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Nine Planet Shrine

Located just outside the Sun Temple is the Nine Planet Shrine in Konark. The chlorite slab of 6 m (20 feet) was originally placed above the entrance but now is in the northeast corner of the enclosed space. Carrying seated figure of the Sun and the remaining planets of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu, is the main piece of this small shrine. These are a representation of the Navagrahas, the nine planet deities. Also known as the Navagraha Temple, this temple has idols that are encrusted with rich ornaments.

Architecture and Description

The architectural use of the Navagrahas has been as per the medieval convention, is a preventive measure for the safety of the temple as can be noticed in most of the temples in Orissa. The idols are holding rosary and Kamandalu in their hands, are wearing high pointed crowns and are sitting on Lotuses as it is described in the Puranas.

Following are the names of the nine planets:

  • Surya (Sun)
  • Chandra (Moon)
  • Mangala (Mars)
  • Budha (Mercury)
  • Vrihaspati (Jupiter)
  • Shukra (Venus)
  • Shani (Saturn)
  • Rahu (Ascending Node), and
  • Ketu (Descending Node)

History

The Bhaumakara period, the lintel-slab of the shrines had the figures of only 8 planets and it was only after the Ganga period that Ketu, the 9th planet made his presence.

Because of natural calamities, the slab could not remain in its original position and fell down, lying in the debris. It was later discovered by the Asiatic Society of Bengal who wanted to move it to Kolkata to keep it in the museum, as a rare specimen of India’s sculptural decoration. In 18893, this extremely heavy slab was cut into two pieces longitudinally so that it can be removed easily. However, the weight of the slab made this removal difficult and so the slab was left at around, around 220 yards from the site of the temple. After 60 years, the Indian Government made arrangement for its installation in a separate area near  the temple compound. It is now the Navagraha temple of Konark.