The Sun-God Shrine: Konark Temple

At was a clear morning, hundreds of years ago. A smart lad was taking leave of his mother on the outskirts of a small village. The mother, tears rolling down her cheeks, looked on till her son disappeared behind a mound of sand where the road took a turn. The boy walked on and on. Hours later, his own village, with the peak of the familiar temple and the spires of tall trees, became only a dark line on the horizon. He had never come away that far alone and he had yet to go a long distance. He left behind him many a village. He spent the night in a village choultry and resumed his journey in the morning.

At last, on the other side of a green wood, he saw the summit of a huge monument. It looked bright in the sun. The boy's face beamed with delight. As he advanced, he could see hundreds of men working on the building, and from that distance they looked as small as ants. They were building a temple that was designed to surpass all the monuments of the country in size and grandeur. The boy's mission was to meet one of the builders. It did not take him long to find the man he sought, for he was the leader of the builders, the chief architect of the unique monument. The boy's voice was choked as he stood face-to face with the celebrated architect. He was so moved that it was hard for him, to control his tears. But he somehow managed to give the architect a souvenir which his mother had sent with him. . What followed, was a moment of great ecstasy for both the architect and the boy. Everyone present looked on with surprise, as their leader bugged and kissed the lad.

In no time, everybody learnt who the boy was. They greeted their little guest, Dharmapada, the only child of the chief architect, Bishu Maharana, .Dharmapada-was an infant when Maharana left his house. Twelve years had passed. There had been no meeting between father and son. The young Dharmapada had at last come to surprise his father. Dharmapada joyfully surveyed the beautiful site on which the great temple had been built. Surging waves of the sea continuously played around the compound wall. When the tide was in, the sea encircled the temple. To the west of the temple flowed the murmuring Chanrabhaga, a holy river.

It was a sacred place and had been the seat of the Sun God from time immemorial. Sages and mystics knew about the place even during the days of Lord Krishna. When Shambo, the son of Lord Krishna, suffered from an incurable disease, he was advised to come here and to worship the Sun God. He did so and was cured. That had made the place very famous. The great temple was to be dedicated to the Sun God. The mighty, visionary king of Kalinga, Narasimha Dev, had summoned 1200 skilled architects, sculptors and craftsmen from all over his kingdom to build this temple. He had asked his able minister, Shibei Samantroy, to supervise the work. In front of the young Dharmapada stood the splendid achievement of his father and his gifted assistants. Only the crown of the temple remained to be set. Dharmapada had learnt to read from a very young age. He would studiously go through the volumes of palm left at home by his father. They contained information about the art and science of building monuments. Dharmapada had learnt many theories and he was thrilled to see a huge temple, in which many difficult theories had been put into practice.

While he marvelled at the sight, he felt that there was a sense of gloom in the atmosphere. The architects who should have been happy, as twelve years of strenuous labour was now about to be completed, looked pensive. He wanted to know the reason for their sadness from his father. Bishu Maharana, at first reluctant to utter a word, could not check himself for long. He almost broke down as he said, "My son, a great crisis has befallen us. We faced with a problem in adjusting the crown of the temple. For several days we have been trying to solve it but without success. It is sufficient to drive us crazy. We are ashamed to call ourselves the descendants of the great builders of yore. "Then, to add to our agony, this morning the king told us that if we cannot complete the work before the sun rises again, tomorrow will be our doomsday." Evening was setting in. The temple still wore the soothing rays of the hidden sun. Soon a full moon emerged from the sea and all was enchanting beneath it.


When the architects gathered inside a large hall to discuss the crisis, Dharmapada, unnoticed by them, ascended the temple. He surveyed the position of the crown and reflected deeply on the problem. Suddenly, the solution flashed in his vision! Theories were still fresh in his mind. His father and the Others had perhaps grown tired, working so hard for years, and the solution had kept evading their minds.

Dharmapada came down and entered the conference hall. He humbly put forth his idea before his elders. They immediately knew, that what he said was the right solution. Delighted and excited, some of them went up the temple and set the crown in its proper position, following Dharmapada's directions. Dharmapada was a hero now. As he came, everybody greeted him joyfully and praised him. But in every age, there are people who are jealous of the achievements of others. Dharmapada soon overhead some people talking among themselves :"What will the king say when he hears that a boy has done what 1200 experts failed to do? Here is Dharmapada to take our reputation away!"

Dharmapada was shocked. He retired to a lonely spot and thought, "I do not wish to deprive these noble workers of their glory." When all were asleep and the moon shone in its full glory, Dharmapada again climbed to the top of the temple - now complete with the crown. The sea had swelled with the tide and gold-fringed waves danced madly around the temple. Dharmapada looked at the sleeping men below and prayed that their reputation would remain ever-shining. He then jumped from a height of 69 metres into the sea below. In the morning, the king was happy to see the crown set. He congratulated the craftsmen. Bishu Maharana perhaps kept quiet, his anguish buried deep in his heart. Thus goes the legend of Dharmapada. His great, but sad role in completing the construction of Konarak, soon came to light and has never been forgotten. Hundreds of years have passed. On a desolate coastal spot in Orissa, the remains of Konarak, often called the Black Pagoda, is counted among the wonders of the world. The image of the Sun God has disappeared. Even the main temple has been completely destroyed. Only the Makhasala, or the fore-temple, survives with its carvings of indescribable beauty. Stones have never responded so well to the demands of the craftsmen's instruments.

The temple was designed to look like a chariot, with 24 magnificent wheels and seven horses. Authorities on sculpture say that these images of horses are among the finest in the world. The temple has inspired deep admiration through the ages. Abdul Fazi, the famous minister of Akbar, wrote in his Ain-i-Akbari, "Near Jaganath (Puri) is a temple dedicated to the Sun. Twelve years' revenue of the country was spent on it. Experts, difficult to please, are struck with amazement on seeing it. The height of its walls is a hundred and fifty hands and their thickness, nineteen. It has three doorways. On the eastern one are figures of two elephants nicely carved, each catching hold of a man on its trunk; on the western door figures of two horsemen have been set up with all equipment and splendour; and on the northern side there is a likeness of two lions each making prey of an elephant and standing rampant on it. In front is an octagonal pillar of black stone, fifty yards in height. On ascending the nine flights of steps one sees a spacious enclosure and a large niche, built in stone in which has been carved the Sun -with other planets....They say seven hundred and odd years ago Raja Narasimha Dev finished this grand building...."

Abdul Fazi -wrote his account in the latter half of the 16th century. If we are to accept the time he ascribes to Narasimha Dev, then we have to believe that Konarak was completed in the ninth century. But historians think otherwise. Most of them believe that the temple was constructed in the 13th century. The main temple of Konarak was the highest in India. There is a legend, which says that the crown of the temple contained a gigantic magnet, which pulled ships ashore. Some harassed foreign merchants therefore, removed it and consequently the whole temple collapsed. Others say that it was Kalapahar, the scourge of Hindu monuments, who destroyed the temple. There are others who think that an earthquake must have caused the destruction.

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