Konark Temple or the Sun Temple is Situated in Konark about 35km from Puri. Konark temple is known for its intricate carvings, iconology and themes including erotic kama and mithuna scenes. The chariot shaped temple was made out of stone and dedicated to Surya.
Odisha is known for its beautiful beaches and magnificent temples. One of them is the Konark Temple or the ‘Sun Temple ‘. As the name suggests it is dedicated to Lord Surya or the ‘Sun God’. The name Konark is a combination of two Sanskrit words, ‘Kona’ meaning angle and ‘arka’ meaning the sun. Situated in Konark about 35km from Puri, the temple is attributed to King Narsimbhadeva, who belonged to the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
The structure that stands today is the remains of something more grand and exquisite. Originally the temple was 61m high but due to natural calamities what remains of the temple complex has the appearance of a 30m high chariot. The chariot is attached to immense wheels and all of this is carved out of stone.
Konark temple is known for its intricate carvings, iconology and themes including erotic kama and mithuna scenes.
The Sun Temple of Konark Explained
History behind the Konark Sun Temple
The construction of the Konark Temple was funded by Narsimhadeva. Odisha was raided several times by Muslim rulers but the Hindu kings of Odisha had managed to keep them away for a long time. Narsimhadeva started taking the offensive against the Muslims in the 13th century when all of northern India was captured by the Muslim rulers. During the reign of Nasiruddin Mahammad Tughan Khan was appointed the general of Bengal. A war broke between the Muslim army and Narsimhadeva in which the Muslims lost. In order to celebrate his victory Narsimhadeva wanted to make a victory memorial. Thus came the idea of the ‘Konark Temple’.
Since childhood Narsimhadeva was tempted by the beauty of The Chandrabhaga River. The riverside was full of trade and commerce. It was a beautiful picturesque place and thus he chose that location for building the magnificent ‘Konark Temple’.
Architectural Style of the Konark Sun temple
The chariot shaped temple was made out of stone and dedicated to Surya. In Hindu Vedic iconology, Surya refers to the ‘rising sun’. It rises in the East and travels rapidly across the sky in a chariot pulled by 7 horses. The 7 horses are named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody. An iconic feature of this temple is that, when viewed from inland during the dawn and sunrise, the chariot shaped temple appears to be emerging from the depths of the blue sea carrying the sun. The temple is built using various optical illusion architectural techniques. One such spectacular element about this temple is that if one comes nearer to the temple it appears smaller and when you go away from it, it appears bigger. The architecture is also symbolic, with the chariots 12 pairs of wheels corresponding to the 12 months of the Hindu calendar. The temple is oriented towards the east so that the first rays of the sunrise strike the main entrance. The Konark temple was originally constructed at the mouth of river Chandrabhaga. But the riverside receded in due course of time.
The term ‘juggernaut’ was coined keeping this temple in mind. Another striking feature about this temple is that one can calculate the exact time at any point of the day by the help of the wheels of the chariot.
What we see of the temple today is nothing but mere remains of it. There are many theories to how it got destructed. Some suggest that it happened due to natural calamities while other suggests that it happened due to deliberate destruction by Muslim armies.
The Konark temple was called ‘The Black Pagoda’ because its great tower appeared black. It was a reference point for sailors.
Hidden Meaning of the Erotic Artwork on the Walls of the Konark Temple
The walls of the chariot on which the main temple stands if carved with intricate erotic designs. The presence of such depictions in a temple is very confusing to many and has various interpretations and theories.
One such interpretation explains that these depictions were made to test a person. A true devotee would overcome all these temptations and then meet the divine. This is the reason why the main temple is above the chariot. In order to unite with the ultimate one has to overcome these things.
Another theory suggests that these depictions were done in order to educate the people. Many carvings depict various medical remedies.
Then there comes a theory which suggests that the king got this done in order to increase the population of the mass.
Preservation Efforts for Konark Sun Temple
The first and foremost thing that is being done for the preservation of this structure is stopping the removal of the stones.
In 1838 the Asiatic Society of Bengal requested conservation efforts to be taken for the preservation of the temple structure.
In 1894 thirteen sculptures were moved to the Indian Museum. Locals objected to this.
In 1903 the temple was ordered to be sealed and filled with sand to prevent the collapse of Jagamohana.
Then in 1906 casuarina and punnang trees were planted to provide a buffer against sand-laden winds.
In 1984 the temple was granted World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Konark temple is a very popular tourist destination. One can find a large number of shops outside the temple. The temple looks extraordinary during the evenings. It shows the magnificence and wonderful craftsmanship of our country.
Other Temples and Monuments Related to the Konark Temple
Mayadevi temple was excavated between 1900 and 1910. Theories suggest that this temple was dedicated to Surya’s wife and thus the name. Later theories suggest that it was a Surya temple. This temple also features rich intricate carvings, has a square mandapa and the sanctum of the temple features a Nataraja.
It was discovered in the year 1956. This temple houses sculptures of Balarama, Varaha and Vamana. This suggests that the temple is a Vaishnavite temple. The main idol of the temple is missing.
Konark Temple Kitchen
The kitchen was discovered in the 1950s. Historians suggest that this was built after the construction of the main complex. This was built so as to feed devotees during special occasions. The kitchen has ‘chulhas’, a kitchen floor, depressions on the floor meant for pounding spices, water-storage provisions etc.
Konark Temple Wells
It is located north of the kitchen. This built for the obvious reason of supplying water for cooking purposes.
This is located in front of the northern staircase of the main temple. This was designed for the pilgrims visiting the temple.
Konark Temple Mysteries
The Aruna Stambha in Konark Temple
Aruna is the charioteer of Lord Jagannath. Hence, the pillar is called Aruna Stambha or the ‘Sun Pillar’. This pillar has 16 sides and is 25 feet and 2 inches in height and 2 feet in diameter. Presently the pillar is installed at the Puri Jagannath Temple. It was originally at the Konark Temple but due the fear of being destroyed by the Muslims kings, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj got it removed from there.
Now the pillar stands on a grand pedestal at the eastern gateway of the Jagannath Temple and adds to the glory of the temple.
The 7 Wheels of Konark Temple
The Konark Temple of Odisha is also is also known as the ‘24 wheels 7 horses’ temple. The wheels have a lot of significance to them. The wheels are 9 feet 9 inches in diameter and each of them have 8 wider spokes plus 8 thinner spokes. The wheels are carved with intricate designs of that of women in erotic positions, birds and animals.
One striking feature of these wheels is that can predict the exact time as they act as ‘Sundials’. It shows time in anticlockwise as the top center wider spoke represents 12 o’ clock midnight.
There are several interpretations to these wheels. The 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and some say they represent the 12 zodiac signs. Other interpretations suggest that the 24 wheels represent the 24 hours of a day. The 8 wider spokes represent the 8 ‘prahars’ of the day. So, one can’t draw a concrete meaning of these wheels but they exhibit the excellence of our ancestors.
The Konark Temple Magnet
It took around 12 years to build the grand temple of Konark. The temple has many myths and stories associated with it. According to a theory it is believed that there existed a huge magnet on top of the main temple. The magnet was so powerful that it had made navigation difficult for sailors. So, in order to save their trade and commerce the Portuguese got the loadstone or the magnet removed from the temple. This lead to the collapse of the main temple structure. This is the reason why the temple was stuffed with sand and stones to prevent the collapse of the temple. Even today the main temple’s door remain closed.
Another theory suggests the existence of the ‘floating idol’. The temple was built with an architectural setup. During its construction the artisans but iron plates in between stone pieces. It is said that the original statue of the Sun God used to float in air. This could be achieved by placing a large 52 ton magnet on top of the temple and another on the bottom. Even the statue was made up of some iron material. This magnetic phenomenon suspended the statue in the air.
One can only imagine the beauty of such a sight now.
A Guide to Experience the Konark Sun Temple
The temple is open from 6am till 8pm. No ritualistic puja taken place inside the temple complex. It is more of a tourist site. It is recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO. The temple is 66km away from the capital city of Odisha i.e. Bhubaneswar and around 35km away from the holy city of Puri.
For Indian nationals the entry fee is Rs. 10 while for foreigners it is Rs. 250. Children below the age of 15 years can visit the temple free of cost.
If you want you stay overnight and enjoy the beautiful sunrise in the temple then don’t worry. There are several hotels and resorts nearby. One can also avail excellent accommodation at the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation run Panthanivas.
Once in the temple, one can easy hire a guide and marvel in the beauty of the temple.