Konark Sun Temple located, in the state of Orissa is a masterpiece of Orissa's medieval architecture. The Sun temple has also been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The temple is widely known for its architectural grandeur and the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work.
Author: Sukant Senapaty
A well known tourist attraction of Orissa, Konark is known the world over for the magnificent sun temple. The 13th century temple is a marvelous expression to the medieval architecture of Orissa. The temple also referred to as black Pagoda was built with black granite by King Narasimhadeva - I in the 13th century on the beach of Chandrabagha. The entire structure was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twenty-four wheels, carrying the sun god across the heavens and is known for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. In fact the carvings on the temple have been done with such minute precision that the temple is referred to as the place where stones sing.
The temple was constructed by King Narasimhadeva - I to commemorate his victories over the Muslims, who were pushing into Orissa from the west. During his reign he won at least three resounding victories over the invaders. The king himself, more renowned for his valor than his piety, built the structure as a victory tower thanking the Sun God for His blessing in showering victory over the dreaded Muslim. As the temple gained in prominence, it drew the marvel of people and visitors owing to its grand design and architecture.
However the temple fell out of use after it was desecrated by the Muslims in the 17th century. Ravaged by Kalapahad in 1508, the temple started dying a slow death. The marauding Muslims had succeeded in bringing down the Arch stone of the temple which resulted in its gradual collapse of the temple. Devoid of attention and shunned by people after being desecrated by the Muslims, the temple structure started getting engulfed in a huge pile of sand.
The carcass of the Konark temple was unearthed and brought to the limelight in the late 19th century by the initiatives of the Lord Curzon, which was deserted under the sand for 300 years due to lack of maintenance and negligence. The British Archeologists uncovered the lower portion of the temple structure and restored the ruins of the temple
The temple now in ruins, still holds much of its magnificence and has much to feed to the imagination of tourists. In its present form the temple 229 feet high with the audience hall at a height of 128 feet and the compound area is 857 feet by 540 feet wide. The entrance of the temple is guarded by two lions crushing a war elephant. In the entrance there is a Dancing Hal where the dancers of the temple used to worship God Sun through their dance. The dancing hall in front is intricately carved and is of photographer's preference.
The major attraction of the Konark temple is the wheels of the chariot which are 10 ft in diameter with intricate architecture & carvings. During the ancient days these wheels were used as tools for watching the time cycle of a day (24 hours) with the shape of the shadow of the wheel depicting the specific time of the day and the seven horses dragging the Chariot represent 7days of a week. The whole temple area is enclosed by different geometric patterns. Around the base of the temple, up to the walls and roof there are sculptures of couples in varied postures of in erotic style. The intricacy & detailing of sculptures of animals, men and warriors, musicians playing drums & different instruments in odissi dance posses on horses in the temple are the examples of magnificence of the Oriya architecture during that era.
The government of Orissa today has worked splendidly in direction of restoring the structure and attracting tourists to this magnificent place. An annual dance festival of Indian classical forms is held at the Konark temple complex is a major draw for tourists. This dance festival is held in high esteem among the performing artistes and visitors as well.
A visit to Knoark is enough to bring a thousand emotions out in tourists. The experience is simply unnerving!!
Sukant is a finance professional who lives in Bhubaneswar, Orissa.He writes mostly about orissa, oriya culture and history.Please click here to know more about Konark Temple of Orissa.