Despite all the modern temples that are being constructed in various parts of India, there are several historical temples that continue to allure the followers of a deity and also serve as a place where religious festivals are celebrated on a regular basis. The Konark Sun Temple of Orissa dedicated to Lord Surya is included in the list of temples, where devotees gather in large numbers for prayers and religious festivals.
The Konark Sun Temple is located in the town of Konark in the district of Puri. This temple is also called the Black Pagoda.
It is unclear as to who constructed this historical temple. While it is said that a ruler of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, King Narasimhadeva constructed this temple in the 13th century, another theory is that the temple was built by Samba, Lord Krishna’s son, after he was cured of his leprosy by Surya or the Sun God.
The Konark Temple fell in the sixteenth century when Kalapahad attacked Orissa. He had destroyed other temples in the state as well, including the famous Jagannath temple. He had somehow managed to displace the stone that supported the arch, which resulted in the collapse of the temple. He also disfigured most of the idols of all the temples he had attacked.
With the rise of Muslim empire in Orissa, the downfall of all the Hindu temples began. To save the deity placed in the temple, the Pandas decided to hide it under the sand till the time the Muslim reign was wiped off from the state. It is said that this image was later shifted to the Jagannath temple, while a group believes that the image is now showcased in the National Museum, Delhi.
As the idol of the deity was missing, the worshipers stopped visiting the temple and gradually the once famous pilgrimage centre became a deserted city with no religious or business activities at all.
It is said that the idol currently installed at the Jagannath temple was brought here in the seventeenth century by King Narasimha Dev, who is also believed to have taken away the stones and sculptures from the temple.
The subsequent decades saw further degradation of the temple and the surrounding area. During the rule of Maratha Kings, the dancing hall of the temple was broken as according to the rulers, it served little purpose to the temple complex.
A saint took away a pillar from the temple some years later, and the temple was nothing more than a disfigured and disrobed structure. As time passed by, shrubs and trees surrounded the forests and animals and pirates were the only visitors of the temple.
The structure that we see today consists of the temple Mandap, while only the remains of the main temple exist. However, whatever we see clearly depicts a picture of architectural heights achieved by the Kalinga architecture style. The stone carvings, sculptures, and designs of living, non-living, and celestial beings provide an excellent view of the ancient artistic skills.
The erotic sculptures of the temple are an added attraction, and the landscapes surrounding the temple remains are occupied by various species of trees, thus making the visit a memorable experience for the tourists.
Eat, Drink, Collect
Close to the temple complex, there are several outlets that serve regional vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines.
Local vendors as well as government emporiums sell various goods that are worth collecting as a memorabilia of your visit. Common items purchased by the visitors include handicrafts, Patta paintings, seashells, etc.
Best Time to Visit
The Konark Sun Temple is open from sunrise to sunset on all days of the year. Visitors from India, SAARC and BIMSTEC countries are required to pay RS 10/- per person as entrance fee, while visitors from other parts of the world have to pay Rs 250/- per person towards admission. Entry is free for children up to 15 years of age.
It is advised that tourists must plan their visit during the second week of February to enjoy the Chandrabhaga Mela, when the worshipers bath in the nearby Chandrabhaga River before sunrise and celebrate the birthday of Surya Dev.
Visitors must try to reach the temple early in the morning or by noon so that they can return back to Bhubaneswar or Puri rather than staying in Konark city.
How to Reach
The closest airport is in the city of Bhubaneswar, at a distance of 64 kilometres. Regular flights to Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Nagpur, etc., are available from this airport.
The closest railway stations are in the city of Bhubaneswar and Puri, which provide connectivity with almost all parts of the country.
Once you reach either of the above mentioned cities, you will have to board a state transport run bus or hire a taxi to reach Konark. In Konark, the most popular transport means are cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, jeeps, buses and private taxis.
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