Changing Rathas: From pyramidal style to a hybrid of pyramidal and curvilinear

For this combined, hybrid model of Pidha and rekha style of Kalinga architecture, one has to go to the 14th century Bhaskaresvara temple

Puri Srimandir

While the sculptural frieze depicting chariots was in pyramidal shape, now the ornate Rathas look more like the deula of Jagannath with its curvilinear spire. The wooden framework, which is visible only during the time of construction, reveals that the upper portions of the rathas comprise clear horizontal cornices characterising the pidha (pyramidal) temple. 

But with ornate decoration of bold colourful fabric, it looks like a replication of deula of Puri. For this combined, hybrid model of Pidha and rekha style of Kalinga architecture, one has to go to the 14th century Bhaskaresvara temple of Bhubaneswar.

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The roof of the Bhaskaresvara temple seems to combine the pidha and rekha types of Odishan temple architecture; the clearly discernible cornices, characteristic of the pidha temples, recede on the Bhaskaresvara temple not as in the case of the usual pidha roof, uniformly to a pyramidal roof but progressively to create the characteristic curvilinear shape of the rekha temple  tower.

As Hermann Kulke writes, “During the ratha yatra when 'the Lord of the Universe' leaves his 'jewelled lion throne' (ratnasimhasana) in order to appear to his devotees, even the most humble, the Ratha thus transforms the separate temple buildings  of the 'divine palace' into one drawn by devotees from all social strata and pilgrims from all quarters of the Hindu world.”

(Umakanta Mishra teaches History at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack and can be reached at umajnu@gmail.com)