Thursday, 18 July 2013

Magnificent Sun Temples of Konark & Modhera

[Disclaimer: The description, facts i'm mentioning here are largely as told by the local guide of Modhera Sun Temple. He was well informed and very narrative. Thanks to him. Other details are from wikipedia and other internet sources.]

There were 12 Sun Temples in grand olden days of Hindustan. Its well known fact that the Arab invaders like Muhammad Ghori, Muhammad Ghazni killed many, demolished, looted again and again all over the country, mainly the rich & prosperous, the symbol of faith and the place of worship, The Temples. It included these places where Surya bhagwan was worshiped. (Surprised by the mention "was" ?!! Sadly, Yes..!! As we are aware, once the main idol is destroyed, they are no longer worshiped by Hindus). Its said that only 4 are remaining nowadays: 1) Konark Sun temple, Odisha. 2) Modhera Sun temple, Gujarat. 3) Martand Sun temple, Jammu & Kashmir. 4) Multan Sun temple, Pakistan. (All are linked to their respective wikipedia pages. Besides these, there are many sun temples built on later days which i'm not considering here). With regards to Multan sun temple, when I googled, came to know that now it's in total ruins :( Thus remaining 3 Sun temples in India are now maintained with some restoration by the Archaeological Survey of India as heritage sites. A common legend to all these temples is that they were built by Samba, the son of lord Krishna, to get relief from leprosy, which means around the times of 3000 B.C. !! But the present existing temples are built by the kings of various dynasty. 

In March 2010, I along with my friends, when we traveled Bhubaneshwar on the purpose of training from our newly joined company, had the opportunity of visiting Konark's famous Sun temple. And as of Modhera it was in June 2013 along with Karthik and Akshay during 3 days visit to Ahmedabad and surrounding places. I'm not sure whether I will visit Martand of J&K, but having seen the other 2, the Konark and Modhera let me tell something about them. Surprisingly many things come in common when we discuss these 2 great sun temples. And as there are already many facts descriptions in the internet regarding the both, avoiding much details I will go through both of them together.

Front View of Konark Sun Temple
Konark Sun temple was built on 13th century by King Narasimhadeva I (1238-1250 CE) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty (It is said to have took 12 years to build completely). Around 65km from the capital city of Orissa state, Bhubaneshwar, the small town Konark exists where we find this magnificent temple. While Modhera was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty (It is said to have took 36 years to build completely). Its situated at 95kms from Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, in Mehsana district. So former in the east and the latter in the west side of our country. And its evident that Konark is much bigger with more elegant sculptures than Modhera, but latter is in better condition now. Yet, both simply make us awe by the sight of the whole structure with their own art and architectural marvels !!

Konark's entire complex was designed in the form of the Surya Bhagwan's huge chariot drawn by seven spirited horses on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels at its base. The huge wheels carved at the base of the temple are one of the major attractions. The spokes of the wheels serve as sundials and the shadows cast by these can give the precise time of the day !! But as said earlier most of them are in bad shape because of the attack by the Muslim rulers.

The Main Sanctum of Konark
Modhera's temple still has a beautiful large rectangular stepped lake in front, which has 108 miniature shrines carved around them. Its called Suryakund or Ramakund. It is said that 49% of the temple was destroyed but restoration were carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve its beauty. During the restoration they realized that the temple is built without any foundation stone and yet was intact withstanding the natural calamities like earthquake !! Reason??!! These huge stone blocks used for the construction were placed one above the other with sesame wooden logs inserting through the holes drilled on those stones were acting as a lock and key system. Thus even though, the whole block may shake a bit during the earthquake,  doesn't fall apart !! Also the other most interesting part here is, this particular temple lies in the area where the Tropic of Cancer passes through !!! Amazing right?!!

Carvings at the Modhera Sun Temple
Temples in India were always a place of education. In those days temples were carved for not just to enhance the beauty of the temple structure but also to educate the people visiting them. Both Sun temples are built using sand stones and significantly have stone carvings telling everything. For the children its statues of animals & birds; stories from epics Mahabharat & Ramayan; ladies can learn lifestyle lessons of hair styling, dressing, dance steps; adults can have sex education with different sex forms and positions.. etc. Do you know that Modhera Temple's assembly hall has 52 pillars (yes !! indicating 52 weeks of the year) with 365 ladies carved in different hair styles .. (That's like every day of the year to have different styles) !! And regarding kamasutra's erotic sculptures, they are thoughtfully done above 5ft from the ground so that it can be barred from children's sight.. :)

Now let me tell the legendary part of these two temples.. It is said that the main Surya Bhagwan idols in both temples had a diamond placed in such a way that, Konark in the eastern part and Modhera in the western part of India gets their morning sun rays, directly passing through Audience/Assembly Hall which will reflect from those diamonds placed at the idols in the main sanctum !! (Exactly to say, this phenomenon seems to happen on 2 days of the year - 21st March & 22nd September, days of Equinox, when sun rises precisely at the East ie., the sun rays passes exact along the line of Tropic of Cancer !!). One more popular belief of the local guides at Konark is that the main pratima (idol) was believed to be floating in the air because of the unique arrangements of the main magnets and other series of magnets from all the sides inside the main sanctum !!!! Hmm.. anyhow we just have to imagine this mind blowing scenarios by ourselves now.. forget the diamonds or magnets, not even main idols are spared by the ruthless barbarians (it's said magnets are robbed by Portuguese) :( 

Take a look at some snaps below to feel better and wonder at those marvels :)

The famous symbolic chariot wheel at the Konark's Main Sanctum
The full view of the Modhera Temple Complex with the pond on front side
The beautiful stepped pond (Suryakund) at the front of Modhera Sun Temple
A view through the Assembly Hall of Modhera Sun Temple

Main Sanctum of Modhera Sun Temple
Two standing alone pillars at north-east of the Modhera Sun Temple (Pls ignore the idiots at the pillar :-P)

|| om namo bhagavate suryaya namah ||


  1. Step well in front of Modhera sun temple is a fascinating sight indeed. One takes in a deep breath looking at it for the first time. Truly incredible!!!

  2. You guys are ultimate :) well done.

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful post. You have described very nicely. It is thought to be one of the best constructed devotional places in western India. Though, it no longer serves any religious purpose, it attracts a huge number of tourists. Presently it is under the supervision of the Archaeology Survey of India. Check out more details about Modhera Sun Temple also.