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           Konark - Sun Temple

The sun temple at Konark is the most important structure in the state of Orissa in eastern India. It is the highlight of any tour of Orissa. The Konark sun temple is of utmost interest to those studying temple architecture in India. Orissa has its own distinct temple architecture and the Konark sun temple is a typical example of this style. Tourists should make it a point to visit this temple as it is the most famous tourist attraction in Orissa.

The sun temple was built in the 13th century under the orders of King Narasimhadeva of the eastern Ganga dynasty. It is counted among the most remarkable architectural marvels constructed in medieval India and is dedicated to the Sun God. The structure has been designed as a chariot of the Sun god, driven by seven horses and carried by 12 pairs of wheels. According to Hindu mythology, the sun god circles the earth in this chariot.

The temple is known for its remarkable design as well as the superb sculptures. Among the numerous sculptures featuring a wide range of mythological themes, the most prominent is that of the Sun god himself. The life size image of the sun god has been shown as standing on a chariot. He is surrounded by his wives and other deities. Mention must be made of the erotic sculptures of the temple, reminiscent of the temples in Khajuraho.

Besides the artistic aspect, the design and sculptures of the temple also has astronomical significance. The seven horses of the sun represent the seven days of the week. The 12 gigantic wheels represent the 12 months of the year. The wheels have eight spokes, which are believed to represent the day divided into eight sections of three hours each. An amazing feature of the temple is that the three images of the sun god have been positioned with such accurate measurements that the sunís rays fall on their faces at dawn, noon, and dusk.

The temple had a 70 meter tall spire which collapsed by the 19th century due to constant corrosion. The templeís stone structure has been corroded over the centuries due to the saline climate as it is situated right next to the Bay of Bengal. Now under constant supervision, the Konark temple has been awarded the status of a world heritage site by the UNESCO.

The adjoining Jagamohan or assembly Hall is another beautiful structure. It was buried under sand for centuries and was unearthed in the early 20th century. It has many sculptures that include 1700 elephants in different postures. Another important part of the Konark sun temple is the Bhogmandir, which is the hall of offerings. The structure has lost its roof over the years, but retains its pillars and plinth and has many splendid sculptures featuring the traditional dance form of the region, Odissi. The Shrine of the Nine Planets in the compound is a large stone slab featuring the deities representing the nine planets. The archaeological museum exhibits the sculptures and other artifacts recovered from the site.

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