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KONARAK: In all its resplendence sun 
By Hugh and Colleen Ganter

NO one is quite sure how old Konarak is, who founded it or why. But there are tales. Even in Bhubaneshwar, 65 km away, and in Puri, 35 km down the Marine Drive, history has turned into legend, evolved into myths, crystallised into crafts. If you should choose to take the road from Bhubaneshwar, pause briefly at the dazzling roadside hamlet of Pipli. Its craftsmen once specialised in making bright applique backdrops for the great idols of the temple of Puri: Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. Today, these sacred skills have been adapted to creating vivid bags, cushion covers, bedspreads, tablecloths and brilliant garden umbrellas.

After all that resplendence, Konarak might come as a bit of a disappointment, at first. The town, which was a major port in the First Century A.D., is insignificant today. Its famed temple sits low in a walled depression, snugly cosseted in folklore.

According to the ancient Bhavishya Purana, Samba, the handsome son of Lord Krishna, once made the mistake of slighting the mischievous sage Narada. In revenge, Narada tricked Samba into visiting a forbidden place where the ladies of the court were bathing. When Lord Krishna learnt of this, he cursed his son and the young prince was immediately stricken by a disfiguring skin disease. Samba pleaded his innocence, and proved it. His repentant father told him to bathe in the Chandrabhanga river . When Samba was cured, he built a temple in honour of Surya, the Sun God.

The Sun God has always been revered as the curer of skin diseases. When the Ganga King, Narasimhadeva I (1238-1264 A.D.) built his sun temple here, in Orissa, he also relocated the Samba legend in the city of Kon (the corner) Arka (of the sun).

Walk down the steps, set in the slope of the retaining walls, and you will encounter an architectural drama. The body of the ancient temple is concealed by the rise of a pillared building. In all likelihood, this was the Bhoga Mandip or Festive Hall.

Climb the steps of the Bhoga Mandip, very slowly, and let the temple reveal itself. It is magnificent but, nevertheless, it was only the entrance hall of the great temple. Behind it, soaring for 70 metres into the sky, was the tower protecting the sanctum. Sadly, that collapsed a century ago, leaving only its pillared platform. And to prevent the entrance hall from suffering the same fate, an English architect had it filled with sand which, possibly, was the wisest thing he could have done.

Walk around the remains of the Sun temple, admiring its intricate sculptures. The temple, now identified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, replicates the legendary Chariot of the Sun. Twelve enormous carved wheels appear to support the temple-chariot which is drawn by seven galloping horses. They represent the seven days of the week. The charioteer is the Sun God, himself, though the main idol once enshrined in the sanctum of the temple was removed to Puri after the temple began to crumble: it was built of that easily-eroded stone, khondalite. One reason for the abandoning of the temple could be that it was shunned by the local pundits. Surya was regarded as an alien god brought in from Iran along with his fire-worshipping priests, the Magi. A beautiful carving of Surya, still standing in the temple, shows him wearing knee- high boots, normally associated with equestrians. All other Hindu deities are barefoot.

Primarily, however, this temple was meant to glorify the life and times of a king and his court. The emphasis of the sculptures and carvings, therefore, is on luxury, valour, pomp and sensuousness. Keep this in mind when you walk around the temple. Let your imagination take wing to see and hear the musicians and the sounds of the royal hunt; the amorous whispers of the courtesans leaning languidly against pillars, or perfuming their bodies in the smoke of fragrant fires; hear the soft pad-pad of a lumbering elephant and the tong-tong of the bell around its neck; scent the aromas of rich viands simmering in a cooking pot, Konarak, then, was a burgeoning royal capital.

Even in the 16th Century, when the Mughal chronicler Abul Fazl wrote his Ain-i-Akbari, 28 temples stood here: six outside the entrance and 22 beyond its enclosing walls. Today, the ruins of only a handful remain. The site museum, however, has an impressive collection of sculptures found abandoned when the temples collapsed.

Traditions, though, are not as easily eroded as the stones of temples. Every year, when the moon waxes in the January-February month of Magha, a great fair is held around a small saline pool, three kilometres from the temple. The pool has been renamed the Chandrabhanga. Pilgrims bathe before dawn and wait for the red orb of the sun to rise out of the sea. Then they walk to the temple for their rich rituals of worship.

For a brief moment, then, life returns to Orissa's ancient temple of the Corner of the Sun.


When Sun raises itself over Bay of Bengal, it's first rays fall on a temple dedicated him-- Sun God. This temple is located along shoreline of Bay of Bengal. It is called Konark temple. Invariably this temple stands as a symbol of Orissa. The sun temple was built in 13th century. The architecture and sculpture of Konark temple spell out poetry in stone. This monument form the golden era of Orissan art is included in the world heritage list.

Konark temple was designed in shape of a huge Chariot. This was the chariot of Sun. According to Hindu mythology, Sun God commands a chariot pulled by seven horses while it transverses from East to West in during daytime. The artists involved in carving out this temple had this story in mind and they were successful in creating the desired structure. Today many sculptures are in bad shape and archaeological survey of India has done a lot to restore many of them. But still it becomes clear that this marvelous piece of architecture was in shape of a mammoth chariot with 24 wheels pulled by seven horses and commanded by Sun God. The wheels of chariot depict time, which accompanies sun while he travels in sky. Some say that 24 wheel are 24 hours of a day and the seven horses represent seven days of the week.

The whole temple has intricate and delicate carvings, which enthralls any visitor to this temple. The surrounding was also chosen to suit the grace and glory of structure. Lush green forest and a clean atmosphere with sea roaring not far from this place has a charm of its own. The sea is just two kms away from Konark but when temple was built the waves touched the foot of temple and worshipped the deity inside.

The walls of Black Pagoda, as European sailors called it, have murals depicting different aspects of life. The sculptors who carved out these motifs on the temple have done their work with incomparable charm. These depictions are an attraction for not only the connoisseurs of art but they fascinate common man too. Scenes of love war trade court transactions, hunting, catching of elephants, sages teaching, childbirth, amorous dalliances, dancers and mythical figures all show vivid moods and colors of life. Incomparable charm of these figures bring alive a picture of day to day activities in those days.

The temple is built on a 4-meter high platform. The main spire of the temple was 220 feet high but it collapsed and Jagmohana or the porch is filled with stones to prevent it from collapsing. It is 120 meter high. The morning, noon and evening sun are caught by three chlorite figures of Surya. Each of these figures faces three different directions. The main entrance of has two huge statues of lions crushing elephants. The dancing hall, which lies between main structure of the temple and the enter ance, has very intricately carved depictions. In fact the walls, ceilings, the base; every thing is filled with delicate carvings. This temple also has erotic carvings as done on the walls of Khajuraho temples. These carvings were probably done to show that from worldly pleasure one could attain salvation by coming to god. Or these carvings also show how peace can be obtained by renouncing the false pleasures. How could the artists forget planets when they were constructing temple for sun God? So they built a temple dedicated to the nine planets. This temple is located to the right of main entrance.

Konark is very near to Bhubaneshwar and Puri. From The state capital Bhubaneshwar it is just 65 Kms and Puri is just 35 kms from Konark. These two places also serve as transit points to Konark. Bhubaneshwar and Puri provide nearest railway links to Konark. The Bhubaneshwar airport is the nearest airstrip. Also these places reduce the accommodation problem in case of a major tourist inflow to the town of Sun temple.

Every year in November these temples come alive with classical dance performances by artists from all over India. Konark temples are venue for the Konark dance festivals. During this festival people from all over the world come here. They enjoy the classical dance performances by renowned dancers with Sun temple providing the back ground. This festival of dance is a major tourist attraction for the place.

Otherwise also when the sun goes down the horizon floodlights illuminate the Konark temple. The artificial lights enhance the beauty that engulfs the visitor during daytime. These lights reflect sun temple as mammoth structure as if there is no equivalent to it. And yes beauty and architecture of Black Pagoda in Konark is incomparable at least in this part of the world. It has created an image of its own on the world tourist map. The memories of Konark shall be etched in visitors' mind even years after his visit.

 Konark Dance Festival:

Dance was always an integral part of worship in Orissa. This is distinctly manifested as the presence of dancing halls is in practically all of Orissa's temples. Odissi, the traditional classical dance of Orissa owes its revitalisation to the discovery of the ancient treatise on dance, the 'Abhinaya Chandrika' and the study of ancient sculptures on the walls of temples by dedicated artistes. Thus, it is only fitting that the Konark Dance Festival, a mega celebration of classical dance forms in India, is held every year at one of India's most splendiferous venues, for an evening of dance, is the Amphitheater located at the backdrop of the fabulous Sun Temple at Konark.


The pleasure that we experience after reading the great literary text of great authors gives the same feeling that can be experienced after looking the world famous Konark temple at Konark (Orissa state), India. Konark  is famous for its majestic temple of the Sun God. The word KONARK bears a name composed of two word elements  - KONA means Corner and ARK meaning the Sun.

In this sun temple of Konark it appears like as if the architecture and his sculptors has written beautiful poems on stones in the smallest to smallest stone of the temple. Still the present silent ruins speak of their rich glorious past which we are all proud of.
Due to various human interventions and natural calamities with the passage of time, the main temple had suffered destruction turning into a ruin. Still whatever is left illustrates the fine architectural skill of the rich historic  past.
The Sun temple of the Konark  was made by King Narshimha Dev-I of Ganga dynasty in 1250 AD. The entire temple of Konark was conceived as a single piece of sculpture. It is said that in its construction process about 12,00 sculptors worked for 12 years. In this context it is also said that its highly skilled master architecture and sculptor Bishu Maharana when left his home for 12 years when his son Dharampara was too young.  When his son grew up and became a master in architectural mathematics, he came to meet his father at the site of construction. But there occurred an error in one of the element of construction without which it was not possible to build the crown of the temple. His son pointed out the error and gave solutions using his skills thereby letting the work go ahead. Legend says that at one instance his son Dharampara became happy for his success but at same time he felt guilty using his success behind the failure of his own father. This hurted his sentiments so much that he committed suicide after climbing the temple and jumping into the river Chandrabhaga flowing  in backyard of the temple in those times.
Architect Bisu had thought of design as an enormous replica of the Sun-God's cosmic chariot. Konark temple has three marvellous illustrations -  Rising Sun, Sun at its peak in afternoon, and the all days tired Sun. Expressions of love and  fights, victory and defeat, hunting and trading, soldiers on elephant top, dancer beating drum and many day to day human activities of those times, which those sculptors had inscripted on stones.

When this temple was in its construction phase, it was the "Golden Period" for the architectural splendors in Orissa. Today this temple complex is in ruins and all efforts are made for its restoration. It also figures its place in the World Heritage List of Monuments. Still when one looks at this architectural marvel one becomes speechless on looking and feeling the hidden marvellous skills of sculptors of that period.
These silent statues of the ancient  Indian civilization in Orissa, without saying the words speak for everything.  And for feeling and seeing these silent statues thousand of people visit  there every year.

The happiness after the victory chiselled in stones and the horses made of stone is in reality the unrivalled architectural marvel. The chariot of Sun comprising of 24 wheels and 7 horses turns the eye into fantasy as if the chariot of  Sun God will go on a voyage in the sky.  It is also said that the main temple, which is in ruins by the virtue of passage of time, was also the highest temple in India in those times rising to some 225 feet in height.  Unfortunately the architect's dreams were never realised and it collapsed before it could be completed. However present day's temple height rises to a height of 128 feet.

In each and every statue of the Konark there lies some hidden meaning. The chariot of 24 wheels and 7 horses symbolises 24 months of the Indian calendar and 7 days of the week. Each of the 24 wheels had 8 spokes which resembles the time period in 8 parts (paher in Hindi) of the day. However the real experience and charm of those unsung skilled sculptors can only be experienced in person and not by photographs alone. However the Sun temple is towards its own sunset and all kinds of efforts are made to save it from extinction. This temple was constructed on the soft soil which is also a factor towards its early description. If  the Konark temple was looked well after its construction, it would have surely been featured as another wonder like the Taj Mahal at Agra (Uttar Pradesh state).

However there are no two opinions that in Konark, 1200 sculptors' tireless labour is capable of filling with experience which elates one with happiness and joy. Anyone visiting there is filled with a magical sense of awe and wonder to experience the artistic and architectural genius and abilities those 1200 sculptors and craftsmen. Konark temple is not just a symbol of Orissa state but the entire Indian sub-continent.
I feel how poorer I would have been, had I missed the opportunity to see this majestic temple situated at a distance of 64 kilometers from Bhubneshwar, the capital city of Orissa.




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