The Glory of Sun Temple at Konarka
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Orissan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. Built by the King Narasimhadeva in the thirteenth century, the entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twentyfour wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.
Orissa unlike many other parts of India has the prized distinction of possessing an uninterrupted series of temples illustrating the history of the well-defined Kalinga (former name of Orissa) from its very inception to decline, and the Sun Temple of Konark marks the highest point of achievement. Konark, the seat of World famous Sun Temple, located in the District of Puri, forms one of the three points of the “Golden Triangle of Tourism” in the State of Orissa, the other two being Bhubaneswar, the city of Temples and Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath. This Temple chariot of the Sun God on the golden sands of the Bay of Bengal is a 13th Century architectural marvel. To-day Konark is not merely a symbol of Orissa’s great architectural craftsmanship, it is also the most sought after centre of attraction for tourists all over the World. It’s serene atmosphere coupled with a quiet but majestic sea-shore is today regarded as an ideal place for holidaying by domestic as well as foreign tourists.Konark is situated at confortable distance from the famous religious and tourist centre of Puri (35 K.M.) and the capital city of Bhubaneswar (65 K.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, which grow on sandy soil. The environment is by and large unspoiled. Gentle undulating topography around the Sun Temple lends some variation to the landscape.
The main Temple was called by European sailers “The Black Pagoda” as it formed an important landmark for them in their coastal voyage. Contrasting to this , the white washed Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri was known as the white pagodaThe main Temple was called by European sailers “The Black Pagoda” as it formed an important landmark for them in their coastal voyage. Contrasting to this , the white washed Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri was known as the white pagoda.
”Konarka” , the place bears a name composed of two World elements : Kona meaning corner and ARKA meaning the Sun. The Sun god worshipped in Ark Kshetra is also called Konark. In ‘Brahma Purana’ the Sun God in Ark-kshetra has been described as Konaditya. So it is evident that the place where the Kona aditya (or Kona-arka, the Sun god) was worshipped was also popularly called Konark. It is described in Purusottam Mahatmya that Lord Vishnu after killing the demon Gayasur, to commemorate the glory of his victory, placed his Sankha (cronch) in Puri, Chakra (disc) in Bhubaneswar, Gada (mace) in Jajapur and Padma (lotus) in Konark and they were later known as Sankha Kshetra, Chakra Kshetra, Gada Kshetra and Padma Kshetra respectively. This corner on the east sea coast houses the ruins of a temple, exquisitely built to resemble a gigantic chariot with impeccably carved wheels , columns and panels. It stands as a mute reminder of the times when Orissan architecture has reached its pinnacle.
The Sun Temple built in the thirteenth century was conveived as a gigantic chariot of Sun God, with twelve pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven pairs of horses. Majestic in conception, this Temple is indeed one of the most sublime monuments of India, famous as much for its imposing dimensions and faultless proportions as for the harmonious integration of of architectural grandeur with plastic allegiance. It is admittedly the best in Orissa. Its fine traceries and scroll work , the beautiful and natural cut of animal and human figures, all give it a superiority over other temples. The chief quality is its design and architectural details. 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 alongwith 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 of the other two viz the Dancing Hall(nata Mandir) and the Dining Hall (Bhoga-Mandap), only small portions have survived the vagaries of time. The Temple compound measures 857 ft. by 540 ft.
A shallow pool of water is known as the Chandrabhaga, where even now crowds of pilgrims take a purificatory bath before sun rise on the seventh day of the bright half of the month of Magha (January-February). A fair also takes place on this occasion. Once in the year the deserted holy place of Surya thus throbs with religious emotion. This is likely a survival of an ancient practice following the construction of the temple. Magha-Saptami is mentioned in the Madala Panji as one of the festival of this holy centre. It is also referred to the Brahma Purnima in connection with the description of Konark.
As the legend says that, King Narasimha Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty had ordered this temple to be built as a royal proclamation of the political supremacy of his dynasty.A workforce of 12 hundred artisans and architects invested their creative talent,energy and artistic commitment for an exhausting period of 12 years. The king had already spent an amount equivalent to the state’s revenue receipts of 12 years..However the completion of the construction was nowhere near sight. Then the king issued a final command that the work be completed by a stipulated date.The team of architects headed by Bisu Maharana was at its wit’s end.It was then that Dharmapada the 12 year old son of the chief architect Bisu Maharana arrived there as a visiting onlooker.He became aware of the anxiety looming large among the architects. Although he did not have any practical experience of temple construction, he was thorough in his study of the theories of temple architecture.He offered to solve the confounding problem of fixing the last copping stone at the top of the temple.He surprised everyone by doing that himself.But soon after this achievement the dead body of this adolescent prodigy was found on the sea beach at the foot of the temple.Legend says that Dharmapada laid down his life to save his community.
The Sun Temple of Konark marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace , the joy and the rhythm of life all it’s wondrous variety. There is an endless wealth of decoration from minute pattterns in bas-relief done with a jeweller’s precision to boldly modelled free standing sculptures of exceptionally large size. Under the crackling wheels of past events , the Sun Temple has lost its main sanctuary but the remaining structure and the ruins arouns testify till today the boundless creative energy of Orissan artistes and their impresive contribution to the treasury of Indian Art and building technique. Standing majestically on the sandy coast of the Bay of Bengal, the porch, in its solitary grandeur is an eloquent testimony of a gracious and mysterious past. Dedicated to Sun God, this temple was constructed by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty was dazzling supreme in the political firmament of India.
That the fame of the this temple as a wonderful monument has spread far beyond the limits of Orissa in the sixteen century is amply borne out not only by the great Vaishnava Saint Chaitanya’s (AD-1486-1533) visit to the place but also by the following pithy description which appeared in the A’in-i-Akbari of Abu’l-Fazl, the famous chronicler of the court of Akbar (AD-1556-1605).Near Jagannath is a temple dedicated to the Sun. Its cost was defrayed by twelve years revenue of the province. Even those whose judgement is critical and who are difficult to please stand astonished at its sight.”
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