India is full of architectural wonders and my hunger to explore more about these wonders took me this time to Konark temple, a marvelous construction. Easily reachable from Puri and Bhuvaneshwar, the Konark or sun temple is a must visit place due to its history and architectural wonder. On my trip to golden triangle of Orissa I visited Konark temple, it took around 3 hours by local bus to take to Konark temple from Bhuvaneshwar and 1 hour to reach Puri when we return back from Konark. The temple offers a magnificent view and will take you to the ancient era.
Meaning of Konark
Basically, Konark is a Sanskrit word where Kona means “corner – geometrical angle” and “ark” means Surya. The temple is the third link of Orissa Golden Triangle. First is Jagannath Puri and second is Bhubaneshwar (Lingaraja temple). The temple construction is done as a giant chariot of Lord Surya with 24 wheels, which are around 3 meters, and seven horses pulling the chariot. The seven-horse represents seven days of a week, seven colors of the rainbow.
The reason behind the construction of the temple
It is believed that Sambha, Son of Lord Krishna, was cursed and had a skin problem, therefore he performed severe penance for around 12 years at Mitravana, near the confluence of the sea at Konark and the Chandra Bhaga river and get healed of his skin disease. As per scientist, it was due to the combination of the salty water of the sea, the presence of neem tree pure air, and the early morning sun rays providing vitamin D. Sambha found an image of Lord Surya while bathing in Chandrabhaga river and installed it in a temple he built in Mitravana since then place is considered sacred. This is the place where now Konark temple stands.
The temple was built by 1200 artisans and non-countable labors in 12 years and 40 crore gold coin was spent in the construction of the temple in the 13th century. The stone used in the temple are mixed with iron which is getting rusted due to the salty wind of sea. Since the cement was not available iron nails were used to join the stones. In the 18th century, a cyclone came and the temple was submerged in sand, later Britishers excavated it and filled the inner sanctum with sand to prevent temple from getting collapse.
Importance of structure at the entry point
As soon as you enter the Konark temple you will see an elephant with lion crushing it, this kind of structure you will find in various Orissa temple. Here lion represents “power” and elephant represents “money”, there is saying that more power and more money makes a man greedy. Thus before entering to temple leave your greed aside, the structure also tells about the basic things which consume the whole life of a man.
Mandapa (Assembly hall)
The other part of the temple, the assembly hall and Garbhgriha has various sculptors representing different phases of life such as marriage, sexual life, different god and goddess and their stories i.e, Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva as Nataraja and many more. One of the sculpture show pigeon as a lovebird, other represent Africans, Chinese (since there was port nearby so traders from different countries used to come thus our artisan represented them in their art).
It is believed that after Kalinga war was fought there was a sharp decline in the population thus the sexual poses were created outside the temple to increase the sexual desire of devotees. By noticing the sculptors you can clearly analyze that our society was much open-minded during an old era than it is now.
Wheels representing time
The wheels of the temple are its main attraction as they represent time as the sun rays fall(working as a sundial). The extensively decorated wheel attract everyone towards themselves, moreover, the axle and peripheries of each wheel have different design or art in between them. Wheels are 9 feet 9 inches in diameter, each one having 8 wider spokes and 8 thinner spokes. The wider spokes are carved with circular medallions at their center. There are 12 wheels in the Konark temple and it is believed that 12 pairs of wheel represent 12 months of a year and 24 wheel means 24 hours of a day. Whether some says that 12 wheels might be representing 12 zodiac sign. Other legends say that wheels of the chariot are ‘wheel of life’. The distance between two wider spoke of the wheel represents 3 hours and thinner spoke represents 1.5 hours. There are 30 small beads between one wider and next thinner spoke, each bead represents 3 minutes. New 10 Rupee note has wheel of konark temple on it.
Lost Sea Shore
The temple was initially built on a sea bank but now sea has descended around 2 km away from the temple, similar is the case with puri Jagganath temple. Being on the seashore the temple was famous among traders and was also used a navigational landmark during ancient times. It was known as “Black Pagoda” during that ancient era by European sailors due its color and its magnetic power which drew ship towards the temple causing the shipwreck.
Magnetic effect and how it gets destroyed
Konark temple is also well known for its magnetic effect, a heavy magnet was placed at the top of the temple which holds the structure, the magnet was so powerful that it disrupts the compass of ships. This attracts Portuguese towards Konark temple and they removed the magnet and destroyed it to prevent their ship from being wrecked, causing the whole temple structure to collapse. There is also another saying that the structure collapsed due to the earthquake. Nowadays the entry in grabhgriha is prohibited and the inner sanctum is filled with sand for preventing further construction from being destroyed.
Shopping nearby Konark
There are several shops outside Konark temple from where you can buy the things created out of coconut foil and shells. Also, the cashew is quite cheap in Orissa, they can be added to must purchase list.
Tips for visiting Konark temple
- Go during day time so that you can see how a sundial works.
- Better do a guide, they are available at a reasonable price and they will explain you better about most of the various sculpture and about the working of the wheel.
- Cabs to Konark temple are costly so better take some bus. Last local buses are available until 7:00 p.m. for puri so take care of your timings.