Konark Temple

Konark Temple

Konark Temple, a World Heritage site as recognised by UNESCO is considered a jewel in the crown of Indian architecture and is the finest example of temple architecture in Orissa. Konark is a Sanskrit term, formed with the combination of “kon” which means “angle” and “Ark” which means “the sun”. Situated on the banks of Bay of Bengal, the temple is dedicated to Sun god “Surya” symbolising warmth, energy and illumination. Konark Temple is in the shape of the gigantic chariot in which the Sun God rides across the heaven. The temple is also believed to be a healer of diseases and bestower of wishes.

Konark Temple was referred to as “Black Pagoda” by European travellers sailing the shores of the Arabian sea. It was so called may be because of its dark colour due to continuous plastering and subsequent blackening of the surface over many centuries as mentioned by S.P Gupta in his book “Temples in India”. It may also be that some European scholars believed that the exceptionally frank eroticism of many of the Konark sculptures has given it the name “Black Pagoda”.

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Konark town that developed around this temple is in Puri District of Orissa not far from Bhuvaneshwar. Puri and Bhubaneshwar are the two major tourist destinations in Orissa.

Konark Temple_2

Konark Temple History

  • Built in 13th CE by king Narsimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty, Konark Temples history is concealed in myths and legends that give us reasons for the construction and destruction of the temple.
  • It is believed that Narsimdeva wanted to build this temple to commemorate his victory over Tughan Khan, a governor of Bengal appointed by Nasiruddin Mahmud ( A Delhi sultan) in the year 1243 AD.
  • According to an interesting legend, Samba, son of Lord Krishna was incurred a curse by Narad and became a lepor. Samba practised austere penance for 12 years to please Lord Surya. Once while bathing in the river Chandrabhag he found an image of surya on lotus pedestal holding fully bloomed lotuses in both hands. This image was consecrated in the temple. With the blessing of Sun God, he was cured of his leprosy.
  • Another famous legend that describes the construction of Konark Temple is that of Dharmpad a 12 yr old boy who sacrificed his life to save twelve thousand craftsmen.
  • Dharmpad grew up with his mother in a small unknown village in Orissa in the 12th century. Right from his childhood, he was interested in architecture and crafts and being the son of a great temple architect, Bisu Maharana who was away from home much before his birth. Dharmpad had access to all the manuscripts describing the details of temple construction. By the time he turned 12, he had mastered the art of Odiya temple architecture.
  • But he was eager to see his father and therefore in search of his father after a long and arduous journey he reached a lonely beach where a magnificent but incomplete construction was going on. He realised that this was the place where his father was building the Sun temple. He rushed on to meet his father, wept and kissed him, but immediately knew that something was troubling his father.
  • Although Konark Temple had already taken 12 years to be built, it was still incomplete. The final stone or the kalash was yet to be installed at the top most part of Konark Temple. All the efforts of the crew were in vain. They tried again and again but each time the top rolled off. They were not able to point the problem.
  • King Narsingdeva had already announced that if Konark Temple was not ready till the next morning all the craftsmen would be beheaded. Bisu maharana felt responsible for the upcoming deaths.
  • Dharmpad who had studied temple architecture immediately perceived where the fault lay and knew how to surmount the problem. By midnight, as the moon shone bright, the kalash was finally put in the place and lives of the 12000 craftsmen were saved. But Dharmpad had to sacrifice his life, for if the king got to know of the failure of the craftsmen and their defeat at the hands of a mere 12-year-old, he would surely kill them all. He made his way up to Konark Temple top which has had completed and jumped into the sea as the first ray of light shone.
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There are many theories that explain the reasons of its distruction. Before embarking upon those we must first understand the significance of its architecture.

Significance of Konark Temple

The significance of Konark Temple lies in its architecture, ornamental decoration and sculptural elements. These are concentrated on the exterior wall. The interior is generally plain and featureless.

  • One marvels at the mind of engineers, craftsmen and sculptors of who produced works of the great standard. Konark Temple is the pride of Orissan style of architecture. It is in the shape of the gigantic chariot in which the Sun God rides across the heaven. The chariot has twelve pairs of wheels, each about 10 ft in diameter with a set of spokes elaborately carved. Seven prancing horses are shown on either side of the steps to reach the entrance of Konark Temple. The horses are conceived in a way to give the appearance of the Sun God himself driving the chariot while being in the garbgrih{the sanctum sanctorum}.
  • The wheels of Konark Temple are sun dials. The shadows of the spokes can be used to calculate the time of the day and night accurately.
  • The alignment of Konark Temple is east -west. It consists of sanctum sanctorum (garbgraha).The tower of which is called rekha -deul( curvilinear shikhar or tower) rising to a height of 229ft. This tower was struck by lightening, hence, it is now in dilapidated condition. In front of sanctum sanctorum is Jagmohan(frontal porch, mahamandap) with the pyramidal roof (pidha-deul). The height of pidha-deul is 128ft. The top of rekha-deul and pidha-deul were crowned by amalak and stupi(a ribbed disc-shaped stone). Located in front of Jagmohan was Natyamandap. Bhog Mandap detached from the main complex must have been aligned with the main temple. Konark Temple proper stands on huge platforms depicting richly embellished stone chariot.
  • Konark Temple was originally built of khondalite stone since it was a locally available pink coloured stone with yellow streaks. The individual stones were carved and finished smoothly. These stones were placed on each other firmly, supported by their own weight and supplemented by the use of iron dowels to hold them properly in their place.
  • Another unique feature of Konark Temple is the use of iron plates in between every two stones. Massive iron beams have beams used to construct higher floors of Konark Temple. A 52-ton magnet was used to create the peak of the main temple. It is said that the entire structure has tolerated the harsh conditions especially of the sea because of this magnet. It is believed that due to the attraction of the magnet the main idol of the temple remained suspended in the air. The magnet and idol do not exist any more. There are various theories about the removal of the magnet and about the missing idol.
  • The architecture of Konark Temple was such that the early rays or morning sun illuminated the image of Sun god in the sanctum sanctorum.
  • The entrance of Konark Temple is gaurded by two lions crushing elephants, each elephant, in turn, lies on top of a human body. The lion symbolises pride and elephants symbolise wealth. Symbolically this represents that the human being is crushed by pride and wealth.
  • Thousands of images adorn the temple’s exterior wall. These images include deities, celestial figures and human musicians, dancers and lovers. Scenes of courtly life and pleasure of the worldly life are also depicted. The base of Konark Temple wall and the roof also depicts human, divine and semi-divine figures, often in sensuous poses and postures. There are also images of animals, birds, foliage, warriors on horseback as well as geometrical patterns depicted in relief and also in image-in-the-round.
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Fall of the Konark Temple

There are various theories and speculations that give reasons for the fall of this magnificent monument. Some believe that due to the early death of King Narasimhadeva, the builder of the Konark Temple, the construction was left half done. As a result, it remained incomplete. As a result, of this, the structure collapsed in the due course of time. Others opine that Konark Temple had lost its sanctity because Dharmpad, son of the chief architect, committed suicide just after placing the crowing stone on the top of temple tower. Earthquake and thunderstruck may also be the reason for the fall of this magnificent structure.

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Another theory relates to removal of load stone. It is opined that due to the magnetic effects of the magnet in the temple the compass of the ships was showing deflected directions to the vessels passing through the Konark sea. This resulted in heavy damage to the ships. So to make the shipping safe the Muslim voyagers removed the load stone from Konark Temple. This stone worked as the central stone keeping all other stones of the temple wall in balance. Subsequent to the displacement of the load-stone, the structure weakened and the temple walls fell down in due course of time.

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Invasion by Kalapahad, a Muslim ruler in 1508 is also given as the reason for the destruction of Konark temple. Kalapahad managed to displace Dadhinauti (arch stone) and hence the temple collapsed.

Konark Temple Timings

Konark Temple is open from sunrise to sunset for visitors. ( 6:00AM-8:00PM)
Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 10 per head.
Others: US $ 5 or Rs. 250/- per head
(children up to 15 years free)
Archaeological Museum:
Opening Hours: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Closed on – Friday

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Entrance Fee: Rs. 5/- per head
(Children up to 15 years free)

The Best time to visit is from November to February.

Festivals Celebrated in Konark Temple

Chandrabhag mela celebrated on MaghSaptami in February is the most popular festival of Konarl temple. This festival celebrates the Birth of Sun God. Though Konark Temple is in ruins, thousands of people flock on this day to see the rising sun and pay their venerations to the Sun God.
Some of these people come by walking from a distant place and eventually spend a whole month on the road before reaching their destination. This shows how much they value ancient traditions.

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Konark Dance Festival

The festival of Indian classical dance – The Konark dance festival is held between 1st -5th December every year. This festival has helped revive the unique dance tradition of Orissa. the sole aim is to bring many artists into its cultural community and creating of international cultural brotherhood.
Reputed artists participate and perform Odissi, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam and other classical, folk & tribal dances/music of our country on the enchanting stage of the Natyashala in the monumental Sun Temple, Konark.

How to reach by Road, Rail, Air

Konark Temple is situated 35 km away from Puri and 64 km from Bhuvaneshwar and can be reached by bus or taxi.
The nearest railhead is Puri, 31 km away. There are two trains {Puri express and Purushottam express } that can take you to Konark.
Konark is well-connected by Odisha State Public Transport buses plying on National and State highways linking it to Puri, Bhuvaneswar and other cities. Comfortable Volvo buses can be boarded from Puri as well as from Bhuvaneshvar.

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Where to Stay

A wide range of hotels is available in and around Konark for all pockets.

Lotus Resort Konark,
Rating * * *
Lotus Eco Village
Konark-752111

Nature Camp Konark Retreat
Rating * *
Village Khatakata Patan,
Marine Drive Road,
Konark-752111

Surya Inn
Rating *
Near Cannara Bank
Konark

Sun Temple Hotel
Near Bus Stand
Konark

Yatri Niwas
SH 13 at Post Konark
Konark

Marwadi Hotel and Lodge
Ring Road
Near Bus Stand
Konark

Where to Eat

Restaurants catering to different tastes are found in Konark main market area. Local dhabas and small restaurants near beach serve vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. Marwari bhojnalayas are there for non-vegetarians. Traveller lodges also have in-house restaurants. Visit Panthnivas Yatrinivas run by Govt. of Orissa.

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Geetanjali Restaurant
Kamat Restaurant
Santoshi Restaurant

Nearby Temples

  • Ramachandi Temple: This temple is located on the banks of the Kusabhadra River, about 5 km from Konark. While some say that the presiding deity is Goddess Ramachandi, others thought it to be the temple of Mayadevi, wife of Surya (Sun god). The graceful goddess is seated on a lotus and among the Sakti Pithas of Puri.
  • Vishnu Temple: A broken brick temple said to be the temple of Lord Vishnu, is located behind the Ramachandi temple. The pillar in front of this temple is said to be the seat of Garuda, the cosmic charioteer of Lord Vishnu. Figures of Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati are found on the temple walls.
  • Konark Matha: This Math (monastery) is situated to the south of the Sun temple. Nirakar Brahma (or void) is worshipped here. It is called as “Samba Ashram” by the local people. Dhuni Kund (fire place) is where the fire has been reserved continuously since the beginning of the Matha.
  • Kuruma Temple: A relatively unknown Buddhist site, Kuruma is located 8 kilometres from the famous Sun Temple. Kuruma is one of the major archaeological excavation sites in Orrisa and is mentioned in several Buddhist texts from Asoka and Ceylon and also appears in the writings of the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang. The origin of the site is dated to be between 8th-9th century AD and is a must visit for everyone who likes to explore the history of India.
  • Astranga (Picnic spot): Located at a distance of 19 kilometres from Konark, and is a famous picnic spot and fishing village near Konark. The best time to visit the place is during the sunset when one can experience the panoramic and multi-hued horizon. The place is great for photographers and is a major centre for fishing and salt production in Konark.
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