Konark Sun Temple | Sun Temple | Konark Surya Mandir

Konark Sun Temple | Sun Temple | Konark Surya Mandir

Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), at Konark, in Orissa. It was constructed from oxidizing and weathered ferruginous sandstone by King Narasimhadeva I (1236-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site. It is one of the Seven Wonders of India (as per the poll collected by NDTV).

Architecture of Konark Sun Temple:

The temple takes the form of the chariot of Surya (Arka), the sun god, and is heavily decorated with stone carving. The entire complex was designed in the form of a huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels.
Konark Sun Temple Chariot Wheel.

The entrance is guarded by two giant lions, which are each shown crushing a war elephant. Each elephant in turn lies on top of a human body. The temple symbolizes the majestic stride of the Sun god. At the entrance of the temple is a Nata Mandir. This is where the temple dancers used to perform dances in homage to the Sun god. All around the temple, there are various floral and geometric patterns.The temple is now partly in ruins, and a collection of its sculptures is housed in the Sun Temple Museum, which is run by the Archaeological Survey of India. The poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konark: "Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man."

The Sun Temple, built in the thirteenth century, was conceived as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with twelve pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven pairs of horses. Majestic in conception, this temple is one of the most sublime monuments of India, famous as much for its imposing dimensions and faultless proportions as for the harmonious integration of architectural grandeur with plastic allegiance. Every inch of the temple is covered with sculpture of an unsurpassed beauty and grace, in tableaux and freestanding pieces ranging from the monumental to the miniature. The subject matter is fascinating. Thousands of images include deities, celestial and human musicians, dancers, lovers, and myriad scenes of courtly life, ranging from hunts and military battles to the pleasures of courtly relaxation. These are interspersed with birds, animals (close to two thousand charming and lively elephants march around the base of the main temple alone), mythological creatures, and a wealth of intricate botanical and geometrical decorative designs. The famous jewel-like quality of Orissan art is evident throughout, as is a very human perspective which makes the sculpture extremely accessible.

The temple is famous for its erotic sculptures, which can be found primarily on the second level of the porch structure. It will become immediately apparent upon viewing them that the frank nature of their content is combined with an overwhelming tenderness and lyrical movement. This same kindly and indulgent view of life extends to almost all the other sculptures at Konark, where the thousands of human, animal, and divine personages are shown engaged in the full range of the 'carnival of life' with an overwhelming sense of appealing realism. It is admittedly the best in Orissa. Its fine traceries and scrollwork, as well as the beautiful and natural cut of animal and human figures, give it a superiority over other temples.

The Sun temple belongs to the Kalinga school of Indian temples with characteristic curvilinear towers mounted by cupolas. In shape, the temple did not make any major departure from other sikhara temples of Orissa. The main sanctum which (229 ft. high) was constructed along with the audience hall (128 ft. high) having elaborate external projections. The main sanctum which enshrined the presiding deity has fallen off. The Audience Hall survives in its entirely, but only small portions of the Dancing Hall (nata Mandir) and the Dining Hall (Bhoga-Mandap) have survived the vagaries of time. The Temple compound measures 857 ft (261 m) by 540 ft (160 m). The alignment of the Sun Temple is on the east-west direction. The Temple is located in natural surroundings, abounding with casuarina plantations and other types of trees such as mahogany, rosewood, eel which grow on sandy soil.

History of Konark Sun Temple:

The large structure seen today is actually the mantapa (mandap). Of the main tower, which once stood in the front, only the remains can be seen. This tower (deul) was perhaps 200 feet (60 metres) tall, higher than any other temple in India.

Kalapahad of Konark Sun Temple:

The most popular theory about the root of the fall of Konark temple rests with the Kalapahad, the general of Bengal Sultan Sulaiman Khan Karrani. According to some accounts Kalapahad was formerly a Hindu Kayastha officer, however he had converted to Islam. According to Afsanah-i-Shahan of Shaikh Kabir Batini, he was a Batini Afghan. According to the history of Orissa, Kalapahad invaded Orissa in 1508. He destroyed Konark temple, as well as a number of Hindu temples in Orissa. The Madala Panji of Puri Jagannath temple describes how Kalapahad attacked Orissa in 1568. Including Konark temple, he broke most of the images in most of the Hindu temples in Orissa. Though the stone walls are of 20 to 25 feet (7.6 m) thick, he somehow managed to displace the Dadhinauti (Arch stone) and thus caused the tower to collapse. He also damaged most of the images and other side temples of Konark. Due to displacement of the Dadhinauti, the tower gradually collapsed and the roof of the Mukasala was also damaged, due to the stones falling down from the temple top.

Orissa came under Muslim control in 1568. There were constant attempts to destroy the Hindu temples. The Pandas (priests) of Puri, to save the sanctity of the Puri temple, took away the Lord Jagannath from the Srimandir and kept the image in a secret place. Similarly, it is said that the Pandas of Konark took away the presiding deity of the Sun temple and buried it under the sand for years. Latter on the image was said to have been removed to Puri and kept in the temple of Indra, in the compound of the Puri Jagannath temple. According to others, the Puja image of the Konark temple is yet to be discovered. But others hold the view that the Sun image now kept in the National Museum of Delhi was the presiding deity of the Konark Sun temple.

The Sun worship in the Konark temple ended upon the removal of the sacred image from the temple. This resulted in the end of pilgrimages to Konark. The port at Konark was also closed, due to pirate attacks. Konark was as glorious a city for Sun worship as it was for commercial activities, but after the cessation of these activities, Konark became deserted and was left to develop as a dense forest for years.

In 1626 the then king of Khurda, Raja Narasimha Dev, son of Purusottam Dev, took away the Sun image to Puri along with two other moving deities - Sun and Moon. Now they are found in a temple in the compound of Puri Jagannath temple.

As described earlier there was a big block of stone called Navagraha Paata placed in front of the Mukhasala. The then king of Khurda removed the block. The king had taken away many sculptured stones from Konark and constructed some portions of Puri temple with them. During Marahatta's time the outer compound wall of the Puri temple was constructed of stones from Konark temple.

It is reported that among all the temples the Naata Mandir or the Dancing hall of Konark was in its original form for the longest period, and that it was broken intentionally since it was considered an unnecessary structure during the Maratha administration.

In the year 1779, a Marhatta Sadhu had taken away the Arun Pillar from Konark and put it in front of the Lion's Gate of Puri Jagannath temple. Thus by the end of 18th century Konark lost all its glories and had been turned to a dense forest. In course of time, the temple area thus became devoid of people, covered with dense forest, full of sand, filled with wild animals and became the abode of pirates. It is said that even the locals feared to go to Konark in broad daylight.

Images of Konark Sun Temple:

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Modhera Sun Temple | Sun Temple | Modhera Surya Mandir

The Sun Temple at Modhera in Gujarat, is a temple dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God, Surya. It was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. There are three other Sun Temples in India: at Konark in Orissa, at Martand in Jammu and Kashmir and near Almora in Uttarakhand.

The Modhera sun temple is situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati, 25 km from Mehsana and 102 km from Ahmedabad.

History of Modhera Surya Mandir:

According to the Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, the areas near Modhera were known during ancient days as Dharmaranya (literally meaning the forest of righteousness). According to these Puranas, Lord Rama, after defeating Ravana, asked sage Vasistha to show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself from the sin of Brahma-hatya (the sin of killing a Brahmin, because Ravana was a Brahmin by birth). Sage Vasistha showed him Dharmaranya, which was near the modern town of Modhera. In the Dharmaranya, he settled at a village Modherak and performed a yagna there. Thereafter he established a village and named it Sitapur. This village is about 15 km from Becharaji Modherak village and it subsequently came to be known as Modhera.

The Sun Temple was built by Rushabh Bhimdev I of Solanki Dynasty in AD 1026. This was the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni and reeled under the effects of his invasion. The Solankis, however, regained much of their lost power and splendour. Anahilvad Patan, the Solanki capital, was restored to glory. Royalty and traders jointly contributed to build grand temples.

Solankis were considered to be Suryavanshis, or descendants of Sun god. The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the image of Surya, the Sun God, at the time equinoxes.

The temple is partially in ruins after it was also finally destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji.

However, enough has remained of the temple to convey its grandeur.

Architecture of Modhera Sun Temple:

The Sun temple is of a unique architecture of its own kind.

The temple comprises three separate but axially-aligned and integrated elements.

  1. Surya Kund, which is an intricately carved, stepped tank named after Sun god Surya.
  2. Sabha Mandap, which is a hall used for religious gatherings and conferences.
  3. Guda Mandap, i.e. sanctum sanctorum, which once housed the idol of Sun God.

Surya Kund in Modhera:

This is a massive rectangular stepped tank. A 100 sq meter rectangular pond believed to be used to store pure water. Devotees were required to perform ceremonial ablutions here before worshiping the Sun God.

108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank. 108 is a number considered to be auspicious by Hindus.

Huge ornamental arch called Toran leads one to Sabha Mandap literally meaning assembly hall.

Sabha Mandap in Modhera:

This hall of religious gatherings is a magnificent pillared hall. It is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars. The carvings depict various scenes from the Hindu epics of Ramayan, Mahabharat and Krishna Lila (i.e. story of lord Krishna).

Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches, whose facade has been renovated and partially redone, and the walls have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month.

Sanctum Sanctorum in Modhera:

This is also called the main temple or the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Lotus opens with sunrise and closes itself with sunset. Hence, it is considered to be sun's flower. The entire temple is therefore based on an inverted lotus-base plinth. It was designed such that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of equinox (length of day and night is nearly equal - 20 March and 21 September generally), fell on the bejeweled pure gold idol of Sun riding on his chariot driven by Saarthi Arun. Sun's chariot has 7 horses and Saarthi Arun sits on the 4th horse. The entire idol made of gold (including the charioteer,chariot and horses) was placed on a pit that was 15 feet deep and filled with gold coins. It was built by the Solankis in honour of their ancestral God. It was plundered by Mahmud Gazni.

Modhera Dance Festival:

The Modhera dance festival is scheduled to be held during the third week of January every year, after the festival of Uttarayan for three days in the backdrop of the Sun temple.

The objective is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in. The festival is organised by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat.

Images of Modhera Sun Temple:

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Sun Temples | Sun Temples in India

Sun Temples | Sun Temples in India

The Vedic scriptures of the Hindu religion refer to the sun as the store house of inexhaustible power and radiance. Ths sun god is referred to as Surya or Aditya. The Vedas are full of hymns describing the celestial body as the source and sustainer of all life on earth. The origin of the worship of the Sun in India is thus several centuries old.

References to sun worship are found in the puranas. The Ramayana speaks of Sage Agastya initiating Rama into sun worship through the Aditya Hridaya Mantra. The astronomer and astrologer Varahamirhira makes references to the intricacies of ceremonies connected with the installation of the icon of the Sun. It is also said that Iran was once a center of Solar worship and that some of the Magha priests of Iran had been brought to India to officiate in ceremonies.

There are several temples enshrining the Sun God as the principal deity. Several temples dedicated to Shiva, feature a small shrine for Surya the Sun God. In addition, it is believed that Surya, the Sun God has offered worship at several of the shrines in Tamilnadu; many of these shrines have been designed in such a way that the sun's rays illuminate the sanctum (of Shiva) on certain days of the year. Several of the South Indian Temple Tanks also bear the name Surya Theertham or Surya Pushkarini.

This article takes readers on a journey through seven temples dedicated primarily to Surya, Dakshinaarka Temple in the Gangetic Plains, Suryanaar Koyil in South India, Arasavilli and Konark on the East Coast of India, Modhera in Gujarat (Western India), Surya Pahar in North Eastern India and Unao in Central India. It should be mentioned here that remains of an ancient Sun temple are found at Martanda near Srinagar in Kashmir. It is said to date back to the first century AD. Ruins of a sun temple which attracted thousands of visitors in the 7th century AD are found in Multan in Pakistan.

As with all other temples in India, legends and beliefs are associated with each of the above temples. It is interesting to note that one of the beliefs shared by worshippers at these temples situated so far apart - is that visits to these temples followed by a dip in the sacred tanks associated with them would bring relief to believers ailing from blindness, leprosy and other skin diseases.

The Dakshinaarka temple at Gaya, Bihar

There is an ancient Sun temple at Gaya in the state of Bihar. Offerings to the ancestors are made at the Surya Kunda or the Dakshina Maanas tank in front of the temple. Sun worship apparently was very popular in the Magadha region which included Gaya. Numerous old images of the Sun God Aditya are found in the Gaya region and there are still quite a number of sun worshippers in Gaya. It is said that they may have descended from the fire worshippers of Central Asia. In fact, the granite image of Aditya (this particular image here is also referred to as Dakshinaarka) or the Sun God worshipped here is portrayed as wearing a jacket, a waist girdle and high boots in the Iranian tradition. Hundreds of people visit this temple on Sundays.

Sun worship in the Magadha region that encompassed Gaya has been mentioned in the Puranas and thus this temple is said to be of very ancient origin. The current structure dates back to the 13th century, where the South Indian emperor Prataparudra of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh is said to have built it.

The Sun Temple at Gaya faces east and is located close to the famous Vishnupaada temple where a footprint of Vishnu is said to be enshrined. To the east of the temple is the tank Surya Kunda. The temple is a simple and plain one, with a dome over it. The comparatively larger sabha mandapa stands in front of the sanctum. Massive pillars line the mandapa where there are graceful stone sculptures of Shiva, Bhramaa, Vishnu, Surya and Durga.

There are two other notable Sun temples at Gaya, namely the Uttaraka temple near the Uttara Maanas tank and the Gayaditya temple on the river Falgu.

The Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao in Madhya Pradesh

The Brahmanya Dev (Baramju) temple dedicated to the Sun is located at Unao near Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh. It is a well visited temple. Local belief is that worshippers find relief from ailments such as blindness and leprosy and other skin diseases. The stone image of the Sun God stands here on a brick platform covered with black plates. Twenty one triangles representing the 21 phases of the sun are engraved in the shrine.There is a protective brass cover for the image. Sunday is the special day of worship. This temple was patronized by the Peshwas and by the ruler of Datia, a nearby town.

Sun Temple at Surya Pahar in Assam

This relatively modern Sun temple in the vicinity of the Surya Pahar Hill near Goalpara in Assam. This temple enshrines a circular stone tablet having 12 images of Aditya in a circle with an image of Kashyapa the father of Aditya in the center. Surya is said to be the son of Aditi and Kashyapa (Prajapati or the creator of beings). Each of the Adityas os one faced and two armed. According to the Puranas the Adityas are 12 in number. The text Kalika Purana mentions Surya mountain, the perpetual abode of the sun. Sun worship was present in early Assam. Surya Pahad is referred to as a virtual gallery of archeological remains. At the foot of the hill, covering a vast area there are found a good number of Siva lingams cut out of stone.In addition, Surya Pahar ruins contain many rock cut figures of artistic merit.

Suryanaar Temple near Kumbhakonam in Tamilnadu

This ancient temple dedicated to the Sun is located near Kumbhakonam in Tamilnadu. Kumbhakonam and its surroundings abound in huge temples. This well known temple enshrines the Sun - Surya, Kasi Viswanatha and Visalakshi, and the other eight celestial bodies namely Chandran, Angarakan, Budhan, Brihaspati, Sukran, Saniswaran, Rahu and Ketu. An elaborate worship protocol is prescribed for pilgrims visiting here, starting with worship at the shrine of Ganesha, culminating in circumambulating the temple nine times. This temple built in the Dravidian style is over eight hundred years old and was patronized by the Imperial Chola Kings. This temple is located in close proximity to Kanjanur, and Tirumangalakkudi housing 1200 year old temples to Shiva. Suryanaar Koyil has acquired a lot of popularity in recent times, and is one of the pivotal points in the Navagaraha Stala Tour organized by the Tamilnadu Tourist Development Corporation.

Suryanarayanaswamy temple at Arasavilli in Andhra Pradesh

This is a shrine of the Sun in a well preserved state. The temple dates back to the 7th century and a Kalinga king is said to have constructed it. The image of worship is a 5 ft tall one of black granite holding lotus buds - flanked by Usha and Chhaya. Padmapani is the name of this Sun God - padma stands for wisdom usha and chhaya stand for eternity. This shrine is located near Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.

The Sun Temple at Modhera - Gujarat

This is a grand temple to the Sun God concieved and built in 1026. As in the Sun Temple at Konark, this temple was so designed that the rays of the Sun would fall on the image of Surya at the time of the equnoxes. Whatever remains of this temple is grand; the shikharas are notaby absent but the Toranas in the frontal halls, and the intricate carvings in the exterior speak of the splendour of this shrine, which still is home to the Modhera dance festival featuring dance celebrities in performance in a natural setting. Ruins of the sun temple at Modhera in Gujarat show a lot of Magha influence. The walls of the temple have representations of the sun god wearing a peculiar West Asian belt and boots as in the Sun temple at Gaya. Mention must also be made of the huge tank in front of the temple with its multitude of images.

The Sun Temple at Konarak, Orissa

The grandest and best known of all Sun temples in India is the Konark temple in Orissa. Thiskhaju2.jpg (81478 bytes) dates back to the 13th century and it represent the highest point in Orissan temple architecture. Konark is situated 20 miles to the north east of Puri. The word Konark means corner sun.

The black pagoda at Konarak is a grand and magnificient temple in the form of the suns charriot drawn by seven horses marking the 7 days of the week. The 24 huge wheels, magnificiently carved and decorated, mark the hours of the day. This temple was envisioned by the Ganga ruler Narasimha Deva and it was not fully completed. The main idol of the Sun God on which the suns rays fall in the morning is said to have been removed by some Portuguese navigators. The temple now comprises only of the sabhamandap and the natamandir. The main temple crumbled down many years ago.

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