From the world renown Puri, I reach the scanty, insipid town of Konark by bus, to be dropped around the not visible Sun temple. I walk through a narrow lane with shops of handicrafts and mementos on both sides and soon reach the dilapidated temple, stunningly zooming on me as I walk onward in wonder! The magical network of matchless, lively sculpture on granite all over, already starts casting its spell on me! The Black Pagoda(as the European sailors called the landmark),the culminating brilliance among Kalinga style temples, sprawling over a land of 860ft by 540ft amidst casuarinas, mahogany, rosewood plantations was built and completed between 1253 and 1260 A.D. by king Narasimhadeva-1 to proclaim the political supremacy of the Ganga dynasty. Creativity, energy and aesthetic commitment of 1200 artisans and architects, over a period of 12years with the state revenue receipts of 12years; and the temple was finally completed after some more confounding problems.
The entrance is guarded by two fantastically sculptured ferocious lions (Gajasimhas), each crushing a war elephant which in turn lies on the top of a human body. Then I climb into the, at present without roof, brilliant, multi-pillared Nata Mandir where the temple dancers performed in reverence to the Sun God. The lively dancing figurines all over the pillars around give an impression of some live performance going on! As I slowly walk on to the other side and descend the stairs, I have the majestic view of the Sun Temple in all its glory ascending before me!
Conceived as a huge, exquisitely and intricately sculptured Chariot with twelve pairs of giant sized wheels and seven horses (these horses by the side of the stair case on the eastern side of Jagamahana were broken and done away with.) with a beautiful image of Surya (Sun God meaning beautiful light) in the main temple behind. This 230ft.high structure perished due to fanatic brutal attacks by Kalapahad a Hindu Kayastha convert to Islam, general of the Sultan of Bengal in 1568. To begin with, the east-west aligned Konark, meaning essence of the corners(perhaps of the three corners namely Bhuvaneshwar, Puri and Konark forming the Golden Triangle), is nothing but a depiction of the philosophy of the living, the lively, and the full of life beings and things inspired by the life and sustenance giving phenomenon, Arka(Sun’s name meaning, the essence of all).
As I start moving around the temple, I reach a wheel of the chariot, 9ft. in diameter, with eight thick and eight thin spokes displaying detailed, finest cut, carvings of a variety of gods and goddesses and scrolls of flora and fauna. The wheel also works as a sun clock during the day time. Such 24 wheels signify 24 hrs of the day. The base below the wheels all-round has a scroll of hundreds of elephants (about 1452) in different lively poses, carrying the king in some places, also warriors on elephants and horses with swords and shields in their hands, deer-hunters and also real life scenes of husking rice, bullock-carts, pilgrimages of old people.
The next level depicts imaginary figures like Gaja-Shardula (lion upon an elephant), Nara-vyala (lion upon a man), Naga-mithunas (half human, half serpent couples) and male and female figures in different poses; all life like with the best touch of chisel. The next level of Mitra’s(Sun’s name meaning fried of all) temple has wildest of the erotic sculptures with some astonishingly eye-catching amorous couples indulging in sex! Even Vastayana’s Kam-sutra does not have a mention of such poses depicted with perfect knowledge of human anatomy by the artists! Of course, under the auspices of Hiranyagarbha (Sun: meaning the golden centered), the creator and nourishing (Pushna: one who nourishes, a name of Sun) deity of life in prime prosperity times; naughty, healthy, mutually consented natural heterosexuality is quite legitimate! Evidently sex was not a taboo and its uninhibited appreciation definitely seemed to be a sane gesture of social life in those days.
This huge platform around which I spend a whole lot of time is 16-1/2ft. in height and on this stands the 130ft high Jagamohana or Mukhashala (porch), the audience hall of the temple, with a terraced pyramidal roof. It has three tiers separated by high recesses containing figures of life sized dancing women with musical instruments depicting Devadasis at the time of Aarati.The walls again have three tiers like the platform, each tier having much larger, beautifully carved animal, human and imaginary figures. It has four black chlorite doors in four directions 14-1/2ft wide and rich with sculpture enhancing the impact of the structure. This 60ft square hall is packed with stone boulders, sand and lime since 1904 from inside for safety.
Behind the Porch are the remnants of the main temple which was 230ft high, the highest of the temples in India! The crumbled temple has 25-30ft. thick portions of walls remaining around the Sanctum Sanctorum which lead us into it through a flight of stairs. Three life like Parsva Devatas with seven horses and a variety of devotees, the Sun himself in different forms in chlorite stone on the walls and an artistic, huge throne with creepers and animals and king Narasimhadeva himself worshipping Bhaskara(Sun’s name meaning one who leads to attainment) with his companions, carved on it still make us feel as if we are amidst life still breathing! The image of Surya is installed on the throne; even in their present condition they happen to be the rarest specimens of Konark sculptures!
3-6-687/102, St. No.10,