amount of donation from the people, constructed the temple of "Sri Vrindavan Vihari" at Bada Bazar.
The 34.7m high "Gundicha" temple is the tallest temple of Sonepur. 'Rani Gundicha Devi', wife of Maharaja 'Prithvisingh Dev', constructed the temple to commemorate the birth of her son 'Niladhara Singh' and dedicated. Initially, their idol of Lord 'Nrusimha' is in accordance with the Gundicha temple at Puri. With the passage of time the wooden idol was damaged. It was replaced by a metallic iconic or anthropomorphic form of the deity i.e., Lord 'Nrusimha' by Maharaja Sri 'Prataprudra Singh Dev'. Maharaja Sri Vira Mitrodaya Singh built the 'Mandapa' of the temple in 1934.
Sakta Temples Ancient Sonepur was a famous seat of tantricism. Even now 'Sakti' worship is more prominent at Sonepur than any other cult. Some of the most important Sakta temples are "Sureswari", "Stamvesvari" or "Khamvesvari", "Bhagavati", "Samalesvari", "Budhi Samalei", "Manikesvari", "Narayani", "Sitalei" and "Lankesvari".
The temple of Suresvari is situated on the left bank of the river Tel towards the north of Suvarnameru temple and southeast of 'Ramesvara' temple. It is difficult to determine the timeframe of the installation of the deity. However it seems that, 'Sureswari' was the presiding deity of the Suvarnapur fort during the 'Somavansis' in about 9th century A.D. The present 'Satabandha', 'Gudialibandha' and 'Jilabandha' or tanks and the adjacent mud ridges were probably the water trenches and walls of the fort.
According to the 'Bratacharita', 'Suresvari Devi' was being worshipped as the guardian deity of the fort at the entrance gate of the 'Satabandha'. According to legends the legendary hero 'Parasuram' built the temple on the request of his mother to make him free from the sin of killing the 'Kshyatriyas' of the World, after performing a 'Yagnya'.
A noteworthy fact about this is the presence of an ancient and big altar, which is believed as the altar of 'Parasuram' by the local people. Some people believe that, this is the seat of 'Renuka' mother of 'Parusuram' herself. The Chauhan king Achal Singh Deo constructed the present temple of Suresvari Devi, with an eight-armed "Mahisamardini Durga" image as its presiding deity. Goddess Suresvari is offered fish everyday and it is a must for her. The same practice is prevalent in the "Varahi temple" at Chaurasi.