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Chariot of the Gods: The Legend of the Konark Sun Temple Revealed

Chariot of the Gods: The Legend of the Konark Sun Temple Revealed

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Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.
Rabindranath Tagore

Hindu legends say that one of Krishna’s sons built the impressive Konark Sun Temple to honor the solar deity for healing him. Although this temple was actually built during the 13th century, it was conceived to be a monumental representation of the chariot of Surya, the Sun God.

The Konark Sun Temple is a well-known temple located in Odisha, an eastern state of India. This temple has been referred to as the Black Pagoda by European sailors, who marked it out as a prominent landmark during their voyages along the eastern coast of India. This name was given to the temple as it was constructed out of black stones.

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1847 depiction of the Konark Sun Temple.

The Temple’s Creation According to Hindu Myth

According to Hindu mythology, the Konark Sun Temple was constructed by Samba, one of Krishna’s sons. In one version of the tale, Samba had been cursed by Krishna because he entered the bathing chamber of his father’s wives. As a result of this, Samba suffered from leprosy. He was advised by a sage to undergo severe penance for 12 years at Mitravana, near the confluence of the Chandrabhaga River with the sea at Konark. This was pleasing to Surya, the Sun God, who is also believed to be the healer of all skin diseases, and Samba was cured of his leprosy by this deity. Krishna’s son showed his gratefulness to Surya by promising to build a temple in his honor. The following day, whilst Samba was bathing in the river, he found an image of Surya, which he took, and installed at the temple he built.

Statue of the Sun God Surya in the Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa, India. (Jayantanth/ CC BY 3.0 )

In reality, however, the Konark Sun Temple was commissioned by Narasimhadeva I, a ruler of the East Ganga dynasty, during the 13th century AD. According to some sources, the king decided to build this temple in order to commemorate his military victories against Muslim invaders. As Narasimhadeva was a devotee of Surya, he decided to have the temple built in the form of the god’s chariot.

The Konark Sun Temple ( CC by SA 4.0 )

The Story of the Wheels at Konark Sun Temple

Thus, on the north and south sides of the temple, there are a total of 24 carved wheels, each of which measures around 3 meters (9.84 ft.) in diameter. Each of these wheels has a set of eight spokes, which serve as sundials. According to one interpretation, the 24 wheels represent the hours of the day, whilst another suggests that each pair of wheels signify a month of the year. This solar chariot is drawn by seven horses, which are said to symbolize the days of the week. The temple is also decorated with a number of intricately-carved reliefs of animals, foliage, dancers and musicians, and erotic scenes.

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Konark Sun Temple – Exquisite Wheel of the Chariot. (Bikashrd/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

The Temple’s Aura of Power

There are a number of local stories surrounding the Konark Sun Temple. One popular tale told by locals about the temple is that it is surrounded by an aura of great power that is emitted from a pair of magnets believed to have been built into the tower. The magnets are rumored to have allowed the king’s throne to levitate and to have frequently caused shipwrecks to happen along the coast. In one story, it was decided that the dome of the tower be removed and destroyed, so as to avoid any further shipwrecks from occurring.

According to some, the temple was sacked by a Muslim Yavana army during the 15th century. Another places the blame of the temple’s destruction on the Mughals during the reign of Jahangir in the early 18th century. In any case, the temple was abandoned and became buried under sand. It was only during the late 19th century / early 20th century that the remains of the temple were excavated and then restored by British archaeologists.

Konark sun temple ( CC by SA 3.0 )

Apart from the restoration works that were carried out on the temple, the archaeologists also planted trees to shelter the temple from being ravaged by the elements and opened a museum to exhibit the sculptures that were neither left in situ, nor sent to museums in other parts of India / London. Today, the Konark Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Sun Temple Konark

    Konark Sun temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, is a 13th century temple which is dedicated to the Sun God. One of the best tourist attractions of Orissa, this temple is an example of architectural excellence of India. Visited by a huge number of tourists as well as pilgrims, Konark is a part of the Golden triangle of Orissa, comprising of Bhubaneshwar, Konark and Puri.

    History of the Sun Temple

    Known as Konaditya, the name of Sun temple of Konark is derived from two words: Kona meaning Corner and Arka meaning Sun. The temples lies on the north eastern corner of Puri, which is also known as the Chakrakshetra. One of the grandest temples in India, it was constructed by Narsimha Deva I, an Eastern Ganga King in 1278 CE. Also referred to as the Black Pagoda, it is slightly in ruins, which were dug in the 19th century. It was conferred the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984.

    Legend behind the temple

    According to legends, Samba, the king of Jambavati, entered the bathing chamber of the wives of Krishna. He, as a result, was cursed by Krishna with leprosy. It was later announced that he would be able to get rid of the curse by worshipping the Sun God on the sea coast. Therefore, Samba arrived at Konaditya Kshetra. Here, he found an image of Sun seated on a lotus. He worshipped him and was able to get rid of the curse.

    Stories say that the conception and the construction of the temple varied as the dome was too heavy for the foundation to bear. Locals say that the dome was magnetic, leading to shipwrecks. Thus, the dome was removed and the image of Sun God was brought to Puri.

    Architecture of the Temple:

    The magnificence of the Konark temple is visible throughout its grand and intricate sculpture work. The entire temple is conceptualized in the form of a chariot of Sun God. This mammoth chariot has 24 wheels, each with a diameter of 10 feet, with extravagant carvings, and a set of bars. The temple is dragged by 7 horses. A flight of stairs take you to the main entrance, which is guarded by 2 lions crushing the elephants. The temple is made from Khondalite rocks, and built in traditional style of Kalinga architecture.

    Other highlights here are the Nata Mandir (dance hall) and Bhog Mandapa (dining hall), in front of the Jagmohana. The sculptures on the walls, roof, and base of the temple have erotic figurines where men, animals, warriors on horses, and foliage are shown in exotic styles. Three images of the Sun God are placed in such a manner that they catch the sunrays, during dawn, noon and sunset. It is said that this temple had brought Ratha Vimana temples, or Chariot temples in fashion.

    Namaste India Trip Blog

    Konark home to the Sun Temple, amazing one third of Orissa Golden Triangle.

    Temples, architectural and cultural tours are some of rich enticing travel attractions Konark has to offer.

    History of Konark

    The history of Konark in the eastern region of India is entwined with the legendary Sun Temple. The name itself has meaning related to the Sun-Konark a combination ‘Kona’ which means corner and ‘Arka’ stands for the sun, the leading to the meaning corner of sun. The befitting name is testament to the district’s firm establishment as a centre for worshipping the sun.

    The earliest reference to Konark can be found in the epic Purana where it was called Mundira and a sun temple had already existed civilizations ago. With its coastal location near Bay of Bengal, it was also a busy port that enjoyed good relations with the Southeast Asian regions. The most notable period in Konark history is in the 13th century when the King Narasimhadeva I of the Ganga dynasty completed the construction of the monumental Sun temple to commemorate their victory over the Muslims.

    Tourism in Konark

    The Temples

    Konark, in the eastern region of India, is synonymous with the grand Sun Temple, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its ancient state, the majestic temple still stands tall in full splendor as one can only be filled with awe at the architectural masterpiece. The red sandstone roof rises to a towering height of 30m. The temple is built to resemble the divine chariot used as by Surya, the Sun God, hence the name. This chariot temple was to have been pulled by 7 horses, to represent the days in the week. Only a single horse structure remains standing. The base of the chariot is supported by 24 stone wheels, to represent the hours in a day. The intricate carvings on these wheels are another sight to marvel. There are 8 spokes on each wheel, which have proven to be accurate sundials as they are able to indicate the time of the day perfectly. All around the temple, there are erotic sculptures and other figures of deities, noblemen and animals depicting various scenes.

    Other remarkable temples worth the travel include the Melakadambur Shiva Temple, built in 11th century, the one of Konark’s oldest chariot temples and closely resembles the Sun temple. Mayadevi Temple, also referred as Ramachandi temple, is believed to be built in dedication to one of the wives of the Sun God. The walls of this ancient temple are carved with erotic figurines of dancing nymphs, motifs of flowers, scenes of the court and hunting sessions.

    The Museum and Beach

    The Archaeological Museum of Konark is a must visit, following the tour to the Sun Temple. Founded in 1968 and with four marvelous galleries, this museum is home to varying stone sculptures, artifacts and intricate carvings numbering over 200. The archaeological finds of the detached sculptures from the Sun temple are displayed in the first gallery. The amazing embellishments on the sculptures of the Hindu deities, the meticulous display of various scenes, cult objects and interesting artifacts such as roaring lions and garlanded swans are nothing short of impressive craftsmanship. The museum is a fertile learning ground about Orissa’s architectural evolution and development.

    Konark beach, which is also called Chandrabhaga, is a very popular travel spot. The tranquil settings among the strong waves and clear sand will naturally evoke a sense of peace to any traveler.

    Konark Dance Festival

    The magical Konark Dance Festival is celebrated annually over five days during first week of December. The festival is an enthralling cultural visual treat with international following. The classical bonanza takes place at an open dance hall, called Natya Mandir set up near the Konark beach. It showcases the very best of performing arts, from any region of India, in classical music and traditional dance forms which include Bharatanatyam, Chau, Kathak, Manipuri and Odissi.


    Vedic Edit

    The Sun causes day and night on the earth,
    because of revolution,
    when there is night here, it is day on the other side,
    the sun does not really rise or sink.

    The oldest surviving Vedic hymns, such as the hymn 1.115 of the Rigveda, mention Sūrya with particular reverence for the "rising sun” and its symbolism as dispeller of darkness, one who empowers knowledge, the good and all life. [4] [22] However, the usage is context specific. In some hymns, the word Surya simply means sun as an inanimate object, a stone or a gem in the sky (Rigvedic hymns 5.47, 6.51 and 7.63) while in others it refers to a personified deity. [4] [23] Surya is prominently associated with the dawn goddess Ushas and sometimes, he is mentioned as her son or her husband. [24]

    Surya's origin differs heavily in the Rigveda, with him being stated to been born, risen, or established by a number of deities, including the Ādityas, Aditi, Dyaush, Mitra-Varuna, Agni, Indra, Soma, Indra-Soma, Indra-Varuna, Indra-Vishnu, Purusha, Dhatri, the Angirases, and the gods in general. [25] [26] The Atharvaveda also mentions that Surya originated from Vritra. [26]

    The Vedas assert Sun (Surya) to be the creator of the material universe (Prakriti). [27] In the layers of Vedic texts, Surya is one of the several trinities along with Agni and either Vayu or Indra, which are presented as an equivalent icon and aspect of the Hindu metaphysical concept called the Brahman. [28]

    In the Brahmanas layer of Vedic literature, Surya appears with Agni (fire god) in the same hymns. [29] Surya is revered for the day, while Agni for its role during the night. [29] The idea evolves, states Kapila Vatsyayan, where Surya is stated to be Agni as the first principle and the seed of the universe. [30] It is in the Brahmanas layer of the Vedas, [31] [32] and the Upanishads that Surya is explicitly linked to the power of sight, to visual perception and knowledge. He is then interiorized to be the eye as ancient Hindu sages suggested abandonment of external rituals to gods in favor of internal reflections and meditation of gods within, in one's journey to realize the Atman (soul, self) within, in texts such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Kaushitaki Upanishad and others. [33] [34] [35]

    Epics Edit

    As per the Ramayana's Yuddha Kanda, Lord Rama was taught the Ādityahṛdayam stotra before his war against Ravana, the king of the rakshasas. The stotra was composed in Anushtup Chanda in praise of Lord Surya, who is described as the embodiment of all gods and the origin of everything in the universe.

    The Mahabharata epic opens its chapter on Surya that reverentially calls him as the "eye of the universe, soul of all existence, origin of all life, goal of the Samkhyas and Yogis, and symbolism for freedom and spiritual emancipation. [4]

    In the Mahabharata, Karna is the son of Surya and unmarried princess Kunti. [4] The epic describes Kunti's trauma as an unmarried mother, then abandonment of Karna, followed by her lifelong grief. Baby Karna is found and adopted by a charioteer but he grows up to become a great warrior and one of the main characters in the great battle of Kurukshetra where he fights his half brothers during the war. [36]

    Earliest representations of Surya riding a chariot occur in the Buddhist railings of the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya (2nd cent. BCE), in the Bhaja Caves (1st cent BCE), and the Ananta Gumpha at the Khandagiri caves (1st cent. CE). [37] The iconography of Surya in Hinduism varies with its texts. He is typically shown as a resplendent standing person holding sunflower flower in both his hands, riding a chariot pulled by one or more horses typically seven. [38] The seven horses are named after the seven meters of Sanskrit prosody: Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha and Pankti. [4]

    The Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira (c. 505 - c. 587), a Hindu text that describes architecture, iconography and design guidelines, states that Surya should be shown with two hands and wearing a crown. It specifically describes his dress to be Northern (i.e. Central Asian, with boots). [39] In contrast, the Vishnudharmottara, another Hindu text on architecture, states Surya iconography should show him with four hands, with flowers in two hands, a staff in third, and in fourth he should be shown to be holding writing equipment (Kundi palm leaf and pen symbolizing knowledge). [4] His chariot driver in both books is stated to be Aruṇa who is seated. [4] Two females typically flank him, who represent the dawn goddesses named Usha and Pratyusha. The goddesses are shown to be shooting arrows, a symbolism for their initiative to challenge darkness. [40] In other representations, these goddesses are Surya's two wives, Samjna and Chhaya. [41]

    The iconography of Surya has also varied over time. In some ancient arts, particularly from the early centuries of the common era, his iconography is similar to those found in Persia and Greece suggesting likely adoption of Greek, Iranian and Scythian influences. [4] [42] After the Greek and Kushan influences arrived in ancient India, some Surya icons of the period that followed show him wearing a cloak and high boots. [40] [43] In some Buddhist artwork, his chariot is shown as being pulled by four horses. [12] The doors of Buddhist monasteries of Nepal show him, along with the Chandra (moon god), symbolically with Surya depicted as a red circle with rays. [44]

    Aniconic symbols of Surya include the Swastika and the ring-stone. [40]

    Conflation with other solar deities Edit

    Surya in Indian literature is referred to by various names, which typically represent different aspects or phenomenological characteristics of the Sun. The figure of Surya as we know him today is an amalgamation of various different Rigvedic deities. [45] Thus, Savitr refers to one that rises and sets, Aditya means one with splendor, Mitra refers to Sun as "the great luminous friend of all mankind", [46] while Pushan refers to Sun as illuminator that helped the Devas win over Asuras who use darkness. [47] Arka, Mitra, Vivasvat, Aditya, Tapan, Ravi and Surya have different characteristics in early mythologies, but by the time of the epics they are synonymous. [47]

    The term "Arka" is found more commonly in temple names of north India and in the eastern parts of India. The 11th century Konark Temple in Odisha is named after a composite word "Kona and Arka", or "Arka in the corner". [48] Other Surya temples named after Arka include Devarka (Deva teertha) and Ularka (Ulaar) in Bihar, Uttararka and Lolarka in Uttar Pradesh, and Balarka in Rajasthan. Another 10th-century sun temple ruin is in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh named Balarka Surya Mandir, which was destroyed in the 14th century during the Turkish invasions. [ citation needed ]

    Vivasvat is also one such of these deities. His wife is Saranyu, daughter of Tvashtar. His sons include the Ashvins, Yama, and Manu. Through Manu, Vivasvat is considered an ancestor of humanity. Vivasvat is affiliated with Agni and Matarishvan, with Agni being stated to have been first revealed to those two. Vivasvat is also variously related to Indra, Soma, and Varuna. Vivasvant is also used as an adjective of Agni and Ushas to mean "brilliant". Already by the time of his earliest appearance (the Rigveda), Vivasvat had declined in importance. He was likely a solar deity, but scholars debate his specific role as one. [49] In the Rigveda, Indra drinks Soma alongside Manu Vivasvat and Trita. [49] In post-Vedic literature, Vivasvat further declines in importance, and is merely another name for the sun. [49] He is cognate to the Avestan Vivanhvant, who is the father of Yima [ disambiguation needed ] (cognate to Yama) and Manu. [49] [50]

    Surya as an important heavenly body appears in various Indian astronomical texts in Sanskrit, such as the 5th century Aryabhatiya by Aryabhata, the 6th century Romaka by Latadeva and Panca Siddhantika by Varahamihira, the 7th century Khandakhadyaka by Brahmagupta and the 8th century Sisyadhivrddida by Lalla. [51] These texts present Surya and various planets and estimate the characteristics of the respective planetary motion. [51] Other texts such as Surya Siddhanta dated to have been complete sometime between the 5th century and 10th century present their chapters on various planets with deity mythologies. [51]

    The manuscripts of these texts exist in slightly different versions, present Surya- and planets-based calculation and its relative motion to earth. These vary in their data, suggesting that the text were open and revised over their lives. [52] [53] [54] For example, the 1st millennium CE Hindu scholars had estimated the sidereal length of a year as follows, from their astronomical studies, with slightly different results: [55]

    Sanskrit texts: How many days in a year?
    Hindu text Estimated length of the sidereal year [55]
    Surya Siddhanta 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 36.56 seconds
    Paulica Siddhanta 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 36 seconds
    Paracara Siddhanta 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 31.50 seconds
    Arya Siddhanta 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 30.84 seconds
    Laghu Arya Siddhanta 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 30 seconds
    Siddhanta Shiromani 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, 9 seconds

    The oldest of these is likely to be the Surya Siddhanta, while the most accurate is the Siddhanta Shiromani. [55]

    Surya's synonym Ravi is the root of the word 'Ravivara' or Sunday in the Hindu calendar. [56] In both Indian and Greek-Roman nomenclature for days of the week, the Sunday is dedicated to the Sun.

    Surya is a part of the Navagraha in Hindu zodiac system. The role and importance of the Navagraha developed over time with various influences. Deifying the sun and its astrological significance occurred as early as the Vedic period and was recorded in the Vedas. The earliest work of astrology recorded in India is the Vedanga Jyotisha which began to be compiled in the 14th century BCE. It was possibly based on works from the Indus Valley Civilization as well as various foreign influences. [57] Babylonian astrology which was the first to develop astrology and the calendar, and was adopted by multiple civilizations including India. [58] [59]

    The Navagraha developed from early works of astrology over time. The Sun and various classical planets were referenced in the Atharvaveda around 1000 BCE. The Navagraha was furthered by additional contributions from Western Asia, including Zoroastrian and Hellenistic influences. [60] The Yavanajataka, or 'Science of the Yavanas', was written by the Indo-Greek named "Yavanesvara" ("Lord of the Greeks") under the rule of the Western Kshatrapa king Rudrakarman I. The Yavanajataka written in 120 CE is often attributed to standardizing Indian astrology. The Navagraha would further develop and culminate in the Shaka era with the Saka, or Scythian, people.

    Additionally the contributions by the Saka people would be the basis of the Indian national calendar, which is also called the Saka calendar.

    The Hindu calendar is a Lunisolar calendar which records both lunar and solar cycles. Like the Navagraha, it was developed with the successive contributions of various works.

    Surya temples are found in many parts of India. More common than Surya temples are artwork related to Surya, which are found in all types of temples of various traditions within Hinduism, such as the Hindu temples related to Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha and Shakti. [61] Reliefs on temple walls, forts and artwork above doorways of many Hindu monasteries feature Surya. [61] [62]

    Many of the temples that contain Surya icons and artwork are dated to the second half of the 1st millennium CE and early centuries of the 2nd millennium. The 11th-century Vaishnava temple at Kadwaha in Madhya Pradesh, for example, features a Surya artwork along with many other gods and goddesses at its doorway. [61] The 8th and 9th century goddess (Shaktism) temples of central India, similarly engrave Surya along with other Hindu gods within the temple. [61] The six century Shiva temple at Gangadhar in Rajasthan includes Surya. [63] Similar mentions are found in stone inscriptions found near Hindu temples, such as the 5th century Mandasor inscription. [64] These temples, states Michael Meister, do not glorify one god or goddess over the other, but present them independently and with equal emphasis in a complex iconography. [61]

    Cave temples of India, similarly, dedicated to different gods and goddesses feature Surya. [65] [66] For example, the 6th century carvings in the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra as well as the 8th and 9th century artworks there, such as Cave 25, the Kailasha Temple (Cave 16) and others feature complete iconography of Surya. [67] [68]

    Hindu temples predominantly have their primary entrance facing east, and their square principle based architecture is reverentially aligned the direction of the rising Surya. [69] [70] This alignment towards the sunrise is also found in most Buddhist and Jaina temples in and outside of India. [71] [72]

    Dedicated temples Edit

    A prominent temple dedicated to Surya can be found in Arasavalli, which is in the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The coastal district temple is peculiar with its latitude aligned to the minor lunar standstill. Also the transition from lunar calendar of north India to solar calendar of south India can be seen in the local culture. This is probably the eastern most coastal sun temple in the peninsular India, where prayers are offered till date. The place, Chicacole, has a significance in the Kalinga (historical region) kingdom with their port at Kalingapatnam, making it to Megasthenes dairy (Calingae). The diaspora is spread in the present day south east Asia at historical Kalinga (province), Kalingga Kingdom etc. Prince Vijaya, the first ruler of Srilanka is believed to have a Kalinga lineage.

    Other most worshiped Surya temple is the Deo Surya Mandir. Sun Temple of Deo is one of the most remarkable, major crowd-puller and notable temple and religious place in Deo Bihar India for chhath puja. Deo Sun Temple Built in during the 8th century.

    In Tamil Nadu, Navagraha temples are world famous. Suryanar kovil situated in Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu is one among the Navagraha temples and it is dedicated to Surya. Here lord Surya is called as Sivasurya Perumal. It is the first among the Navagraha temples of Tamil Nadu. [73]

    The most famous Surya temple is the Konark Sun Temple, a World Heritage Site in Orissa. [74] Constructed in the 13th century by the Eastern Ganga dynasty, on a pre-existing pilgrimage site for Surya god, the temple architecture mimics a grand chariot with twelve wheels pulled by seven horses. [74] [75] The temple features Surya in three representations, with the main large Surya destroyed and the temple damaged over repeated Muslim invasions. [76] Besides Konark, there are two other sun temples in Orissa called Biranchi Narayan Sun Temple.

    There are sun temples in many parts of India, such as Modhera, Gujarat. [77] It was sponsored by King Bhimdev of the Chaulukya dynasty. Other major Surya temples are found in Kanakaditya Temple in Kasheli (Dist ratnagiri) – Maharashtra, near the famous Galtaji's temple in Jaipur, Rajasthan and Assam.

    Adithyapuram Sun Temple is a Hindu temple located in Iravimangalam near Kaduthuruthy in Kottayam district in the Indian state of Kerala dedicated to Surya. It is noted as the only Surya shrine in the Kerala state. [78] [79]

    The Martand Sun Temple in Jammu and Kashmir was destroyed by Islamic armies. [80] A surviving Surya temple in northern India is Kattarmal Surya mandir in Almora District, Uttarakhand created by King Kattarmal in the 12th century. [ citation needed ]

    The Gurjars were essentially sun worshipers and some of the sun temples were erected by them during the medieval period. [81] The sun temple known as Jayaditya was constructed by Gurjar king of Nandipuri, Jayabhatta II. This temple is situated at Kotipura near Kapika in the Bharukachha district. [82] The Surya temple of Bhinmal known as Jagaswami Surya temple was also erected during this period. [83]

    Surya temples outside India Edit

    The Sun Temple of Multan (in modern-day Pakistan) contained a revered statue of Surya. It was one of the focal points of Hindu-Muslim religious conflicts. [84] After 871 CE, Multan (Panjab) was under the rule by Arab princes, who kept the Surya temple hostage and desecrated it, [85] in order to threaten its destruction if the Hindu Gurjara attacked them. [86] The early Muslim rulers taxed Hindu pilgrims for the privilege to visit the Surya temple, and this provided these rulers an important source of revenue. [87] The Surya temple was destroyed by Ismaili Shia rulers in the late 10th century, who built a mosque atop the site, abandoning the Sunni congregational mosque in Multan. [88] This Ismaili Shia mosque atop the Sun Temple's ruins was then destroyed by the Sunni ruler Mahmud of Ghazni, the Surya temple was not rebuilt and an empty space left in place, actions that helped re-establish the importance of the Sunni mosque in Multan. [88]

    While Shiva and Vishnu are more common in 1st millennium southeast Asian artwork such as those found in Cambodia and Thailand, archaeological evidence suggest god Surya were among the pantheon of ideas adopted early in these regions and retained after Buddhism became the dominant tradition. [89]

    In Kabul Khir Khana a large Hindu temple complex of two distinct periods. The first period consisted of a mud-brick temple with possible human sacrifice remains dedicating it. This was then superseded by three distinct sanctuaries built of schist slabs, surrounded by subsidiary buildings of diaper masonry construction and an open-air altar in a semi-circular enclosure. The most important finds were two marble statues of Surya, the first example found during the original excavations (1934, Delegation Archaeologique Française Afghanistan), the second example found by accident in 1980.

    In Nepal, many Surya temples and artworks trace to the medieval era, such as the 11th-century Thapahiti and Saugal-tol, and 12th century Naksal stone sculptures. [90]

    Artifacts discovered at the Sanxingdui culture founded c 1,600 BCE, about 40 km from present day Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan province China reveal an ancient worship of sun-deity, similar to Surya. The artifacts include a gold sheet with design of four birds flying around the sun deity, and a bronze sculpture of the surya-chakra. [91]

    Festivals Edit

    Various festivals mark deity Surya and these vary regionally in India. Pongal or Makara Sankaranti is the most widely celebrated Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun God. These celebrate a good harvest. Other festivals that focus on Surya include Chhath of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and the neighboring regions, Samba Dashami and Ratha Saptami are also major festivals celebrated in honour of Surya Chhath is celebrated immediately after Diwali with fasting for three days followed by bathing in river or tank with remembrance of Sun. [93] Similarly Aytar Puja is celebrated in Goa. [94] The latter is known as Aditya Ranubai in Maharashtra. [95]

    The second day of the Pongal harvest festival is dedicated to Surya in Tamil Nadu, and is called the "Surya Pongal". [96]

    Another festival named Kartik Puja marks Surya, along with Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Radha, Krishna and Tulsi. It is observed by Hindu women, typically with visit to rivers such as the Ganges, socialization and group singing. [97]

    Dances Edit

    The repertoire of classical Indian dances such as the Bharatanatyam include poses that signify rays of light beaming towards all of the universe, as a form of homage to Surya. [98]

    Yoga Edit

    Sūrya namaskāra literally means sun salutation. It is a Yoga warm up routine based on a sequence of gracefully linked asanas. [99] The nomenclature refers to the symbolism of Sun as the soul and the source of all life. It is relatively a modern practice that developed in the 20th century. [100] A yogi may develop a personalized yoga warm up routine as surya-namaskar to precede his or her asana practice. [101]

    The Gayatri Mantra is associated with Surya (Savitr). The mantra's earliest appearance is in the hymn 3.62.10 of the Rigveda. [102]

    Might we make our own that desirable effulgence of god Savitar, who will rouse forth our insights.

    Buddhism Edit

    Surya is celebrated as a deity in Buddhist works of art, such as the ancient works attributed to Ashoka. He appears in a relief at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, riding in a chariot pulled by four horses, with Usha and Prattyusha on his sides. [12] Such artwork suggests that the Surya as symbolism for the victory of good over evil is a concept adopted in Buddhism from an earlier Indic tradition. [12]

    In Chinese Buddhism, Surya (日天, Rìtiān) is regarded as one of the Twenty-Four Devas (二十四諸天, Èrshísì zhūtiān) who are guardian protective deities of Buddhism. [105] His statue is usually enshrined in the Mahavira Hall of Chinese Buddhist temples, along with the other devas. [106]

    In Japanese Buddhism, Surya is one of the twelve Devas, as guardian deities, who are found in or around Buddhist shrines (十二天, Jūni-ten). [107] In Japan, he has been called "Nit-ten". [108] [109] [110]

    On the Mount Meru buddhist cosmological system, Surya is considered a female deity, contrasting a male lunar god. [111]

    8th century ceiling carving of Surya at Pattadakal Virupaksha Hindu temple.

    3. Early References

    In his book “The Sun Temple Konark” (1986), author Balram Mishra lists down several legends that led Narsimha Deva to build a sun temple in Konark. One of them states that King Anangabhima Deva worshipped Surya, the result of which was a longed-for son in the family whom he named Narasimha Deva. King Narasimha built the temple as an act of gratitude to Surya. Another legend, a copper plate inscription of Narsimha Deva II (The Konark Sun Temple was built by Narasimha Deva I)in 1295 AD says mentions Narsimha Deva I fulfilled the promise of his father to expand the Jagannath Temple in Puri, which was built by King Anantavarman Chodaganga.

    As a ruler, Narsimha Deva I was a powerful monarch and he defended his kingdom against the army of Tughral Tughran Khan from the Mamluk Dynasty in the 13 th century. In 1244 AD, Narsimha Deva I defeated Tughan Khan’s army in the province of Varendra (which is now in Bangladesh) and Rarh (a region between Ganga Delta and the Chhota Nagpur Plateau).

    Chariot of the Gods: The Legend of the Konark Sun Temple Revealed - History

    Konark is a small town in the Puri district in the state of Odisha, India. It lies on the coast by the Bay of Bengal, 65 kilometers from the capital of the state, Bhubaneswar. The Sun Temple was built in the 13th century and designed as a extremely large chariot of the Sun God, Surya, with twelve pairs of ornamented wheels pulled by seven horses.

    Some of the wheels are 3 meters wide. Only six of the seven horses still stand today. The temple is also a World Heritage Site. The temple is now mostly in ruins, and a collection of its sculptures is housed in the Sun Temple Museum, which is run by the Archaeological Survey of India.

    It has been built in the shape of a gigantic chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels, pillars and walls. A major part of the structure is now in ruins. Two smaller ruined temples have been discovered nearby.

    One of them is called the Mayadevi Temple and is located southwest from the entrance of the main temple. It is presumed to have been dedicated to Mayadevi, one of the Sun god’s wives. It has been dated to the late 11th century, earlier than the main temple.
    The Temple of the Sun was used by the imperial court for elaborate acts of worship involving fasting, prayers, dancing and animal sacrifices, as part of a year-long cycle of ceremonies involving all the temples.

    An important element was the colour red, which was associated with the Sun, including red utensils for food and wine offerings, and red clothes for the emperor to wear during the ceremonies.

    The Sun Temple of Konark, often called as the Black Pagoda, was constructed in the mid thirteenth century by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty. It is an ample testament to the artistic glory of the time.

    There are many legends of Konark that tell us a lot about the construction, existence as well as the origin and history of Konark. The story related to how Dharampada sacrificed his life in order to bring peace and harmony to his community has been narrated many a times. Dharampada, the intelligent son of Bisu Maharana did a great job in providing an appropriate solution for timely completion of the temple work.
    Konarak was sacked by the Muslim Yavana army in the 15th century. The central statue enshrined in the temple was smuggled away to Puri by priests, but the Sun Temple was badly damaged in the attack.

    British archaeologists uncovered the lower parts of the temple that had remained well preserved beneath the sand and restored what they could of the rest of the ruins. Nature took over the destruction from there. Over the centuries, the sea receded, sand engulfed the building and salty breezes eroded the stone.

    It remained buried under a huge mound of sand until the early 20th century, when restoration began under the British. The nata-mandira exhibits a more balanced architectural design than that of other Orissan temples. The sanctum displays superb images of the Sun-god in the three projections which are treated as miniature shrines.

    Chariot of the Gods: The Legend of the Konark Sun Temple Revealed - History

    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 teh 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.)

    "Konarka" , the place bears a name composed of two World elements : Kona meaning corner and ARKA meaning the Sun.

    T he 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 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.

    Chariot of the Gods: The Legend of the Konark Sun Temple Revealed - History

    The Ultimate Source of Information on Indian Temples

    Konark Sun Temple

    Abodes of Surya
    Temples of Orissa

    Konark is one of the well known tourist attractions of Orissa. Konark, Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificient temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it. Bhubaneshwar, Konark and Puri constitute the Golden triangle of Orissa, visited in large numbers by pilgrims and tourists.

    Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name Konark is derived form the words Kona - Corner and Arka - Sun it is situated on the north eastern corner of Puri or the Chakrakshetra. Konark is also known as Arkakshetra.

    This temple built in 1278 CE by the Ganga King Narasimha Deva is one of the grandest temples of India and was referred to as the Black Pagoda. The ruins of this temple were excavated in late 19th century. The tower over the Garbagriha is missing, however the Jagmohana is intact, and even in this state, it is awe inspiring.

    Legend has it that Samba, the king of Krishna and Jambavati entered the bathing chamber of Krishna's wifes, and was cursed by Krishna with leprosy. It was decreed that he would be relieved of the curse by worshipping the sun God on the sea coast north east of Puri. Accordingly Samba reached Konaditya Kshetra and discovered an image of Surya seated on the lotus, worshipped him and was relieved of his curse.

    It is said that the temple was not completed as conceived because the foundation was not strong enough to bear the weight of the heavy dome. Local beleif has it that it was constructed in entirety, however its magnetic dome caused ships to crash near the seashore, and that the dome was removed and destroyed and that the image of the Sun God was taken to Puri.

    The Temple: The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. The entire temple has been conceived as a chariot of the sun god with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants. A flight of steps lead to the main entrance.

    The nata mandir in front of the Jagamohana is also intricately carved. Around the base of the temple, and up the walls and roof, are carvings in the erotic style. There are images of animals, foliage, men, warriors on horses and other interesting patterns. There are three images of the Sun God, positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.

    The Melakkadambur Shiva temple, built in the form of a chariot during the age of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120), is the earliest of this kind, and is still in a well preserved state. It is believed that this temple set the pace for the ratha (chariot) vimana temples in India, as a distant descendant of Kulottunga I on the female line, and thefamous Eastern Ganga ruler Narasimha Deva, built the Sun Temple at Konark in the form of a chariot in the 13th century. Kulottunga Chola is also credited with having built the Suryanaar temple near Kumbhakonam. Temples dedicated to the Sun are not a common feature in the Tamil speaking region of the Indian subcontinent.

    See Also:
    Orissa Temple History
    Sun Temples in India

    Dakshinaarka Temple at Gaya
    Sun Temple at Modhera
    Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao

    Melakkadambur Shiva Temple
    Daarasuram Airavateeswarar Temple

    The Wanderer

    I was most excited about visiting the Sun Temple at Konark during my tour of Orissa, and the fact that I had an Orian trip-mate (Snajeev Kumar Behera) made things only more interesting. Everywhere we traveled, there were stories that he narrated about the place. We would often discuss the architecture of the place and decipher meanings from the idols, carvings and style of construction. And some of the meanings deduced were rather radical. Perhaps I can discuss a few here, the rest I can leave to our secret pact!

    Konark happened almost in the middle of the trip. We were in the town for a couple of days and had an awesome time for the entire time. However, before I proceed further, there is a story to share and its the story of Konark. I invited Sanjeev to be a guest author to my blog and write this enchanting story that he narrated to me while we were there.

    "Konark Sun temple is not only interesting for its majestic structure but also for the stories that lives in the folklore for ages. One of the stories that describes the construction of the temple is the story of a 12 year old bright kid who sacrificed his life to save twelve thousand craftsman.

    Dharmapada grew up in a small nondescript village in Orissa in the 12th century. Right from his childhood he was interested in architecture and crafts and being the son of a great temple architect, Bisu Maharana, he had access to the manuscripts describing details of temple construction. By the time he turned 12, he had mastered the art of Odiya temple architecture.

    But he was always sad as he had never seen his illustrious father and his mother would not tell him much about him. On his 12th birthday, he asked his mother a gift, the chance to meet his father, which she could not refuse anymore.

    After a long journey a tired Dharmapada reached a deserted beach where the sight of a magnificent structure caught his attention. He knew immediately, this is the place where his father is building the biggest temple of the land dedicated to the Sun God. He rushed to the construction site and it did not take him long to spot his father. Behind the hugs and kisses Dharmapada could see something was troubling his father.

    The temple was the biggest ever built by the famed craftsman of Orissa. 12 thousand of the best from the land had labored for 12 long years to build the sun temple. It was the pinnacle of craftsmanship, architecture and details ever put together. But the temple was not complete yet. The final key stone or the ‘Kalasha’ was yet to be placed on the temple. And these craftsman had failed multiple times and no body knew how to top the Kalasha. The king, Narshinghdev, had announced the deadline till the morning, failing which all the twelve thousand craftsman would be killed. And being the chief architect of the project, Bisu Maharana was upset for being the failure which could kill so many people.

    Dharmapada asked his father to take him around the temple and show him the construction. As he reached the top of the temple, he remembered the manuscripts he had read about the temple construction. He knew he had the solution. He knew the design of the stone that would fit as the key stone and would hold the temple together. As he explained the design to his father, Bisu was pleasantly surprised. He was so proud to have a son as talented as Dharmapada.

    The father and the son, immediately went in to the workshop and in couple of hours the ‘Kalasha’ was ready to be installed. As they rolled the stone on the sand slopes to the top of the temple, the moon was shining in its full glory. By mid night the key stone was in place and the temple was complete. Bisu was happy for his son who had managed to save thousands of lives.

    As the euphoria of success subsided, Dharmapada heard a whisper among the people gathered around to see the completion of the temple. People feared the king would not be too kind to the failed craftsman as the Kalasha was completed by a 12 year kid and not by the craftsman themselves.

    Dharmapada never wanted glory, name or fame for his achievements. He was happy he could save so may lives by completing the temple for the God. He slowly made his way though the crowd to the top of the temple. In no time he was standing on the top of the Kalasha he had just erected . He looked at the horizon as the first rays of the sun started touching the temple, as if the Sun God was showering his blessings. With tears in his eyes, Dharmapada jumped off the temple-top into the deep blue waters of the sea.

    A young boy who achieved the ultimate glory for Odiya art , craft and architecture by completing the greatest temple ever built, sacrificed his life to save the life of others. After thousand years, the sun temple is ruined but Dharmapada still lives in the folklore and in the aspirations of every young craftsman of the region."

    We reached the town late in the evening and decided to see it the next morning. A good place to stay is the Pantha Nivas, which is located right opposite the main entrance to the temple. Its clean, comfortable and also within budget for most people.

    Of course, by the time night fell we were restless and decided to see the temple as soon as we can. It was already past visiting hours and so we had to actually sneak in to see the temple in its full night glory.

    I climbed down into the temple (there is a huge pit around the temple, the temple lies at a lower level) using the workers' staircase and it was rather scary. We were also apprehensive of being caught as idol smugglers, who have apparently already siphoned off quite a bit of Konark treasures. After spending an hour, during which I ran around more like a kid, with Sanjeev looking at me with mild apprehension, we came back and slept off. I was extremely happy with breaking the rules and gazing at the temple when there was just no one around.

    There can be two things that can be done in the morning - a visit to the beautiful Konark beach or a visit to the temple itself or perhaps even both. The beach is clean and beautiful and often used by the local fishermen as well as the tourists alike. In fact, its interesting to see them both co-exist in the same space. This also makes for some interesting photography subjects.

    Though we got a vehicle to go to the beach, we had to actually walk back a little before finding a motorised way back. The walk was, however,extremely pleasant, despite the warm summer morning.

    Some images from the beach and the light house we came across on the way back.

    The Sun Temple | Konark

    My mother wanted to offer her prayers at the famous temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri (Odisha). My dad arranged for our visit to Puri. We had one day at our disposal and we planned for a visit to Konark. I had visited this temple when I was a kid with my parents. I had a faint memory of this place. My father drove us in our car from Jamshedpur and we had a great time then.

    Konark temple is a place of admirable beauty, historical and cultural heritage and it deservingly finds a place in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Konark Sun Temple is about 35 kilometres from Puri.

    Dedicated to the Hindu god Surya, what remains of the temple complex has the appearance of a 100-foot (30 m) high chariot with immense wheels and horses, all carved from stone.

    Like every big monument even it has a story — the temple has raised up those lovely legends which are affiliated everywhere with absolute works of art: its construction caused the mobilisation of 1,200 workers for 12 years.

    According to the legend, it is said that mother of Narasimbadeva prayed to Surya dev (Lord Sun) and gave birth to him, so she asked Narasimha to built a temple for Surya dev at that spot. The King Narasimha ordered 1200 men to work day and night and complete the entire temple in 12 years or else they will be killed. So, they went on work staying away from home and without visiting their families. They had to face a lot of difficulties as in those times as the science and technology wasn’t so developed as it’s today.

    They had to make sculpture out of each piece of rocks without exception. The major biggest problem was to bring the stones from Udaygiri hill and Khandagiri (the twin hills) to the place of work. They used the wooden rafts for transport. Slowly but working constantly, they completed the building in 12 years. Just two days before the completion of 12 year period, they started facing a problem that how to place a huge magnet above the building to keep it all in balance since in those time there were no cementing materials and the stones they were fixed by clamps. So the magnet would help them be in attracted and more or less fixed and tight. But they engineer could not find a way to place on the top of the monument.

    The architect Bisu Moharana’s son came in search of his father and asked him for permission to help them to mount the magnet. Finding no other way, he gave the permission and by some means the 12-year old child did the impossible. Everyone praised him but soon the 1200 workers came into threat that if the king came to know that the temple was made with the help a 12-year old child then he might punish them. So the workers said about this to the architect and gave him two proposals either death of 1200 workers or one child. This was a very tough situation for the father. But the wise child heard everything and jumped into the Chandraprabha estuary where the the river and sea met from the top of the Konark temple and that made the whole temple unworthy of worship. When the king came to know about this he got so upset that he ordered that there will be no offerings and prayers in that temple.

    The temple is divided into 4 parts: in the front, a stage for dancing. next a yajna mandir, next the main mandir and lastly Chhaya devi’s mandir — Chaya Devi is Surya Dev’s wife.

    The literal meaning behind the word ‘Konark’ is kon meaning angle and ark meaning light or sun rays specially in this case. This is so because the temple was made in such a way of perfection that the face of Surya dev could always be sighted from sunrise to sunset. And this was the beauty of the temple is now lost due to our misfortune because of the removal of the magnet because the huge magnet was causing problem in the navigation systems of the sailors. The building started collapsing and thus now we can only find some remains and parts of the temple. The temple was made by keeping in mind the structure of a chariot specifically Surya’s chariot. It has 12 wheels with 8 spokes defining each prahar of 24 hours with dots showing minutes and seconds.

    There are three sculptures of Lord Surya. One facing the east called early sun, next middle sun and last setting sun, with sculptures of all the three ages.

    The temple is a real beauty of art perfectly blended with a sound knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. The sculptures have everything starting from the birth to the death. The Konark temple is a real heritage of art and culture.

    Watch the video: Konark Sun Temple - Detailed Documentary - Perfect Guide-Statues,Magnet, Sun Clock Dial-Hindi+Eng (June 2022).


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