The Incredible Konark Temple of 13th Century Odisha!

Konark Temple, Odisha

Odisha is a land of magnificent sculptures, incredible shrines, and wholehearted hospitality. It is India’s best-kept secret that is home to one of the seven wonders of India; Konark Temple.

Konark Temple often referred to as the Surya Deul or the Black Pagoda is a Hindu temple from the 13th century that is situated in Konark, Odisha, India. It is one of the most well-known tourist destinations in India that is among the seven wonders of the country and is devoted to the sun god Surya.

The temple is renowned for its finely crafted sculptures and carvings that cover its walls and towers. The building of the temple is designed to resemble a gigantic chariot, complete with horses and big stone wheels that represent the chariot of the sun deity.

The sun temple, Konark is now a well-liked tourist site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year, hundreds of people come to the temple to learn about its rich cultural and historical past and to take in its stunning Indian architecture. The temple is regarded as one of India’s top tourist attractions and serves as a symbol of Odisha’s cultural and architectural legacy.

The 13th-century Konark Sun Temple is a magnificent example of Kalinga architecture and a symbol of Odisha’s rich religious and cultural heritage. The Konark temple continues to be a well-visited tourist site and one of India’s most significant historical landmarks despite its temple ruins.

A monument to the talent and imagination of the artists who built this beautiful temple, its complex carvings and sculptures offer an insight into the rich and fascinating history of Konark temple.

1. History of Konark Temple

The Sanskrit terms Kona (corner or angle) and Arka meaning ‘Sun’ are the two words that are combined to form Konark. Though its exact meaning is obscure, Kona most likely alludes to this temple’s southeast location concerning other sun temples on the subcontinent or inside a bigger temple complex.

It may also mean that the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar forms a bilateral triangle, the Puri Jagannath temple in Puri, and the Sun temple at Konark. Konark temple makes one of the corner points of the triangle.

King Narasimhadeva I, of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, who reigned from 1238 to 1264 CE, is credited with building the existing temple. King Narasimhadeva was devoted to sun worship.

Konark temple is one of the few Hindu temples whose design and building documents have been preserved as palm leaf manuscripts that were found in a village in the 1960s and later translated. The records are written in Sanskrit using the Odia alphabet.

Konark temple is said to have been constructed by Bisu Maharana along with his twelve hundred co-sculptors. Legend has it that even after twelve years all the workers could not complete the upper part of the main temple.

Hence, the king gave them an ultimatum exceeding which all the workers would get death sentences. Finally, Bisu’s son; Dharama who was of only twelve years magically tried his hands at it and miraculously accomplished the task. But the workers speculated that if the King know that a small child has done what twelve hundred talented sculptors couldn’t do, he would anyway kill them.

Understanding the density of the situation, Dharama climbed atop the temple and jumped into the Chandrabhaga sea sacrificing his life for the greater cause.

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2. The Architecture of Konarak Temple

Photo by Ashish Kumar on Unsplash Copyright 2022

According to Hindu Vedic, Sun God appears to be rising in the east and soaring through the sky on a chariot pulled by six horses. The sun God is the presiding deity of the sun temple Konark.

Typically, he is depicted as a magnificent standing figure while clutching a lotus flower in each of his hands; the sun God Surya’s chariot is drawn by Aruna with both his hands. Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti are the names of the seven horses, which are called after the seven metres of Sanskrit prosody.

The chariot’s twelve pairs of wheels, which correlate to the 12 months of the Hindu calendar, are just one example of the architecture’s symbolic elements.

Locally known as the deal, Konark’s main temple is no longer standing. Subsidiary shrines with niches surrounding them showed Hindu gods, especially Surya in many of his guises.

Konark temple was constructed upon a lofty terrace near the sea bank. The main shrine, known as the rekha deul, was once part of a larger complex that housed the temple and main entrance. It was preceded by the jagamohana.

The square mandapa with a pyramidal roof was part of the platform that was attached. These buildings were all fundamentally square. In comparison to the side projections, the central projection is more noticeable.

The design of the Konark temple is intended to achieve a balance between sunlight and shadow, which enhances the building’s aesthetic appeal throughout the day.

The walls of the Konark temple are decorated with reliefs, many of which have jewellery-quality minute embellishments. Stone statues depicting musicians in both male and female forms carrying a variety of instruments may be found on the terraces.

Other defining elements of art include friezes that recount symbolic designs of Hindu texts, monumental representations of Hindu deities, apsaras, and depictions of people’s daily life and culture, as well as numerous animals, birds, aquatic creatures, and other animals. The carvings feature botanical motifs and geometric patterns that are merely decorative.

A few panels depict scenes from the king’s life, such as one in which he consults with a guru. The monarch is depicted in this scene as being considerably smaller than the guru, and his sword is sitting on the ground next to him.

There are also erotic sculptures from the Kamasutra that are carved in the temple architecture that showcases Indian art.

Another interesting fact is that the temple was constructed in such a manner that the first sun rays of the rising sun fell on the feet of the idol in the main shrine.

Ruins of numerous other temples and monuments may be found all around the main temple in the Konark Sun Temple complex. A few of them are the Mayadevi temple, lord Vishnu temple, and the temples of Durga, Shiva, and Gajalaxmi. Narasimha and a kitchen. The stone surpasses its quality and is one of the best artistic creations in the Indian subcontinent.

3. Destruction of Konark Temple

The Konark Sun Temple has experienced numerous difficulties over the years despite its splendour. The Afghan invader Kalapahad almost ransacked the whole structure in the 16th century.

Natural calamities like earthquakes and tidal waves over the years have had an impact on the temple, which led to additional destruction.

The great temple of Konark was abandoned as the Sun Temple lost its ability to draw devoted worshippers, and it was left for years to perish amid impenetrable forests.

4. Steps Taken for the Preservation of the Konark Sun Temple

After the ruins, only the audience hall, dance hall, or nata mandir, and bhoga mandapa or dining hall are surviving structures. The other parts of the main sanctuary are in a ruined state.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently disclosed that it is putting the finishing touches on a rough roadmap for securely removing sand from Konark Sun Temple’s interior.

For the stability of the temple, the British filled the sand in Jaga Mohan (the assembly hall) of the Sun Temple more than a century ago.

To ensure the longevity of the 13th-century global historic monument of Konark temple, the British administration filled the hall with sand in 1903 and sealed it.

They had drilled a hole in the top of the Jaga Mohan or the main temple and filled it with sand.

After research warned of potential harm from the sand settling down, which would leave a gap of 17 feet between the sand layer and the building, the need to remove the sand was felt.

The Central Building Research Institute which conducted a research study on the temple’s structural integrity between 2013 and 2018, would aid the Archaeological Survey of India in carrying out the sand-removing procedure.

5. Plan a Trip to Konark Temple

On the Bay of Bengal coast in the Indian state of Odisha, the temple is situated in an eponymous village about 35 kilometres northeast of Puri district and 65 kilometres southeast of Bhubaneswar. Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, is the closest airport. Indian Railways connects two important railway hubs, Puri and Bhubaneswar.

Fly to the nearest airport, Bhubaneswar Airport, and then take a taxi to reach Konark temple. The distance to the airport is roughly 35 kilometres. To go to Konark Railway Station, you can alternatively use a train. Since the temple opens at 6 AM and closes at dusk, it is advised to go early.

Don’t miss the nighttime light and sound performance and the Konark dance festival, which highlights the temple’s significance and history. To get the most out of your trip, stay at a nearby hotel or resort and visit during the Konark dance festival.

Here are some neighbouring locations you might want to consider visiting if you’re in Konark temple:

  • Just 30 miles away from Konark is the famed beach and pilgrimage town of Puri Beach.
  • Near Bhubaneswar is an important Buddhist landmark called Dhauli Hill, which is famous for Emperor Ashoka’s carved decrees in the rock.
  • Ancient rock-cut caves near Bhubaneswar, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, date to the second century BC.
  • A beautiful Hindu temple structure in Bhubaneswar dedicated to Lord Shiva is called Lingaraj Temple.
  • Pipili Village is known for its applique work and offers handcrafted wall hangings, cushion coverings, and totes.
  • Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, Chilika Lake is a well-liked location for boating and birdwatching.
  • Raghurajpur is a classic artist’s community where you may observe local artisans at work.

So, plan your next trip to the famous Konark temple of Odisha!

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