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Konarak – The Sun Temple

Konarak, the Surya Sun Temple of the East

  • A rare temple dedicated to the Sun God of Hinduism: Surya. Built in the 13th century AD, this massive temple rests in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa. It is known as the epitome of eastern Indian Hindu temple architecture and sculpture. Surya is an elusive god since temples dedicated to him specific him specifically are not common. Konarak is the largest, although others may be found in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Quite often, however, the Sun God Surya can be found as a support character in sculptural programmes throughout the Indian subcontinent. Surya appears in the famous Mahabharata and Ramayana epic Sanskrit poems. Surya is the father of King Sugriva who assists Rama in defeating Ravana the demon who kidnapped Sita and took her to Lanka. In the Mahabharata, Surya appears to princess Kunti when she invokes him using a mantra. He impregnates her even though she is a virgin and their child is Karna, a central character throughout the rest of the story. Astrologically, of course, the Sun is the most dominant features in the sky and therefore plays a large role in all Hindu astrological systems. Surya is also popular because of his role in the Surya Namaskar, a well-known sequences of yogic postures practiced at the beginning of many Hatha Yoga practices throughout the world. Lastly, Surya is extremely popular in India still because of the Gayatri Mantra, which is recited in the mornings by many devout Hindus. All of these small, but important, roles of Surya in the life of Hindus is embodied at Konarak.

Erotic Couple Sculpture at Konarak

The Main Shrine at Konarak

  • The wheels of the temple themselves function uniquely as sun dials, as they can be used to accurately calculate the time of day down to the minute. The wheels are 3 meters wide and situate the entire complex to the east in order for the first rays of sun every day to shine onto the main entrance.
  • Nearby are other smaller temples, now ruined. At least one of these is a shrine dedicated to Surya’s wife Mayadevi. Interestingly, perhaps supporting the local legend that the area has always been associated with Surya, the remnants of the Mayadevi shrine are earlier by a century or more than the main features at Konarak proper.

A Chariot Wheel at Konarak