Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Konark : The Land of the Sun Temple

The small town of Konark is world famous for its exotic temple dedicated to Sun God. Today declared as a world heritage site, the temple is the most beautiful example of the Oriyan temple architecture. Standing virtually on the sea beach of Konark, this temple was earlier known as the Black Pagoda, as it would mislead the boatmen and eventually cause ship wreckage.

Just like each and every temple and place in India has a myth or a legend attached to it, Konark temple is no exception. Why the temple was built on the sea shores is still a mystery that amazes the historians. According to a legend, son of Lord Krishna, Samba is said to have built it. It is said that he was very good looking and once insulted the great sage Narada over his looks. Sage Narada took his revenge by luring him to a pond where Krishna's wives were bathing. When Krishna came to know about this he cursed his own son of leprosy, but repented after learning the mischievous game played by sage Narada. Samba was asked to worship Lord Surya, the Sun God who would cure all the diseases. Samba's penance paid off after 12 years so in reverence to the God he built a temple where he was asked to take a dip in the sea water.

However, historically the temple was built in the 13th century AD by King Narsinhadeva - I of Ganga dynasty, to commemorate his victory over the Mughals. It is said that building of this stupendous architectural piece took nearly 12 years with nearly 1200 artisans. Konark drives its name from the word Konarka which actually is the combination of two words, Kona and Arka. It means the place where the Sun Arka is in Corner, that is Kona, and hence the name Konark. It was also known as Konaditya, where Aditya also means Sun.

This probably might the only temple in the world which does not have a Shikhara, a conical shape on the dome. It is said that the Shikhara which was built was made of magnet which would attract lot of ships to the port eventually crashing them and therefore it was removed. But the legend goes that due to some misdeed that the king did has been punished in this form and how much so ever one may try, the Shikhara can never be built on the temple.

It is a specimen of architectural grandeur and zenith of the local architecture. The intricacy and profusion of sculptural work is amazing. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. The seven horses represent the seven days of the week and the 24 wheels denote the 24 hours in a day.

The Nat Mandir in front of the Jag Mohan is also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are various carvings. There are images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. Every aspect of life is represented here, and the erotic imagery, depicts the sublimation of human love manifested in countless forms. Scenes from court, civic life and war are also done with great precision. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.

The temple went into obscurity in the later period, until it was recovered by the British. Many parts of the temple have alas been washed away in to the sea over the period of time.

There is a museum just outside the temple which houses some great artifacts those which have been saved from the ruins of the temple. The nine planets, posed as the nine deities which were located on the door ways have been enshrined in a separate temple nearby. The Astronomy that the temple poses is an amazing fact in itself. Today the sea beach which once most probably washed the stairs of the temple has receded to around 3 kms and indeed is a pristine beach. The clear waters and the soft sand with the cool breeze sure make a good retreat from the hustle bustle of the outside world.

Location: Around 65 kms from the capital of Bhubaneshwar, Konark is just 35 kms from the sacred city of Jagannath Puri.
Languages Spoken: Oriya, Hindi and English
Long Distance Code: +91-6758
Importance: Famous for the world heritage site of the sun temple.
Best Time To Visit: October To February

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