Konark Sun Temple. Temple in India, Asia

Konark Sun Temple

Temple in India, Asia

Konark Sun Temple Photo © Pete

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Konark Sun Temple

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Constructed in the 13th century, the Konark Sun Temple is one of the major architectural landmarks of medieval India. It is a temple dedicated to the Sun God of the Hindus and resembles the shape of a huge chariot of the Sun God with meticulously carved walls and wheels. This temple is a part of NDTV (Wikipedia Article) and Times of India’s list of ‘Seven Wonders of India’. The Konark Temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The word ‘Konark’ has been derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Kona’ and ‘Arka’, meaning “Corner” and “Sun”, respectively.
Erstwhile, many European sailors even referred to this temple as the “Black Pagoda”.

History

According to Hindu scriptures, Lord Krishna’s son, Samba, was suffering from leprosy and was urged by the Saint, Kataka, to pray to the Sun God who would heal his incurable disease. Samba did penance for about 12 years in a place called Mitravana, which lies on the banks of the River Chandrabhaga (Wikipedia
	Article), and built this temple in honor of the Sun God after he was cured. The Bhavishya Purana (Wikipedia Article) and the Samba Purana suggests that an older temple might have existed in the same location which dates back to the 9th century BCE. The present Sun Temple was supposedly constructed by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, who reigned between 1238- 1264 AD. According to local myths, Narasimhadeva hired the services of an architect called Bisu Maharana, who completed the construction after a long period of 12 years with the help of 12,000 artisans.

The idol of the Sun God was thereafter shifted to the Jagannath temple in Puri around 1627 by the King of Khurda. There are many contradicting theories regarding the causes of the collapse of the main sanctum of this temple, as the exact date of the collapse of the sanctum is uncertain according to the archaeological records. However, according to the architectural historian, James Ferguson, the collapse was caused by the swampy land on which the temple was built in the bygone eras. The last remnant structure of the main sanctum collapsed around 1848 because of a thunderstorm, although others propose earthquake, lightning, incomplete construction as probable causes of the collapse.

What to Expect at Konark

 - Konark Sun Temple
The Konark Sun Temple in better times.. Photo by unknown

Even in its present dilapidated state, the Sun Temple is a sight to behold as it still stands erect with all its glory and magnificence on a vast stretch of sand. The temple was constructed at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga River but the shoreline receded ever since, and so presently one won’t even find any trace of the river nearby.

Built around 1250 AD, the temple comprises of a giant chariot of the Sun God with twelve pairs of immensely decorated wheels driven by seven horses. Surrounded by secondary shrines on all sides, the main temple consists of an inner sanctum with a lofty peak known as the Shikhara, a porch known as Jagamohana and a dance hall known as Nata mandira, all in the same straight line. The inner sanctum is decorated with spectacular carvings of the Sun God from three different perspectives which are separately treated as miniature shrines. The inner sanctum and the Jagamohana are grounded on the same platform which is intricately decorated with ornamental designs and Indian sculptures, which are extremely erotic in nature. The Jagamohana’s roof is a three-tiered structure, adorned with life-size female forms of great magnificence. There are also two relatively smaller temples in the surrounding area.

The Mayadevi Temple on the west of the Sun Temple is dedicated to Goddess Mayadevi, the wife of the Sun God, or Surya Dev. In all probabilities, this temple was constructed around late 11th century. The Vaishnava Temple, excavated near Konark Sun Temple in 1956, is a simple brick structure without any ornamental sculptures. One of the most beautifully conceived temple of Asia, the Konark Temple ranks among one of the finest architecture of medieval India.

The Konark Dance Festival, which is organized by Orissa Tourism, is held every year in the month of December in the backdrop of this temple. This week-long program is a spectacular sight to behold, which is attended by several music and Indian classical 'Odissi' dance lovers from all across the world.

Konark Dance Festival
The Konark Dance Festival. Photo by David Ducoin


Konark Dance Festival
The Konark Dance Festival. Photo by David Ducoin

How to Get There

Konark is a 40 miles drive from Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of the Indian state of Odisha, and is easily accessible by buses which ply regularly. A superb road by the coastline also connects Konark to Puri. As there are no decent overnight accommodation facilities near the temple, many visitors from Puri often make a one day trip to Konark, which is just a one hour journey by hiring a private car, shared jeep or by tourist buses that ply on this route. The last bus to Puri leaves Konark at 6.30 PM. You can also hire an auto rickshaw which will take you there and back from Puri for just ₨ 300 ($4.80) - ₨ 400 ($6.40).

Similar Landmarks

You might like to visit other historical monuments nearby like the Lingaraja Temple of Bhubaneshwar, which is another epitome of the Kalinga style of architecture. The rock cut Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves (Wikipedia Article), in the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar, can be another interesting site to visit. The much visited Jagannath Temple of Puri is a sacred pilgrimage spot for Hindus and can be reached from Konark Temple by car or bus within an hour.

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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Aug 06, 2014

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