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Soorya Temples

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Soorya Temples

Although Soorya is not one of the more popular gods in India today but one still finds people paying homage to the solar god. Thousands of people come to the eastern banks of the Ganges in Vaaraanasee at sunrise to bathe, pray, and receive a blessing from priests stationed there. People pray to Gangaa, the goddess who is the Ganges River, and others pray to the rising Sun - Soorya. Gangaa also has a cosmic connection as she sprang from the foot of Vishnu, flowed across the sky forming the Milky Way and then fell onto Earth. There are two main temples for Soorya in India; one is in Konaarak (near Puree, Orissa) and the other is in Soorya-narkovil (near Kumbaakonam, Tamilnaadu). Both the temples have been built by kings of the Chola lineage.

Konaark Temple, Konaark, Orissa
Konaark Temple was built 2 centuries later between 1238 and 1263 by Narasimha Coda (Chole?) Gangaa from the lineage of Kaaravela. Karunakara Tondaimaan conquered Kaling in 1112 AD by defeating Anant Verma Codaganga. Kaaravela was perhaps a descendant of the Chole lineage. An original structure dating back to the 9th century once stood here. The Konaark - Kon means corner and Ark means Soorya, so Konaark means corner Sun, is also called Konaaditya also - Kon means corner and Aaditya means Soorya. Konark was one of the earliest centers of Sun worshipping in India.

The place finds mention in the Puraan as Mundir or Mundiraswaamee, a name that was subsequently replaced by Konaark or Konaaditya. Apart from the Puraan, other religious texts also point towards the existence of a Sun Temple at Konark long before the present temple. Konaark was once a bustling port of Kaling and had good maritime trade relations with Southeast Asian countries.

One of the most splendid temples dedicated to Soorya is the Soorya Deula ("Sun Temple"), once called the Black Pagoda, at Konaark, in Orissa, on the Bay of Bengal coast. There, the whole structure is conceived as a chariot on wheels in which the Sun god rides across the heavens pulled by prancing horses. The Black Pagoda was used as a navigation landmark by mariners sailing to Calcutta. Never completed and falling into ruins before its restoration, the temple represents the culmination of the Orissa school of temple architecture. The temple city of Konaark is situated in the eastern state of Orissa at a distance of around 65 km from Bhuvaneshwar and 35 km from Puree. In its original form, the Deul was 235 feet high and the Jagamohan (Mandap) was about 150 feet high. The temple now comprises only of the Sabhaa Mandap and the Nat Mandir. The main temple crumbled down many years ago.

The Temple Structure
The Temple compound measures 857 ft (261 m) by 540 ft (160 m). The alignment of the Sun Temple is on the east-west direction. The Black Pagoda at Konaark is a grand and magnificent temple in the form of the Sun's chariot drawn by seven horses marking the 7 days of the week. The 24 huge wheels, magnificently carved and decorated, mark the hours of the day. The Temple was dedicated to the Sun god - Soorya; it was designed to represent his chariot, with 12 huge carved stone wheels and 7 stone horses around its base. The Soorya Deula is about 100 feet (30 m) high and would have surpassed 200 feet (60 m) in height at its completion (higher than any other temple in India). The exterior is covered with sculptured decorations, many depicting erotic scenes. Legends say that Saamb, the son of Krishn, was afflicted by leprosy, brought about by his father's curse on him. After 12 years of penance, he was cured by Soorya, the Sun God, in whose honor he built this temple.

Built by Raajaa Narasinh Dev of the Gangaa dynasty, in the 13th century AD, the temple is a pageant of human grandeur, in its perception, and in the execution of even the finest details. It resembles a colossal chariot, with 24 huge wheels which are the main attractions of this temple, pulled by seven straining horses, and has a three-tiered pyramidal roof topped off by a fine spire. The Sun god's chariot, also represents the 7 days of the week, and the 24 hours of the day, in its concept. The spokes of its wheels serve as sundials, and the shadows formed by these can give the precise time of the day. In the Ved, Soorya is conceived as an unified manifestation of the Brahm Trinity, the Morning Sun being identified with Brahmaa, the Creator; the Mid Day Sun with Maheshwar, the Destroyer and the Evening Sun with Vishnu, the Preserver. It is probably this conception that the artist had wanted to express the three images of Soorya, on the three sides of Konaark Sun Temple.

As the plan of the temple slightly makes an angle with the cardinal directions, the image of the south, is flooded with the rays of the Morning Sun and is therefore significant for its expression of youth and activity, justifying the description of Prabhaat Soorya (morning Sun). The bottom of the statue's pedestal is decorated with figures of women in various poses. It is also decorated with the figures of seven horses driven by Arun, the charioteer of Soorya, sitting near the feet of the statue with the reins of the horses in his hands. In the panel two standing figures of male attendants are seen with shields and swords in their hands. His four wives - Rajanee, Rikshubh, Chhaayaa and Suvarsasa are seen just above the two attendants.

The figure in the western side may be taken as Madhyaanh Soorya (mid-day Sun), standing with full vigor and personality. Decoration of the panel, ornaments and drapery, the seven horses and the figure of Arun are almost similar to the Prabhaat Soorya (Morning Sun) who also wears Upanat (boot). Some describe the Sun with Upanat-Pinaddha-Padayugalam (wearing boots in his both legs). It is stated in the Brihat Sanhita, that the Sun God should be dressed in the fashion of a northerner, called Udichya Vesh.

The third figure on the northern wall is of the Astaachal Soorya (evening Sun or setting Sun). The figure brings out beautifully the tired expression which is the result of a hard days work, when all the other horses are completely tired, he is any how completing his journey by riding on the back of the last horse who is also found to be stooping with its folded legs

The front of the main entrance has two giant stone lions crushing elephants. As one climbs up the stairs, he sees statues of horses on both side. All over the walls of this huge temple are beautiful carvings, sculptures and bas-reliefs (figures projecting from a plain background). Among them are thousands of images of gods, goddesses, men and women and scenes from life in the 13th century. The temple is a brilliant chronicle in stone, with impressive sculptures. Every aspect of life is represented here, and the erotic imagery, depicts the sublimation of human love manifested in countless forms. Scenes from court, civic life and war are also done with great precision. In fact every inch of the temple is covered with sculpture of an unsurpassed beauty and grace, in tableaux and freestanding pieces ranging from the monumental to the miniature.

Unlike the other temples of the Bhubaneshwar, Konaark and Puree region, the Konaark Temple had two smaller outer halls, completely separate from the main structure. The assembly-hall and the tower were built on an imposing platform, which were carved into meticulously crafted twelve pairs of decorated wheels, each 10 feet in diameter. The entrance is reached by a broad flight of steps, flanked on either side by prancing horses, the whole representing the chariot, in which the Sun-God rides across the heavens. The court of the temple, was decorated with large free-standing sculptures of great strength and beauty.

Soorya-narkovil Temple, Kumbaakonam, Tamil Naadu

This temple for Soorya was constructed by Kulottunga Chole in 1113 AD. An inscription in the Temple states that the Temple was built during the reign of Kulottungachola Dev (1060-1118 AD) and was called Kulottungachola-Marttaandaalaya. This ancient temple dedicated to the Sun is located near Kumbaakonam in Tamilnaadu. Kumbaakonam and its surroundings are abound in huge temples. This well known temple enshrines the Sun, Kaashee Vishwanaath and Vishaalaakshee, and the other eight celestial bodies namely Chandran (Chandra), Angaarakan (Mars or Magal), Budhan (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter or Guru), Shukran (Venus), Shaneeshwaran, Raahu (Dragon's Mouth) and Ketu (Dragon's Tail). This temple built in the Dravidian style is over 800 years old and was patronized by the Imperial Chole Kings. This temple is located in close proximity to Kanjanur, and Tirumangalakkudi - 1200 year old temples to Shiv.

Soorya Temples in Aandhra Pradesh

Soorya Naaraayan Swaamee Temple at Arasavilli in Andhra Pradesh. This is a shrine of the Sun in a well preserved state. The temple dates back to the 7th century and a Kaling king is said to have constructed it. The image of Soorya is a 5 feet tall statue, one of black granite holding lotus buds flanked by Ushaa and Chhaayaa. Padmapaani is the name of this Sun God - Padm stands for wisdom and Ushaa and Chhaayaa stand for eternity. This shrine is located near Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.

Soorya Temples in Assam

(1) One Nava Graha Temple at Gauhaatee in Assam dates to the 17th century. The temple is located on Chitraachal hill and was once a center for the study of astrology.
(2) Sun Temple at Goalpaaraa in Assam
A relatively modern temple enshrines a circular stone tablet with 12 Aaditya around with Kashyap in the center. The Soorya Pahaad hill is virtually a picture gallery of archeological remains.

Sun Temple of Gayaa (Bihaar) - Pitri Tarpan

(1) The ritual of offering Pind or offerings to the dead has been long associated with Gayaa and has been mentioned in our Puraan etc. The Sun Temple is an ancient structure in Gayaa. Offerings to the ancestors are made at the Soorya Kund or the Dakshin Maanas tank in front of the Temple. Numerous old images of the Sun God Aaditya are found in the Gayaa region and there are still quite a number of sun worshippers in Gayaa. It is said that they may have descended from the fire worshippers of Central Asia. In fact, the granite image of Aaditya (this particular image here is also referred to as Dakshinaark) or the Sun God worshipped here is portrayed as wearing a jacket, a waist girdle and high boots in the Eeranian tradition. Sun worship in the Magadh region has been mentioned in the Puraan and thus this Temple is said to be of very ancient origin. The current structure dates back to the 13th century, where the South Indian emperor Pratap Rudra of Waarangal is said to have built it.

(2) Uttaarak Temple near the Uttar Maanas Tank, Bihaar
(3) The Gayaaditya Temple on the river Falgu in Bihaar.
(4) Sun Temple at Kandaha (Bangaaon) near Saharsa, Bihaar

Soorya Temples in Gujaraat

(1) Sun Temple at Modhera near Ahamadaabaad in Gujaraat - Ruins of well known 11th century temple intricately sculpted
(2) Sun Temple at Somnaath Patan near Veraaval in Gujaraat - Ancient temple with interesting sculpture dating back to the period of the Somnaath Temple, near a rebuilt Somnaath Temple of the Ahilyaabaaee Holkar period.

Soorya Temples in MP
(1) Sun Temple at Mad-khedaa near Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh
(2) Sun Temple at Umree near Teekamgarh, Madhya Pradesh

Soorya Temples in Raajsthaan

Many of the Soorya temples are easily recognized because they are often decorated with carved images of Soorya, who is shown holding two daisy shaped objects, one in each hand, and accompanied by images of horses. Often there are also one or more carved images of a chariot wheel decorating the Soorya temples. In some cases there are seven gods, representing the planets, shown in association with chariot wheels.

Soorya Temple of Ranakpur (Raajasthaan)

(1) The Soorya temple at Ranakpur is just outside the wall of a large Jain temple complex at Ranakpur. The main Jain temple has 1444 intricately carved columns. Every tourist who travels between Udayapur and Jodhpur should spend half a day at this site.
(2) Sun Temple at Ranakpur near Udayapur in Raajasthaan (see above)
(3) Sun Temple at Galta near Jayapur in Raajasthaan
(4) Sun Temple at Jhaira Patan near Kotaa in Raajasthaan: Ruins of an ancient temple.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/30/13