India’s Ancient Sun Temple
Located in Konark, in Odisha, this Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
As an Indian who has only recently begun understanding the treasure of heritage that my country has, visiting archeological sites is almost cathartic.
I feel intense emotions as I walk around ruins and listen to my guide narrate the stories of these buildings — with their mind boggling architecture, their size, the science behind the construction of each pillar, each dome, their purpose, the cost of construction, the grandeur of those times and most of all, the devotion — the sheer magnitude of my rich heritage becomes evident and comes to life.
This is exactly how I felt when I visited the Sun Temple in Konark.
Built in the 13th century (1250 AD), by King Narasimhadeva, this temple is dedicated to the Sun God. In fact, the name Konark literally means — Sun of the Corner (Kona means Corner, Arka means Sun). The temple is located in the eastern ‘corner’ of the Jagannath Temple of Puri.
It took 12 years for 1200 artisans to construct this massive temple.
The structure is actually a chariot built for the Sun god. There are 24 wheels, each with 10 feet diameter, with intricate carvings. The chariot is drawn by 7 horses, though only a part of two of them still remain.
Just like the ruins of Hampi, it was the British who discovered the temple in a state of disarray in 1901. They undertook major restoration work — but when they found it, the main temple had fallen off and many of the 24 wheels, the horses drawing the chariot and the nata mandapa or the dance hall were broken.
While there are many stories revolving around the cause of the destruction of the temple, my guide narrated an interesting one. “The main temple was held in place by a large magnet on top of it. This magnet caused ships in the ocean to malfunction by disturbing the ship’s compasses. And so, it was the Portugese who stole the magnet that eventually led to the collapse of the main structure,” he said.
After visiting many heritage sites, now I am aware that science was very advanced in that era, so while his story about it’s destruction may seem fantastical, I know it is not impossible.
The sheer size of the temple is imposing and its inconceivable that it was built with human hands! And the sculptures! Such minute detailing that its mind boggling!
Top 5 Things to Look For
1.The Wheels, each with a story
2. The Three images of the Sun God on three sides that used to catch the rays of the sun three times of the day — morning, noon and evening
3. The Nata Mandapa — Dance Hall — with its gorgeous intricate carvings
4. Second level of the temple that depicts sensual sculptures
5. The Museum where one can see the recovered sculptures
Best Time to Visit the Temple
Sunrise and Sunset (when they light up the temple complex)
Sunrise when the golden rays light up the temple
The Konark Temple is located 65 kms from the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneshwar.
There are many places to stay in and around the temple complex
An overnight trip is quite sufficient to explore the region
Guides can be hired from near the ticket counters