The 13th-century Sun Temple at Konark in India is dedicated to Surya, the Hindu Sun God. It is one of the most famous monuments in India. The monument is an elaborate chariot full of carvings and hidden meaning. It is also a highly-accurate sundial and can tell the time to the exact minute. Made from imported stone, it took thousands of workers over a decade to complete. As you’ll see, it is an incredible piece of architecture in both design and execution. So, if you are planning a trip to see this UNESCO heritage site or just want to learn more about its history, here are some of the most interesting facts about the Konark Sun Temple in India.
7 Interesting Facts About the Konark Sun Temple in India
1. Konark honours the Hindu Sun God
The word Konark means corner or angle (kona) and sun (ark) in Sanskrit. The temple at Konark is dedicated to the Hindu Sun God Surya. Surya is one of the major five deities in Hinduism. The monument is a representation of the sun god Surya’s chariot.
2. Sailors used the temple as a landmark
You’ll find the Konark Sun Temple in the eastern state of Odisha – previously called Orissa – in India. Its location was once on the shores of the Bay of Bengal at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga River, but the waterline receded over the years. However, back in the day, sailors in the Bay of Bengal used the temple as a landmark. European sailors called the temple the Black Pagoda (Kaala Pagoda).
3. Sun Temple at Konark is from the 13th-century
Experts believe that King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty ordered the construction of the temple around 1250 CE. He hired chief architect Bisu Maharana to design the temple. Workers constructed the Konark Sun Temple mainly from three types of stones chlorite, laterite and khondalite. The stones were brought into India from other countries via the Bay of Bengal. The temple spreads across 12 acres and took 1,200 workers 12 years to complete.
4. Konark Sun Temple depicts a chariot
The iconography of Surya often shows the Sun God riding a chariot pulled by seven horses. The horses represent the seven colours of visible light and the seven days in the week. The Konark Sun Temple is a huge chariot with elaborate carvings of stone wheels, pillars and walls. It depicts twelve pairs of wheels drawn by seven horses. The twelve wheels represent the twelve months of the Hindu calendar. Symbolic designs decorate the wheels, some of which refer to the cycle of the seasons. It is an incredible piece of architecture in both design and execution.
5. The Konark Sun Temple tells the time
The wheels of the chariot tell the time. Each wheel has eight spokes and each spoke represents a pahar (3 hours). Therefore, the eight spokes represent 24 hours. By watching the shadows of the spokes, you can tell the time. In fact, day or night, the wheels tell the time accurately to the minute.
6. Detailed carvings cover the temple
Many surfaces of the temple, including the walls and scriptures, feature very detailed carvings. If you look closely, you’ll see wonderful artworks, depictions and sculptures of Hindu deities and apsaras, birds, animals, sea creatures and mythical creatures. You’ll also see friezes narrating important Hindu texts and erotic sculptures of maithunas.
7. The horse have poetic names
The seven horses of the Konark Sun Temple have names. Those names are Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti. They are named after the seven meters or छंद of Sanskrit poetry.