The Leaning Temple of Huma

While the leaning tower of Pisa has amassed numerous applause from all around the world, have you ever heard of the only leaning of the world? With its leaning edifice, the pinnacle perpendicular to the ground gives a unique structure to the leaning temple of Huma. Let’s visit the land of temples, Odisha, to learn more about this amazing temple and its extraordinary legends.
The Leaning Temple of Huma; Image Source: Visit My Odisha

The Leaning Temple of Huma; Image Source: Visit My Odisha

About 28 kilometers from Sambalpur, a town famous for the enormous Hirakud Dam and colourful Sambalpuri sarees, a tiny hamlet called Huma lies on the banks of the Mahanadi river. Here stands the ancient temple of Huma. While this description might sound very ordinary, wait till you hear of a distinct feature of its appearance. While most of the structures around this temple stand vertically straight, this pink temple is slightly tilted towards the northeast. This might have reminded you of the infamous leaning tower of Pisa, but the leaning temple of Huma is perhaps one of the two only leaning temples of the world.

This enigmatic phenomenon appears to have perplexed builders, historians, and scholars for many years. Even interested visitors wonder if this feature occurred by coincidence or design. Nonetheless, this distinguishing characteristic and its explanation have remained unnoticed and have not received the attention they deserve.

Like every ancient architectural monument, the temple of Huma is too surrounded by mythology. Long ago, a cow often used to come to the spot where the temple currently stands daily and let her milk spill on the granite outcrop. The milk would be gone in no time. People who lived nearby noticed this cow every day, bringing milk to the rock ledge. People immediately ascribed divinity to it, and a shrine was built directly on the location.

According to another version, a milkman started to venerate the stone - idol from which he used to cross the Mahanadi River every day. He poured a considerable amount of milk on the rock, and it quickly vanished, likely devoured by the idol beneath? Suspicious of divinity, he notified the local inhabitants, prompting the kings of this area to construct a shrine devoted to Lord Shiva.

Another legend holds that King Ananga Veema Deva III struggled with tuberculosis and asked for treatment. He proceeded to the stony bank at Huma and saw a leaning shiva linga according to a heavenly message. He erected a shrine with a leaning tower as prescribed, implying that the structure was purposely created.

Aside from the tilting temple, a type of scarlet fish (popularly known as Kudo) in the riverbed is another draw for visitors. The fish pictured may grow to be up to six feet in length. Tourists like feeding the fish, which have evolved into excellent companions. It is regarded as highly holy to feed these fishes. It is also said that whoever kills and consumes the fish from this portion of the Mahanadi does not fare well. A curse is purported to transform anybody who catches a Kudo fish into stone; the temple features a stone statue depicting a lady slicing a Kudo fish, who is thought to have been impacted by the jinx and turned to stone.

The kudo fish answer to the priests' appeal and gather on the stairs of the dipping ghat to be served by the visitors. It is said that there is a hidden route from Lord Bimaleswara's seat to the river Mahanadi and that kudo fishes seek shelter at the deity's foot during the monsoon season. Similarly, it is thought that there is a hidden route leading from Lord Maneswara's throne to the surrounding pond.

River currents or subsurface seismic motions are more likely explanations for the temple's leaning position. Surprisingly, just the central section of the tower is leaning, neither the base nor the crown. Experts say the tilting was not intentional, and the structure was technically excellent. Leaning might be caused by subsurface movement of the geological formation caused by localised small shocks. Flood tides from the Mahanadi would not have triggered the bending, but they'd have caused structural damage.

The bending of many other buildings in the other direction is a mystery, and it might be caused by the propagation of the seismic wave in that direction. This indicates that tremors occurred twice in this location. The initial earthquakes led the tower to lean toward the river—the second induced perpendicular tilting to the first.

One remarkable aspect is that all of the structures inside the temple complex, including the borders, are slanted. However, as confirmed by locals and priests, the inclination angle has not altered in the previous forty to fifty years. The tilt might be caused by a geological phenomenon rather than a structural or design defect. The temple's plinth has strayed somewhat from its original layout (and therefore, its body has slanted), showing a positive movement in the earth, possibly induced by mild tremors. The entire temple building would have collapsed and been seriously damaged if there had been big shocks.

The Bhairavi Devi Temple is to the left of the main temple, while the Bhairo Temple is to the rightmost of the temple. According to historical documents, this temple was established by Anangbhim Deva III, the Ganga Dynasty's king. The remaining temples were constructed during the time of Sambalpur's King Ajit Singh (1766-1788 A.D.).

At this temple, Shivaratri is an important event. This location attracts a large number of enthusiasts. Each year on the eve of Shivratri in March, an annual fair is held at the temple's foothill. To entice more guests to the annual fair, the Odisha government has suggested a hanging bridge.

Aside from the oddity of the leaning tower, the location is peaceful and calm, with the slowly streaming Mahanadi and sparse forests all around. The Huma Temple, the only such sort, requires additional attention and more solid efforts to ensure its preservation.

Sambalpur’s Mystic Temple; Image Source: TripAdvisor

Sambalpur’s Mystic Temple; Image Source: TripAdvisor

The Kudos of Huma; Image Source: Odisha Tour

The Kudos of Huma; Image Source: Odisha Tour

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