Cuttackeswar Temple: One Of The Least Known Heritage Structures Of Cuttack

City Scape: City Tales

Even though it has a nomenclature that suggests that the old city bears its name from this temple, it is one of the least known heritage structures of Cuttack. The Cuttackeswar temple was either named after the city or vice versa. It lies forgotten, hidden from public view, a relic of its original past, in a small corner of the embankment of the ring road at the Sati Chaura Chhak. The temple cannot be seen from the road, one has to descend twenty steps to reach it.

The temple was originally on the Sati Chaura Ghat on the Kathjori River, which has now receded a good two hundred metres away. Most of the Ghats on the river had a temple attached to them, these were places for the pilgrims to rest and most of them usually also provided food.

The shrine is a Shiva temple which has ancientorigins; legend says that it was visited by Sri Chaitanya during his return to Cuttack from Puri in 1514 CE. This small hidden temple has an associational significance with the Chaitanya Mutt at Mohamadia Bazar and the Gadgadia Temple.    

The present structure dates to the 17thCentury CE. The local priests who manage the temple say that it had been neglected and forgotten for years. The temple used to be regularly flooded in the monsoons. A travelling Sadhu from the North named Lacchman Baba, while on his way to Puri had stopped at the temple sometime in 1800 CE and remained back to renovate the temple. With the help of the locals and the townsmen, he rebuilt the temple from its ruins. The place had huge trees and was infested with monkeys. Legend has it that Lacchman Baba befriended the monkeys and would even spend the nights with them on the trees.  The temple was an important stop for the pilgrims from North India, who took the Ghat to cross over.

After the death of the Baba, the temple once again went into a neglected state. Most of its structure and land was taken over when the embankment road was made. The temple is presently being managed by the Alisha Bazar Puja Committee. Only a few inhabitants of the nearby localities visit the temple,  very few citizens know of its existence.  It is now a favourite for the Kawadias, who in the month of Shravana carry water from the ghat to the different temples. There is an old ring well inside the complex. The navagrahas on a black chlorite slab are from the original temple.   

The temple is a simple Pidha Deul. As one descends inside the complex, the main temple with the huge Shivaling is on the left. The entire compound is surrounded by houses that have encroached the temple from all sides. There are a few damaged statues and stone blocks lying scattered in the complex. The Samadhi of Lacchman Baba sits on the far corner with his statue on a pedestal. There are rooms for the priest on one side. The temple gets flooded during the monsoons, and for most of the year, the Shivaling is under water.

The temple lies in the approach to the new bridge which was recently opened. One can visit it all times of the day, the Mahant stays inside the compound. It is certainly an important temple, bearing in mind that the city was named after it.