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Konark Temple

Location: Konark, Odisha

Built by: King Narasimhadeva I

Built in the Year: Between 1238-1250 CE in the 13th Century

Architectural style: Hindu Kalinga architecture

Timings: 6 am – 8 pm All days

Entry Fee: Rs30 for Indians, Rs500 for foreigners

About Sun Temple

‘’Here, the language of stone surpasses the langue of man,’’ says Rabindranath Tagore about the iconic Sun Temple at Konark. A beautiful creation of the Hindu architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Konark Sun Temple is in Konark in the Puri district of Odisha and is a magnificent specimen of the ancient artistry, innovative ideas, and a scholastic of treasury. Dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, the Sun Temple is constructed in such a way that the first rays of the sun fall at its the entrance, creating a marvelous sight to see. Used to be known as the ‘Black Pagoda’ because of its dark façade in the earlier days by the Europeans, the Konark Sun Temple was used by the ship sailors for navigating their ships. It is said that the magnetic powders of the temple were so strong that it used to draw ships to the shore. The temple has three deities dedicated to the Sun God on three different sides of the temple where the direct rays of the morning, afternoon, and evening sun are caught to create a magical experience.

The temple that is seen today is just the entrance of the actual temple that got ruined and plundered. Much of the temple now has plunged into racks but what remains still holds enough allure to fascinate and captivate the visitors. Sun Temple is an analysis of a greater imagination, the existence of which can be summarized in a way that it has seen empires rise and fall, identities created and washed away, and yet it is enticing to our senses even today. The museum in its premises showcases some of the fallen pieces of the temple that were one time ago a part of the temple. Since the temple now is just a fragment of what it was initially, it still shows the glory even in the ruins, no wonder it would have been a thousand times magnificent at its peak when King Narasimha Deva originally built it.

History of Sun Temple

The formation of the Sun Temple was initiated by Narasimha Deva, a ruler of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, to worship the Sun God, and is assumed to be built to celebrate the victory over Tughral Tughan Khan (a Muslim invader) in 1244 CE in the 13th century. There are other legends that state the reason for the construction of the temple and one of them states that King Anangabhima Deva (father of Narsimha Deva) worshipped Surya to have a child which he was gifted with after 12 years of worshipping. King Narasimha Deva then thought the number 12 as his lucky number and commissioned to construct a temple dedicated to Sun god. He asked his chief architect to complete the temple in exactly 12 years with exactly 1200 workers and artisans at all point of time. If the work was not done in the stipulated time the workers will have to lose their life.

When the chief architect Siva Samantaraya left his home for the construction of the temple, his wife was pregnant and after that delivered a boy who was gifted with an inborn talent of building construction methodology. The child faced many difficulties as his peers used to say that he does not have a father. When the 12 years were about to be completed, he sought to meet his father at the construction site where the temple was almost done except for the erection of Mangal Kalash which the workers were not able to establish and were stuck. When the son of Siva reached, he was elated to see his son but was nervous because the construction was not done and only one day was left in completing 12 years. The son then inspected the site and with the help of a magnetic pillar, finally erected the Mangal Kalash. But the sun realized that he was the 1201st worker which is not allowed and so he jumped from the temple top to save all other 1200 workers. But because of the death in the temple premises, the Aruna Stambh, which was supposed to be erected inside the main sanctum, could not be placed and was shifted to Jagannath temple.

Architecture of Sun Temple

While the Sun Temple was commissioned by King Narsimhadeva I, it was designed and constructed by Samantaraya Mahapatra. ‘Konark’ means sun and its four corners, and the imposing Kalinga architecture of the temple presents a depiction of a 100 feet high chariot of the Sun God being pulled by horses and wheels that is carved out of a single stone. The entire temple is built of Khondalite rocks which showcased a 230 feet high sanctum that no longer exists, while a 128 feet high audience hall, dance hall, and dining hall still survives. The structure represents 24 detailed carved out wheels that are 12 feet in diameter and are seen drawn by seven horses, which had two Mandap (Nata-Mandap and Bhog Mandap) and Vimana (main sanctum) as per the typical Hindu style. The horses here represent the week, the wheels stand for 12 months of the year, while the day-cycle is signified by the eight spokes in the wheels. This whole illustration of the magnificent design tells how the time is regulated by the sun – being the very depiction of the Surya (sun) in the Hindu mythology as wandering from East to West in his chariot and escorted by his charioteer, Aruna (wind). The entrance has gigantic sculptures of Lions over elephants at the frontal stairs of Nata-Mandap which leads to the shrine of the divinity Surya that is built of chlorite stone and the wheels of the temple can be used as sun dials that can very well calculate the right time.

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Sculptures on Konark Sun Temple

The exterior walls of the temple are intricately carved and adorned with reliefs and various figures including Hindu gods, images of the everyday mortal life, birds, animals, and more. The most fascinating feature of the Sun Temple are its erotic sculptures and figurines of women in different poses, as singers and playing musical instruments, that adorn the walls and pillars of the Bhoga Mandapa (refectory hall) and make this exquisite edifice even more captivating to the eyes. ‘Bhog’ means consume, living the life utilizing all the materialistic rather than spiritual. Here, male-female sculptures doing poses from different dance forms, sculptures showing different themes and stages of life like a farmer working in a field, a king in the battlefield, ladies doing makeup, or playing with their kids are intricately illustrated.

Amongst the various themes of sculptures depicted in Konark Sun Temple, Kamasutra theme is the most intriguing and prominent of all. Numerous sculptures celebrate the male-female bonding around the Bhog-Mandap and its platform, showing couples in intimate poses while some in carnal embracing position. Even if someone has not read about the Kamasutra, the artisans here have not left anything for imagination.

How to Reach Konark Sun Temple and When to Visit

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The Sun Temple is in Konark in the district of Puri in Odisha. It is about 60km from the capital city Bhubaneshwar and 35km from Puri. All the private buses and taxis are well-connected from all major towns and cities in Odisha to Konark. The easiest way however, to reach Konark is to rent a cab from Puri station. The temple can be visited from 6am to 8pm but since it is a sun temple, the best time to visit it is early morning to see the temple in all its glory.

Konark Sun Temple

A magnificent grandeur of the 13th century and the definition of creativity and craftsmanship, the Konark Sun Temple is a treat to the eyes with its chariot shaped design, spectacular artistry, and its engineering masterpiece that leaves the visitors in awe and in contemplation about the geniuses of the architects and workers of that time.

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