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Konarak - Sun Temple


What :

The Konarak Sun Temple Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa).

The structures at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex are famous around the world. This is due to the magnificence of the temple’s design as well as the intricate detailing of the sculptures at the site. While the present day Konarak Sun Temple Complex is grand in its own right, one needs to understand that it comprises of only the remnants of a once massive temple, much of which was destroyed during the 17th century.

Many archeologists feel that the original Konarak Sun Temple at its zenith would easily have been a contender for the title of the “8th Wonder of the World”. The reason cited for this is that since the remnants of the sun temple at Konarak are so amazing, the original structure must have been an object of indescribable grandeur.

The Konarak Sun Temple was architecturally conceived as the cosmic chariot of the Hindu sun deity Suriya. The temple therefore was designed with its audience hall, primary shrines and dancing halls, all built on a common platform. The site of the temple was specifically chosen on the Orissan shoreline so as to facilitate the illumination of the shrine and its deities. This was done through an ingeniously calculated system relying on natural sunlight and its reflection on the sea.

The Sun Temple at Konarak was known as the Black Pagoda and is chronicled frequently as a famous way-point for sailors traversing the Indian Ocean at the time. However since then, the Orissan coastline has receded considerably and the Indian Ocean is now three kilometers away from the present day remnants at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex.

Today the principal structure that remains at the Sun Temple Complex at Konarak is the beautifully ornamented main audience chamber of the temple. Before its destruction during the 17th century, the audience hall was complemented by a spire that was 68 meters high and was set against the backdrop of the main prayer hall of the Sun Temple. Here a large presiding deity watched over the entire complex.

The temple was originally built as a coastal structure in the 13th century by King Narashimhadev I in honor of his victory over the Muslim sultanates of Northern India.

The main prayer hall was a 30 meter by 30 meter pillared structure with a symmetrical floor-plan that has earned the Konarak Sun Temple the reputation of a very balanced temple design. The prayer hall was designed in a way so that the rays of the sun at the earliest light would strike the sea and cast a reflection on the principal deity within the shrine.

To facilitate this process throughout the year, all pillars of the main prayer hall were built with a series of gaps precisely charted to the movement of the sun. This system ensured that the Sun’s movement would not have any impact on the natural light illuminating the main statue of Suriya in the Konarak Sun Temple.

The gigantic solar chariot in the sun temple’s design was dragged by seven rearing horses and had twelve pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels at the temple’s base. The horses in the Konarak Sun Temple’s design represented the seven days of the week while the twenty four wheels of the chariot that they dragged represent the twenty four hours of each day.

Each of the wheels is intricately carved and functions as a sun-dial of great accuracy. The entire chariot sat upon a carved lotus flower (Padma) in full bloom which is a traditional symbol of divine beauty and purity in India.

Beside the main temple sanctuary were three other mini-shrines in the original Konarak Sun Temple Complex. Each of these had a distinct chlorite image of Suriya that was placed to catch the rays of the sun precisely at sun-rise, noon and sunset. During the period of British colonial rule in India, these three mini deities were restored to the Konarak Sun Temple Complex in their original form as part of a major restoration exercise.

Throughout the entire Sun Temple complex there are intricate sculptures that highlight various details of life in the Kalinga period. These include minor activities such as people engaged in trading, cooking and hunting. Others depict a far more erotic theme and have aroused the interest of visitors from around the world.

The wealth of the sculptures at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex is in itself a sight to behold. Apart from the various humanoid sculptures and design motifs, there are over 2,000 carvings of elephants. These are further complemented by additional statues of horses and mythical lions, some standing in victorious poses over vanquished enemies.

The Konarak Sun Temple Complex was considerably ravaged in the late 17th century when the invading Mughals of North India finally managed to subdue this region. As a result, the presiding deity was removed from the grounds of the temple and the site witnessed widespread damage.

Today the Konarak Sun Temple Complex includes the audience hall of the temple and still has three beautiful chlorite images of Suriya in the mini shrines. The remnants of the blossoming lotus platform as well as some of the horses of Suriya’s carriage along with its wheels still survive as testament to the temple’s earlier grandeur.

The intricate carvings at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex both erotic and otherwise continue to attract the interest of tourists from around the world.

Around the remnants of the main sun temple shrine there are a host of other structures that complete your trip to the Konarak Sun Temple Complex. There is a small shrine called Mayadevi Mandir as well as ruins of an older brick temple and a deep covered well. At the north end of the sun temple complex is a pair of elephant statues and to the south a pair of horses both of which are trampling defeated enemy soldiers.

Other points of interest near the Konarak Sun Temple include the Konarak Archeological Museum which contains a large number of exhibits as well as impressive carvings that were unearthed during the excavations at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex.

When :

The Konarak Sun Temple Complex is open to visitors all year round from dawn to 8 p.m.

Many tourists take advantage of the pleasant weather between October and March, making it a popular time to visit the sun temple complex at Konarak.

In recent years, a traditional song and dance festival is organized in December of every year at the Konarak Sun Temple Complex. Titled the Konarak Festival, this has also become a favorite in the itinerary of a considerable number of tourists planning to visit the area.

For the photography enthusiast, the best time to photograph the Konarak Sun Temple complex is early in the morning when the light is at its softest and you can shoot some interesting cut light shots of the sun temple complex against the rising sun.

Where :

The Konarak Sun Temple complex is located in the Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa) and is often referred to as the “raison d’être of Odisha tourism”.

The nearest major city to the sun temple complex is Bhubaneshwar. Bhubaneshwar is the most convenient starting point of all major tours to the Konarak Sun Temple Complex as it is connected to most parts of India and some international destinations as well through the city’s Biju Patnaik Airport.

As Konarak itself has limited lodging facilities, most tourists visit the Sun Temple complex as part of a day trip and return to Bhubneshwar where hoteling facilities are better in line with international standards.

Who :

The Konarak Sun Temple Complex would interest any visitor due to the richness of its design, glorious history and intricate sculptures.

The Sun Temple Complex would hold particular interest for enthusiasts of history, architecture, spirituality as well as culture and philosophy.

Appropriate Attire :

The Konarak Sun Temple is a religious site therefore one needs to dress appropriately for the visit. Arms, shoulders and legs for female and male visitors need to be covered when visiting the Sun Temple Complex at Konarak.

Sights in Bhubaneswar :

Guest Reviews :

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  Tom and Sylvia Mullen
February 2013
India is truly incredible!!! We have traveled all over the world and nothing can compare to the experience we had in India. Traditional and modern Delhi; Agra and the enchanting Taj Mahal; Jaipur and the elephant ride to the amazing Amber Fort; and Varanasi with the boat ride on the Ganges watching the beautiful sacred ceremonies were unforgettable. Our guides and drivers were outstanding. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable, answered all of our questions and filled our minds with so much information that we learned more than we ever could imagine. Our drivers were so fantastic at maneuvering the traffic that we really enjoyed just driving around and observing all the daily activities in the lives of the Indian people. Our host in Delhi that greeted us at the airport and took us back at the end of our trip made us feel that that we were some VIPS. Our Guest Relations phone calls throughout our trip were thoughtful and considerate and very much appreciated. And of course, our India Specialist in Austin was extremely helpful in organizing our trip and giving us advice as to what to expect, etc. Our only regret is that we weren't able to visit more places, but then, we will have to return in the future for another incredible experience in India! Thank you Easy Tours for making our trip so special!! REFERENCE AVAILABLE.  INDEPENDENT TRAVEL
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  Patricia Werhahn – Three Family Members
February 2013
My entire family truly enjoyed our trip to India and Easy Tour definitely made it amazing. We really appreciated the fact that everything was on time and very efficiently organized. We enjoyed all the sites! We definitely would recommend Easy Tour to anyone looking to travel on a private tour in India and if we travel there again, we will use Easy Tour again. Oh and we must have had the best driver in India for the portion of Delhi to Udaipor. He was just amazing! All our guides were excellent except for the one in Jodhpur. All the other guides always very enthusiastic. REFERENCE AVAILABLE.  INDEPENDENT TRAVEL
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