Time has not been kind to most of the structures our ancestors have built. We count ourselves lucky if we are able to discover ruins of once-great civilizations. We still marvel at these destroyed buildings but we often feel a slight regret over not being able to see a structure in its complete glory. You feel all these sorts of things when you first catch a glimpse of the Konark Temple. Except that regret is only a fraction of the overall feeling of wonder the temple will impress on you.
Located in the eastern province of Odisha, the Konark Temple was the place of worship for the Hindu sun god, Surya. The temple was thought to have been completed in 1250 CE. What is unique about Konark Temple apart from its immense size is its chariot shape which you can still observe even if most parts of the temple have already been ruined. Hindu pilgrims flock to the temple every February for the Chandrabhaga Mela. There are a few tourists who explore the temple too. But, it can still be considered as off-the-beaten path.
To get there, you have to travel to its closest city, Puri. Buses regularly journey across the Puri-Konark route. Approximate travel time is one hour and the usual bus fare is at 30 rupees which is no more than 1 USD. You can also take a taxi from Puri to Konark for 1,500 rupees or $22. Finally, one option is to take the sightseeing bus tours offered by the Odisha Tourism Development. If you are starting from Bhubaneswar, rates are usually at 355 rupees or $6. From Puri, it will cost you 510 rupees or $8. Choose this option if you plan to see other tourist attractions since the tours are combined with other wonderful places that you can see. For locals, entrance fees are at 30 rupees ($1) while it is 500 rupees or $7 for foreigners. The temple is open from sunrise until sunset and many visitors visit very early to observe the sunrise.
The themes that you will see in Konark Temple revolve around the worship of the sun god and Orissan architecture. Not only is the entire shape of the temple that of a chariot but you can see twelve carved wheels drawn by horses. This motif is said to represent the sun god as he ascends the sky and travels all throughout the day. Some argue that the 12 wheels are symbols for the time of day since the wheels have bars that can serve as sundials. Shadows cast from the wheel give the time of day. Others also say that the 12 wheels can represent the months of the year and there are seven horses for each day of the week.
As you enter the temple, you will notice two lions standing guard over the structure followed by two horses. When you go further in, you will be amazed by the level of detail that has been put in in adorning the temple through carvings and sculptures. If you follow the path from the main entrance, you will be in the dance hall. Pay close attention to the carved divine and semi-divine beings in various dance poses. To appreciate the temple better, hire a temple guide and listen to both the temple’s history and mystery for 100 rupees. If you visit at night, make sure not to miss the sound and lights show that happen every 7PM for only 50 rupees. This gem in Odisha is something you should not miss.
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