Location: Konark, Orissa
Founded By: King Narsingha Deva
Dedicated To: Surya, the Sun God
Status: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Konark Sun Temple is situated in the state of Orissa, quite near to the
holy city of Puri. Dedicated to Surya, the sun God, the temple has been
built as per Orissa's medieval architecture. Sun Temple of Konark also
claims the distinction of being declared a World Heritage Site by
UNESCO. The architectural beauty of the temple is beyond the scope of
words. The intricate and exquisite sculptural work that adorns the
temple only serves to enhance its splendor. Konark Sun Temple has been
built in the form of the chariot of the Sun God.
The term 'Konarka' is actually a combination of two words, Kona meaning
corner and Arka meaning sun. Thus, Konark means the corner of the sun.
The city got this name since it was one of the first places in India
where Sun worship was undertaken. It is believed that the Sun Temple of
Konark was built under the patronage of King Narashimhadev I of the
Ganga dynasty. It was meant as a commemoration of his victory over
Muslims. In the early 17th century, an envoy of the Mughal emperor
Jahangir desecrated the temple.
After this incident, the Sun Temple of Konark fell into disuse. Another
legend has it that Samba, the son of Lord Krishna, got the Konark Sun
temple constructed. It is said that Samba was afflicted by the fatal
disease of leprosy, which was the result of a curse given to him by his
father. In order to cure himself of the disease, he underwent almost 12
years of harsh penance. Impressed with his penance, Surya cured him of
his disease. Thereafter, Samba built the temple in the honor of the Sun
The temple has 24 chariot wheels around its base; each being 10 feet in
diameter and having a set of spokes and detailed carvings. These spokes
serve as sundials, which can be used to ascertain the exact time. Seven
horses have been shown as dragging the temple. The entrance to the Sun
Temple is flanked by two stone lions, which seem to be guarding it and
are shown subduing elephants. The space around the base of the temple as
well as on the walls and roof is full of carvings of animals, foliage,
men, warriors on horses and sensual scenes.
There are three images of the Sun God, positioned in a way that they
catch the sunrays at dawn, noon and sunset. The roof of Konark Sun
Temple is pyramidal in shape and rises to a height of 30 m. The various
images adorning the temple comprise of those of the deities, the
Surasundaris (heavenly damsels), human musicians, lovers and dancers.
Along with that, different scenes from the courtly life have also been
illustrated. The sacred pond where Samba is said to be cured from
leprosy is situated quite near to the temple.
Konark Dance Festival
Every year, in the month of December, the Sun Temple of Konark plays
host to the Konark Dance Festival. The festival is organized in an
open-air theatre, built near the temple, which serves as the perfect
backdrop to the dance performances. Dancers from all over the country
congregate at Konark to take part in the festival. The dance forms
performed at the festival include Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri,
Kathak, Chhow, etc.
Sun Festival (Magha Saptami) is also held at Konark on an annual basis.
It is celebrated on the seventh day (saptami) of the bright half of the
Hindu month of Magha (January/February).