Konark

Konark or Konarak (Odia: 6କଣାର୍କ)(Sanskrit: कोनार्क) is a small town in Puri district of the state of Odisha (formerly Orissa), India, on the Bay of Bengal, sixty-five kilometres from Bhubaneswar, famous for its 13th-century Sun Temple and the Chandrabhaga River.

Understand

Partial view of Konark Sun Temple in Odisha, India

Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name 'Konark' is derived from the words Kona - Corner and Arka - Corners of Sun; it is situated on the north-east of Puri or the Chakrakshetra. The Sun Temple of Konark, often called as the Black Pagoda, was constructed in the mid thirteenth century by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty is an ample testament to the artistic glory of the time.

It is often considered the best among other temples of its kind and that is saying something when you are talking about the golden triangle of Odisha which boasts of Sri Jagannath Temple and Lingaraj Temple of Puri and Bhubaneswar.

Legend of Konark Temple

Legend has it that Samba, the king of Krishna and Jambavati entered the bathing chamber of Krishna's wives, and was cursed by Krishna with leprosy. It was decreed that he would be relieved of the curse by worshipping the Sun God on the sea coast north-east of Puri.

It is said that the temple was not completed as conceived because the foundation was not strong enough to bear the weight of the heavy dome. As stated in the various stories regarding the temple as well as its construction, the temple possess a huge aura of power. It is believed that this enormous power comes from the two powerful magnets. It is stated that these magnets are used in the construction of the tower. The magnet made the throne of king to hover in the middle of the air.

Due to its magnetic effects, vessels passing through the Konark sea were drawn to it, resulting in heavy damage. Other legends state that magnetic effects of the lodestone disturbed ships' compasses so that they did not function correctly. To save their shipping, the Portuguese voyagers took away the lodestone, which was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones, and the iron columns used to hold them walls together, of the temple wall in balance. Due to its displacement, the temple walls lost their balance and eventually fell down. But there is no record of this occurrence in any historical records, nor is there any record of the existence of such a powerful lodestone at Konark.

Architecture of Konark Temple

The Sun Temple is the culmination of Odishan temple architecture and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. The massive structure, now in ruins, sits in solitary splendour surrounded by drifting sand. Today it is located two kilometers from the sea, but originally the ocean came almost up to its base. Until fairly recent times, in fact, the temple was close enough to the shore to be used as a navigational point by European sailors, who referred to it as the 'Black Pagoda'.

The Konark Sun Temple belongs to the Central Indian style of Temple architecture, though it does not have tall shikharas of the later temples of Odisha and Central India.

Get in

Konark is one of the most prominent cities of Odisha. It is very famous tourist destination, especially for those who are traveling from eastern or southern part of India. The convenient way to get to Konark is drive either from Puri (33km) or Bhubaneswar (65km). The best time to visit Konark is from October to March.

By air

The adjacent airport is at Bhubaneswar, which is about 64 km away. It is linked with Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and Nagpur and operates several direct flights.

By train

The railway stations nearest to Konark are located in the twin cities of Puri and Bhubaneswar. These stations are linked with almost all the major destinations in India by train.

By road

The National and State Highways link Konark with Puri and Bhubaneswar forming a virtual triangle popularly known as Golden Triangle of East. To reach Konark from Bhubaneswar, after traveling 20km take a left turn once you reach Pipli village. The road straight ahead leads to Puri.

Hiring a taxi is the best way of travel between Puri and Konark. There are good number of transport buses as well as private coaches plying from both the cities. State buses are also available to Konark from Bhubaneswar's Bus Stand, Vani Vihar and Kalpana Chhak. Travel by bus is however much, much cheaper compared to renting a car. Although cramped and rather uncomfortable, these buses offer a unique experience of daily life in Odisha for less than US$1.

Get around

Auto rickshaws, taxis and cycle rickshaws are there for roaming around in the city. State bus services are rickety and uncomfortable while traveling unless you are on a budget. That said, they are very good value in the ratio of adventure-to-rupees.

There are regular buses and jeeps to Konark from Puri, which is 33km down the coast. The journey takes about an hour and the last bus back to Puri leaves from 6:30AM Alternatively, you can take an auto-rickshaw for ₹250-₹300/- round trip, including waiting time.

Official guided tours leave from the Panthaniwas (Odisha Tourism) in Bhubaneswar (Tues-Sun 6:30-6:30, ₹130/- per person) and also visit Dhauli.

See

The main attraction of the place is the Konark Sun Temple decalred as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1984. The temple is situated in the Konark village to the north of Puri in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal. It has extensive stone carvings on the walls, many of them highly erotic. Though, the temple is under ruin due to heavy erosion its magnificience is still reflected in its architects.

Konark Sun Temple

The Sun Temple UNESCO World Heritage Site built in 13th century in the honor of the sun-god Surya is currently under ruins. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with 24 wheels about three meters high and pulled by seven horses, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.

View of the Jagamohan and the ruined shikhara of the Surya Temple at Konark

Key attractions in Konark Temple

The Konarak temple also marks the culmination of the temple building architecture in Odisha. Apart from the depiction of the stone wheels and the caparisoned horses drawing the colossal chariot of Sun God, the Konarak Temple is a typical example of the Odishan temple architecture. The temple is not different from those of other regions.

This picture is not of a sundial. It is an intricate representation of the Dharmachakra, or Wheel of Sun, Konark

Other attractions

Though the Konark temple is the key tourist attraction in the area. However, if you wish to stay in Konark for a full-day it is advisable to spend other destination spots otherwise abandoned or see few visitation. If travelling by the OTDC or private tour operators - these destinations are either narrated by the bus operators or halted for approximately an hour during the trip.

Ramchandi Folk Tales

There are a number of popular stories involving Ramachandi as the chief goddess of the Konark kshetra and most probably Ramachandi was the presiding deity of this temple. There is also a popular story about why Ramachandi left Konark after the Muslim Suleman Kalapahad destroyed the Sun temple.

It is stated that after destroying the Sun temple, Kalapahad came to Ramachandi's temple in the back side of the Sun temple in south eastern corner. The goddess Ramachandi dressed as a Maluni (maid servant) told Kalapahad to wait at the door till she returned with water for the goddess. Kalapahad waited anxiously to get some cold water for a long time. But when it was too late he entered into the temple and found the throne empty. Then he followed the Maluni with great anger thinking that the Maluni carried away the goddess. He reached the bank of the river Kushabhadra and found the goddess Ramachandi floating in the middle of the river. The river was as in full spate, he came back without being able to cross the river. Being advised by goddess in a dream, a Panda (priest) built a temple on the bank of the river Kushabhadra, near the sea shore which is a sandy deserted place.

Goddess Mangala and Nabakalebar

During the renovation of deities of Puri new idols are created for Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra. The new idols are created from a sacred wood known as 'Daru Brahma' in local language. Nobody knows from where to find the sacred wood to create the new idols, so as per the tradition the priests of Lord Jagannath temple come to Kakatpur Mangala to pray the Goddess to help them to find the sacred wood. The priests seelp in front of the Goddess with their face down and then Goddess Mangala come in their dream and tell the exact location of the three sacred trees for the three deities. This custom has been performed from years together without any deviation.

Concerns over the Safety

Although Archeological Survey of India (ASI) are working on the restoration of this maginificent heritage structure implemented with masterly touch illustrating diverse themes arrest the attention of the spectator yet concerns were raised by different quarters in Odisha over the deteriorating condition of the Sun temple.

Legends describe a lodestone (magnet) on the top of the Sun temple. Due to its magnetic effects, vessels passing through the Konark sea were drawn to it, resulting in heavy damage. Other legends state that magnetic effects of the lodestone disturbed ships' compasses so that they did not function correctly. To save their shipping, the Portuguese voyagers took away the lodestone, which was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones, and the iron columns used to hold them walls together, of the temple wall in balance. Due to its displacement, the temple walls lost their balance and eventually fell down. But there is no record of this occurrence in any historical records, nor is there any record of the existence of such a powerful lodestone at Konark Temple.

But the Konark Surakhya Samiti (save Konark committee) said that falling down of stones from the 13th century monument had turned “into a regular feature”. Chunks of masonry have fallen off at regular intervals. On September 19, 1998 a two-tonne cornice stone on the northeastern side of the jagmohan fell off onto a ledge. The interior of the jagmohan has been sealed off ever since 1951, when conservation work on the monument was seriously taken up for the first time. The walls were shored up from the inside and the interior was filled with sand to prevent imminent collapse—such was its tenuous state.

One reason why no major steps are being taken by the ASI officials is for fear it might lead to the total collapse of the crumbling temple.

Do

Konark is not only an ideal choice for monument, beach and scenic beauties but also for its colourful festivals. The "Konark Festival" held every year is a great attraction for cultural cognoscenti. The most popular and colourful festival of Konark, an occasion for a grand congregation of Indian pilgrims and enthusiasts from abroad, falls on the seventh day of the new moon of Magha.

Most tourists would find it comfortable to make a day trip to Konark from Puri or Bhubaneswar and return, rather than stay overnight at hotels in Konark. Usually travellers starts from Puri and covers Bhubaneswar and Konark in a day-trip. But to take a break away from the humdrum of the main city, Konark is the best place to enjoy serenity.

Chandrabhaga Mela

Chandrabhaga Mela is the most popular festival which fall in the month of February. This is a day specially set aside for the worship of the Sun God at Konark. Thousands of pilgrims flock to Konark every year to take a holy dip on the Chandrabhaga River and then circumbulates the shrine or jagamohan to worship the Navagraha stone which originally was above the eastern portal and is now set up in a small shed outside the compound.

This is the most popular and colourful festival of the place when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit Konark to observe the festival. In fact this is the second biggest festival in Odisha, next to Car Festival of Puri.

Konark Dance Festival

Another colourful festival is the Konark Dance Festival considered as the cultural mecca where eminent classical dancers and singers across the country participates to perform before the live audience in an open-air auditorium set on the backdrop of Konark Temple. The festival has assumed a kind of distinctive significance and importance for the timely efforts it has made to wards the revival, preservation and continuation of unique temple dance tradition of Odisha.

Buy

Konark though famous for its temples, is a fascinating shopping destination too. The best way to enjoy shopping in Konark would be a leisurely stroll through the markets of the city of Konark.

Check out the Patta paintings and the appliqué work of Pipli or the brilliantly embroidered umbrellas that makes a fascinating buy. If you are planning to buy souvenirs then the best option would be the government emporiums which stock fabrics and handicrafts items from across the state of Odisha.

Local marketers or shops sells seashells and conches which are good and cheap souveniors to carry back home however, you need to bargain with the shopkeepers. Normally, the prices are doubled for the products as shopkeepers are aware of the bargaining habits.

Eat

The main market area, near the beach and temple complex has numbers of local dhabas (food-joints) serving vegetarian and non-vegetarians food. Apart from relishing the local delicacies, fish fry prepared in Bengali-style is highly suggested. Apart of Indian cuisines, continental and Chinese dishes are also available at an affordable rate.

Sleep

There are few decent accommodation options in Konark and the situation is getting better with every passing day. Hotels or lodges in places like Puri and Bhubaneswar offer more choices because they are considered to be more famous travel destinations. But there are a number of decent accommodations in Konark that rightly cater to every need of a discerning traveler.

Useful Information

The entire territory lies in the Topical zone and hence is subject to high temperature. People are hospitable in nature and Hindi and Bengali are understood and some times spoken by the people, besides Oriya. English is generally understood however not spoken frequently.

When entering the temples visitors are required to cover their heads and leave their shoes to one of the shoe-stalls. Photography is free however visitors need to pay extra for videography. Terminal guides are available. However tourists may take the assistance of the Tourist Officer, Konark for better information.

Guides advise that as there is no longer a god housed at the Sun Temple, visitors are not required to take off shoes and cover their heads. At the time of my visit (early 2015), I saw a large number of Indian tourists enter the temple without removing shoes or undertaking any of the usual temple formalities.

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