Sun Temple at Konark
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the conclusion of Orissan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world and the experience of Konark Temple is impossible to translate into words.
The massive structure, now in remains, sits in solitary magnificence surrounded by drifting sand. Today it is located two kilometers from the sea, but originally the ocean came almost up to its base. Until fairly recent times, in fact, the temple was close enough to the shore to be used as a navigational point by European sailors, who referred to it as the ‘Black Pagoda’.
The temple was the mid 13th Century by King Narasimha Deva (1238-1264) and built a short time later or even abandoned during construction. The original temple tower is not obtained. It is uncertain whether he was ever completely finished. The now well-preserved part is the high base of main temple area and lobby. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. The building was erected as a symbolic pair (Ratha) of the sun god Surya, with seven horses. Surya on the back of another statue of green granite is obtained. Located on the high pedestal of the temple area are 24 large, carved from the stone chariot wheel, the remains of the draft horses and a huge variety of smaller detailed images.
The idea of building an entire temple in the shape of a chariot, however, is not an ancient one, and indeed was a breathtakingly creative concept. Equally breathtaking was the scale of the temple which even today, in its ruined state, makes one gasp at first sight. Construction of the huge edifice is said to have taken 12 years revenues of the kingdom.
The main tower, which is now collapsed, originally followed the same general form as the towers of the Lingaraja and Jagannath temples. Its height, however, exceeded both of them, soaring to 227 feet. The jagmohana (porch) structure itself exceeded 120 feet in height. Both tower and porch are built on high platforms, around which are the 24 giant stone wheels of the chariot. The wheels are exquisite, and in themselves provide eloquent testimony to the genius of Orissa’s sculptural tradition.
At the base of the collapsed tower were three subsidiary shrines, which had steps leading to the Surya images. The third major component of the temple complex was the detached natamandira (hall of dance), which remains in front of the temple. Of the 22 subsidiary temples which once stood within the enclosure, two remain (to the west of the tower): the Vaishnava Temple and the Mayadevi Temple. At either side of the main temple are colossal figures of royal elephants and royal horses.
The only images, in fact, which do not share this relaxed air of accessibility, are the three main images of Surya on the northern, western, and southern facades of the temple tower. Carved in an almost metallic green chlorite stone. These huge images stand in a formal frontal position which is often used to portray divinities in a state of spiritual equilibrium. Konark has been called one of the last Indian temples in which a living tradition was at work, the ‘brightest flame of a dying lamp’. As we gaze at these superb images of Surya benevolently reigning over his exquisite stone world, we cannot help but feel that the passing of the tradition has been nothing short of tragic.
What to Visit :
Any one can spend an entire day exploring the richness of the ancient art and architecture of the splendid temple. The history, special features and sculptures of the temple can be known in details by hiring a guide. For further insight into the Sun Temple the Archaeological Museum that contains many sculptures and carvings found during the temple excavations with prove to be helpful. The museum is open on all the weekdays except Friday.
While you are planning your holiday to the Golden triangle of the Eastern India check out the festival calendar of Konark. The city hosts a dance festival every year in the month of December namely, the Konark dance festival. The Konark dance festival is held in an open air theatre, which is close to the Sun Temple. You can enjoy the festival with the performances by the eminent classical dancers of India. The dance festival is a virtual feast to the lovers of the classical art forms of dance and music attracts tourists from across the globe.
How to reach:
Biju Pattnaik Airport located in Bhubaneswar, about 64 km away, is the nearest airport to Konark. Bhubaneswar is well connected with Kolkata, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Chennai, Nagpur and other cities. The near by railway station is Puri. It can also be reached from Bhubaneswar and Cuttack railway stations. If any body wants by road means it is a two hour drive from Bhubaneswar and one hour drive from Puri.
Panthanivas Tourist Bungalow, Yatri Niwas, Konark Lodge, Royal Lodge, Travellers Lodge, Sunrise Lodge, Banita lodge and many more accommodation facilities are available at Konark.