Few years back in the month of March I made a trip to the sea side town of Puri in the state of Odisha on the east coast of the India on the Bay of Bengal. Puri is famous for the Hindu temple of the brothers Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balarama and their sister Subhadra. It is a place of pilgrimage for Hindus and also a popular sea side retreat town.
During my travel to Puri, I took a day trip to visit the Konark Sun Temple. The first time I visited this temple was during my childhood with my parents and brother and I hardly have any memories of that visit. So I always wanted to revisit this temple declared as UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 and explore the beauty of the temple and its surroundings.
I took a car rental from Puri to travel to Konark. There is also option to avail the tourist bus service run by the Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) which can be booked online. The car stops at a distance from the main temple complex and there are rickshaws or auto (tuk tuk) service available to reach the ticket counters.
The Sun temple at Konark, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal is about 35 kms from Puri. It was built in the year 1250 by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya. The present remains of the temple depicts the form of a chariot with wheels being pulled by horses. The temple was built in the classic Odisha style Kalinga architecture.
The chariot shaped temple has 24 wheels which are decorated with intricate designs and the chariot is pulled by seven horses. There are beautiful depictions of life and its various activities carved in stone. The carved wheels are about 3 metres in diameter and the spikes depicts the seasons and months.
The Konark Temple’s main complex comprises of the main sanctuary called the vimana and a high tower called the shikhara. The audience hall called the jahamogana is mostly in ruins along with its pyramid shaped structure. The natmandir (dance hall) on the east of the main temple structure stands on a high platform which can be reached using the stairs and is now without a roof. There are also many small structures within the enclosed temple complex.
Between the 12 pairs of wheels on each side, the temple structure has beautiful reliefs, carvings and statues of lions, musicians, dancers and even erotic poses. The exquisite carvings on the entire temple complex can take your breath away if you are a keen observer. The exceptional skills of the artisans during those periods are evident in these stone carvings and temple structure.
The sun temple was called the Black Pagoda by sailors as it looked like a black tiered tower when seen from the Bay of Bengal. The Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the White Pagoda and both these temples served as landmarks for the sailors in the Bay of Bengal.
During our childhood we learned the mythology associated with Konark temple that it took more than twelve years to build the temple complex and over 1200 artisans worked on it. The Chief Architect Bisu Maharana was so engaged in the project that he did not even see his newly born son. When all the craftsmen were faced with an issue of being unable to fix the top stone of the temple, a young boy came to the rescue. He saved all of them from being executed by the King, who had said that everyone would face death if they could not complete the temple by the next morning. This young boy was Bisu’s son, Dharmapada. The craftsmen told Bisu that Dharmapada must be killed out of fear in case the King found out that the temple was completed by a child. Dharmapada saved everyone and killed himself by jumping from the top of the temple.
From mythology I heard as a child to the reality of the temple remains I saw, it was a mesmerising sight. India’s Nobel Laureate Tagore said about Konark, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.” You can feel these words as you stand looking at the temple and admire the beauty of Konark.
I visited Konark during the afternoon hours and enjoyed the sunset views though it was a bit hazy on that day. But it was still a glorious sight caught both on my camera and in my memories.
Sand Museum on the Puri-Konark Marine Drive
On the Puri beach, you might spot sand arts by world famous Padma Shri recipient sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik. Another sand artist whose sand arts can been seen in a sand arts museum on the way to Konark from Puri is Sudam Pradhan.
- Puri is a good place to plan a weekend getaway with a day trip to visit Konark.
- Konark is around 2 hours drive from the sea side town of Puri. Car rentals are easily available or there is the OTDC Bus service.
- Sunset times are beautiful in Konark if you visit in the afternoon hours.
- Konark Dance Festival is an annual event held in the month of December.
- Chandrabhaga Beach about 3 kms east of the Konark Temple was the first Indian beach to receive Blue Flag certification. Chandrabhaga Mela, a religious festival is held at Chandrabhaga Beach every year in the month of February.
- You can visit the village of Pipli known for its applique work on the way back from Konark to Puri.
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