Alright. Konark is a place in Orissa, now Odissa. Believe me it is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. The fields are greener than green and the sky is bluer than blue. When we went there we stayed at a hotel which was right at the confluence of River Kusabhadra and the Bay of Bengal. It was beautiful. If you wake up at around four in the morning you can see the world’s most beautiful sunrise. So beautiful that it convinces you it is not a blazing ball of fire but the all powerful, fiery sun god that is rising out of the waters to claim what is rightfully his, the twelve hours of the day.
Then there is the temple. The great Konark temple. Its beauty is to have surpassed even the Taj Mahal, which Emperor Shah Jahan built for his most beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, the most beautiful woman in Mughal history.
“Had Konark been discovered first and the Taj Mahal at Agra later by the Europeans, then there is no doubt that the Taj would have taken a second place in the mind of the world.” Charles Fabri. And it is true. The Konark temple is the finest example of Odissi architecture.
In front of the main temple is a Nattamandir, or the dancing hall. On this high stage dancers used to dance at dawn complimenting the rising of the sun two hundred years ago for the royal family and the hoards sitting at the temple steps.
This is a temple dedicated to the sun god, Suryadeva. It is overflowing with symbols and signs. The temple itself was designed in the shape of the giant chariot of the sun god. Its twelve pairs of wheels representing the twenty four hours of the day. Each of these ten feet high wheels doubling as a sundial. Every tiny notch in the circumference of the wheel corresponding with every three minutes. There are seven fiery horses pulling the Sun god’s chariot. These represent the seven days of the week.
The story behind this temple is a sad and tragic tale. It was built by King Narasimhadev in the fifteenth century. When he was a young prince he was inflicted by an unknown disease. Legend recounts that after twelve years of prayers to the sun god and bathing in the sea at Konark he recovered. During his rule, he built the temple devoted to the Suryadeva who had blessed him with his health. Till this day devotees travel to Konark to bathe in the small channel of the ocean to rid themselves of sins and ailment.
Unfortunately, King Narasimhadev believed twelve to be his lucky number and granted the architect only twelve years to build this colossal temple. (Yeah. He really believed twelve to be his lucky number. He appointed 12,000 workers to build the temple too. Madness I say.) He also threatened that if they didn’t finish building the structure in twelve years he would behead every one of those twelve thousand workers.
Before he left, the chief architect left his wife pregnant. (What a sensitive husband isn’t he?). When his child, a boy obviously, (I mean what good can a girl do?) (I’m being sarcastic if you wanted to know) became twelve years old (gosh! That number again) he was sent to meet his father. And coincidence or not the day he met his father for the first time was the eve of the deadline to finish the temple. Alas, the temple was not finished. They could not put up the top of the temple because they were not sure the structure could handle such a weight. Therefore all the workers including the chief architect was sitting in morning for their death the next day. This boy shows up and asks if he could try and fix it. So that entire night he climbed on top the temple and sat there praying to the Suryadeva. In morning miraculously the roof of the temple is fixed and is standing to this day.
At this miracle you would expect the King Narasimhadev to be happy and proud but with the eccentricities of kings flowing in his veins he is furious and demands that either the boy dies or the twelve thousand workers be beheaded. Hearing this, the blessed boy jumps of the roof of the temple to the ocean. (At that time the temple was hardly twenty feet from the sea. Now due to natural causes the coast has receded around a kilometer or so. But what with the global warming in like twenty more years it would probably come back.)
So this was the story of the Konark temple. There is also a myth which says that there were two huge natural magnets which held the statue of the sun god afloat between them. And these magnets were removed by the French as it meddled with the compass on their ships.
Hope you visit,