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| Last Updated:: 29/08/2023

Temple Tanks of Odisha









Many hundreds of years ago, when great temples arose across the length and breadth of India, some of the greatest expressions of religious creativity were built in the holy cities of Odisha. The builders of these magnificent temples not only created great works of architecture, but also understood the significance of water: they elevated it to great sanctity. Tirtha has now come to mean 'sacred water', connoting, by religious tradition, any place of pilgrimage on the banks of a sacred stream of water.




Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, has about 500 temples situated mostly in the old town area. Each temple contains one of more tanks. Some of them are quite small, while others have a large body of fresh water.  They were originally excavated at the time of the building of the temples, when huge amounts of soil were removed to create ramps for the building of the temple towers. Later, these huge depressions thus created were lined with the surplus stone available and converted into temple tanks. These were used for daily rituals and festivals.




Sacred Tanks




It is a common belief that taking a dip in a sacred tank of a temple absolves of sins.  In Bhubaneshwar, there is a temple with a Sahasra Linga sara or tank of a thousand lingas.




Another famous temple is the Kotitirtheshwar temple whose tank is believed to be the confluence of ten million sacred pools.  At the Bramha kunda and Mukteswar kunda also called Mirchi kunda, barren women come to take a bath in the temple tank, believing that they will give birth to a baby. There are other temple tanks which are credited with miraculous powers. These include Gouri kunda, Dudha kunda, Kedar kunda, Ashok jhara, Gosahasreshwar, Papanashini kunda, Kapileshwar kunda and Bhima kunda. It is believed that the waters of these holy ponds have miraculous therapeutic properties and treat dyspepsia. Bindu sagar, which means “drops of water making an ocean”, is a tank which is believed to receive water from all the holy rivers of India. A number of temples are located around the tank.









Bindu sagar is one of the most important sacred tanks of India situated near the Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneshwar in Odisha.  It is a spring-fed rectangular tank of 450 m length and 320 breadths. The bottom is flat and smooth with laterite, and free of any macrophytic vegetation.  The term Bindu sagar literally means “the water body with fine suspension of silt” that shines brilliantly in the sun rays, imparting a grey colour to the ripple of the water. It is believed that this place was once known as Ekamra vana.   There is myth connected with this temple tank: After destroying the demons, the goddess Parvati was thirsty. She appealed to Lord Shiva.  Acknowledging her prayer, Lord Shiva created this sagar to quench her thirst. It is believed to be fed with waters from all the holy rivers of India. A whole host of temples is situated around the sarovar.  



Many Hindu scriptures such as the Padma Purana, the Shiva Purana, the Brahmanda Purana, the Kapila Samhita and the Ekamra Purana have praised the religious merit of the water in the sacred Bindu sagar.  A dip in the pond before entering into the temple is considered auspicious.  However, of late the sagar is getting polluted through a small inlet at the north western end, with sewage water and run off from the nearby paddy fields entering the tank. The sagar also serves as the dumping site for left-over cooked and uncooked food from the nearby Ananta Vasudev temple.  It is also used as a bathing ghat, a place for washing clothes, besides being a religious tank for performing ceremonies. It is especially sacred because of its association with Shri Kapil Dev – a divine incarnation and founder of Sankhya philosophy.  It was here that Shri Kapil Dev preached the way to attain moksha to his mother.





Kedar Gouri tank





The temple of Kedar Gouri is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Gouri. It is situated next to the Mukteshwar Temple. It is believed that a single sip of water from this tank absolves the drinker from the repeated cycles of birth and death. It is also believed that the temple was built by the king Lalatendu Kesari after a tragic episode relating to two lovers, Kedar and Gouri. There are two tanks situated in the temple: the Khira kunda and Marichi kunda. The water of Khira kunda is white and extremely hygienic. The water of Marichi kunda is sold on Ashokashtami day by auction and it taken by sterile women who want to conceive.




The Kedar Gouri tank is located inside the premises of the temple of the same name.  It is about 1000 years old and great religious sanctity is associated with it. The water body is lined with stone revetments. The bottom is formed of small boulders.  The water is fairly transparent and the bottom visible. The tank is spring fed.




To the west of the Kedareshwar temple, there is a perennial spring called Dudha kunda meaning “milk tank”. Its water is prized for medicinal properties. The Kedar kunda is located in the temple premises.  According to legend, the tank has heavenly properties and a single sip of water is enough to emancipate the devotee from all future transmigrations.





Indradyumna sarovar




The Indradyumna sarovar at Puri is considered sacred due to its association with the temple of Lord Krishna. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is believed to have engaged in water sports (jala krida) with His associates in the tank.   It covers an area of four and a half acres. The tank has a small shrine dedicated to King Indradyumna. It is one of most sacred tanks in Odhisha.  There is a legend regarding the origin of this tank.  During the period of the Mahabharata, King Indradyumna had undertaken a thousand ashvemedha yajnyas, had built a thousand yupa poles and had donated millions of cows to the needy.   A huge depression was thus created by the movement of cattle and was filled up by water used during the yajna.   Hence, the pond bears the name Indradyumna sarovar.  It is located about 2.7 kilometres from the Puri Jagannath temple and, according to legend; its origins can be traced to the time of the Mahabharatha.





It is believed that those who take a holy dip in this tank are redeemed of their sins.  There is a story behind this belief.  It is said that once King Indradyumna was cursed by the saint Agastya to become an elephant in his next birth.  Agastya also made the condition that he would be relieved of his curse only by Vishnu’s touch.  Accordingly, Indradyumna took birth as an elephant.  One day the elephant Gajendra went to drink water from a lake at Mount Trikuta. A Gandharva called Huhu, who had been cursed by the sage Devala to become a crocodile, also lived in this lake.  As Gajendra (Indradyumna) step into the lake, the crocodile attacked him.  They fought for a thousand years.  In the end, Gajendra was exhausted and was about to give up the fight.  In desperation, he began to pray to Lord Vishnu. This prayer later became the famous Gajendra stuti. Lord Vishnu heard his prayers and killed Huhu, and thus relieved Indradyumna from the curse.  





Markandeshwar sarovar





Markandeshwar tank is situated to the north of the Jagannath Temple. This tank is also important as it is connected with a lot of rituals associated with Lord Jagannatha, the most important being Chandan yatra. The temple bears ancient stone inscriptions pertaining to the Ganga Dynasty.





Narendra sarovar





The Narendra sarovar at Puri is one of the most sacred tanks in Orissa. It covers an area of 3.24 hectares and is situated in the picturesque area about 2 kilometre north-east of the famous Puri Jagannath temple. Within this tank is a small temple on an island dedicated to Lord Jagannath, Balarama and Subhadra. During the Chandana yatra, the boat festival is held in the tank. Lord Madanamohana (the representative of Lord Jagannath) goes for a boat ride on a decorated float, locally known as “chapa”. 





This tank is also called the Chandana pushkarani after the famous yatra of the same name.  Many medieval Oriya texts have described this tank.  According to one legend, Narendra Deva, the brother of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva excavated this tank and it was so named after him.   It is said that Veer Narendra Deva, his younger brother sacrificed his life for the sake of his motherland.  After his death, his wife Kalandi Mahadevi took up sanyas and began to live in a garden.  She was a devotee of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna.  Babaji Govinda Das was her Guru.  One day the Guru gave a pumpkin seed to the queen.  The growth of the plant was so luxurious that it spread out over a large area.  Hundreds of pumpkins were produced.  These pumpkins were used for preparing the maha prasada at the temple.  The news spread far and wide.  Gajapati Kapilendra Deva heard about it and visited the garden accompanied by his Guru, Mahadev Brahma.  At that time Babaji Govinda Das was engaged in the worship of Lord Gopinath.  Govinda Das blessed the king and requested him to excavate a tank named after her late husband, Veer Narendra Deva.   He also requested him to name two ghats after Narendra Deva and his queen Kalandi Devi.  The king also constructed fourteen ghats named after the fourteen sons of Narendra Dev.  The Chandana bije ghat (Lamba chakada) was constructed for the purpose of conducting “Chandan bije” of Lord Jagannath.  This chakada is named after Narendra Deva. He also constructed a temple of Kalandishvara Shiva and Gopinath on the bank of the holy tank.  The Brahma jaga, named after the court poet Narahari Brahma, was also established.  The famous Chandan yatra of Lord Jagannath is being observed with pomp and ceremony since those days. 





There is also a legend that the creation of the Narendra is due to a pumpkin seed.  The story goes as follows:  King Narendra Deva was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath. Once he found a pumpkin seed in the courtyard of his palace.  He gave the seed to his sarbarakara (Revenue Collector) to plant the seed in the name of Lord Jagannath and to offer all the pumpkins thus produced to the Lord.  The sabarakara did as instructed.  The pumpkin creeper grew to such an extent that it covered an area of fourteen acres.  This creeper produced lakhs of pumpkins.  The sabarakara sold the pumpkins and deposited the money to the king.  King Narendra Deva, in turn, offered the money to the Gajapati king of Puri.  Subsequently, both the kings decided to construct a tank at Shrikshetra out of this fund.  The tank was to cover an area of fourteen acres, the equivalent of the area covered by the pumpkin creeper.  Thus the famous Narendra Tank came into existence.





This tank is the biggest one at Shrikshetra, established in the 14th - 15th centuries A.D., during the Ganga period.  Chara Ganesha is worshipped in the nearby temple.  The tank covers an area of 14.533 acres.  There are sixteen ghats of the tank.  Fourteen are named after the fourteen sons of Narendra Deva, one after the queen Kalandi Devi and one after Narendra Deva.  There are three ghats on the east, three on the north, six on the south and four on the west.  The tank has an island in the centre in which there is a small temple called “Chandana Mandapa”.  During the Chandana yatra, Madanamohana, the moving deity of Lord Jagannath is kept here for twenty one days. 





During the past the tank was a fine sheet of water kept clean by flushing from the Madhupur River (Mitiani River) during the rains through a channel in the western corner.  Now, both the inlet and outlet are completely choked up with the result that the system no longer works.  Hence, now the water has turned filthy. 





Parbati sarovar





Parbati sarovar is the tank attached to the Loknath temple which is situated about 3 kms from the Jagannath temple. The main deity of the temple, Shri Loknathji is the guardian of Shri Jagannath Temple’s treasure house. Loknathji (in the form of a linga) always remains submerged in the water from the natural spring at Parbati sarovar.  Loknathji is also known as Bhandar Lokanath.





Rohini Kunda




Rohini Kunda is located inside the temple of Lord Jagannath. It is one of the ‘Pancha Tirthas’ (five holy spots), the other four being Swethaganga, Indradyumna sarovar, Markandey sarovar and Tirtharaj Mahanadhi (Puri sea).





Swetha Ganga




Swetha Ganga is a small tank to the west of the Jagannath temple. On the banks of the tank are two small temples, one dedicated to Sweta Madhava and the other to Matsya Madhava, both incarnations of Lord Vishnu.











There is urgent need of a programme to revive the temple tanks. They have to be properly maintained by annual desilting.  Polluting the temple tanks should be discouraged by meting out strict punishments. The inlets and the outlets should be regularly cleaned and maintained.  Gardens and parks should be established around the tanks which can be used as recreation space by the public.  The maintenance of the tanks should be entrusted to local people’s committees. Unplanned development and growth of the urban areas around the temple complexes should be stopped. 






The temple tanks have traditionally been considered as a sacred space and used not only for religious purposes but also as a source of water in times of drought.  It has been one of ancient practices of water conservation in India.  It is time that we revive the ancient systems of water management that have served us so well over the centuries.