BCE as the ancient capital of the Kalinga Empire of yore. From atop the hill of the Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves – natural structures carved with ornate figures of dancers and musicians during the reign of the Jain king Karavela in the second century BCE – I marvel at the legions of ancient temples dotting the city’s skyline. From this vista, it is abundantly clear why Bhubaneswar is also known as Ekamra Kshetra or Temple City.
History claims that over a thousand temples stood tall in the ancient city, but many have fallen to the passing of time, leaving only a hundred or so of these structures left, some of which are in various states of ruin, while others remain active to this very day. Kalinga temples are distinct in that their structures consist of two parts: the deul is a sanctum that towers over the rest of the temple, while the jagmohan is an assembly hall for worshippers to congregate and offer their prayers. The walls of both structures are lavishly sculpted with a profusion of figures and deities, each significant to the divine being that resides in the sacred deul. While the magnificent construction of these temples are worthy of admiration, it is the lavishly carved figures and sculptures that catch my eye.
“They look like they’re dancing,” I think out loud. Turning to me with a glowing smile on his face, Datuk Ramli says: “Because, my dear, there is divinity in the art of dance.” He points to the nearby sculpture of a deity whose figure curves gracefully, forming an ‘S’ shape. “This is the