Friday, June 29, 2012

An Altar for the Might of Light - Konark Sun Temple

Konark is a town in Puri district of the state of Odisha, India, on the Bay of Bengal, sixty-five kilometers from the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneshwar. The construction of the temple dates back to the 13th-century during the reign of King Narasimhadeva-I (AD 1236-1264) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. This temple has been built to look like the Chariot of Lord Surya (sun, considered as God by Hindus) and it is heavily decorated with the marbles and precious stones. The whole architecture is designed as a huge chariot of Lord Surya is being drawn by seven horses on twelve pairs of artistically decorated wheels.

Konark Sun Temple is one among the world's famous heritage destinations. The main structure of the temple has the towering height of about 230 feet. The 12 huge wheel on either side of the platform are the must-see one. The entrance of the temple has two huge lion sculptures seem to be guarding the monument crushing the adversary in the form of the elephant, which are each shown crushing a war elephant. Each elephant in turn lies on top of a human body.

At the entrance, inside the temple complex is the Natyamandap (dancing hall), adorned with wonderful sculptures showcasing the pose of Odissi dancers, men, warriors, elephants etc. Many places also expresses the poetry and lines inscribed on stone. This dancing hall is believed to be the place where dancers used to perform offering salute and homage to Lord Surya. All around the temple exists range of carves and patterns which intrigues anyone visiting the temple. Some of the Kamsutra poses are sculptured on the walls as the messengers of the history.

After crossing the entrance, a structure which seems partly ruined or not completely constructed starts pulling up in the sight. There are multiple stories associated with this partially built structure and the most believed by historians is that, due to the early death of the king Langula Narasimha Dev, builder of the Konark temple, the construction of the temple had been left in a haphazard state. As a result of this, the incomplete structure eventually collapsed. But this view is unsupported by historical data. The temple Architecture is similar to other temples of Odisha like the Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneshwar and the Sun Temple of Konark. However, due to its proximity to the sea it has been covered with lime plaster to protect it from the saline climate of Jagannath Puri. The design of the inner complex has been designed with utmost care and elegance.

The Annual Rathayatra celebrated every year is most prominent amongst all the festivals celebrated in Puri. It has been attracting lakhs of devotees and pilgrims since time immemorial. During this festival the statues of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and goddess Subhadra are transferred from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Mandir in a hand pulled cart drawn by the pilgrims, after a stay at Gundicha for 9 days the statues are again brought back to the Jagannath Temple and restored. To see the Lord on the Chariot on the Rathayatra day is a good omen and helps in securing salvation from the cycles of birth and death many Hindus believe.
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