ODISHA Vaital Deul Temple

One of the oldest temples (late 8th century), Vaital Deul Temple’s striking feature is the shape of its sanctuary tower. The semi-cylindrical shape of its roof--a leading example of khakhara order of temples--bears an affinity to the Dravidian gopuram of the South India temples.

The plan of the deul is oblong and the jagamohana is a rectangular structure, but embedded in each angle is a small subsidiary shrine. Vaital Deul boasts some figures, although executed in relief are however characterized by delicacy of features and perfect equipoise.

The outer walls are encrusted with panels of Hindu deities, mostly Shiva and his consort Parvati in her Shakti form, hunting processions, capturing of wild elephants and the occasional erotic couples.

The facade of the deul above the left of the jagamohana is dominated by two chaitya windows--the lower one having a beautifully carved figure of sun gold Surya noted for its facial expression, with Usha (Dawn) and Pratyusha shooting arrows on either side and with Aruna in front driving a chariot of seven horses.

The medallion in the upper Chaitya-window houses a 10-armed Nataraja or dancing Shiva. In front of the flat roofed jagamohana is a stone post relieved with two Buddha like figures seated in dharma-chakra-pravartana mudra.

Another striking feature is temple's tantric associations, marked by eerie carvings in the sanctum and the image enshrined in the central niche, eight armed Chamunda, locally known as Kapalini, is the terrifying form of goddess Durga. Thus Vaital Deul is a Sakta shrine.

The presiding deity, Chamunda or Mahishasuramardini sits on a corpse flanked by a jackal and an owl and decorated with a garland of skulls. She holds a snake, bow, shield, sword, trident, thunderbolt and an arrow, and is piercing the neck of the demon. The niche is capped by a chaitya window containing seated figures of Shiva and Parvati.

The Chamunda is surrounded by a host of other smaller size allied deities carved in the lower parts of the walls, each within a niche separate by a pilaster. The figure on the east wall, to the fight of the door, is a skeleton form of Bhairava forming the counter part of Chamunda.