konark-sun-temple

A trip to Odisha is incomplete unless you pay a visit to the 13th century Konark Sun Temple. An architectural marvel, this temple complex is built like sun god’s towering chariot drawn by seven horses on 12 wheels. Here’s what you need to know about this temple and its intriguing history.

The word Konark means corner (kona) and sun (ark) and is dedicated to the sun god. It was built at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga River but the waterline receded over the years. It was so built that the first ray of the sun fell on the gigantic sun idol kept inside the main temple complex and even today you can tell the time by the rays of the sun falling on the wheels which as sundials.

konark chakra

Though today, the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and much of the structure has deteriorated, it is still one of the most popular temples in India. The structure has been built using black granite and it took 12 years to complete its architecture.

One of the most fascinating things of this temple was that the sun idol was suspended in the air as there were magnets used in the construction. So when you entered the main temple, you’d see a tall idol in mid-air. For years, it was a mystery as to how this happened. People did not realise it was the magnetic field from all four sides that made this happen. But this also led to the removal of the idol. It is believed that this magnetic field affected the compass navigation for sailors and when they were invading India, they ordered the magnets to be removed. Thus, the idol could no longer be suspended in the air. Today, tourists aren’t allowed to go into the main chamber as it has been sealed.

What remains today are a few structures, an open-air dance hall and the dining hall. The Konark Dance Festival that is held annually takes place close to the temple at a strategic location so that the temple makes for a backdrop of the festival.

sculptures at konark sun temple

You will find exquisite sculptures all over the temple complex depicting scenes of women getting ready, men gearing up for war and men and women trying different Kamasutra positions. The reason for this as explained by one of the tour guides was to inspire people to have children and make love and not renounce worldly pleasures. And also to make sure that the workers who worked on these for 12 years leaving their homes would go back and enjoy the art of lovemaking after such a long gap.

The temple remains open from 6 am to 8 pm. You can hire a guide and buy souvenirs just outside the temple complex and you want, there are also photographers who will take photographs of you around the temple.

With inputs from a tour guide at the Konark Sun Temple.

Photographs: Shutterstock