Psst.. long post ahead!! 🙂
After spending the afternoon exploring Bhubaneshwar, I decided to head out and explore Konark and Puri.. Over the years, and through my travels I have come to understand that every ancient temple and structure hides within the walls tonnes of stories and legends, apart from the fascinating architecture.
A part of the Golden Triangle, along with Bhubaneshwar and Puri, Konark has been on my mind for a while now. The temple hosts a dance festival every year, apart from welcoming the huge number of people that come to visit this magnificient place day after day.
Built in the 13th Century by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, the temple is said to resemble a gigantic chariot flanked by 24 chariot wheels and 7 horses, dedicated to the Sun/Surya God, hence the name “Sun Temple”. It took 12 years and 1200 artisans for this most famous masterpiece of traditional Odisha Architecture.
As I walked through the gates after picking up entry tickets at the booth near the main entrance, through the walkway filled with shops selling local art and craft pieces, it was the front view of the temple that had my attention, the dance hall and the main temple behind it. The only other temple that had me this amazed was the Gangaikonda Chozhapuram temple in the South.
What remains of the temple complex is a 100-foot (30 m) high chariot with the beautiful crafted wheels and horses, all of which have been carved from stone. What was once 200 feet high, today most of it is in ruins, the main tower included. Even though most of the structure has withstood test of time, there is enough to show us how much effort went into putting it all together. The wheels, the horses, the staircases, the tower, the deities and well, the list is endless. Among the scultpures around the main structure are quite a few different themes- animals, people using home appliances and there are a few surprises in the form of erotic kama and mithuna scenes as well.
The temple was actually built very close to the sea shore, but over the years the shoreline has receded by about 3-5kms. The first thing you spot is the Natya Mandir (dance hall), where dancers would pay homage to the Sun God with their performances, the structure is surrounded by mini sculptures of about 120+ different forms of dance found in the country. the Hall has no roof, and stands bare.. . Moving on towards the main temple, near the foot of the steps, you will see the gigantic structure of a lion standing on top of an elephant beneath whom lies a man.. According to the Hindu mythology, the lions resemble pride, elephants = wealth and both of them crush the human. What is fascinating is that the entire structure is made out of a single piece of stone.
I also learnt that the upper levels and terrace area of the temple featured bigger and much more significant art-works than the lower level [which were no less fascinating]. Some of the images on these were that of artisans, musicians, labourers and mythological creatives and stories apart from a few Hindu deities as well.
As you walk around the main temple complex, three tall structures still stand- not sure if these are Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva but they are majestic and some are Green in colour, maybe made of Jade?
- There are 24 Wheels in all [12 pairs]..
- Each wheel has 8 spokes [which denotes 24hours divided into eight sections of three hours each]
- Within the wheel, at the bottom are round beads which denote 3 minutes for each.
- The art work on each of the wheel is different.. Some have life cycle of a woman through the day, some just have interesting sculptures..
- You can tell the exact time by watching where the sun rays fall on the wheel.. down to the very minute!
- There is one theory that these 12 pairs of wheels could be to represent the 12 zodiac signs.
[Image Source: http://www.thekonark.in/konarkwheel.html]
- There are seven horses around the temple, they are known to pull the temple eastwards towards the dawn.
- Each horse represented a day of the week..
It took a while for the entire information and beauty of it all to sink in, and then I began wandering around the temple, to explore the various other elements in the complex. There are so many stories attached to this temple, it is mind boggling. Some that I came across are,
- The temple was never used as a place of prayer, because the main deity was removed/stolen/taken away…
- The town which was once a major port lost all business and succumbed to several pirate attacks.
- It is said that the huge ball – lodestone that was mounted right on top was used as a navigational aid by ships. But then the magnetic powers also led to shipwrecks and some of the European ships losing their way. Therefore the British are known to have removed this stone.
- The temple then got a name “Black Pagoda” because it looked black and was towering like a pagoda from afar.
- Was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site back in 1984
- The main sanctum is empty today, it must have housed the Sun God and his consort back in the day, but nobody really knows what happened..
- Some say the temple was never completed, while others beg to differ with various stories of attacks and assaults.
Along the gardens surrounding the temple, you will see few other shrines in ruins, and sculptures that have broken off from the main temple and kept for display, like the war elephants or the horses. There was scaffolding on almost all sides of the temple, showing us how much of damage it had withstood over time…
As the sun beat down, so did my energy levels and I knew it was time to seek shade and cool off before exploring some more… Off i went in search of water/something to cool off, while my mind continued to wander amidst the temple complex, curious about the stories and puzzles.