The Konark Sun Temple, also known as the Black Pagoda, is a famous Indian temple in Konark, Orissa. It was built in the 13th century by Narasimhadeva I who ruled during the time of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The Konark Sun Temple is hailed as one of the seven wonders of India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Konark Sun Temple Size
The Konark Sun Temple is aligned along the east-west line. The entire temple compound is 261 meters ( 857 feet ) long by 160 meters ( 540 feet ) wide. Some parts of the original building have survived, others are lost. The chief sanctum was 229 feet tall while the audience hall measured 128 feet high. The main sanctum is no longer there, whereas the audience hall remains. Some parts of the dining and dancing halls have also survived. The main tower is believed to have been 60 meters (200 feet) tall in its original form; only fragments now remain.
Structure of the Konark Sun Temple
As its name implies, Konark is a temple dedicated to the Indian sun god, Surya or Arka. It was designed to have seven pairs of horses drawing the twelve wheels of the chariot. The Konark is of the Kalinga type of temple design. It is similar in structure to other Orissan temples.
Konark Sun Temple is made from ferruginous sandstone and shaped to represent the god’s chariot. The temple’s structure is rich in religious symbolism. For instance, the gate is flanked by a pair of lions subduing two elephants, which are in turn crushing two human bodies. Beyond this would have been a dance hall where dancers performed in the name of the deity.
On the second floor are numerous erotic carvings typical of ancient Hindu religion. The entire temple is filled with stone carvings and interesting geometrical and floral designs. A survey of the artwork would bring one face to face with many of the mythological figures of Hinduism – gods and goddesses, animals and humans in all forms of activity from battle to hunting to sensual indulgence.
Destruction of the Konark Sun Temple
What destroyed the Konark Sun Temple? Most people believe it was Kalapahad, a Hindu or Afghani convert to Islam. After his religious conversion, Kalapahad invaded Orissa in the 1500s and laid to ruins its magnificent temples, including the Konark. He and his army smashed statues and removed key stones. As a result the main tower fell, the roof was partially destroyed and many priceless sculptures lost forever.
In the centuries that followed, priests and leaders carried off parts of the temple for various reasons. Some took away religious images to save them from vandalism; others removed stones for use in other buildings. Eventually the temple and its sun worship were abandoned. Konark became overgrown with vegetation and was overran by pirates and wild animals.