Mustachioed guardians

Odisha has its own modern style in temple guardians. In other parts of India and south-east Asia you might find fearsome Yakshas, or the temple god’s familiar, perhaps a monkey warrior or a bull, perhaps a figure of a Garuda. In Odisha this diversity of guardians is visible in temples which are more than a century old. But now, the dwarapalas are almost always a pair of lions.

I walked through the lanes around the Jagannath temple in Puri taking photos of these lion guardians. Most of these secondary temples are small, and the lions are the smallest element in them. But large or small, they have heavy dark mustaches, turned upward and often stylishly curled. In fact I saw only one pair of lions which had a representation of whiskers. One of the pair is shown in the featured photo.

Here is the last guardian I saw. I advanced on it, with my phone held out towards it. Undaunted, it stood its ground, refusing me entry. It was guarding a plastic chair, not a temple.


By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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