Where the Language of Stone defeats the Language of man
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Odishan temple architecture, and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world.Built by the King Narasimhadeva in the thirteenth century, the entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period .
Konark is one of the well known tourist attractions of Odisha. Konark, Konark houses a colossal temple dedicated to the Sun God. Even in its ruined state it is a magnificent temple reflecting the genius of the architects that envisioned and built it.
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 Krishnas 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 belief 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 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 the famous 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.
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 Navagruha temple is a huge stone containing nine planetary gods. The architectural use of Navagraha is according to the medieval convention a kind of prophylactic measure for the safety of the temple and can be seen almost in every temples in Odisha. The Sun temple also has a huge Navagraha slab richly ornamented, placed over the front door of the Mukhasala (Jagamohan), at a height of about 18 feet. This huge stone made up of Chlorite had 19.10 (6.045 m) length, 4.9 (1.45 m) breadth and 3.9 (1.43 m) height. Originally it weighted 26.27 tons.
In carving out the images their attributes are not correctly attended to. They are made mostly alike in form, except a few in the group. Most of them are holding rosary and Kamandalu in their hands, wearing high pointed crowns and sitting on lotuses, whereas the descriptions in the Puranas symbolize as follows :-
- Surya (Sun) stands on vehicle of seven horses and holds two lotuses in his both hands.
- Chandra (Moon) rides in a swan and carries discs of moon in his left and right hands.
- Mangala (Mars) being the warlords, holds a Kattara (Cutter) in his right hand and in the left, several human heads, in the act of devouring. His vehicle is a goat.
- Budha (Mercury) sits on a lotus and he is to hold in his two hands the bow and arrow.
- Vrihaspati (Jupitor) being the high priest of Devatas (god), has a flowing beard and holds a rosary and Kamandalu in his two hands, but he has to be seated either on a frog or on a skull, instead of lotus.
- Sukra (Venus) is said to be the priest of the Ashuras (demons). Excepting the blindness of one eye, his iron is more or less correctly shown.
- Sani (Saturn) rides on a tortoise and holds a rod in his hand, instead of sitting on a lotus.
- Rahu (Ascending god) has only the upper half of the body. Two of his canine teeth are projecting from the upper jaw, to represent him as a monster and a fierce aspect of the sun and the moon. He is found holding the sun in one hand and the moon on the other hand.
- Ketu (Descending God) is the last one in the group. His upper part is similar to others, but the lower is formed of the body of a serpent coiling round. He is to hold the noose of the snake of one hand and with the other, a sword.
However the cruel hands of time did not permit the slab to remain in its original position for long. Towards the end of the 19th century the Government of Bengal at the instance of the Bengal Asiatic Society, opening a Tram line up to the sea beach tried to take the Navagrah slab to Calucutta. But no sooner they took it hardly 200 feet ( 60m ) all the sanctioned money was exhausted. Again after some years they tried to take it. To facilitate the removal the slab was longitudinally cut into two pieces. But its heaviness even after cutting and the sandy track all around saved it from being taken away. It was subsequently left at distance of about two furlongs from the temple site, where it was lying for more than sixty years. Very recently the Government of India arranged for its installation in a separated shed, close to the temple compound. Now the bigger part of the Navagraha slab lies in the south-eastern corner outside the compound.
On each and every Sankrati and Saturday many people gather at Konark to worship the Navagraha to offer Bhoga and perform Homa.