Konark Sun temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, is a 13th century temple which is dedicated to the Sun God. One of the best tourist attractions of Orissa, this temple is an example of architectural excellence existing in those times. Visited by a huge number of tourists as well as pilgrims, Konark is a part of the Golden triangle of Orissa, comprising of Bhubaneshwar, Konark and Puri.
Also known as Konaditya, the name of Sun temple of Konark is derived from two words: Kona meaning Corner and Arka meaning Sun. The temples lies on the north eastern corner of Puri, which is also known as the Chakrakshetra.
One of the grandest temples in the complex, it was constructed by Narsimha Deva I, an Eastern Ganga King in 1278 CE. Also referred to as the Black Pagoda, it is slightly in ruins, which were dug in the 19th century. Although the stunning Jagmohana (the audience hall) is in its place, the tower over the Garbhagriha is gone.
According to legends, Samba, the king of Jambavati, entered the bathing chamber of the wives of Krishna. He, as a result, was cursed by Krishna with leprosy. It was later announced that he would be able to get rid of the curse by worshipping the Sun God on the sea coast, towards north east of Puri. Therefore, Samba arrived at Konaditya Kshetra. Here, he found an image of Sun seated on a lotus. He worshipped him and was able to get rid of the curse.
Stories say that the conception and the construction of the temple varied as the dome was too heavy for the foundation to bear. Locals say that the dome was magnetic, leading to shipwrecks. Thus, the dome was removed from here and the image of Sun God was brought to Puri.
The magnificence of the Konark temple is visible throughout its grand and intricate sculpture work. The entire temple is conceptualized in the form of a chariot of Sun God. This mammoth chariot has 24 wheels where each has a diameter of 10 feet, with extravagant carvings, and a set of bars. The temple is dragged by 7 horses. A flight of stairs take you to the main entrance, which is guarded by 2 lions crushing the elephants. The temple is made from Khondalite rocks, and built in traditional style of Kalinga architecture.
Other highlights here are the Nata Mandir (dance hall) and Bhog Mandapa (dining hall), in front of the Jagmohana. This temple has beautiful carvings. The sculptures on the walls, roof, and base of the temple have erotic figurines where men, animals, warriors on horses, and foliage are shown in exotic styles. Three images of the Sun God are placed in such a manner that they catch the sunrays, during dawn, noon and sunset.
One of the popular attractions in Konark is the Melakkadambur Shiva temple, constructed during the reign of Kulottunga Chola I (1075-1120). The temple is in the form of a chariot. This well-preserved temple is the earliest of its kind. It is said that this temple had brought Ratha Vimana temples, or Chariot temples in fashion. After this, the Sun Temple at Konark was built during the 13th century by Eastern Ganga ruler Narasimha Deva.