Odisha is a great place to travel. Hell! even Kerala would fall shy by the sights and sounds that our state has to offer. Visit Odisha in the summer, winter or even in the monsoon we swear by the ‘bara and pokudi’ that you and your family would always relish anytime.
This time around in our Caravan section we thought of visiting Pisa in Odisha…Don’t let your jaw drop..Yes! it’s the less talked about and jaw dropping destination- the leaning Shiva temple at Huma near Sambalpur and its human friendly ‘Kudo’ fish (not to be confused with the characters in the film Kubo and the two strings).
Located 24 kilometres from Sambalpur the temple of Lord Bimaleshwara (a form of Lord Shiva) is a leaning temple (yes you read that right) situated at Huma on the banks of the River Mahanadi. It is one of the two temples in the country which are leaning. So we all know that Shiva is the God of all things cool and hence that’s why his temple also has to be different, right?
Sambalpur and Western Odisha have a very rich history and is steeped in culture. Some of the festivals in that region are endemic only to that area and this is what makes Huma a really unique place to visit. Legend has it that everyday a milk man would cross the river Mahanadi and bring quarts of milk along with him to pour on a rocky outcrop on the riverbank. To his surprise the milk would magically disappear and later our milkman figured out that the rock would absorb all the milk. Hopefully we think that our milkman didn’t lace the bovine produce with ‘Bhaang.’ Later on when the king came to know about this phenomenon he built a temple and that’s how the leaning temple at Huma came into existence.
Historic and archaeological evidence suggests that the temple was constructed during the reign of King Anangabhima Deva III (who established the Cuttack-Barabati fort) and was subsequently re-built and refurbished by King Baliar Singh (1660–1690 A.D.), the fifth Chauhan king of Sambalpur. The rest of the temples which are the Bhairavi and Bhairo temples were built during the rule of King Ajit Singh (1766–1788 A.D.) of Sambalpur. Making this destination a hub for Shaiva culture in Sambalpur.
The temple’s angle of lean surprises you when you enter the temple complex with its stunning views of the Mahanadi with the cool winds flowing all throughout the day the place is a delight for anyone who wishes to go on an early morning trip of piety and obeisance towards Lord Shiva. Least to mention it’s also a great place to enjoy the magnanimity of Odisha’s greatest river the Mahanadi.
The temple is located on a rocky outcrop on the banks of the Mahanadi and has been seen leaning towards one side while all the other temples in the complex lean towards the other direction. Talk about bucking the trend ehh!! Archaeologists and geologists have tried to find an answer as to why the Bimaleshwara temple at Huma leans and the only scientific reason is that over the years the rocky plinth of the main structure has been weakened by subsequent movement of water in the Mahanadi causing the bedrock to slightly tilt and hence cause this phenomenon. But interestingly the tilt has not worsened in the last fifty years and seems to have stabilized at its present angle of lean.
Apart from the temple the island of Kanherkud which is fifteen minutes by country boat is a must visit. The island houses a temple of Goddess Kali and is home to the famous reddish ‘Kudo’ fish which are said to eat of human hands just like any pet. Local people offer the fish ‘prasad’ and its illegal to kill or eat the fish since belief has it that if you kill the fish or eat it then great misery would befall and you might end up kicking the bucket.
The temple becomes a hub of activity during Shivaratri when an annual fair is celebrated at the temple complex drawing thousands of devotees and even foreign tourists. Making it a photographers delight and a must see place. Yearlong the temple is accessible, thanks to good roads making it a great short trip on a motorbike, car or even on cycle.
So next time in the Khatti when you meet that friend of yours whom you hate because he/she boasts of a seven nights and six days trip to Europe and he/she claims how beautiful the leaning tower of Pisa is. Shut their mouth up by tossing this article on their face and say ‘What Pisa? Come and visit Odisha.’ Repeat statement till ‘Anglophilositis’ subsides. Keep driving, keep tripping Ciao hommies.
by Aditya Nag