The sight of the majestic Sun temple in Konark standing before me proudly gave me goose bumps that even the finale season of Dexter failed to do. Being a history literature junkie I could hardly contain my excitement as we entered the arena of the temple. The Sun temple of Konark had been on my to-visit-list for a long time. Hearing and reading about the legends is thrilling but to actually witness the history is a complete different experience. After spending four days in Orissa on our annual, once-a-year family vacation I was desperate to escape the tantrums of my brother and slip into something very peaceful. Alas, the universe had different plans. Being a popular tourist the Sun Temple was very much crowded with tourist guides giving firsthand information, vacationers admiring the striking architecture and families clicking their photos standing in every corner they could find! However, I was very much determined not to the let the sight of so many tourists dampen my spirit. And so began the day that will remain imprinted on my mind for the rest of my life…
The Sun Temple of Konark also known as the Black Pagoda of East was built by King Narasimhadeva in 13thcentury AD of Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The gaping architect is a fine example of Oriya architects and is included on the list of World Heritage Site. It derives its name from ‘Kona’ meaning corner and ‘Arka’ meaning Sun, is hence rightly known as ‘Arkakshetra’. The entire temple resembles a huge chariot pulled by seven horses depicting seven days of a week and 24 wheels depicting twenty four hours of a day. The most intriguing feature of these wheels is that it acts as a sundial- you can tell the time of the day by looking at the shadow cast by its spoke. The minutely decorated wheels with sculptures are donned with human and animal figures doing their daily chores. The work is so fine that in one figurine you can actually see tears made of stone on a woman’s cheek at a closer look. Falling into the category of Kalinga style architecture the main sanctum is 229 feet high along with audience hall. The entrance is guarded by a lion on each side standing on an elephant that is in turn crushing a human being. The lion resembles pride while elephant resembles money, both of which can easily crush human beings. Standing directly in front of the main sanctum is the Nata Mandir or Dancing Hall. In those days dances were performed here to worship and appease the Sun God. The structure today lies in half ruin. The temple is constructed in such a way that first rays of sun fall directly on the main entrance of Nata Mandir before they reach the main sanctum. The entire temple is sequined with detailed, minute, delicate and flawless sculptures and stone carvings. The human, semi-divine and divine figures can be found in ardent poses supposedly derived from Kama Sutra. It is quite hard to believe the open mindedness and tolerance exhibited by people in those days. Nonetheless, the sight is sure to leave anyone in astonishment and veneration.
Many legends are associated with the construction of Sun Temple of Konark that has been passed on from through generations; hence one cannot be absolutely sure about its certainty. However, the one that captured my attention was the one involving King Narsimhadeva. According to the legend, he had ordered to build a temple of majestic magnitude in order to establish his authority and perhaps scare away the potential enemies. Twelve long years of hard work of 1200 artisans and architects the work was nowhere to the end. Frustrated, the King gave them a deadline to complete the work. The head of the architect team, Bisu Maharana were caught in a knot and had no possible solution to the problem. Dharmapada, the 12 year old son of Bisu Maharana once had accompanied his father to the work sight. His lack of practical experience made up for his extensive, theoretical knowledge of the temple’s structure. To others and his own surprise he solved the problem by suggesting the addition of a last copping stone at the temple’s top. Few days later after this glorious achievement the dead body of the boy was found on the shore. It was believed that he himself laid down his life for his community.
Today the most of Sun temple stands in ruin. Many portions have been attacked, destroyed, fallen and wrecked apart. The temple has been pray to the times ancient and though it has lost its organs it has still managed to retrieve its beauty and splendor. One cannot help but wonder the grandness of its edifice when it was built. For a moment I could almost see it in its true form sans the destruction. I could feel the labored breathing of the workers who had invested not only their sweat but also their blood. I could hear the motivational song they must have sang in tune with the rhythm of crashing waves of the nearby Chandrabhaga beach. And I could- nay I did- gape at its grandeur which made me realize the pointlessness and minuteness of my own existence. One day in Konark left me spellbound, mesmerized and proud that I am a part of the rich heritage of incredible India and moreover, its talented ancestors who have left behind a legacy too heavy to carry on our shoulders.