Konark Sun Temple

  • Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century CE Hindu Sun temple at Konark about 35 kilometres northeast from Puri city on the coastline in Puri district, Odisha.
    • “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.
  • The temple is built in the 13th century by king Narasimhadeva I (AD 1238-1264) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty about 1250 CE.
    • It was one of the earliest centres of Sun worship in India.
    • It marks the apogee of the wave of foundations dedicated to the Sun God Surya; the entire temple was conceived as a chariot of the Sun God with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.
  • Its scale, refinement and conception represent the strength and stability of the Eastern Ganga Empire as well as the value systems of the historic milieu.
    • The Eastern Ganga dynasty also known as Rudhi Gangas or Prachya Gangas. It was the large Indian royal dynasty in the medieval era that reigned from Kalinga from as early as the 5th century to the early 15th century.
    • The beginnings of what became the Eastern Ganga dynasty came about when Indravarma I defeated the Vishnukundin king.
  • The temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot.
  • Konark Sun Temple is dedicated to the Hindu Sun-god Surya.
  • The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work.
    • It marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace, the joy and the rhythm of life in all its wondrous variety.
  • The alignment of the Sun Temple is in the east-west direction
  • It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984.
  • There are two rows of 12 wheels on each side of the Konark sun temple. Some say the wheels represent the 24 hours in a day and others say the 12 months.
    • The wheels of the temple served as sundials and timekeepers.
  • The seven horses are said to symbolise the seven days of the week.
  • European sailors once called this Sun Temple of Konark, the Black Pagoda because it was supposed to draw ships into the shore and cause shipwrecks.
  • Konark is the invaluable link in the history of the diffusion of the cult of Surya, which originating in Kashmir during the 8th century, finally reached the shores of Eastern India.
  • The present Sun Temple was probably built by King Narashimhadev I to celebrate his victory over the Muslims.
    • The temple fell into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
  • The legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. Samba was afflicted by leprosy and after twelve years of penance he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.
  • Great poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konark: “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”
  • Protection:
    • The Sun Temple, Konârak is protected under the National Framework of India by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959).
      • Other relevant protective legislation includes the Forest Act, Konârak Development Act and notified Council Area Act. 
  • Konark Sun Temple is depicted on the reverse side of the Indian currency note of 10 rupees to signify its importance to Indian cultural heritage.
Konark Sun Temple
Konark Sun Temple

Architecture of Konark Sun Temple

  • The Konark Temple is designed in the shape of a massive chariot drawn by seven spirited horses.
  • The temple is adorned with 12 pairs of gorgeously decorated wheels at its base, making a total of 24 wheels.
  • Each wheel has a diameter of 9 feet 9 inches and features 8 wider spokes and 8 thinner spokes.
  • These wheels are positioned in various parts of the temple, with 6 on either side of the main temple, 4 on each side of the Mukhasala (front assembly hall), and 2 on each side of the steps at the eastern front.
  • The Konark Wheel is adorned with intricately carved spokes and other ornamental details.
  • It is a marvel of ancient stone carving and craftsmanship, reflecting the technical and artistic expertise of the artisans of that era.
  • Various theories exist regarding the significance of the Konark Wheel.
  • According to one interpretation, the seven horses represent the days of the week, the 12 pairs of wheels symbolize the 12 months of the year, and the 24 wheels represent the 24 hours of a day, with the 8 major spokes denoting three-hour periods (prahars) of a day.
  • Another interpretation suggests that the wheels symbolize the cycle of creation, preservation, and realization, akin to the “Wheel of Life.”
  • Some believe the 12 pairs of wheels may represent the 12 zodiac signs.
  • Others draw parallels between the Konark Wheel and the Dharmachakra, the Wheel of Karma, in Buddhist symbolism.
Konark Sun Temple - Wheel

Carvings and Decorations

  • The 24 wheels of the Konark Temple, though similar in size and architecture, feature unique carvings all over.
  • The thicker spokes are adorned with circular medallions at their centers.
  • The axles of the wheels project about one foot from the surface, also decorated at their ends.
  • The rims of the wheels are intricately carved with foliage designs, along with depictions of various birds and animals.
  • The medallions in the spokes of the wheels showcase figures of women in various poses, often of a sensual nature.
Kalinga Architecture
  • The Indian temples are broadly divided into NagaraVesara, Dravida and Gadag styles of architecture.
  • However, the temple architecture of Odisha corresponds altogether to a different category for their unique representations called Kalinga style of temple architecture.
  • This style broadly comes under the Nagara style.
  • The Architecture:
    • In Kalinga Architecture, basically a temple is made in two parts, a tower and a hall. The tower is called deula and the hall is called jagmohan.
    • The walls of both the deula and the jagmohan are lavishly sculpted with architectural motifs and a profusion of figures.
    • The most repeated form is the horseshoe shape, which has come from the earliest times, starting with the large windows of the chaitya-grihas.
    • It is the deula which makes three distinct types of temples in Kalinga Architecture:
      • Rekha Deula.
      • Pidha Deula.
      • Khakhara Deula.
    • The former two are associated with Vishnu, Surya and Shiva temples while the third is mainly with Chamunda and Durga temples.
    • The Rekha Deula and Khakhara Deula houses the sanctum sanctorum while the Pidha Deula constitutes outer dancing and offering halls.
Kalinga Architecture
Kalinga Architecture

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