Sun Temple at Konark
Konark Sun Temple is located in the state of Orissa near the sacred city of Puri.
The sun Temple of Konark is dedicated to the sun God or Surya. It is a
masterpiece of Orissa's medieval architecture. Sun temple has been declared a
world heritage site by UNESCO.
The Konark temple is widely known not only for
its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of
sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun
god with 24 wheels,each about 10 feet in diameter,with a set of spokes and
elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the
entrance,crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance.
The Nata Mandir in front of the Jagamohana is
also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple,and up the walls and
roof,are carvings in the erotic style. There are images of
animals,foliage,men,warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. There are
three images of the Sun God,positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn,noon
Konark derives its name from Konarka,the
presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konarka is actually a combination of two
words,Kona (corner) and Arka (sun),which,when combined,means the sun of the
corner. Konark was one of the earliest centres of Sun worshipping in India. The
place finds mention in the Puranas as Mundira or Mundirasvamin,a name that was
subsequently replaced by Konaditya or Konarka. Apart from the Puranas,other
religious texts also point towards the existence of a sun temple at Konark long
before the present temple.
Konark was once a bustling port of Kalinga and
had good maritime trade relations with Southeast Asian countries. The present
Sun Temple was probably built King Narashimhadev I (AD 1238-64) of the Ganga
dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell into disuse
in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal
However,legend has it that the temple was
constructed by Samba,the son of Lord Krishna. It is said that Samba was
afflicted by leprosy,brought about by his father's curse on him. After 12 years
of penance,he was cured by Surya,the Sun God,in whose honour he built this
The massive structure of the temple,now in
ruins,sits in solitary splendor surrounded by the drifting sands. The entire
temple has been designed in the shape of a chariot carrying the Sun God across
the heavens. The huge intricate wheels of the chariot,which are carved around
the base of the temple,are the major attractions of the temple. The spokes of
these wheels serve as sundials,and the shadows formed by these can give the
precise time of the day. The pyramidal roof of the temple,made of
sandstone,soars over 30 m in height. Like the temples at Khajuraho,the Sun
Temple at Konark is also covered with erotic sculptures.
The Temple Chariot of the Sun God
Standing imperiously in its compound of lawns and casuarina trees,35km north of
Puri on the coast road,this majestic pile of oxidizing sandstone is considered
to be the apogee of Orissan architecture and one of the finest religious
buildings anywhere in the world. The temple is all the more remarkable for
having languished under a huge mound of sand since it fell into neglect three
hundred or so years ago. A team of seven galloping horses and twenty-four
exquisitely carved wheels found lining the flanks of a raised platform showed
that the temple had been conceived in the form of a colossal chariot for the sun
god Surya,its presiding deity.
Lady drummer of Sun Temple
The temple is a brilliant chronicle in stone,with thousands of images including
deities,the Surasundaris,heavenly damsels,and human musicians,lovers,dancers,and
different scenes from courtly life.
Maituna - Sun Temple
Equally as sensational was the re-discovery among the ruins of some
extraordinary erotic sculpture. Konark is plastered with loving couples locked
in ingenious amatory postures drawn from the Kama Sutra - a feature that may
well explain the comment made by one of great poet of Mughal Dynasty,Abdul
Fazl,in the sixteenth century: "Even those who are difficult to
please," he enthused,"stand astonished at its sight."
A stone's throw away from Konark beach lies the sacred pond where Samba was
cured of leprosy - the miracle that allegedly inspired the founding of the sun
temple. For a couple of days every year during the full or "white"
moon phase of Magha (Jan/Feb),chandrabhaga is also the site of a big religious
festival,the Magha Saptami Mela.
The Chandrabhaga Mela or Magha Saptami mela in
the month of February,is a grand religious festival. Thousands of pilgrims
converge on the pool,on this day to take a holy dip in its curative waters,and
then shuffle off to the beach where,in accordance with an age-old custom
mentioned in the puranas,they watch the sun rise over the sea. The event is
followed by the puja of the Navagraha.
Those interested in attending the Konark Dance
Festival,held in the Open air Auditorium north of the Sun Temple,should visit
during the first week of December. Konark Dance Festival A dance festival is
held in an open-air theatre built near the Sun Temple every year in the month of
December. Known as the Konark dance festival,the event brings together eminent
classical dancers of India who perform various dance forms like
Odissi,Bharatnatyam,Manipuri,Kathak and Chhow. The classical extravaganza is a
journey through ecstasy,and a visit to Konark during this time offers you with a
combination of art,craft,fun and frolic.
Magha Saptami (Sun Festival) is held at Konark
on the seventh day (saptami) of the bright half of the month of Magha
(January/February). During this festival,the pilgrims bathe in the sea before
sunrise and then proceed to the temple to worship.