Shree Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur, is a strong spiritual force in the western region of Orissa and the Chhattisgarh state of India. On the bank of the river Mahanadi the mother Goddess Samaleswari is worshipped from ancient times as Jagatjanani, Adishakti, Mahalaxmi and Mahasaraswati. The region in which the temple is located comprises of a rich cultural heritage. Sambalpur region is popularly known as Hirakhanda from ancient times. Ptolemy has described the place as Sambalak. According to Tavernier, the French traveler, and Edward Gibbon, the English historian, diamonds were exported to Rome from Sambalpur.
The temple is of the Sandhara order. Built of a kind of stone durable as granite, cemented with lime mortar, the whole building is plastered, but in course of time the surface has turned mouldy. The temple comprises of two separate structures. The square sanctum sanctorum enshrining the deity is four steps beneath the 10` feet wide covered circumbulation, which is supported by 12 stone pillars. Eleven parswa devis (side Goodness`) are entrenched on the outer wall of the sanctum, so that the devotees can worship those deities during parikarma through the domed circumbulation.
The pedestal is about 16" high. Beyond the pedestal, the building is square in shape, 21` 7" x 21`7". The arched roof commences after a height of 18 feet and tapers to the height of 35 feet, where a hip knob over which a gold pot and spire are placed, has abruptly intercepted the gradual dwindling of the bulk. The arch is supported by eight abutments each of which is gradually diminished in size by lateral attenuation of an inch on both sides of the successive layers of which it is comprised. The entire arch is an oblong; resembling the cupper half of the eclipse with equal longitudinal undulations and elevation through out the whole surface. Origination from each corner at the base project four subordinate buildings 11 feet square, they are situated in a way that the sides of square base of the temple are produced. They come in contact with two extremities of each of the buildings. Each of them has a vaulted roof, supported by six pillars. A hip knob pierced by an iron spike, adorns the top. Between these domes there are flat roofs supported by pillars, thus forming a square verandah on each side of the temple, with four domes at the corners adorned by the steeple, which rises above all with gold pot spire glittring in the sunshine.
On the Northern side the main temple, a 12`6" wide open yard separates the main temple from the 16 pillars audience Hall. The main spire of the temple is adorned with eight pseudo temple motifs; the larger ones face towards the four directions and the smaller motifs face towards the four corners. The temple motif facing towards the North consists of an arched opening suggesting the main entrance of the temple.
The Idol of Shree Shree Samalai Devi consists of a large block of Granite rock with an upturned, trunk like projection at the bottom. A shallow cut on her "Baraha" like face symbolizes her mouth. Beaten gold leave fixed on two disproportionate golden eye like depression on the face acts as substitute for her eyes in an attempt to define the face of the mother deity on a mass of self shaped rock, the devi`s idol inspires transcendent sentiments of awe, fear, reverence, devotion, love and affection towards all pervading mother hood.
Akhada Hanuman, Bhairva and Mauli Devi are worshipped in separate temples while Sitala Thakurani is worshipped in "Sangudi" or Mandap Mandir. A large size Bahana Singha Bigraha has been installed in recent years at the core of the temple premises, which is considered to be the biggest astadhatu Bahana Singha Bigraha in Asia. Almost all towns and villages of this region have a temple of Maa Samaleswari. In modern Orissa no single goddess has sway over a large territory after Lord Jagganath. The main temple of Goddess Samaleswari at Sambalpur is the source of inspiration. Several festivals are observed in the temple all through the year with much pomp and ceremony.
1. Jyestha Purnima- Jalasayee of Bhairava baba
2. Sravana Purnima- Srabanbhishek
3. Bhadraba Shukla Panchami- Nuakhai
4. Bhadra Krushna Astami- Ambica Puja
5. Aswin Amabasya- Mahalaya, Dhabalmukhi or Ganga Darshan besha
6. Aswin Shukla Pratipada- Navaratri, Pujarambaha
7. Aswin Purnima- Dhwajarohan and Raj- Rajeswari besha