The ancient city of Cuttack has more than a hundred Shivalayas, the Amareshwar temple in Buxi Bazar is the most important of them. Situated in the heart of the town, the Shiva and Shakti at the temple is of the hiranyagarbha type. Hiranyagarbha has been described as the "golden fetus" or "golden womb" in one hymn of the Rig-Veda, and is believed to be the source of the creation of the Universe.
The antiquity of the temple is lost in time, but it is known that the temple was rebuilt by the Marathas sometime in 1750 C.E. Very little of the original structure remains, save for the Jagamohan and the garbha griha. The older temple had been ravaged by the iconoclastic Muslim invaders and many idols of black chlorite stone are found scattered inside the temple complex. These too are worshipped in small open alcoves. Huge stone blocks of the original temple too are seen inside the complex. In fact the temple grounds had been converted into a burial ground, the Marathas had reclaimed the land, but even today, a graveyard lies on the western boundary of the temple. There used to be an ancient banyan tree inside the compound, it has been replaced with a smaller one.
Even though the temple is under the Endowment Commissioner, the management has been handed over to the marfatdar of the Amareshwar Mandir Trust Board. The priests of the temple have hereditary status and have their houses on the sides of the temple. They had been endowed with land grants by the erstwhile kings. Land had also been endowed for the rituals of the temple, but all of it has been lost.
Even though the temple is in a busy bazaar area, one gets a feeling of peace and calm on entering the walled compound. It is one of the best maintained temples of Cuttack, the entire complex is spic and span. The precinct has the main temple and many subsidiary temples. The main temple is a three chambered one on the classical Odishan temple style. The dome of the sanctum sanctorum has beautiful floral and vegetative carvings. It is evident that the other temples were made in later stages. The Jagamohana is a magnificent sixteen pillared low height structure. All the temples have parsadevatas and dwarapals. The ancient broken images of gods and goddesses are installed in the niches on the side walls.
The entire compound has been laid with marble. The main entrance gate is beautifully carved in wood. There are murals on the main wall. A huge sitting Shiva with two bulls adorns the frontage. Every part of the outer and inner walls is decorated with paintings, murals, reliefs and engravings. There are scores of lions at the entranceways and roofs of the temples. There are panels with the Navagrahas and the Dashavataras. The motifs are legends of Shiva and Parvati. The temple is painted in bright colours. There is a Ram Stambh at the far end of the temple. It is a 40 feet tower which has on its base the images of Ram, Laxman, their brothers, Sita and Hanuman. There are only two Ram Stambhs in Odisha. There is a big square well in the complex, which is now disused.
The temple sees lakhs of devotees during Shivaratri. The local inhabitants make a beeline for the temple, the queues stretch a mile long. The Marathas had made a small temple of Jagannath on the left of the main temple. Other festivals that are celebrated at the temple are Sitala Sasthi, Makar Sankranti and Pana Sankranti. The temple is considered auspicious and marriages and engagements are often held here. The paduka ( holy water) of the god is supposed to have medicinal properties and devotees suffering from chronic ailments come here for cure. The Amareswar Temple is certainly one of the oldest and well-kept temple of the city.