Monday, April 22, 2013

Konark - Temple of the Sun

span style="font-family: Calibri;">Konark is a small town some 30km from Puri and a good 60km from Bhubaneshwar. It is the third point of the golden triangle. Konark is the most visited place of Orissa, as it is the home of one of the most unique temples of India, a sun temple. It is a world heritage site drawing tourists around the world to its exquisite beauty. Indian temples are mostly dedicated to one of the Holy trinity or their avatars but rarely we find temples to other

Gods. The sun temple is rare cause it is dedicated to the sun God, Surya and such temples are very few are could be counted on fingers. But the appeal of the temple lies in its architecture and sculptures that embellish its beauty.  The temple is built to serve the Sun God who is always represented on his unending journey on his chariot, hence the whole temple is constructed in the form of a chariot with seven horses tied drawing the chariot, which represent the seven days of the week and 24 wheels of the chariot, representing the 24 fortnights that form an year. Since a month is divided (according to hindu calender) into two ‘pakshas’ or fortnights. The walls of the temple are adorned with surya in his infant, youth and adult stages representing the sun at different times of the day. Before I go any further in describing the incredible beauty of the temple I would like to start with us arriving at Konark.

Our taxi driver left us at the mouth of a narrow lane much narrowed by the tightly knit stalls on either side. As soon as we elighted the vehicle auto rickshaw drivers surrounded us offering to take us to the booking counter of the Sun temple where no four wheelers are allowed, for just a minimum price of 30/-. Though it would have relived us of a walk in the hot sun, we preferred to do some window shopping of what’s on display so we decided to walk down the lane. It was a good idea too, we found out that cashew nuts are cheaper in this parts and are only 300/- per kg. It was a steal but beware some cashews may have little worms in them so break the cashew before you eat, what I did is as soon as I reached home I broke all the cashews and slow roasted them, that way they will not be spoiled. Anyways back to Konak,... At the end of the lane we were faced with a ‘Navagraha temple’ sign on the other side of the road, wondering if this was the entrance to the sun temple we asked a local vendor. He immediately pointed to the left, to a much bigger entrance  gate where people were chatting excitedly, indulging in a quick cooldrink or a nibble before entering the temple. There is an entrance fee of Rs5/- per adult (which may vary if you are a foreigner), still camera’s are allowed freely while video camera’s are charged Rs 25/-. We also booked a govt. Recognised guide for Rs150/- who explained the construction, architectural design of the temple, kings who ruled and patronized the temple and so on... One thing he said was that the king who commissioned the building of this temple has a TAIL.

Caught your attention didn’t I, well I was also curious at this statement but turns out the story is not that fascinating. The king of Konark suffered from an elongated spine which caused him great discomfort, he was unable to sit, stand straight or perform any chores that are expected of him as a king and a husband to add to this humiliation his people started calling it a tail. When the king consulted his royal priests they suggested that he should appease the Sun God and receive his blessing, so began the construction of the Sun temple.

Like many temples in Orissa, the Sun temple of Konark follows the kalingan school of architecture which commands any temple should have a inner sanctum or vimana and a outer hall or jahamohana for yagnas and yagas to be performed. According to tradition the shikara of the inner sanctum is raised cylindrically while the shikara of the outer hall is in the form of a stepped pyramid. The inner sanctum which should contain the reigning deity is razed by Jahangir’s troops and is now empty but the outer hall still remains tall. Pujas have not been performed in the temple for many decades hence it is more of a historical ruin than a holy place of worship. But still the temple is a awe inspiring sight with its majestically shikaras raising to towards the sky. Huge steps lead up to the temple entrance which is constructed on an elevated platform of about 12ft high. On the walls of this raised platform is where all the artistic geniuses of the time worked to chisel immensely beautiful sculptures, the 12 pairs of wheels. Each stone of granite is painstakingly sculptured and transformed from boring granite to beautifully voluptuous women caught on different chores of their daily life. The ‘Natya Mandir’, opposite the temple is also on an elevated platform, where dances are performed in honour of the Gods. The Natya Mandapa holds four stout square pillars all of which are adorned with dancing nymphs in various postures.

Temple of Sandhya (Surya's wife)
Konark is also  talked about, for its erotic sculptures next to the temples of Kajuraho, but it has more wealth of history to offer to the beholder. A day in the life of the queen is represented on one of the wheels of the temple, while in another region aptly capture the life of a commoner. There are carvings that show us how these huge granite stones are brought in from different parts of the kingdom and how the whole family of the artisan travelled along with the stones cooking, cleaning, raising kids and living life on the road. While another part of the temple wall depicts the great pomp and celebration that escorted the king in all his grandeur while he was leaving for a hunt. Another stretch of sculptures show us how traps are used to capture elephants. There are also depictions of how the rocks are pulled on logs and carried to such heights to make the temple the magnificient structure that we see today. A trip to Konark will be the highlight of your journey and a jewel of an experience in your life. and teluguvaramandi blog

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