1200 master craftsmen and 12 long years of dedication built a masterpiece that is has gone down in the annals of time. The Konark Sun Temple is one of the most magnificent architectural wonders built during the middle of the 13th century under the patronage of King Narasimha Deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. Situated at Odisha, Konark is a quaint town on the east coast of Bay of Bengal. This time, while we did the Diamond Triangle of Odisha, we visited Konark and Puri as well.
Architecture of the Konark Sun Temple:
This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been built in the form of a majestic and colossal chariot that is about to make its first flight. The King was the worshipper of the Sun god, and so the temple was made in the praise of the Sun God. The chariot was made in such a way that the Sun God himself was perceived to drive the chariot, he being seated inside the “Garbagriha” or the inner sanctum. The chariot is drawn by seven horses and twenty four wheels. Each horse denotes a day of the week and each wheel depicted the hours of the day.
The temple was made of three types of stones. The stones were mainly black in colour. The Konark Temple, when built, served as a beacon to the ships in the Bay of Bengal. The sailors could see the temple from the sea and they called the temple as Black Pagoda.
Just like any other ancient temples, the Konark Sun Temple also has are exquisite and interesting carvings all over the temple. Our guide explained to us in details about the carvings. Out of the seven horses, three were on the left and four on the right side of the temple. It is because of the unequal number of horses on either side, the chariot moves faster on one side; the chariot is supposed to move in the circular direction, just as the sun moves.
As we started moving around the temple doing the parikrama in the direction of the Sun itself, we saw the various carvings and sculptures. The carvings are of intricate designs are rich motifs. We came across the idol of the Sun God.
We so very much wanted to go inside the main temple to see the main idol. The Sun God idol is said to be floating mid-air inside the main sanctum. How? Well, it was the said to be the trick of magnets and metals. Infact, there are stories that go on to say that many ships that sailed the Bay of Bengal when came near the Konark Temple were destroyed due to the pull of the magnet. We seriously do not know the veracity of this story, but we sincerely hope that this is just a figment of the imagination. It would be really sad to know that such a magnificent piece of art was also so destructive.
Nevertheless, the main door of the temple is sealed since long. I think, the magnet too, is removed and the deities placed elsewhere! The temple would simply crumble down to earth if the doors are not sealed. This is what our guide told us. In our mind, we refused to believe so. It is actually the nonchalant attitude of our countrymen that often leads to the gradual ruin of these historical architectures.
Legend and fables behind the Konark Sun Temple – Story of Dharmapada:
Myths and legends go hand in hand with all the ancient monuments of the country. You will definitely find interesting stories and folklores behind all these great architectures. Konark Sun Temple is also not an exception. But the legend here is a little unnerving. It tells the tale of a bright 12-year-old boy who sacrificed his life to save the lives of 1200 craftsmen.
The King Narasimhadeva wanted to build a grand temple dedicated to the Sun God adjacent to the sea (Well, the sea ran very near to the temple during those days. Later, geographical upheavals have resulted in receding of the sea).
The master architect Bisu Maharana was assigned the task of building the grand temple. It was when Bisu Maharana was given this prestigious work of building the temple, his son Dharmapada was born.
Dharmapada was a bright child. Being the son of the great architect, he was naturally drawn to art, craft and architecture. He gained a lot of knowledge of temple architecture by reading the manuscripts of his father. But he only had one regret. He had heard about his father but had never met him. His father was out of home to build the temple for the king. So, on his 12th birthday, he asked his mother to take him to meet his father which the lady could not refuse anymore.
So Dharmapada came to the place where the temple was built. The sight of the magnificent structure awed him as much as he was happy to meet his father for the first time.
In the meanwhile, the great temple was still far from completion. As many as 1200 men artisans were toiling day and night, but the great temple dedicated to the Sun God was not yet complete. There was only one hurdle that the artisans faced. They were unable to put the Kalasa or the cupping stone on the top of the temple. 12 years had already passed and the King now had demanded the completion of the temple. The King had announced a deadline of the next day morning, failing which all the craftsmen would be killed. Bisu Maharana, as well as all his workers, were quite upset and troubled.
Dharmapada could sense Bisu Maharana’s disquiet behind the happiness of seeing his son after 12 years. When Dharmapada came to know about the problem, he asked his father to take him to the top of the temple. He remembered all that he had read in the books and manuscripts about temple architecture. He had finally found a solution to the problem. Bisu Maharana was elated to know the solution. He was so proud of his son.
Both of them went down to work to construct the Kalasa. And with the breaking dawn, they had put the Kalasa up on the temple. They were happy that they could save so many lives. But soon the talented boy heard whisper among the people. All they said that the king would not be happy to know that a 12-year-old completed the temple. This saddened the boy whose heart was as pure as the temple. He slowly went up the temple and as the sun rose, he jumped off the temple top from the Kalasa he had just erected. Dharmapada sacrificed his life to save the life of others. The brilliance and sacrifice of the boy are still found in the legends of Konark and Odisha.
Erotica and the Konark Sun Temple:
The highly erotic sculptures of the temple are quite famous for. Interestingly, the erotic structures are carved at the eye level in the middle section. There are many candid sculptures of amorous union while some were a bit difficult to interpret. There are even some that could be quite controversial now.
Homosexuality, lesbian love and even images between animals and human beings are carved out on the stones of the temple. It can be understood that society then was much liberal and considered sex to be a natural process; not like today when a certain section of the population could not decide between myth and reality!
After our visit to the Konark Temple, we visited the Chandrabhaga Beach, another very beautiful seashore. We loved our visit to Konark. But, ravages of time and the gusty sea winds have taken a toll on the temple. But whatever remains today reminds of the grand and majestic bygone era.
Konark Dance Festival:
The heritage of Konark is alive in another form too – the Odissi Dance. You can even see the manifestations of nuances of Odissi dance forms on contours of the stones. Konark temple sculptures thus depict the dance forms. Someone very correctly said that it is one of the places where performing art meets architecture. And this is accomplished in the Konark Dance Festival held every year from 1st to 5th December in the amphitheatre at the backdrop of the Konark Temple.
How to reach the Konark Sun Temple?
Konark is only 65 km from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha and 35 km from Puri. From Bhubaneswar, you can take a cab or bus to Konark. You can make a day trip to Konark. But we would advise you to stay overnight. Bhubaneswar is well connected by flights and trains from all the major cities of India.
Places to stay at Konark:
There are various options to stay at Konark catering to all types of budget. You can stay at the OTDC Yatrinivas.