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Konark is a town located in the Puri district of Orissa and is the home to the Konark Sun Temple, a World Heritage Site. Built in the 13th Century by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, the temple is designed as a gigantic chariot supported by twenty-four chariot wheels, dedicated to the Sun/Surya God. Some other temples dedicated to Sun God include Martand in Jammu and Kashmir, Modhera in Patan, Gujarat and Katarmal in Uttarakhand.
There is quite an interesting legend associated with the Konark Sun temple - it's called 'Story of Dharmapada'. The legend also explains why the temple was never used in it's entire history and also gives a logical story of why it fell apart.
The Konark sun temple follows the Odissa style of temple architecture, though much of the original structure has now collapsed and it survives only in parts (the main structure seen today is only the Mandapa).
"The Konark temple was conceived as a huge and colossal chariot drawn by a team of seven horses depicted in the galloping mode. The entire temple was planned in such a way that it is fitted with twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated stone wheels. The horses were conceived in such a way that the Sun God (Surya) himself drives this chariot, his place being inside the garbhagriha. The Konarak temple also marks the culmination of the temple building architecture in Orissa. The humble beginning made in temple building activities in the 7th century A.D. (Parasuramesvara Temple being a classic example) passed through a process of efflorescence (e.g. Lingaraj Temple in the 11th century A.D. and the Jagannath temple in the 12th century A.D.) and finally culminated in the Konarak Temple in the 13th century A.D." - Archaeological Survey of India.
There are some interesting theories about the temple, some claim it was never completed and the construction was left mid-way and later the half-done temple turned into ruins, while others are of the opinion that it was completed in about 12 years during the reign of Narasimhadeva I. There are theories about its eventual collapse as well, the most popular being the attack by the Muslim king Kalapahad in the 16th Century.
The scared idol was removed in time and buried deep inside sand; some believe it is yet to be found, while others believe the Sun God idol in the National Museum of Delhi was the presiding deity at Konark. With time, different images were removed from Konark temple and placed in other temple, Puri Jagannath temple being the major beneficiary. The temple survived still, despite the odds.
We saw the temple on our second day in Konark. The temple opens up early in the morning and we were one of the first ones to get in, the fact that our hotel was so close by helped. The view was very different from what I saw in the morning, though as imposing and stunning as I had expected it to be.
I had never seen a temple with so much carving before and Sanjeev and I spent hours going through different sculptures and analyzing their meanings. Our favorite were, of course, the highly erotic sculptures that the place is already famous for. Some of these were straight forward, while others took quite some time to interpret; a few were too stunning to be believed! I am including a few images here.
Btw some of these are quite controversial and many would be completely unacceptable to the modern society. Images of implicit homosexual and lesbian love are found, and also controversially enough even animals and children are also part of some carvings.
But it’s not just the erotica which moved us; everything at the temple takes your breath away. You can even climb up and see a few portions from top as well. There are even bigger idols there, and in different stones as well. And I even found the climb up a bit adventurous, many saree clad aunties didn’t venture that far up.
This set the pace for our upcoming adventures, and there were many! We had a very hectic schedule, and surprisingly we managed to cover it all. More stunning visuals, more engrossing stories, more 'happening' adventures...all to follow soon!
There are many different options to stay at Konark, and accommodation is available for travelers of all budgets. We stayed at the the Government guest house called Yatrinivas - nothing fancy but it does have excellent location. It was so well located, that we could even sneak inside the temple complex late in the night.
The best way to reach is to fly into the capital city Bhubaneshwar and then take a cab or bus and come to Konark. Bhubaneshwaris well connected by flights from all major Indian cities, but the frequency of flights is limited.
Bhubaneshwar is only 65km from Konark so it's possible to do a day drip as well, but I would strong recommend staying overnight at Konark to get the complete vibe of the place.