It is believed to be one of the oldest temples of the Millennium city, having been built by King Pratap Rudra Dev sometime in 1510 CE. The temple’s association with Sri Chaitanya’s visit and the annual Bali Yatra that is held at the ghat makes it a popular and important site. The temple is on the bank of the Mahanadi at the spot where the river is at its widest point. It lies just below the embankment of the Ring Road.
The Ghat was earlier known as the Khadgeswar Ghat, and was the entry point for the travellers. The temple was, and still is, a very important monument in the social milieu of the city. It is considered auspicious to hold marriages and engagements in the temple. Even disputes are settled in the temple premises. In the holy month of shravana, lakhs of devotees congregate at the Ghat to take water to different Shiva shrines in the state.
There is a 500 year old Banyan tree inside the complex. At the base of the tree, an idol of Maa Tarini has been installed since years. This temple was mentioned by Fakir Mohan Senapati in his work. The main temple has many subsidiary temples in the precinct. There are smaller temples of Kali, Laxmi, Jagannath, Sri Ram and a statue of the old Mahant. A black chlorite stone block with the foot impressions of Sri Chaitanya is kept near the entrance. There is a dharamshala which was made fifty years ago. The temple also has a small Goshala in the rear. The façade of the main temple has an arch with two lions on either side. It is brightly painted with a large bell on the top. The main entrance has a decorative arch which is embellished with a multitude of floral and animal motifs. The temple door is of beautifully carved wood.
Sri Chaitanya’s association with this temple is a lore strongly propounded by the Vaishnavites. During his visit to Puri after his return from Vrindavan sometime in 1507, he crossed the Mahanadi at the point. It is believed that Gajapati emperor of Odisha, Pratap Rudra Dev, received Mahaprabhuat the Gadagadia Ghata. The Ghat was close to the king’spalaceat Barabati Fort. When Sri Chaitanya stayed at the temple, he was filled with reverence for Lord Jagannath. He is then supposed to have taken a bath in the Mahanadi on the full moon day of Kartika and then have rested on the sands at the river bed. In his heightened state of ecstasy, he rolled in the sands of the Ghat. In Odia rolling is translated as “gadiba”, hence the name of the place gadgadia.
The temple’s association with the annual Bali Yatra is a legend strongly believed by the locals. There is widespread belief that the Bali Yatra is held in of the commemoration of the ancient trade relations between the merchants of Odisha and that of Indonesian island of Bali. The ships carrying merchandise from Odisha would sail out on the auspicious day of the Kartika Purnima. They would return with riches and tales of adventure. The wives and family of these ancient mariners thronged the Gadgadia ghat to welcome their husbands on arrival.
Bishnu Dutta Panda, the Chief Hereditary Priest of the temple Shiva laments that the temple is gradually sinking due to the high water table and the frequent flooding of the river Mahanadi. The roof of the Garbha Griha or the sanctum sanctorum leaks during the rains and the walls have developed cracks. The relevance of the Bali Yatra and the annual crowding of the bol-bom devotees have made the temple as one of the most popular one in the old city. Immediate conservation needs to be done. The ancient tree in the premises too needs care.