Revering the Sun God at the Sun Temple KonarkHindu Temples | March 22, 2010
The Sun Temple in the village of Konark (also Konarak) is a sacred temple devoted to the Sun God, Surya, and is located at 35 km from the holy city of Puri in Orissa on the Bay of Bengal’s shore. Designated as the world Heritage Site in 1984, the temple’s overall structure is that of a huge chariot symbolizing the divine vehicle of the Sun God and its fine stone carvings attracts thousands of visitors across the globe.
Built in 1250 A.D. by the King Narasimhadeva, the Sun Temple Konark marked his military successes versus the Muslim intruders. Based on a local legend, the temple is believed to possess a great atmospheric power whose source are the two great magnets built in the temple’s tower, which actually made the king’s throne to float in the air. Not only this, but the European sailors, utilizing the tower for routing, named it the Black Pagoda because of the magnets’ effect on the tides resulting in common shipwrecks.
After the Muslim attack in the 15th century and consequently the main statue being taken away to Puri, the attacked temple got submerged under a giant sand heap that was restored only in the early 20th century.
The Sun Temple Konark possesses 12 pairs of stone wheels and seven running horses with only one horse intact – all marking the passage of time controlled by the Sun God. The horses, taking the temple to the east at sunrise, are the symbols of the seven days of a week, while the 12 wheels represent 12 months in a year each with 8 spokes signifying the 8 phases of a woman in a day.
- The Main Entrance:
This is on the east facing the sea just before the Hall of Offerings (bhogamandapa) that was then added for ritual dance performances.
- The Sanctuary Tower:
Been once the showpiece of the Sun Temple Konark, this tower is now a mess of sandstone blocks.
This is an impressive edifice holding a pyramidal roof also known as the jagamohana. The roof is adorned with three layers enclosed in statues of musicians and dancers singing to the sun god when he passes through the heaven daily. At the base podium, the carvings are that of a Lord Shiva’s dancing form – Nataraja conducting the celestial dance.
- Shrine of God Surya:
Leave the porch and approach a double staircase to visit this shrine wherein a statue of Surya, the sun god is perched. Sculpted from good quality green chlorite stone, this is among the spectacular art pieces in Konarak. Here, the God is wearing big riding shoes attended by Aruna, his charioteer, at his feet. Next, descend towards the relics of the inner sanctum where the statue was initially positioned.
- Other Carvings:
These are seen in the exterior of the temple wherein you can see Hindu deities, animals, floral designs, legendary creatures, and marine giants. The huge wheels are simply stunning to the eyes with eight spokes in each enduring a pendant of symbolic sculpting. At the top and bottom of the wheels, the friezes symbolize military parade and hunting episodes along with a myriad of elephants. Spot a giraffe in the top frieze at the south that will tell you that Konark used to deal with Africa at that time.