Konark is the site of the Konark Temple, cited as one of the best examples of religious architecture in the world. Dedicated to Surya, the Sun God, the temple stands majestically in partial ruins next to Konark beach. An ancient amphitheatre with the Sun Temple as the backdrop is the venue for one of the most exciting dance festivals held in the country.
What to see
Konark Sun Temple
The Sun Temple (Surya Devi) at Konark personifies the temple architecture of Orissa. It stands stark and proud amidst the surrounding sands. It was originally built on the edge of the Ocean, which today has receded to a respectful distance. The temple is often referred to as the Black Pagoda and is a world heritage site.
Built in the thirteenth century by King Narasimhadeva, it is in the shape of a celestial chariot for carrying Surya, the sun god, across the heavens. Seven horses pull the chariot, with twelve wheels on either side. These symbolise the divisions of time. The seven horses representing the number of days in a week and each wheel representing an hour or a fortnight.
The size of the temple is awe-inspiring. Legend has it that the king was so passionate about its construction that he let it consume 12 years worth of the revenues of the kingdom.
The main tower has now collapsed but was built in the same form as the Jagannath temple at Puri. It towered to 227 feet. The three main images of Surya on three facades are carved in chlorite stone and stand in the formal frontal position often used to portray divinities in a state of spiritual equilibrium
The porch structure exceeded 120 feet in height. Below the high platforms of the tower and the porch are the 24 stone wheels.
The third major component of the temple complex is the detached natamandira (hall of dance), which remains in front of the temple. Of the 22 subsidiary temples that once stood within the enclosure, two remain the Vaishnava Temple and the Mayadevi Temple. At either side of the main temple are colossal figures of royal elephants and horses.
Though the motivation for building the temple is not known, Narasimhadeva, probably constructed it as a victory monument, after a successful campaign against Muslim invaders.
The carvings on the temple give an insight into the social environment of royalty in the 13th century. There are wonderfully carved images of hunts, lovers, deities, dancers, birds, animals, and mythological creatures as also other intricate designs. The temple is also famous for its erotic sculptures celebrating the joys of living.
The Museum: The Sun Temple Museum run by the Archaeological Survey of India has an excellent collection of sculptures from the temple ruins.
Konark beach: Konark beach is calmer than the Puri beach, which tends to get very rough. However, the waters tend to be trickier - even strong swimmers need to be wary. The immense backdrop of the Sun Temple looks breathtaking when illuminated in the evening.
Chandrabhaga beach: Close to the Sun Temple of Konark, is the lovely quiet beach - of Chandrabhaga. The beach is not crowded and one can spend a few quite moments contemplating the beauty of the surroundings. In the month of Magha Saptami (february), the Chandrabhaga Mela, is celebrated with much fanfare. On this day pilgrims come to take a holy dip in the pool and then converge on the beach to watch the sun rise over the sea.
Konark Dance Festival: Dance has always been an integral part of worship in Orissa. Nearly all temples in Orissa incorporate a dance hall. Odissi, the traditional classical dance of Orissa owes its revitalisation to the discovery of the ancient treatise on dance, the 'Abhinaya Chandrika' and the study of ancient sculptures on the walls of temples by dedicated artistes. Konark Dance Festival, a mega-celebration of classical dance forms in India, is held in winter every year.
Ramachandi: The temple dedicated to the Goddess Ramachandi is situated at a distance of 8 km at a place where the river Kushabhadra meets with the sea.
Beleswar: 20 kms from Konark, Beleswar is popular for the Saiva shrine and the sea beach.
Balighai: This beach is located 25 km away and has a research centre dedicated to the protection of the sea turtle.
Kurum: Eight kms away, Kurum is known for the excavations relating to Buddhist architecture.
When to visit:
Konark is accessible throughout the year but the best season to visit is between October and March when the weather is pleasant. The summer months get very hot.
Air: The nearest airport is Bhubaneshwar, 65 km away, which is connected to Calcutta, Delhi, Madras and other airports.
Rail: The city is well connected by rail to Bhubaneshwar and Puri.
Road: Konark is 65 km from Bhubaneswar and 35 km from the coastal town of Puri. It is 85 km from Puri if you take a diversion via the colourful village of Pipli, which is famous for its applique work. You can also travel by road to other places in Orissa.