Situated 35 km from Puri and 65 km from Bhubaneshwar in Odisha is the magnificent temple dedicated to the Sun God and declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year 1984 for its “Outstanding Universal Value”. Konark derived from two words ‘Kona’ meaning Sun and ‘Arka’ meaning Lord was constructed to commemorate the triumph of the rulers of the Ganga Dynasty over the Muslim invaders. European travelers used to refer to the temple as the ‘Black Pagoda’ while the Jagannath Puri temple was hailed as the white pagoda. Both these temples served as significant landmarks for sailors.
The Temple- Description
The temple dedicated to Surya is in the form of a massive chariot along with seven galloping horses representing the seven days of the week. The twelve wheels in the chariot symbolize the twelve months in a year. Worship of the Sun God has been in existence and that is why the Suryashtakam refers to him as Adi deva, the foremost among gods. He is known by various names, Diwakara, Biranchi Narayan, Prabhakara and Suryanarayana. The Sun is the source of life-giving energy.
Built according to the traditional Kalinga style of architecture, it is crafted in such a way that the first rays of the sun strike the main entrance. It is indeed poetry in stone prompting Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore to remark “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”Khondalite rocks were used to build the temple with iron beams supporting the structure.
The main sanctum of the temple is 229 feet high and the temple compound measures 857 ft. by 540 ft. The images of Narasimha Dev worshipping Sun God along with the beautiful creepers and numerous animals create exquisite patterns in the temple structure.
Casuarina plantations and natural coastal landscape surround the Temple creating a picturesque scene while the Vimana is adorned with three life-sized figures of Parsva Devata. The image of Surya Narayan (Sun God) is installed on a throne made of black Chlorite, in the sanctum sanctorum. A massive Navagraha slab, exquisitely ornamented, can be seen in front of the Mukhasala (front door). The temple of Mahadevi and Vaishnava is located on the southwestern side of the Sun Temple.
The temple caved in when the main vimana crashed unable to bear the weight of the structure and also due to the loosening of the soil around the temple. The bhoga mantapa, audience hall and the natya mandira survived the ravages of time to a certain extent and one can see it amidst the ruins. The three sides of the temple portray the three facets of the trinity, namely, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara.
Located on the northern side of the temple, the Archaeological Museum of Konark is host to an exquisite collection of 260 antiquities and artifacts. The most prominent amongst them are the highly embellished sculptures of Gods and Goddesses. Images of the Narayana, Gaja-Vyala and the Sun God adorn the corridors of the museum.
In spite of sporadic efforts by the Colonial Government, it was only in 1950, a committee of experts was created to look after the restoration efforts in coordination with the Archaeological Survey of India. The World Heritage tag has helped in its preservation to a large extent.
The Temple in popular legends
There are many popular legends associated with the Sun Temple in Konark. Samba, son of Lord Krishna, was afflicted with leprosy after being cursed by his father. Samba performed severe penance for twelve years to rid himself of the curse and was relieved from the curse after the Sun God was pleased with his devotion. In honor of the Sun God, Samba built the Sun Temple in Konark.
According to the Purusottam Mahatmya, after annihilating the demon Gayasur, Lord Vishnu rested his Sankha (Conch) in Puri, Chakra (disc) in Bhubaneswar, Gada (mace) in Jajapur and Padma (Lotus) in Konark. These places were later known as Sankha Kshetra, Chakra Kshetra, Gada Kshetra and Padma Kshetra respectively.
Many festivals celebrated in the temple. Celebrated in the month of February, the Magha Saptami festival is also known as the Chandrabhaga Mela. It is the most popular celebration of the temple and numerous devotees, both resident and foreign, visit the temple during the occasion of Magha Sukla Saptami.
Celebrated from the 1st to 5th of December every year, the Konark Dance Festival takes place in the amphitheatre. This unique tradition is of immense cultural significance and is extremely popular with visitors streaming in to witness the events.
The image of the sun god shining with brilliant effulgence showering his grace upon the world is etched in the collective conscious of every Indian and the Suryashtakam in praise of this ancient deity prays for his grace and munificence.
आदिदेव नमस्तुभ्यं प्रसीद मम भास्कर ।
दिवाकर नमस्तुभ्यं प्रभाकर नमोऽस्तु ते ॥१॥
Aadi Deva Namastubhyam Prasiida Mama Bhaaskara |
Divaakara Namastubhyam Prabhaakara Namostu Te ||1||
Salutations oh Adideva, the first amongst all gods! Kindly shower your grace on me oh Bhaskara-the effulgent one. Thou art the One who makes the Day- Divaakara. My Salutations to you, Oh Giver of Light, Prabhaakara!
सप्ताश्वरथमारूढं प्रचण्डं कश्यपात्मजम् ।
श्वेतपद्मधरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥२॥
Sapta Ashva Ratham Aaruuddham Pracannddam Kashyapaatmajam |
Shveta Padma Dharam Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||2||
Riding on a Chariot driven by seven horses, exuding energy- oh son of Kashyapa, you are the deity holding the white lotus in your hand, My Salutations to you Suryadeva.
लोहितं रथमारूढं सर्वलोकपितामहम् ।
महापापहरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥३॥
Lohitam Rathamaaruuddham Sarva Loka Pitaamaham |
Mahaa Paapa Haram Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||3||
Oh red hued lord riding on a chariot, you are the grandsire of the entire world. You are the one who can dispel the sins of all, I bow down to you oh Surya deva.
त्रैगुण्यं च महाशूरं ब्रह्मविष्णुमहेश्वरम् ।
महापापहरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥४॥
Trai Gunnyam Ca MahaaShuuram BrahmaVissnnu Maheshvaram |
MahaaPaapaHaram Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||4||
Endowed with the qualities of the Trinity, that is creation, sustenance and dissolution, you are the remover of sins, I bow down to you, Oh Suryadeva.
बृंहितं तेजःपुञ्जं च वायुमाकाशमेव च ।
प्रभुं च सर्वलोकानां तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥५॥
Brmhitam TejahPun.jam Ca Vaayumaakaashameva Ca |
Prabhum Ca Sarvalokaanaam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||5||
You are a fireball of Energy and all pervasive like Vayu- air and Akash- ether. You are the Lord of the entire world, my salutations to you, oh Suryadeva.
बन्धुकपुष्पसङ्काशं हारकुण्डलभूषितम् ।
एकचक्रधरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥६॥
BandhukaPushpa Sangkaasham HaaraKunnddala Bhuussitam |
Eka Cakra Dharam Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||6||
Handsome to behold like a red hibiscus flower and adorned with garland and ear rings, you wield the discus in your hand. My salutations to you, Oh Suryadeva.
जगत्कर्तारं महातेजः प्रदीपनम् ।
महापापहरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥७॥
Jagat Kartaaram Mahaa Tejah Pradiipanam |
Mahaa Paapa Haram Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||7||
You are the sustenance of this world providing energy and brilliant effulgence. You destroy great sins, I bow down to you oh Surya.
तं सूर्यं जगतां नाथं ज्ञानविज्ञानमोक्षदम् ।
महापापहरं देवं तं सूर्यं प्रणमाम्यहम् ॥८॥
Tam Suuryam Jagataam Naatham Jnyaana Vijnyaana Mokssadam |
Mahaa Paapa Haram Devam Tam Suuryam Prannamaamyaham ||8||
You who are the lord of the universe grant us understanding and knowledge that leads us to the Ultimate. You are the destroyer of great sins, salutations to you, Surya.