Things you should know about Konark Sun Temple
Posted on December 24, 2018 by Ghoomophiro
Sun was once worshipped as a god all over the world – whether by name of Apollo in Greece, ‘Sol Invictus’ in Rome or Ra in Egypt. In India, the Sun god Surya or Aditya occupies as held a prominent place in Hindu faith.
There are many Sun temples in India, but the Konark Sun temple of Odisha stands out from among them because its magnificent architecture which has earned it tile of a UNESCO world heritage site. It has also been listed among the Seven Wonders of India. The very name ‘Konark’ means Sun’s corner. This temple is the best tourist attraction of Odisha.
You need not to be a fan of temples to fall in love with this one. What might amuse you is that besides worshipping Hindu deities, it celebrates the life of a king, people at large and also various stages of sexuality and courtship.
Location of temple
Konark is located on the Bay of Bengal in Odisha, just 35 kilometers from Puri and about sixty kilometers from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha. Bhubaneshwar is the nearest airport. Both Puri and Bhubaneshwar provide easy road and railway transport to Konark
Supposed to have been built in around 1250 A.D. by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, it is the grandest Sun temple of the country. The temple has been nicknamed the ‘Black Pagoda’ by European tourists because its great looked black as early as in seventeenth-century – just as Jagannath temple was nicknamed ‘White Pagoda’.
The temple complex was once two hundred feet high but, unfortunately, it is mostly in ruins now. The cause of destruction is not clear and even controversial. It might have been natural causes or it might have been brought by Muslim armies. The main idol of Sun god is said to have been stolen by Portuguese sailors. Though it has obviously seen the decline, it is renowned all over the world for its architecture and stone carvings. Despite having met so much destruction, it attracts tourism both religious and recreational.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit the temple is time Chandrabhaga Mela is held every year in this temple in or around February.
The Konark Sun Temple was built from stone in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of Sun god, Surya. In Hindu Vedic iconography Surya is often represented as a resplendent standing person with a lotus flower each in both his hands rising in the east and traveling rapidly across the sky in his chariot which is drawn by seven horses. The charioteer Aruna marshals the horses named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody, that is, Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti. Just behind Surya stand two goddesses of dawn, Usha and Pratyusha, shown to be shooting arrows, a symbol of their initiative in challenging darkness. The twelve wheels of the chariot would stand for 12 pairs months of Hindu calendar. Each pair having two wheels showing two cycles of a month – Shukla and Krishna.
Konark Sun temple draws much from this design. What remains now is a hundred feet high structure – shaped like a huge chariot with gigantic horses and wheels. The huge chariot has 24 giant wheels symbolizing 24 hours of a day and 7 giant horses representing 7 days of a week. Each of these 24 wheels is 12 feet high and has eight spokes.
The Shikhar which was much higher than surviving mandap is missing. The artwork of this structure is iconic and of special interest to some are the themes like erotic kama and mithuna scenes.
The design of the temple is such that the first rays of the Sun strike the entrance of the temple. You must be in time to see this temple at the time of sunrise when viewed from inland, it will appear to be bringing the sun from the sea.
The main temple at Konark, which is locally called the deul, is no longer there. It was surrounded by subsidiary shrines depicting Hindu deities, particularly Surya in his different aspects. The central projection of the temple, called the Raha, is far more pronounced than the side projections, called Kanika-paga. It uses interplay of sunlight and shade to add to the visual appeal of the structure throughout the day. You can find the design manual for this style in the Silpa Sastra of ancient Odisha.
The walls of the Jagamohana are 100 feet tall and twice as wide. The surviving structure of Jagmohana has three tiers of six pidas each which diminish incrementally. The pidas are divided into terraces, each of these terraces has statues of musician figures.
The main temple along with the Jagamohana porch consists of four main zones: the platform, the wall, the trunk, and the crowning head called a mastaka. Of these, the first three are square shaped while the mastaka is circular.
On the east side of the main temple stands the Nata mandira (literally dance temple).
Reliefs and sculpture
The architectural splendor aside, the temple is popular for its reliefs and sculptures.
The walls of the temple are ornamented with reliefs finished with minute details. The terraces have stone statues of male and female musicians holding various musical instruments. Other major works include sculptures of Hindu deities, images from the daily life and culture of the people (artha and dharma scenes), animals – both land and aquatic, birds and mythological creatures. The carvings also include purely decorative geometric patterns and plant motifs There are also some panel showing Kings performing their functions.
The molding layer at the bottom of the platform show friezes of elephants, musicians, marching soldiers, hunting scenes, domesticated animals etc.
Again, imagery on walls is splendid showing – girls wringing their wet hair, standing by a tree, playing with pets, looking from a window, playing musical instruments; a mother blessing her son; a teacher with students; a yogi etc to name a few
The most popular of these sculptures though are maithunas and kamas showing couples at various stages of courtship and intimacy. Their uninhibited sexuality talks volumes against those who have narrow-minded views of Indian culture. These erotic sculptures are found on the temple’s Shikhara, and these illustrate all the bandhas (mudra forms) described in the Kamasutra.
The upper levels and terrace of the Konark Sun temple contain largest and religiously most significant works of the temple. The craving here include images of musicians, mythological narratives, Hindu deities (Durga in her Mahishasuramardini aspect, Vishnu in his Jagannatha form, Shiva as a linga etc.
Konark sun temple is the best place to dip into the ocean of Indian ancient history. The mesmerizing experience should be your bucket list item.