Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sun Temple

The main purpose of our visit to Orissa was to see the Sun Temple in Konark. For a very long time my mom wanted to visit this famous temple as her and my dad's names are synonyms for the sun in Sanskrit. It was therefore a dream come true.

In Sanskrit, the name Konark means corners of the sun (Kona = corner, Arka=sun). The 13th century temple was built by King Narasimhadeva from the Ganga Dynasty and is designed in a very unique way - the form of the Sun God, Surya's twelve wheeled chariot drawn by seven horses. The horses represent the seven days and the wheels represent the twelve months. The temple entrance is guarded by two huge lions. The temple is full of statues and carvings of humans in various poses from the Kama Sutra and has statues of flowers, animals and geometrical things.

Legend has it that following the defeat of Muslim warriors, King Narasimhadeva became very popular and revered by other Hindu kings and he decided to build a temple which consisted a shrine and memorial for those who had been killed. The chief architect, Bishu Maharana, was upset that the soil where the temple was to be built was in poor condition. Nonetheless, due to the sanctity of the place, he managed to build the temple. The workers were ordered by the king not to leave until the temple was fully constructed. The work was almost over however, there was a problem fixing the finial in its proper position. Bishu's had a 12 year old sun, Dharmapada, whom he had not seen for 12 years. Dharmapada went to Konark to see his father and learnt that the workers were having a problem fixing the finial. When he heard that the King would behead them if they did not finish the work properly, Dharmapada got worried and immediately helped them. He noticed that there was some error in the work and managed to put the finial properly in a short time. The workers were worried that the king would find out about this and still behead them. The boy was shocked to hear this and committed suicide. The king dedicated the temple to Surya, the Sun God and the temple became a major pilgrimage destination.

Here you can see the big lion entrance, the statues of Surya and the temple architecture:

There is also another story behind this temple. Once, Samba, the king of Krishna and Jambhavati, entered the bathing chambers of Krishna's wives. As this angered Krishna, Samba was cursed with leprosy. Samba was told that to get rid of the curse and disease he would have to worship Surya. The place where Samba worshiped Surya was the Sun Temple in Konark.

Here are the famous chariot wheels! They are huge!

Look at these statues and carvings:

It was great to see this temple but as I had much higher expectations of it being much larger, I was a tad disappointed. The place is very well maintained though and the garden is also very beautiful and neat. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also one of the Seven Wonders of India. The temple is also famous for being the site of the Konark Dance Festival held in December every year. If you go to Orissa, be sure to visit this famous temple!

Next up, Bhubaneswar!


David said...

What a sunny day to visit the Sun Temple!

banoo said...

Konark is a beautiful temple but its really disturbing to see it more delopiddated!


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