Sitting none too prettily at the confluence of the Mahanadi with the Jonk and Shivnath rivers is the town of Shivrinarayan. The place is imbued with mythology, specifically the legend of Shabari from the Ramayana. A clutch of ancient temples rife with once-brilliant, now-painted over carvings are the main draw.
One tradition believes that Shabari. a poor resident of Rishi Matang’s ashram and a devoted follower of Rama spent her entire life hoping to set eyes on him. Long into her twilight years, she continued to collect — daily —fruits and flowers to offer him were he to come by. When Rama did finally arrive with Laxman in search of the kidnapped Sita, she was ill-prepared for the visit. With only a handful of ber fruit to share, the story goes that she bit into each one to ensure Rama ate only the sweet ones. The old lady is also supposed to have directed the duo to Lake Pampa where they met Sugreeva; a meeting that eventually led to the rescue of Sita.
An ancient temple with sophisticated stone sculptures. Despite attempts at thoughtless makeovers – marble floors, plastered walls, flashing lights nothing distract from its elaborately carved sanctum
just across Nar Narayan is the party ruined quake-hit Keshav Narayan temple in brick, dedicated to lord Vishnu. This , too has an incredibly intricate doorjamb carved with the two dozen incarnations of Visnu. Both temples host ancient idols reportedly found during excavations. In the latter, the woman shown seated towards the foot of the idol is said to be that of Shabari.
Of relatively recent vintage (1920s), this nearby temple is ‘inspired’ by
the temple of the same name at Puri. According to lore, Lord Jagannath visits this temple every year.
Nearby Kharod (4km) is the site of an ancient Shiva temple and a forlorn protected monument known as the Shabari Temple, the only other reminder of Rama’s most celebrated disciple.