Konark Sun Temple in Odisha - A Display of India's Ancient Architectural Grandeur
We are moving on with a mission: Discover India-The Incredible India. And this time I take you to yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in India. Our destination is Konark near Puri, the sacred city of Hindus, in the state of Odisha. We are heading for the world famous Sun Temple in Konark. It is a fine display of India's ancient architectural grandeur.
The Site and Location
Odisha is a state on the eastern part of India. Its neighboring states are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Konark is situated at a distance of around 65 km from Bhubaneswar and 35 km from Puri. A large chunk of travelers and pilgrims reach Odisha just to see the Sun Temple in Konark. Konark being part of the 'Golden Triangle' of Odisha lures millions of tourists every year. Puri and Bhubaneswar also form part of the Golden Triangle. If you wish to know more about these places, please read my hub What-Makes-Odisha-A-Different-Travel-Destination-in-India.
The Story Behind the Name 'Konark'
The presiding deity of the Sun Temple is 'Konarka' and Konark derives its name thus. Konarka is a combination of two words, Kona (corner) and Arka (Sun) and when combined, it means 'The Sun of the Corner'.
In ancient times, Odisha was called Kalinga. (If you love and follow history, you must have heard about the Kalinga war). Konark was once a bustling port of Kalinga and had a good maritime trade relations with Southeast Asia. The history texts reveal that the Sun Temple was built by King Narashimhadev I (AD 1238-64) of the Ganga dynasty. He built it to celebrate his victory over Muslims. Later, the Mughal emperor Jahangir (a Muslim ruler) desecrated it in the early 17th century. After that, it fell into disuse.
There is one more story related to the temple, which is even older and trace back to the Hindu mythology. According to that version, the temple was constructed by Sambha, the son of Lord Krishna. It is said that Sambha was afflicted by leprosy, brought about by his father's curse on him. It was decreed that he would be relieved of the curse by worshiping the Sun God. Accordingly Sabha reached the temple area and began his worship. After 12 years of penance, Surya, the Sun God cured him. Sambha was too happy and excited on his fresh life and as a token of honor and gratitude to Surya, he built the temple.
The Design and Features of the Temple
The temple is most remarkably noted for its architectural grandeur. The sculptural works are so amazing. The entire temple had 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 carving. You can also see that seven horses drag the temple and two lions guard the entrance crushing elephants. Then a flight of steps leads to the main entrance.
There are three images of the Sun God positioned to catch the rays of the Sun at dawn, noon and sunset.
The huge intricate wheels of the chariot are the major attractions of the temple. The spokes of these wheels serve as Sundials, the shadows formed by these can give the precise time of the day. On the walls, you can see the carvings in the erotic style. The erotic sculptures are so classic and the scenes are adopted from the world's ancient sex text Kama Sutra. The visitors can buy the miniature of the Konark Wheel to keep as a souvenir and to gift to their dear ones.
The Present Picture of the Temple
Though the temple was attacked by the Muslim invaders and fell into neglect for more than 300 years, it is still standing tall. Even today the temple is remarked as one of the finest religious buildings anywhere in the world. Still, but, you would be sad to watch the ruined portion of the building. With the passage of time, the degree of ruin may go up. Nevertheless, we, the history lovers have something to feel happy and relaxed. The UNESCO as well ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) have come to the rescue of this ancient monument. The temple is now branded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now these authorities are doing all that required preserving its historic value.
Konark Sun Temple is a masterpiece of Odisha's medieval architecture. It is a true display of India's ancient architectural grandeur. The site also conveys the true story of the temple architectural brilliance of the ancient Hindu rulers and that of the hundreds of unknown artisans. Now, the science and technology are capable of doing any task. But this magnificent monument was created depending solely on the manpower and their artistic talents centuries back. Let's salute these great smart people.
A visit to the site is worth and a good tribute to the masters behind this magnificent monument. India is really incredible. Explore and experience more, if you have the mood and time. Best of luck!
© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth