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Konarak – Sun Temple – Main Temple

Main Temple Complex


The temple complex

The temple complex consists of the Temple 1 (main temple complex), Temple 2 (Mayadevi Temple), Temple 3 (Vaishnava Temple) and many other subsidiary structures like the gateway, well, kitchen, enclosure wall, etc.

Temple 1 (Main temple complex)

As described above, the entire temple was conceived as a huge and colossal chariot drawn by seven horses (three on the northern side and four on the southern side) over twelve pairs of stone wheels. The twelve wheels may symbolise the twelve months of the year.

Immediately below the platform and the bada is noticed an upana, which is a ledge-like projection and treated with decorations in friezes. The friezes are decorated with various themes, and the most recurring one is the elephant. The elephant motif is in various attitudes – elephants in defile, uprooting trees and branches, consuming the uprooted ones, feeding the younger ones, giving birth, fondling the younger ones and mates, etc. The next motif which dominates the upana is the military marches and processions. The procession consists of elephants, cavalry and infantry. The hunting of animals is also another theme that is depicted in the upana portion. Very often the king himself is shown hunting a boar or a deer and rarely a lion. The other themes that can be noticed are of the caravan scenes, pulling of a long rope by athletes, armed prince on a horseback, etc. The depiction of giraffe on the south side of the upana is an interesting and noteworthy one.

The bada or the platform of the temple is also richly sculpted and decorated in various bands. The bada portion of the temple measures nearly 4 m in height. The lower portion of the bada is further sub-divided into several bands that are depicted with various motifs like lotus petals, beaded pendants, creeper in foils and flowers, leaves and different animals. The bada portion also consists of several upright slabs and in between these slabs are niches many of them decorated with beautifully sculpted kanyas (damsels) in various moods and attitudes. They are shown as wringing water from the wet hair, standing nearby a half-opened door, standing underneath a tree, holding a branch of a tree, caressing a pet bird, making toilet, simply in a standing pose, playing musical instruments, etc. The upright slabs are also decorated with motifs like a rampant vyala (a leonine figure on an elephant), erotic and amorous figures, nagas or nagis, each with human bust, a multi-hooded canopy and the tail of a serpent coiling round a pillar, beautifully depicted kanyas, miscellaneous figures, etc.

The wheels as already stated above, shown along the northern and southern walls of the platform holding the pidha and rekha deuls are another specimen of exquisite and skilful decoration of the Orissan sculptural art. Each wheel consists of a central hub and sixteen spokes, out of which eight are broad and eight thin. The hub and spokes are intricately decorated and sculpted with various figures and motifs. The spokes of the wheels are also sculpted in such a way that they broaden at the centre like that of a diamond and are thinner at the ends. The spokes are minutely carved with motifs like scroll-work, floral motifs, creepers and foliate, beaded strings and stylised chaitya windows. The central portion of the spokes which resemble a diamond is also relieved with various deities like Isana, Isani, Surya, Vishnu and his incarnations), erotic and amorous figures, kanyas in various poses, a nobleman with a man standing with folded hands, a princely cavalier, man playing on cymbals, a boar hunting scene, elephant riders, hunting scenes, etc. The axle of the wheel also contain deities like a god with a goddess, Gajalakshmi, Krishna playing flute, gopis and cows, Narasimha, king on an elephant, etc.

The mouldings of the pidha deul are also richly decorated with various sculptures and motifs. The bada portion of the pidha deul consists of several mouldings known as pabhaga, lower jangha, bandana, upper jangha and veranda, which in turn are sub-divided into several minor mouldings and richly decorated. The depiction of beautifully sculpted navagriha panes is noticed on the architrave portion of the pidha. The grihas which are depicted include that of Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Sukra (Venus) and Sani (Saturn). The Rahu and Ketu are also depicted nearby.

Among the doorframes, the eastern one is well preserved and nearly complete. The northern doorframe is also partially preserved. These doorframes were carved out of the high quality chlorite stones. The doorframes are another excellent specimen of decorative art. The doorjamb is divided into eight divisions. The base of the each facet or division consists of a sculptural motif, starting from the innermost, are a demonish figure, standing naga, two kinnaras (half animal and half human), a female, a male and a man with cows. The remaining portion on the three faces of the jamb is decorated with low relief sculptural decorations like foliated leaves, double coil of a hooded naga couple, succession of miniature pavilions with vajra-mundis containing figures, a motif with frolicking boys shown on a meandering creeper, vertical series of dwarf pilasters, succession of pavilions with erotic or amorous figures and sapuria (a motif containing fruits resembling pineapples).

As mentioned above, the entire gandi with the upper portion of the bada of the rekha deul has collapsed long time ago. However, the curvilinear shape of the sikhara could be gleaned out from the extant remains. The evidence of pabhaga, lower jangha, bandhana, upper jangha, veranda, gandi, etc could be discernible here. The lower jangha had provision for the housing of dikpalas, three of them are at present placed in the Konarak Museum, namely, the Agni, Yama and Nirruti, while the sculpture of Isana is now preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. Several sculptures that might have originally adorned the rekha deul were also found in a clearance operation in 1906-07. These sculptures consist of one of the Adityas, worship of Jagannatha, Mahishasuramardini and linga, a marriage scene, King Narasimha in the company of priestly figures, King Narasimha on a swing, King Narasimha practising archery and a teacher discoursing to his pupils.

The depiction of parsva-devatas, representing Surya could be seen on the lower jangha at the south, west and north raha portions. The depiction of Surya on the southern niche is over a saptaratha chariot drawn by seven horses, the charioteer Aruna is also depicted. The god Surya is shown depicted with all the paraphernalia including kinnaras, his four wives namely Rajni, Nikshubha, Chhaya and Suvarchasa. Usha and Pratyusha the two divinities are also shown who represent dispelling darkness by shooting arrows.

A modern flight of steps along the northern face of the niche containing the western parsva-devata leads into the sanctum sanctorum. The sanctum contains a richly and lavishly decorated chlorite stone platform which could have once supported the presiding deity of the temple. The pedestal was found empty when it was first cleared off the debris. The Madala-panji mentions that the image was removed to the precincts of the temple of Jagannatha.

The doorframe of the sanctum is also richly decorated as that of the eastern doorframe of the pidha deul. The porch has staircases on its three sides and once it was originally guarded by a pair of colossi, two lions, each rampant on a crouching elephant, on the east, and two elephants on the north and south.

To the front of the eastern staircase of the porch, once stood the free-standing chlorite pillar, the dhvaja-stambha, with Aruna, the charioteer of Surya as the crowning element. The Aruna-stambha could be seen now in front of the main gate of the Jagannatha temple at Puri.

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