The Rajarani temple, dating back to the eleventh century, is set in open paddy fields, and the entire structure exudes grace and elegance. The name of the temple has been the subject of much debate. The most likely explanation is that the name is related to the lovely red-and- gold sandstone used in its construction, a stone which is known locally as rajarani. The debate is complicated by the fact that the names of all the Hindu temples in Bhubaneswar dedicated to the God Shiva end in the suffix eswar (for example Parasurameswara, Mukteswara, etc.), while those of the non-Shaivite temples are derived from their presiding deities (e.g. Parvati temple).One major scholar has argued that the name Rajarani was only applied to the temple at a later date (because of the sandstone), and that originally this is the Shiva shrine referred to in early texts as Indreswara.This seems the most likely conclusion.
The jagmohana (porch) is extremely plain, and was evidently repaired in 1903 after having fallen down in ruins. The deul (tower), on the other hand, is spectacularly ornate, and is famous for the aesthetic concept of miniature temple spires clustered around the main tower. The sculptural images of the temple are elegant and lively, especially the beautiful female figures which can be seen in amorous dalliance, as well as engaged in such activities as holding children, looking in mirrors, and playing with pet birds. On the lower register of the deul, on the corner projections, are found the famous 'Guardians of the Eight Directions', watching over (and radiating the temple's power to) the eight cardinal points. Beginning from the left of the entrance to the deul and proceeding in a clockwise direction, they are: Indra (east, chief of the 33 Vedic nature deities); Agni (south-east, Vedic God of fire); Yama (south, God of death); Nirriti (south-west, deity related to suffering); Varuna (west, a Vedic deity of the ocean); Vayu (north-west, wind God); Kubera (north, lord of wealth, shown here with a wish-fulfilling tree); and Ishana (north-east, a form of Shiva).