The Black Pagoda – Konark Sun Temple

The Konark Sun Temple, originally built on sea shore is also called as the Black Pagoda due to its dark color. Though the temple is dedicated to the Sun god, the legend also has it that after slaying demon Gyasur, Lord Vishnu left his belongings at several places to commemorate his victory – conch in Puri, disc in Bhubaneswar, mace in Jaipur and lotus in Konark. The most important part of this temple apart from the legends and myths around it, is its exquisite architecture! The temple was built in the form of the celestial chariot of the Sun God being pulled by seven galloping horses on 12 pairs of wheels towards east; and hence the main entrance of this temple is on the eastern side.

The seven horses pulling the temple eastwards towards dawn is symbolic of the seven days of the week; the dozen pair of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the eight spokes in each wheel symbolize the eight ideal stages in a woman’s day.  The entrance of the temple is guarded by two huge lions, each killing a war elephant (represents pride) and beneath the elephant (represent wealth) is a man. This symbolizes the conquest of spiritual power over worldly power and the symbol of ignorance conquered by knowledge. The temple consists of a vimana (main temple) for housing the deity, Jagamohana, which is a praying hall and the natya mandir wherein which the dances are performed.

The most unique feature of this temple is its design which ensures the rays of the Sun fall on the image of the Sun God at equinoxes. Also this temple is known as pancha-ratha-dekha deul with each of its façade broken by five small projections, which as a consequence produces the effect of light and shade on the surface and creates an impression of one continuous vertical line called rekha. A guide here told us that there used to be a magnet at the top of the temple and every two stones of the temple are sandwiched by iron plates, and as a result the idol was said to have been floating in the air – no idea how far this is true!

During the medieval times, this temple was used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha and it is said that the magnet placed on top of the temple have disturbed the compasses of these sailors leading to shipwrecks and hence it was removed on a later stage. There are two raised platforms on the right side and behind the temple which are also in ruins. The walls of the temples are adorned with rampaging elephants, military processions, hunting scenes, as well as a few erotic figurines here and there. We spent about 2.5 hrs sitting here and there in the complex listening to various stories and legends shared by the gatekeepers, some old men who are frequent visitors to this temple and of course an old guide too 🙂 Yes, Eshwar hired one!

It was this guide who told the fascinating story of a 12 year old boy called Dharmapad who had sacrificed himself for the sake of the 12000 craftsmen who worked for 12 years to complete this temple. The legend is that Bisu Maharana, heading the group of craftsmen was unable to finish off the construction even after 12 years and the king Narasimha announces that all would be beheaded if the construction wouldn’t be completed the following day. Dharmapad, son of Bisu Maharana who studied Odiya temple architecture finds out the fault lay and erects the final stone or the Kalash on top of the Konark temple. But, Dharmapad had to end his life by jumping off into the sea as he knew that the king won’t accept the defeat of his craftsmen at the hands of a 12 year old boy and definitely beheads them.

While sharing this heroic story with us, I could see the old man taking pride in Dharmapad and remembering him so fondly and as a source of inspiration! As truly remarked by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, “Here in Konark, the language of stone surpasses the language of man” 🙂

 

Konark – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

25.06.2017:

Odisha is popular for its architecturally celebrated temples like the Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneshwar, Lord Jagannath’s shrine in Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark and many more sacred shrines and heritage monuments along with the famous Odissi dance, fairs, festivals and exotic handicrafts. The first thing that comes into everyone’s mind when heard of the state’s name is either the famous Rath Yatra or the Konark Sun Temple. This itself proves that how heritage has become an integral part of Odisha!

As I reached the entrance, I could see the Kalinga architectural marvel standing as a living sonata in stone! This 13th century temple dedicated to the Sun God, is built in black granite during the reign of King Langula Narasimhadeva – I of the Ganga Dynasty around 1250 AD. This is one of the most important temples dedicated to the Sun God in India and is a leading Hindu pilgrimage centre. This place is now under the maintenance of Archaeological Survey of India and the entry fee is Rs. 30/- per person.

There was a queue of tour guides behind us by the time we entered the temple complex and we politely rejected their services! 🙂 The first structure we encountered upon entering the complex is the Natya Mandir (the Dance Hall) where the temple dancers once performed. A stone staircase flanked by seated lions led us on to the platform from where we can get a better view of the Sun Temple. Once upon a time, the temple dancers used to perform here as a ritual offering to the God, but now this ritual is no more!

The Natya Mandir had exquisitely carved pillars with various mythical figures, floral motifs and human creatures etc. I can imagine how the musicians might have seated there with their drums and other instruments and the temple dancers performed in front of the God here 🙂 , would have been good if I got back to those days 🙂 . Nevertheless, we can have the same experience now too; by attending the annual Konark Dance Festival which is held in every December, dedicated to the classical Indian dance forms. Why late, grab the tickets now! 😉

We walked towards the main temple which is visibly in ruins, corroded by time and sea air. Yet the temple shares the brilliance and dazzle of the sun with its fascinating architecture, exotic sculptures and intriguing social history of Odisha; which was also a beacon to mariners in medieval times. Konark has got its name from two Sanskrit words – Kona, meaning corner and ark implying the sun. And this temple which was dedicated to the worship of the Sun God holds the sun as the soul of whole manifestation, primal cause of this universe and its different cycles of manifestation and annihilation. The Suryopanishad – a scripture on the Sun God asserts that the Sun is the creator, protector and destroyer.

Though in ruins now, this place retained its rustic charm and serene aura. The mighty sculptures, beautiful lawns and gardens around the temple attracted me the most and I instantly fell in love with this place!