Little-known facts about Sun Temple of Konark, Orissa

Konark Sun Temple is an architectural wonder of India. In this article, the author discusses many unknown and little-known facts about this grand temple. Know which rule built it and how it was destroyed. Let's ask the Government to protect this wonder.

Most probably all Indians have heard about the Sun Temple of Konark, the only UNESCO heritage site of Orissa. The grandeur of the temple astonishes all of us. The deul of the temple was 228 feet tall. But it is now crumbling. This deul was higher than the 210 feet tall vimana of the Brihadeshwara Temple of Thanjavur. Let us know about this architectural wonder of ancient India in detail.

Konark Sun Temple was built during the 13th Century. Most probably the temple was built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. This temple is located around 35 kilometers from Puri along the coastal line of Orissa. The grand temple has been crumbling over the years. It suffered a series of invasion and attempts of its destruction over the ages. Even the present crumbling structures make us understand its grandeur during the glorious days. There are many mysteries and unanswered questions associated with this heritage site. I am mentioning some of these facts in this article.

Re-discovery of the temple

From the writings of Abul Fazal (Ain-i-Akbari), it is understood that the Sun-God of the temple was worshiped in 1580. After that, there was no recorded reference to this temple for 200 years. After 200 years, during the end of the eighteenth century, an expedition team of saints and sages led by Baba Brahmachari found the temple. It was almost in ruins. Baba Brahmachari and other saints started the restoration work at the right earnest.

Thereafter, during the middle of the nineteenth century, the British rulers started showing interest in this temple, although they used to deride it as 'ghost' temple. British artist Ferguson drew the temple during 1838. The excavations by the British till 1939. After independence, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) took over the excavation work. In 1984, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.

The king who built the temple

Narasimha Deva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty built this grand temple. This temple was dedicated to Suryadeva, the Sun God. The dynasty is known for building temples. Narasimha Deva's great-grandfather renovated the Jagannath Temple of Puri. His father built the Bhaskaresvara Temple. Narasimha Deva I (1238-1264) was a very powerful ruler and many historians compare him with Rajnedra Chola of Chola dynasty. Narasimha Deva defeated the Muslim rulers of Bengal and ensured peace in his kingdom for another 300 years.

How the temple was built

Earlier it was not fully clear how the temple was built and who were the artisans. However, after extensive research, during the 1960s, a manuscript written on palm leaves called ''Baya Cakada'' was found. This manuscript of 72 leaves was written in Old Oriya (Karani script) and it provides the details of how the temple was built. This manuscript also contains many drawings depicting how the temple was built, who were the artisans and sculptors, when the Puja began and many other interesting details.

How the great temple started decaying

Many books of ancient Oriya literature gave details how this grand temple started decaying and reached the present dilapidated condition. Like thousands of other grand temples, Konark Sun Temple was invaded time and again by the invaders. It has been stated that the lotus emblem and a ruby atop the temple were taken to Purushottama Temple which signified the decline. Later Kalapahad (an infamous invader from Bengal) vandalized the idols and looted the temple. Thereafter the earthquakes and natural causes caused a rapid decline of the structure.

The biological analysis of moss layers carried out in 1929 proved that the moss formation started around 1573 which signified lack of maintenance and discontinuation of worship.

Final few words

There are several others interesting questions surrounding this Sun Temple, the answers of which are still being searched by the historians and archaeologists. As common Indians, we can only request Government and ASI to take every possible measure to protect this grand structure and pride of India as long as possible.

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