Saturday, May 20, 2017

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
His colossal chariot is hauled by seven horses and rolls on twelve pairs of stupendous wheels. Despite this majestic imagery, presently the Sun Temple of Konark is nothing more than a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, this magnum opus of Kalinga architecture is no better than excavated remains of a divine ship stranded on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, abandoned by its sailor long ago. Neither you can find the deity over His dilapidated chariot, nor you'll get aroma of any incense sticks. Still, for amateurs like us it is almost impossible to describe the beauty of the Sun Temple in mere words. We can wonder at best, and revisit every time with an irresistible urge to unwind the mystery behind its endless charm. Unlike most other beautiful things in the universe, the more you try to delve into her power to mesmerize, the less you fathom. Only an exceptional wordsmith like Rabindranath Tagore could have recounted the architectural grandeur of Sun Temple for us- "Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man"!

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
Yes, I am one of those spellbound travelers who keep returning to Konark in every few years, with a false hope of breaking into the mist of enigma surrounding this thirteenth century old Sun Temple. My last visit was in December, 2014, part of which I had blogged back then as "Sexual Perversions behind Erotic Sculptures of Konark". Unless a Bong travels at least half a dozen times to Puri (a popular coastal town cum pilgrimage site of Odisha) he is not considered to be a true wanderer. The ideal Bong travels to Puri at different phases of his life and majority of those trips do essentially include the Konark sightseeing. After all, Konark falls in the golden triangle of Odisha with Puri and Bhubaneswar. Puri to Konark, the modest 35 kilometers road on NH-203, brushes the boundary of foamy sea, few beaches, runs through a wildlife sanctuary and doesn't even miss to include a river on its way, a road trip I can certainly vouch for!

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
The Bong kid gets bored when his parents drag him for this monument sightseeing at Konark, as he finds the roaring sea at Puri much more alluring. After few years, the same adolescent boy savors the raunchy part of tourist-guide's narrations, and shuffles his curious yet swift gaze between an erotic sculpture and an adjoining bland one, so that the accompanying parents fail to discover his heinous thought process. Then, after another few years, the young man with his friends appreciate the beauty of Konark sculptures in much more obvious way which goes beyond the level of acceptability of surrounding elderly tourists. This is how the travel-cycle of a Bong to Konark Sun Temple continues till his grandkid astounds him with, "Grandpa, why all of these Gods and Goddesses are posing naked?"

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
'Kona' means corner and 'Arka' stands for sun. So, the name 'Konark' literally means the angled sun. The alignment of the Sun Temple is on east-west direction. Unless the sky is overcast, the first sun-rays of the day always strike the main entrance of Konark Sun Temple. There are three depictions of the Sun God at three different sides of the temple, strategically carved in proper direction to catch the rays of the sun at morning, noon and evening respectively. The twenty-four wheels and seven horses of this chariot shaped temple is closely associated with the elementary geography related to the sun. The seven horses symbolize the 7 days of a week, while twenty-four wheels portray 24 hours of a day. Would you take it as an engineering marvel, or a paragon of medieval art?

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
Each of those exquisitely ornamented wheels comprises eight spokes representing 8 'prahar' of a day. The wheels of the temple are sundials which can be used to calculate time to the precision of a minute, provided you know how to do it. The central hub along with eight spokes of each wheel house amazing carvings on stone depicting myriad activities of human beings at different times of the day, starting from singing at daybreak to kinky sex at midnight. It is said that King Narasimhadeva I, the renowned ruler from Eastern Ganga Dynasty had employed 1200 artisans to work relentlessly for 12 years to erect this mammoth artistic masterpiece with stones. It is not only the artistic dexterity of those wrights that astounds me, but also their superhuman strength involved behind moving those blocks of giant stones!  The Sun Temple of Konark was built to enshrine an image of Sun, the patron deity of the place. The sanctum symbolizes the majestic stride of the Sun God and marks the culmination of Orissan architectural style.

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
The walls of the Sun Temple of Konark contain thousands of superb carving of divine, semi-divine, human and animal figures amidst floral and geometric ornamentations. The vivacious maidens and danseuses portrayed over stone are remarkable for their sensuous modeling, pulsating with human emotions, absorbed in a variety of gestures and rhythmic actions. It is infinitely tough for our materialistic eyes to see beyond the visual lure offered by scintillating carvings of amorously entwined couples and their exaggerated private parts. If you are not lucky enough you'll end up with an unprofessional guide who'd try to mask his poverty of knowledge by push-selling 'SEX'. Trust me, once you cross the teenage boundary, one-dimensional (and also grossly manipulated) narration on such a versatile architecture is bound to make you farty. Choose your guide wisely. If you're traveling solo and tight on budget, you may decently tail any foreigners' group headed by an English speaking temple guide.

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
Sun Temple of Konark is not just some grand monument with rich history. It is a complete social canvas of thirteenth century India. If explicit eroticism over a religious structure bewilders you, read the widely acknowledged view of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy regarding this. The illusory world of pleasure had been boldly sculpted on the outer walls of Sun Temple while the deity was stationed inside it. So, if you want to catch up with the almighty you've to abandon your carnal desires outside the temple wall at first. Simple and convincing; right? Unless you are a casual hopper, you'll be needing 2-4 hours to visit this monument properly. I am glad that I had opted to stay overnight at Konark to document the illuminated Sun Temple after dusk. I remember, it was drizzling in the evening and I had to borrow my hotel owner's umbrella to capture the long anticipated, well-lit UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite the December rain, chilly wind and mud, Sun Temple complex was thickly populated with tourists.

Konark Sun Temple - Exploring the ruins of a magnum opus of Kalinga Architecture
Illuminated residence of the solar deity was worth visiting. Good news is, very soon India Tourism Development Corporation is about to start light and sound show at Konark Temple using laser technology! I'm sure prospective travelers would love checking that out too. Visit Konark during winter months, and make it a point to spend the night there itself before heading onto other touristy destinations of Odisha. An easy Konark itinerary can be- check in hotel in the morning, explore the Sun Temple thoroughly, pamper the well conceived hunger with unpredictable Odia cuisine, indulge in a catnap, reach the Chandrabhaga Beach on an auto-rickshaw to witness the sunset sky over the Bay of Bengal, return to catch the illuminated Sun Temple, call it a day at Konark and check out of your hotel in the following morning to fulfill your remaining travel goals. Sooner or later you'll revisit Konark anyway, to rediscover the forsaken chariot of the missing Lord.

6 comments:

  1. Social canvas of the 13th century, sounds apt for this Temple :) Nice post, I learned quite a few new things..

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    1. Appreciate your patience Veidehi, considering the post was little lengthier for a photo story :-P

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  2. your post reminded me of my visits to the temple.
    Loved your narration.

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    1. Thanks for your encouraging words Durga Prasad :-)

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  3. Nice blog !!! Awesome posts & information, i had Liked Your Blog & way Of Writing The Posts In Your website,Please Share More Information in Your Blog,Keep Going On And All The Best

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    1. Thanks Amar!
      I'll try to share more info as you said :-)

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