Top Attractions | Konark | India
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The main attraction of the place is the Konark Sun Temple, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The temple is situated in the Konark village to the north of Puri in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal. It has extensive stone carvings on the walls, many of them highly erotic. Though the temple is under ruin due to heavy erosion its magnificence is still reflected in its architecture.

Konark Sun Temple

The Sun Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 13th century in the honour of the sun-god Surya, is in ruins. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with 24 wheels about 3 m high and pulled by seven horses, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.

View of the Jagamohan and the ruined shikhara of the Surya Temple
  • The Temple compound measures 857 ft (261 m) by 540 ft (160 m). The alignment of the Sun Temple is on the east-west direction.
  • The entire temple was planned in such a way that it is fitted with twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated stone wheels. The horses were conceived in such a way that the Sun God (Surya) drives this chariot, his place being inside the garbhagriha.
  • The major entrance in the temple is place on the east side and it faces the sea. This entrance is located in the façade of bhogamandapa which is also known as the Hall of Offerings. The sculptures of dancers as well as musicians is engraved on the walls of this hall, hence the hall was later used for the traditional dance recital.
  • On the western side of the temple lies the sanctuary tower which is now nothing but a clutter of various sandstone slabs which are kept one over another. This impressive construction is believed to have had a pyramidical roof commonly known as jaganmohan.
  • The roof of jagamohana has around 3 tiers and many statues are placed over them. The statues are either of dancers or the musicians. The platform at the base also has a sculpture of Lord Shiva as Nataraja and performing the dance. The interior of the terrace is nowadays barren up.
  • The stairs that take you up towards the Statute of Surya are located beyond the terrace. The statue of the Sun god is carved out a huge green colored chlorite stone. It is supposed to be the most beautiful work of art present in Konark. However, the entrance door to the Jaganmohan is closed due to the frequent fall of debris and stones from the ceiling.

The Konarak temple also marks the culmination of the temple building architecture in Odisha. Apart from the depiction of the stone wheels and the caparisoned horses drawing the colossal chariot of Sun God, the Konarak Temple is a typical example of the Odishan temple architecture. The temple is not different from those of other regions.

  • The eastern gateway which is the main entrance to the temple compound, is decorated with Gajasimha (Lion upon an elephant) images, with outward faces, installed on two high stone-benches on either side of the passage.
This picture is not of a sundial. It is an intricate representation of the Dharmachakra, or Wheel of Sun, Konark
  • The wheels of the chariot are also symbolic and have been interpreted as the 'Wheel of Life'. They portray the cycle of creation, preservation and achievement of realisation. The diameter of each of the wheels is about 9 feet (2.73 metres) and each of them has a set eight equal parts. They are elaborately carved all over. The thicker ones are all carved with circular medallions at their centres on the widest part of the face. The axels of the wheels project by about one foot from the surface, having similar decorations at their ends. The rims are carved with designs of foliages with various birds and animals, whereas the medallions in the spokes are carved with the figures of women in various luxurious poses, mostly of erotic nature.
  • The nata mandir in front of the Jagamohana is exquisitely carved with the images of dancers, flora and foliage, men in armor, and creatively eroticism.
  • There are three images of the Sun God (formerly four) at the top, facing each direction to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.
  • The figures of elephants which had originally stood on the side walls of the flights of steps at the northern and southern sides of the Jagamohana, were found amidst the debris.
  • The Melakkadambur Shiva temple, built in the form of a chariot during the age of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120), is the earliest of this kind, and is still in a well preserved state.
  • There is a small museum outside the temple compound run by Archaeological Survey of India, which stores the sculpture from the temple ruins. It remains open Sa-Th 9AM-5PM. Entry is free.
  • To the south west of the Sun temple there is the temple of the Goddess Ramachandi. There are, however, differing opinions about the presiding deity of this temple. It has been surmised by some that this was the temple of Mayadevi, wife of Surya (Sun god) while others opine that it was the earlier Sun temple in which Sun was being worshiped.
  • It is strongly advised to enter the temple complex at 6AM when gates open. This is when the temple is at its quietest and most beautiful, with the drama of sunrise as you explore the ruins. The hoards of domestic tourists tend to arrive around 8:30AM and stick around all day.

Other attractions

Though the Konark temple is the key tourist attraction in the area. However, if you wish to stay in Konark for a full-day it is advisable to spend other destination spots otherwise abandoned or see few visitation. If travelling by the OTDC or private tour operators - these destinations are either narrated by the bus operators or halted for approximately an hour during the trip.

  • Chandrabhaga Sea Beach - 3 km east of the famous Sun temple of Konark and 30 km from Puri, Chandrabhaga is rich in its marine resources. A light house, close by Chandrabhaga is an added histrionic to the splendour of the place. A climb to its top truly takes you to a world of utopia. A natural deer park is recent additions to the riches of Chandrabhaga. There is an ancient Matha believed to be the Ashram of Chandrabhaga's father and two small temples. The sight has aesthetic and importance.
  • Kakatpur - 30 km from Konark is a small village on the Puri-Astaranga road on the bank of river Prachi. This temple is famous for Goddess Mangala. The Kakatpur Mangala temple has a close relation with Lord Jagannath temple of puri during the Navakalebara (Renovation of the Deities) festival. The most popular festival of Goddess Mangala is 'Jhamu Yatra'. It occurs on the first Tuesday of the Secred month Vaisakh (April 14 to May 15) every year.
  • Kuruma - 8 km the south-east of the sun temple of Konark is a popular Buddhist site. The site was built between 9th - 10th centuries AD. The monastery, now abandoned, containing an excavated statue of Buddha seated cross legged with right hand in Bhumisparsa mudra while the left hand placed over his left knee. The image also wears a beautiful crown and a beautifully carved necklace.
  • Pipili - 23 km from Konark, the small village of Pipli has a very wide and distinctive selection of handicrafts. It is a small village. On the main road at Pipili there are many shops selling Applique work products, tourist visiting Puri buy these products from Pipili.
Excavated Buddhist site of Kuruma, near Konark Sun Temple
  • Ramchandi Temple - 7 km en route to Konark on the marine road from Puri. Ramachandi is popularly believed the presiding deity of Konark. From the architectural point of view, the temple of Ramachandi is not important but from the religious point of view, it is one of the famous Sakta pithas of Puri. The beach is often crowded by local students as a romantic escapade or families picknicking at the weekend. The main temple along with its Mukhasala had been built on one platform 3'2" (96.5 cm) high. On the three sides of the temple walls, i.e., south, west and north, there were three figures of Sun god as side Gods. Now one can see these side gods in north and southern side, whereas the figures on the western side have been displaced and are said to have been preserved in the National Museum at New Delhi. This image is said to have some sculptural specialisation and is regarded to be one of the beautiful images of the Sun god. Though smaller in size, the side-gods of this temple are of similar type in all respect with the side-gods in the Sun temple. The side images of the northern side are in somewhat good condition while the image in the southern side has no head and broken hands.

Concerns over safety

Although the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) are working on the restoration of this magnificent heritage structure, concerns were raised by different quarters in Odisha over the deteriorating condition of the Sun temple.

Legends describe a lodestone (magnet) on the top of the Sun temple. Due to its magnetic effects, vessels passing through the Konark sea were drawn to it, resulting in heavy damage. Other legends state that magnetic effects of the lodestone disturbed ships' compasses so that they did not function correctly. To save their shipping, the Portuguese voyagers took away the lodestone, which was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones, and the iron columns used to hold them walls together, of the temple wall in balance. Due to its displacement, the temple walls lost their balance and eventually fell down. But there is no record of this occurrence in any historical records, nor is there any record of the existence of such a powerful lodestone at Konark Temple.

But the Konark Surakhya Samiti (save Konark committee) said that falling stones from the 13th-century monument had turned “into a regular feature”. Chunks of masonry have fallen off at regular intervals. In 1998 a two-tonne cornice stone on the northeastern side of the jagmohan fell off onto a ledge. The interior of the jagmohan has been sealed off since 1951, when conservation work on the monument was seriously taken up for the first time. The walls were shored up from the inside and the interior was filled with sand to prevent imminent collapse; such was its tenuous state.

One reason why no major steps are being taken by the ASI officials is for fear it might lead to the total collapse of the crumbling temple.