Konark Sun Temple is one of the oldest and largest surviving Sun temples in India. Konark temple is situated at a distance of 35 km from Puri near the Bay of Bengal in Konark, Odisha. Konark Sun Temple is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts lakhs of visitors every year.
The word Konark is derived from two words Kona meaning corner and Arka meaning Sun which means place of sun or corner of Sun. Konark Sun Temple was built in 13th century by a King called Narasimgha Deva. It is a great example of Oriya architecture of medieval times.
History of Konark Sun Temple:
Konark Sun Temple was built by King Narsingha Deva in 1250 to commemorate his victory over Muslims. This magnificent temple built in the shape of the vehicle of Lord Sun i.e. a huge Chariot having 12 pairs of wheels drawn by 7 horses.
People have varied opinions about what these wheels and horses signify. Some say that these 24 wheels are the symbol of 24 hours of days, and 7 horses stand for 7 days of the week. While others consider 12 pairs of wheels as the symbol of 12 months of the year.
One interesting feature of these wheels is that the shadows of these show the exact time of the day. Each of these wheels has eight spokes which acts as sundials and their shadow tells exact time throughout the day.
Konark Sun temple, a beauty like no other:
Konark Sun temple is a colossal monument that commands unmatched beauty with its intricate carvings and superubly crafted sculptures which makes it one of a kind.
At the entrance of the temple are two statues of lions attacking elephants one on each side. A flight of steps leads one to the main shrine. As you walk ahead you will see two life-size horse statues one on each side. The entire premises is adorned with intricate carving, beautiful sculptures etc.
Nat Mandapa or Dancing hall of the temple is enriched with carvings. Various erotic and sensual images have been carved in the hall. These carved figures include images of human, divine, animals, semi-divine, geometric and floral patterns etc.
The temple houses three images of Lord Sun, and these are positioned in a way that these face the Sun and Sunrays keep falling on these in the morning, noon and during sunset. It took around 16 years and 1200 masons to complete the construction of Konark Sun Temple and make it an outstanding piece of art.
The temple originally included main entrance called Gajasiha, a Dance Hall called Nat Mandir, Audience Hall called Jagamohan and Main sanctum called Deul.
Present state of Korank Sun Temple:
Today this magnificent site is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site people from all over the come to this place to admire the beauty of this monumental temple.
Unfortunately, today the temple is laying in ruins; a significant part of it is not even there today. One visiting the temple will not find Main sanctum or Deul as it collapsed completely way back.
Even in ruins, the temples magnificence is capable of leaving anyone awestruck with its grandeur and beauty.
Erstwhile grandeur of Korark Sun Temple:
This colossal temple was the talk of the town ever since it was built. Its popularity only increased with passing years by the 16th century it was so famous that people from distant locations came to see this masterpiece. The temple even caught the attention of discriminating critics but its beauty was such that even discriminating critics like Abul Fazal could not restrain himself from praising this shrine.
It is said that Konark Sun temple complex housed 28 other smaller temples, six of which were before the entrance and rest 22 inside.
It is said that the Konark Sun temple originally had massive magnets installed, due to which the metallic statue of the Sun God remained suspended mid-air. This metallic idol remained in the temple for a few centuries. Until it was shifted to Jagannath temple in order to protect it from Muslim enemies who were aiming to destroy this magnificent shrine.
The magnetic spire lured ships toward the shore, this phenomenon often caused shipwrecks and hence temple also became famous as Black Pagoda among the sailors. It was also used as navigation tool by the European sailors.
Destruction and rediscovery of Konark:
The temple commanded unimaginable grandeur and magnificence until it was destroyed by Muslim rulers around 17th or 18th century. After suffering destruction this temple was left abandoned for quite some time. It was excavated in the late 19th century during British Raj. In 1848 a tower’s corner was still there, which diminished gradually and finally collapsed completely.
Another reason of its decay was selfishness and neglect of people. The stones and valuables of the temple were stolen by people for their use. One of such culprits was Raja Kurda. Finally, stop was put to this kind of irresponsible acts in 1838 but efforts to repair or restore this historic marvel were not made until 1900. In 1980 the UNESCO team suggested to cover the monument with fiberglass in order to protect it from decay.
Konark and Hindu Mythology:
Konark is land of ancient history; it also gets its mention in Hindu mythology as a place where Lord Vishnu placed his lotus. It is said that after killing the demon Gyasur lord Vishnu placed various belongings of his at different places out of these he placed his lotus at Konark.
Historians say that Konark temple date back to 13th-century, but Hindu mythological legend begs to differ and claims to its much early existence i.e. centuries before King Narsingha Deva built the current structure here. Details on this are mentioned in a famous legend related to Lord Krishna and his son Samba.
Curse of Samba:
There is mythological legend associated with the temple which claims to its much early existence. It is said the Samba was the son of Lord Krishna, who was a very good looking. He was very proud of his good looks and once he made fun of looks of a sage called Narada. Agitated by his disrespect, Narada decided to take revenge and plotted against him. Narada somehow tricked Samba to come in the pool where Krishna’s wives and Samba’s stepmothers were bathing. Noticing this, Lord Krishna mistook Samba for misbehaving with his wives and cursed him with leprosy.
When Krishna came to know that Samba meant well and he did not intend to misbehave with his stepmothers, Lord Krishna forgave him and showed his son way to get rid of his curse.
Krishna advised Samba to pray to Sun god who is capable of curing all diseases. Following his father’s advice, Samba performed rigorous penance for 12 years. After 12 years Lord Sun was pleased and decided to help Samba. He was told by Surya Dev to bathe in the sea at Konark. As he did just that samba was cured. In order to express his gratitude, he decided to build a temple near the coastline. The temple was named Konark meaning Place of Sun.
Konark Sun Temple is truly a work of art, the designs and carvings of the temple can leave any one awestruck.
Such intricate and elaborate work makes one think about those supremely talented craftsmen and their dedication towards their job. From looking at this masterpiece we can surly tell it took a lot of skill and hard work to build this temple.
Konark Sun Temple is truly a magical destination. It is world class monument and must be visited by everyone.