Temple name – Sun Temple, Konark,
Main Deity – Sun God
Location – Konark, Orissa, India
The Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. The name Konark is derived from two words i.e. ‘Kona’ meaning Sun and ‘Arka’ meaning Lord. It is widely believed that the Sun Temple was constructed here to commemorate the triumph of rulers of the Ganga Dynasty over the Muslim invaders. The European travelers used to refer to the temple as the ‘Black Pagoda’. Renowned Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore once had written about the temple as “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”
Worship of the Sun God was in existence right from the ancient times. The Sun God, also revered as the Dharam Devata, was believed to be the primary source of life giving energy. The Sun God was also known as Biranchi Narayan. As per the Vedas, Surya is basically the unification of the Holy Trinity i.e Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The morning Sun represents Brahma, the Noon representing Vishnu and the evening Sun representing Shiva. This aspect of the Sun God is reflected in the Sun Temple by portraying the three images of Surya on the three sides of the Temple.
The massive chariot along with seven galloping horses in the Sun Temple, represents the flow of time and the seven days of the week. A dozen wheels in the chariot symbolizes the twelve months in a year. Each wheel of the chariot has eight spokes in them, thereby signifying the eight stages in the life of a woman.
Felicitated by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in the year 1984 for its “Outstanding Universal Value”, the Sun Temple was renovated to a large extent by the British archaeologists. After the revelation of the temple, the Earl of Ronaldshay proclaimed that, “one of the most stupendous buildings in India which rears itself aloft, a pile of overwhelming grandeur even in its decay”.
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.
Some of the major theories proposed for the collapse of the temple structure are as follows:
- King Langula Narasimha Dev, patron of the Sun Temple, died earlier than the completion of construction of the temple. Hence, it is speculated that, owing to the incomplete construction of the temple the temple structure had collapsed. However, the theory of non-completion of the temple structure has been outrightly rejected by a number of historians, who state that the construction of the temple was completed between 1253 and 1260 A.D. and hence the non-completion theory cannot be valid.
- The legend of Dharmapad states that he had committed suicide in the temple premises after installing the crowning stone. This act of Dharmapad had rendered the temple as unholy and led to the collapse of the temple. This proposition was rejected by the references in the Mandala Panji, where it is mentioned that the Sun God was being regularly worshipped by devotees for a number of years.
- In Kavya ‘Chandrabhaga’, the great Orissan poet Sri Radhanath Ray had narrated the episode of Sumanyu Rishi, in which the Rishi had cursed Sun God for misbehaving with his daughter, which led to the collapse of the temple.
- As per the explanation of some Engineers, the temple had collapsed after the cleaning of sands which was accumulated inside the temple complex.
- Another historical account states that the notorious Kalapahad had invaded Orissa and destroyed many Hindu temples in the state.
- As per the proposition of some geologists, the temple structure and foundations had slowly eroded owing to the sustained exogenous activities in the shoreline i.e. waves, saline effect, coastal vegetation, monsoon etc.
In spite of sporadic efforts by the Colonial Government, the comprehensive restoration and renovation of the temple did not succeed. In 1950, a committee of expert was created to look after the restoration efforts in coordination with the Archaeological Survey of India.
Some of the most popular Legends associated with the Sun Temple in Konark are as follows:
- 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 from the curse and was thereafter relieved from the curse by the appeased Sun God. In honor of the Sun God, Samba built the Sun Temple in Konark.
- As per 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.
The Sun Temple, Konark, is a testimony to the archaic Kalinga School of architecture and reflects the graceful and rhythmic nuances of life. The intricate patterns in the bas-relief of the temple are of immense precision and is considered as a treasure trove for Indian Art and Building connoisseurs.
With an alignment in the East-West direction, the Sun Temple, Konark, was conceived as a massively ornamented chariot of Sun God with twelve giant wheels and seven gallant horses pulling it. Elaborate external projections adorn the main sanctum of the temple. Though the Natya Mandir (Dancing Hall) and Bhoga Mandap (Dining Hall) partially survives, the Audience Hall is very much in shape. 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, beautiful creepers and numerous animals adorn the temple structure.
Casuarina plantation and natural coastal landscape surround the Temple and the Vimana is ornamented with three life sized figures of Parsva Devata. The image of Surya Narayan (Sun God) is installed on the throne made of black Chlorite, in the sanctum sanctorum. A massive Navagraha slab, with exquisite ornamentation, is placed in front of the Mukhasala (front door). The temple of Mahadevi and Vaishnava is located on the southwestern side of the Sun Temple.
The major festivals celebrated in the temple are as follows:
o Magha Saptami- Celebrated in the month of February, the Magha Saptami festival is also known as the Chandrabhaga Mela. It is the most popular occasion of the temple and numerous devotees, both domestic and abroad, visit the temple during the occasion of Magha Sukla Saptami.
o Konark Dance Festival: Celebrated from the 1st to 5th of December every year, the Konark Dance Festival takes place in the amphitheater. This unique tradition is of immense cultural significance and extremely popular.
Address and contact details
Konark Tourist Office
Ph: 91-6758-236821 / 236820
Official web site: www.konark.nic.in