Konarak, Sun Temple, Orissa
The Sun Temple at Konarak.

Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name Konark is derived form the words Kona - Corner and Arka - Sun; it is situated on the north eastern corner of Puri or the Chakrakshetra. Konark is also known as Arkakshetra.

As the name suggests, the temple worships Surya (the Sun God). Shaped like a giant chariot, the temple is known for the exquisite stone carvings that cover the entire structure. According to local legend, the temple has a great aura of power that comes from two very powerful magnets said to have been built into the tower - magnets that allowed the king's throne to hover in mid-air.

The entire Sun temple is built in black granite and is also known as the Black Pagoda. The temple was built by King Narasimhadeva I who belonged to the Ganga dynasty that ruled Konark from the period of 1236 to 1264 AD. The temple has earned the pride of being one of the World Heritage Sites in the world. This is due to the unique architectural style of the temple, which is completely made out of stone and comprises fine stone carvings.

Divine Beauty

The Sun Temple at Konarak

The entire temple is made in the form of a chariot, which symbolizes the carrier of the Sun God. This chariot comprises of 12 magnificent wheels and is drawn by seven fine horses. This chariot is the highlight of the temple and has maximum carving and artistic finesse. The chariot almost seems real and charms every onlooker.

The Sun Temple at Konarak.

At the entrance of the temple, there are two huge sculptures that show two lions, which are crushing a huge elephant. The Konark Sun Temple, India, also includes a temple known as the Nata Mandir. There are exemplary floral and geometric carvings that adorn the precincts of the Konark Sun Temple, India. The temple continues to amaze the tourists who visit the temple each year. This temple, which worships the Sun God, has been appropriately designed to match the power and aura of the Sun.

The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The tower over the Garbagriha is missing, however the Jagmohana is intact, and even in this state, it is awe inspiring.

It is said that the temple was not completed as conceived because the foundation was not strong enough to bear the weight of the heavy dome. Local beleif has it that it was constructed in entirety, however its magnetic dome caused ships to crash near the seashore, and that the dome was removed and destroyed and that the image of the Sun God was taken to Puri.

The Temple

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 and sunset.

Interior of the Sun Temple, looking towards the porch.

The Melakkadambur Shiva temple, built in the form of a chariot during the age of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120), is the earliest of this kind, and is still in a well preserved state. It is believed that this temple set the pace for the ratha (chariot) vimana temples in India, as a distant descendant of Kulottunga I on the female line, and thefamous Eastern Ganga ruler Narasimha Deva, built the Sun Temple at Konark in the form of a chariot in the 13th century. Kulottunga Chola is also credited with having built the Suryanaar temple near Kumbhakonam. Temples dedicated to the Sun are not a common feature in the Tamil speaking region of the Indian subcontinent.

The Konark Sun Temple takes the form of a huge chariot for the Sun God Surya, with 12 pairs of stone-carved wheels and a team of seven galloping horses (only one of which survives intact).

One of 24 carved wheels.

The temple also symbolizes the passage of time, which is under the sun god's control. The seven horses, which pull the sun temple eastwards towards the dawn, represent the days of the week. The 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the eight spokes in each wheel symbolize the eight ideal stages of a woman's day.

The main entrance to the complex is on the eastern (sea-facing) side, in front of the Hall of Offerings (bhogamandapa). This was a later addition to the complex and was likely used for ritual dance performances, as its walls are carved with sculptures of musicians and dancers as well as erotic scenes.

The sanctuary tower was once the centerpiece of the Konark Sun Temple, but today it is no more than a jumble of sandstone slabs off the western wing. The imposing structure with the pyramidal roof that now takes center stage is actually the porch (jagamohana).

The roof of the porch has three tiers covered in statues, mostly musicians and dancers sereneding the Sun God during his daily passage through the heavens. Sculptures on the bottom platform include a Shiva Nataraja, performing the cosmic dance. The interior is now blocked up.

Just beyond the porch is a double staircase that leads to a shrine containing a statue of Surya, the sun god. The beautiful image is carved of high-quality green chlorite stone and is one of the masterpieces of Konarak. Surya wears tall riding boots and is accompanied by a small figure of Aruna, the charioteer, at his feet. From here you can climb down into the remains of the inner sanctum, where the deity was originally enshrined.

Other sculptures decorating the temple's exterior include deities, animals, floral patterns, voluptuous women, mythical beasts and aquatic monsters. The 24 giant wheels are beautifully carved and each of the eight spokes bears a medallion containing figurative carvings.

Friezes above and below the wheels depict military processions and hunting scenes, with thousands of rampaging elephants. Look for the giraffe in the top frieze along the south side of the platform - this proves that Konarak traded with Africa in the 13th century.

Source: Konark Sun Temple, templenet.com; Konark Sun Temple, Sacred Destinations;

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