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The Konark (Sun) Temple

Place : Konark, Puri District, Orissa
Significance : World Heritage Site 
Best Season : October and March
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Situated 35 kilometers from Puri and 64km from Bhubaneswar in the State of Orissa is the Konark Sun Temple also known as the Black Pagoda from its dark colour seen from a distance. The temple standing on the sandy coast of the Bay of Bengal is considered as an Orissan architectural/ engineering wonder and one of the finest monuments of religious architecture in the world.

The entire temple complex in Konark is conceived by its architect, Sibei Samantaray, in the shape of a chariot with seven horses (three on the north and four on the south) and 24 spoke, exquisitely ornamented gigantic wheels on each side of the temple to pull the Sun God, Surya, across the heavens.  

Konark Dance Festival- the joyous festival of classical dance and music is held annually in the month of February.
Click here to know more about Konark Dance  Festival

Konark derives its name from Konarka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. It is the combination of Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), which, when combined, means the sun of the corner. According to popular lore, it was here that the cult of sun-worship began some 5,000 years ago. However, legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. It is said that Samba was afflicted by leprosy, brought about by his father's curse on him. After 12 years of penance, he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.  Sun temple was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984. 

The temple, a brilliant chronicle in stone with impressive sculptures, took 16 years to complete. 1,200 artisans and 12,000 labourers were employed on the task. In its original form, the total height of the temple was 229 feet. Set in the middle of a spacious compound (857 ft. by 540 ft.) which lies about 2m below the surrounding land, the shrine consisted of a Deula, a Jagamohana (Audience hall), Bhoga Mandap (Dining Hall) and pillared Natamandapa (Dancing Hall). 

The Deula and Jagamohana stand close to each other above a high platform but the Natamandapa is a detached structure. The super structure of the main shrine which enshrined the presiding deity i.e. Deula has fallen down so also the super structure of the Natamandapa and Bhoga Mandap.  The Jagamohana is still intact in its entirety. 

The joint structure of the Vimana (The main sanctum) and Jagamohana  were conceived in the form of a Chariot (Ratha)  of the Sun, drawn by seven impetuous horses, the chariot having 12 pairs of 8-spoke wheels.  Some say the wheels represent the 24 hours in a day and others say the 12 months in its concept. The seven horses make up the seven colours of the prism. The surface of it is intricately carved with some of the most fantastic sculptures seen in India. Both the main Deula and the Jagamohana, the ruins of the Natamandapa (dancing hall )and of the Mayadevi Temple in the Sun Temple compound, are covered with platforms, horses, floral motifs, colossal mythical animals, whimsical depictions of daily life,  trade, erotic sculptures of amorous dalliances, war and trade and erotic imagery of human love manifested in countless forms as marvelous and detailed as those seen at Khajuraho

There are also huge animal statues: two lions guard the pyramidal entrance, and on each side of the temple is a colossal war elephant, and a war horse trampling on fallen warriors. The pyramidal roof of the temple, made of sandstone, soars over 30 m in height and is constructed with great precision. Close to the temple compound the richly ornamented huge Navagraha slab is enshrined in a shed which was originally placed over the front door of the Jagamohana. On Saturdays and Sankranti days as well during the Magha Sukla Saptami (Chandrabhaga Mela) in February, devotees gather to worship the Navagraha.

The temple looks particularly impressive in the evening as it is illuminated between 6 and 9pm. Today the amphitheater with the Sun Temple as the backdrop, is the venue of classical dances during the Konark Dance Festival in winter usually held from 1st to 5th December annually.