Konark Sun Temple Architecture

Konark Cover

India is a country full of countless spiritual practices and religions. Interestingly, in Hinduism, there are about 33 million gods and goddesses, each one of them either represents an element or a force that makes the world go around. Then there are the higher ranking gods, which are also known represented as the planets and stars. Among one of these, a powerful god known as Surya is the Sun god, who is seen as the source of light. To show devotion many practices are done towards the Sun and numerous temples have been erected for Lord Surya, among them the one that stands out the most is the Konark Sun Temple.

The History

Konark history

An old photograph of the Konark Sun Temple.

As is with the history of India, it was overrun by the Mughals in the 13th Century under the command of Sultan Iltutmish. While most of northern India was ruled by the Mughals, Odisha was controlled by the Hindus, and the king of Odisha during that time was Narasimhadeva. A constant battle was going on among him and the Mughals ruling the Bengal and their chances to win seemed bleak, however, they continued to push their luck. After a while, Sultan Iltutmish died, and Nasiruddin Mohammed who overtook Delhi’s seat appointed a new general for Bengal, Tughan Khan. After a fearsome war between Narasimhadeva and the Mughals, the former came out victorious and was able to fend off the Mughals. In order to commemorate his victory, he built a temple that represents this along with being a shrine. Being a devotee of the Sun-god he built this temple in 1250 CE in the town of Konark. Also, Konark was described as one of the most significant locations for worshipping Lord Surya.

The Architecture

Being a temple built in Odisha, it is similar in style to other ancient Odisha structures, which is known as Kalinga. Though to an untrained eye all the temples in India may appear similar, however, it was the details that set them apart. For example, in Kalinga, the elevation of the steps is measured and kept at a certain height and how the floor is laid, these are made to visually appear different from other styles. Also, the entirety of the temple is built using black granite stones. Being such a detailed structure it took over 12 years to be completed. There are various large halls which according to the historians were used for large gatherings and engaging in activities like dancing, eating occasions, et cetera.

  • The Wheels: It is built to represent a massive chariot, as the Sun god is usually represented riding on a colossal chariot with multiple horses and a charioteer named Aruna. To imitate this, Narasimhadeva specifically designed the temple to be built in a way that it should be visibly clear that it is the chariot of Lord Surya. 12 pairs of chariot wheels are on either side of the temple which is carved with skillful details. Also, these wheels represent a year, as twelve months. But perhaps one of the most intriguing facts about the wheels would be that 2 of them are sundials, the only difference being that it shows time anti-clockwise but nonetheless it was fully operational and not to mention extremely precise, to the minute. Being subjected to many decades of destruction and neglect, it is hard to say if it will work accurately, but it still works. As for the sundial, we only came to know they were sundials when a yogi was seen checking time around 100 years ago, however, when asked about other wheels he refused to tell anything. Apart from the chariot’s details, many finer details are seen on the walls of the structure. As multiple Kamsutra positions can be seen, along with men preparing for war and women getting dressed. Another exceptional detail on the wheels is on the hour needles, wherein each needle a woman is depicted as doing various things from milking the cow to engaging with her partner depending on the time of the day.
Konark wheel

The famous wheel of the temple.

  • The horses: As for the mentioned horses that pull Lord Surya’s chariot, there are seven of them. While some people claim that they represent the seven colors of the rainbow as it is sunlight refracted, others say it is the seven days of the week. In a different analogy, these horses are the symbol of seven human chakras, whatever these horses represent they are the power that moves the Sun’s chariot. These horses each have a name, Gayathri, Bruhathi, Ushnik, Jagathi, Dhrushtup, Anushtup, and Bhakti.
Konark horse

One of the seven horses of the temple.

  • Duel Statues: Near the entrance, there are two statues. In each statue, a human can be seen suffocated and struggling underneath an elephant and a lion jumping over it. According to historians, the lions here represent the pride of a human, elephants represent the hunger for money and these combined together crumple the human.
Konark lion

Statues build at the entrance of the temple.

  • Magnetism: Now here are some of the mysterious and mind-blowing architectural decisions of the temple. It is said the main chamber of the temple had an idol of the Sun god which used to levitate in the air, via magnetism which was produced as to how the temple was designed. Each pillar of the temple was built with iron plates at certain angles which when combines with magnets would generate a magnetic field. In addition to that one humongous 52-ton magnet was installed in specific locations within the temple to have the desired effect. Though it is said the invaders removed the magnets from the temple and it was ordered not to put magnets in the temple as it interfere with the navigation tools of the ships. Plus, it is believed if the mentioned magnets weres still present, they would’ve even attracted ships from the sea about 4 km away. Being a temple dedicated to the Sun god, it was designed in a way that the first ray from the sunrise would pass through the dancing hall and reflect off of the diamond placed on the crown of the Sun god’s statue which would illuminate the area. As for the magnets and how exactly they worked in the main chamber is unknown, as it has been sealed away for many years.

Are there any more mysteries surrounding this temple? Most probably, however, given that it took us over 100 years to understand the sundials. I’m sure in the coming time we will uncover its other secrets as well, as for now, we can enjoy its mesmerizing beauty and craftmanship.



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