Vaitala Deula (Teeni Mundia Deula)
Among the numerous temples of Old Town, is Vaitala Deula, also known as the Teeni Mundia Deula, nestling unnaturally among brightly painted green houses in the crammed settlement of Ratha road. Years of road repairs and construction have ensured that the temple complex is now at a height lower than its surroundings. This leads to the flooding of the temple complex during the rains. In fact, when we visited, the flooding was so serious that water had to be pumped out from the complex to relieve the elderly priest the pain of hopping on slippery stepping stones at an advanced age.
Built in the 8th century, the Vaitala Deula is a tantric shrine dedicated to the troika of Durga, Devi and Chamunda. Perhaps to highlight the influence and dominance of Shakti worship, the Sisireshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva within the complex is of a smaller stature, and of considerably less religious significance. The towering Lingaraja temple nearby doesn’t really hold sway on the rituals of this worship-site where the divine female form is held in higher esteem than the powerful local male deity.
Supposedly belonging to the Khaakhara architecture school, this temple is famous for the three kalasas (or mundis as called locally) mounted over the semi-cylindrical roof. These represent the three forms of Durga, Devi and Chamunda and their unified presence. Sculpts of bhairavas (followers of Shakti), Ganesha (son of Parvati and Shiva) and Lakulisa (supposedly the teacher, and in some texts the follower, of Shiva) abound on the outer walls of the temple. Numerous images of joginis (matrikas) adorn the walls, embellished with intricate designs and delicate patterns.
Two images stand out - one elaborately carved figure of Ardhanarishwara (half male, half female form of Shiva and Shakti) and an animated sculpt of Mahishamardini (Durga killing Mahishasura). One interesting fact about the male sculpts is that their erect members point upwards (urddha lingas), perhaps signifying the attainment of higher spiritual aspirations through the means of their members. The priest pointed this out to us, noting that worship of lingas (phallus) in Shaivite towns like Bhubaneshwar was prevalent in the times. We left as the pumping motor came to life and started draining out the water from the temple complex. One wishes the temple to be better taken care of, so these architectural artifacts might be preserved for a longer time.