Konark Sun Temple, also known as the ‘Sun Temple’ and the ‘Black Pagoda’ in contrast to Puri’s whitewashed Jagannath Temple, is a 13th century temple located in Konark, Odisha. The temple is believed to have been constructed around 1250 AD by King Narasimha deva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple’s architecture resembles that of a giant chariot adorned with complimenting pillar, stone wheels, and walls. The temple was established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is among one of the most significant edifices. The Sun temple is listed as one among the NDTV’s list of Seven Wonders of India and Times of India’s list of Seven Wonders of India, although sadly, most of the architecture is now in ruins.
It is believed that the name Konark is derived from two Sanskrit words Kona meaning corner and Arka meaning the Sun as the temple was a dedication to Surya, the Sun God.
Originally, the temple was located near the coastline of river Chandrabhaga, however, the waterline has receded since then. The temple depicts the traditional style of Kalinga architecture. It houses 12 pairs of stone carved wheels which are as elaborate as they are intriguing. These wheels re pulled by seven horses – four on the left and three on the right. The temple is made out of Khondalite rocks. The original temple also boasted a 70 metre tall spire which collapsed around 1837. Although there are many speculations regarding the same from Mughals removing the copper over the cupola to wear and tear due to cyclones, it is largely said and believed that the fall was due to the weight of the spire and the weak soil which couldn’t stand it.
The main entrance known as the gajasimha is watched over by two stone lions crushing elephants. The entrance further leads to the dancing hall known as the nritya mandapa. From here, you can take the steps which are flanked by horses to reach the audience hall known as the jagamohan. The audience hall is considered the primary structure among all which are still standing. Another structure which still stands is the dining hall, also known as the bhoga mandapa.
The walls and the base of the Sun temple represents carvings and paintings depicting the daily life (hunting, cooking, eating) of Kalinga during the pre-historic periods. Konark is also famous for its rather erotic drawings and carvings which displays couples indulged in romantic endeavors. Some of these erotic sculptures also depict the solitary exhibitionists or the Maithunas.
The ruins of two smaller temples have been cited nearby. One of them is known as the Mayadevi Temple and is presumed to have been dedicated to Mayadevi, one of the Sun god’s consorts. Interestingly, the Mayadevi temple has been dated to the late 11th century, earlier than the main temple.The second temple belongs to an unknown Vaishnava deity. Sculptures of Balarama, Varaha and Trivikrama have been found at the temple which indicated the possibility of it being a Vaishnavite temple. Both temples have their primary idols missing.
To see a collection of fallen sculptures, visit the Konark Archaeological Museum which is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.
If there is one place where you will definitely benefit from a guide, it is hire! The history and architecture of the temple is as breath-taking as it is complicated. However, make sure that you only hire a registered guide. Check the board at the entrance to Konark to see a list of the registered guides.
The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar which is approximately 64 km and is linked with other major cities of the country such as New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore.
The nearest rail heads to Konark are located in Puri and Bhubaneshwar. These two stations in turn are linked all the major railway stations in the country.
The State Highways and the National Highways link Konark with Puri and Bhubaneshwar, forming an imaginary triangle, known as the Golden triangle of East. These three towns are well-connected to each other through buses.
You can also hire a taxi to travel between Konark and Puri which anyway is considered the best way to travel between the two towns.