Konark or Konarak (Odia: 6କଣାର୍କ Koṇārka, Hindi: कोणार्क Koṇārk) is a small town in Coastal Odisha, on the Bay of Bengal, 65 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, famous for its 13th-century Sun Temple and the Chandrabhaga River.
Konark is also known as Konaditya. The name "Konark" is derived from the words koṇa ("corner") and arka ("Sun"), therefore it literally means "corner of the Sun". It is at north-east of Puri or the Chakrakshetra. The Sun Temple of Konark, often called the Black Pagoda, was constructed in the mid-thirteenth century by Raja Narasinghs Deva I of the Ganga Dynasty and is an ample testament to the artistic glory of the time. It is often considered the best among other temples of its kind and that is saying something when you are talking about the Swarna Tribhuja ("golden triangle") of Odisha which boasts of Jagannath Temple and Lingaraja Temple of Puri and Bhubaneswar respectively.
The entire territory lies in the tropics and hence is subject to high temperatures.
Legend of Konark
Legend has it that Samba, the king of Krishna and Jambavati entered the bathing chamber of Krishna's wives, and was cursed by Krishna with leprosy. It was decreed that he would be relieved of the curse by worshipping the Sun God on the sea coast north-east of Puri.
It is said that the temple was not completed as conceived because the foundation was not strong enough to bear the weight of the heavy dome. As stated in the various stories regarding the temple as well as its construction, the temple possess a huge aura of power. It is believed that this enormous power comes from the two powerful magnets. It is stated that these magnets are used in the construction of the tower. The magnet made the throne of king to hover in the middle of the air.
Due to its magnetic effects, vessels passing through the Konark sea were drawn to it, resulting in heavy damage. Other legends state that magnetic effects of the lodestone disturbed ships' compasses so that they did not function correctly. To save their shipping, the Portuguese voyagers took away the lodestone, which was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones, and the iron columns used to hold them walls together, of the temple wall in balance. Due to its displacement, the temple walls lost their balance and eventually fell down. But there is no record of this occurrence in any historical records, nor is there any record of the existence of such a powerful lodestone at Konark.
Architecture of Sun Temple
The Sun Temple is the culmination of Odishan temple architecture and one of the most stunning monuments of religious architecture in the world. The massive structure, now in ruins, sits in solitary splendour surrounded by drifting sand. Today it is located two kilometers from the sea, but originally the ocean came almost up to its base. Until fairly recent times, in fact, the temple was close enough to the shore to be used as a navigational point by European sailors, who referred to it as the 'Black Pagoda'.
The Konark Sun Temple belongs to the Central Indian style of Temple architecture, though it does not have tall shikharas of the later temples of Odisha and Central India.
Konark is one of the most prominent cities of Odisha. It is a very famous tourist destination, especially for those who are traveling from eastern or southern part of India. The convenient way to get to Konark is drive either from Puri (33 km) or Bhubaneswar (65 km). The best time to visit Konark is from October to March.
The National and State Highways link Konark with Puri and Bhubaneswar forming a virtual triangle popularly known as Golden Triangle of East. To reach Konark from Bhubaneswar, after travelling 20 km take a left turn once you reach Pipili. The road straight ahead leads to Puri.
Hiring a taxi is the best way of travel between Puri and Konark. There are good number of transport buses as well as private coaches plying from both the cities. State buses are also available to Konark from Bhubaneswar's Bus Stand, Vani Vihar and Kalpana Chhak. Travel by bus is however much, much cheaper compared to renting a car. Although cramped and rather uncomfortable, these buses offer a unique experience of daily life in Odisha for less than ₹80 ($1).
Auto-rickshaws, taxis and cycle rickshaws are there for roaming around in the town. State bus services are rickety and uncomfortable while traveling unless you are on a budget. They are very good value in the ratio of adventure-to-rupees.
There are regular buses and terrain vehicles to Konark from Puri, which is 33km down the coast. The journey takes about an hour and the last bus back to Puri leaves from 6:30AM Alternatively, you can take an auto-rickshaw for ₹250-300 round trip, including waiting time.
Official guided tours leave from the Panthaniwas (Odisha Tourism) in Bhubaneswar (Tu-Su 6:30-6:30AM, ₹130 per person) and also visit Dhauli.
The main attraction of the place is the Konark Sun Temple, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The temple is situated in the Konark village to the north of Puri in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal. It has extensive stone carvings on the walls, many of them highly erotic. Though the temple is under ruin due to heavy erosion its magnificence is still reflected in its architecture.
Konark Sun Temple
- 1 Konark Sun Temple. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 13th century in the honour of the sun-god Surya, is in ruins. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with 24 wheels about 3 m high and pulled by seven horses, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.
- The temple compound measures 857 by 540 feet (261 by 165 m). The alignment of the Sun Temple is on the east–west direction.
- The entire temple was planned in such a way that it is fitted with twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated stone wheels. The horses were conceived in such a way that the Sun God (Surya) drives this chariot, his place being inside the garbhagriha.
- The major entrance in the temple is place on the east side and it faces the sea. This entrance is located in the façade of bhogamandapa which is also known as the Hall of Offerings. The sculptures of dancers as well as musicians is engraved on the walls of this hall, hence the hall was later used for the traditional dance recital.
- On the western side of the temple lies the sanctuary tower which is now nothing but a clutter of various sandstone slabs which are kept one over another. This impressive construction is believed to have had a pyramidical roof commonly known as jaganmohan.
- The roof of jagamohana has around 3 tiers and many statues are placed over them. The statues are either of dancers or the musicians. The platform at the base also has a sculpture of Lord Shiva as Nataraja and performing the dance. The interior of the terrace is nowadays barren up.
- The stairs that take you up towards the Statute of Surya are located beyond the terrace. The statue of the Sun god is carved out a huge green colored chlorite stone. It is supposed to be the most beautiful work of art present in Konark. However, the entrance door to the Jaganmohan is closed due to the frequent fall of debris and stones from the ceiling.
The Konark temple also marks the culmination of the temple building architecture in Odisha. Apart from the depiction of the stone wheels and the caparisoned horses drawing the colossal chariot of Sun God, the Konark Temple is a typical example of the Odishan temple architecture. The temple is not different from those of other regions.
- The eastern gateway which is the main entrance to the temple compound, is decorated with Gajasimha (Lion upon an elephant) images, with outward faces, installed on two high stone-benches on either side of the passage.
- The wheels of the chariot are also symbolic and have been interpreted as the 'Wheel of Life'. They portray the cycle of creation, preservation and achievement of realisation. The diameter of each of the wheels is about 9 feet (2.73 metres) and each of them has a set eight equal parts. They are elaborately carved all over. The thicker ones are all carved with circular medallions at their centres on the widest part of the face. The axels of the wheels project by about one foot from the surface, having similar decorations at their ends. The rims are carved with designs of foliages with various birds and animals, whereas the medallions in the spokes are carved with the figures of women in various luxurious poses, mostly of erotic nature.
- The nata mandir in front of the Jagamohana is exquisitely carved with the images of dancers, flora and foliage, men in armor, and creatively eroticism.
- There are three images of the Sun God (formerly four) at the top, facing each direction to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset.
- The figures of elephants which had originally stood on the side walls of the flights of steps at the northern and southern sides of the Jagamohana, were found amidst the debris.
- The Melakkadambur Shiva temple, built in the form of a chariot during the age of Kulottunga Chola I (1075–1120), is the earliest of this kind, and is still in a well preserved state.
- There is a small museum outside the temple compound run by Archaeological Survey of India, which stores the sculpture from the temple ruins. It remains open Sa-Th 9AM-5PM. Entry is free.
- To the south west of the Sun temple there is the temple of the Goddess Ramachandi. There are, however, differing opinions about the presiding deity of this temple. It has been surmised by some that this was the temple of Mayadevi, wife of Surya (Sun god) while others opine that it was the earlier Sun temple in which Sun was being worshiped.
- It is strongly advised to enter the temple complex at 6AM when gates open. This is when the temple is at its quietest and most beautiful, with the drama of sunrise as you explore the ruins. The hoards of domestic tourists tend to arrive around 8:30AM and stick around all day.
Though the Konark temple is the key tourist attraction in the area. However, if you wish to stay in Konark for a full-day it is advisable to spend other destination spots otherwise abandoned or see few visitation. If travelling by the OTDC or private tour operators - these destinations are either narrated by the bus operators or halted for approximately an hour during the trip.
Ramchandi Folk Tales
There are a number of popular stories involving Ramachandi as the chief goddess of the Konark kshetra and most probably Ramachandi was the presiding deity of this temple. There is also a popular story about why Ramachandi left Konark after the Muslim Suleman Kalapahad destroyed the Sun temple.
It is said that, after destroying the Sun temple, Kalapahad came to Ramachandi's temple in the back side of the Sun temple in south eastern corner. The goddess Ramachandi dressed as a Maluni (maid servant) told Kalapahad to wait at the door till she returned with water for the goddess. Kalapahad waited anxiously to get some cold water for a long time. But when it was too late he entered into the temple and found the throne empty. Then he followed the Maluni with great anger thinking that the Maluni carried away the goddess. He reached the bank of the river Kushabhadra and found the goddess Ramachandi floating in the middle of the river. The river was as in full spate, he came back without being able to cross the river. Being advised by goddess in a dream, a Panda (priest) built a temple on the bank of the river Kushabhadra, near the sea shore which is a sandy deserted place.
- 2 Chandrabhaga Beach (3 km E of the Sun Temple). Chandrabhaga is rich in its marine resources. A light house, close by Chandrabhaga is an added histrionic to the splendour of the place. A climb to its top truly takes you to a world of utopia. A natural deer park is recent additions to the riches of Chandrabhaga. There is an ancient Matha believed to be the Ashram of Chandrabhaga's father and two small temples. The sight has aesthetic and importance.
- Kuruma (8 km SE of the Sun Temple). A popular Buddhist site. The site was built between 9th–10th centuries CE. The monastery, now abandoned, containing an excavated statue of Buddha seated cross legged with right hand in Bhumisparsa mudra while the left hand placed over his left knee. The image also wears a beautiful crown and a beautifully carved necklace.
Goddess Mangala and Nabakalebar
During the renovation of deities of Puri, new idols were created for Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra. The new idols are created from a sacred wood known as 'Daru Brahma' in the local language. Nobody knows from where to find the sacred wood to create the new idols, so as per tradition the priests of Lord Jagannath temple come to Kakatpur Mangala to pray the Goddess to help them to find the sacred wood. The priests sleep in front of the Goddess with their face down and then Goddess Mangala come in their dream and tell the exact location of the three sacred trees for the three deities. This custom continues to be performed without any deviation.
- 3 Ramachandi Temple (7 km from the Sun Temple). Ramachandi is popularly believed the presiding deity of Konark. From the architectural point of view, the temple of Ramachandi is not important but from the religious point of view, it is one of the famous Shakti Pithas. The beach is often crowded by local students as a romantic escapade or families picnicking at the weekend. The main temple along with its Mukhasala had been built on one platform 3'2" (96.5 cm) high. On the three sides of the temple walls, i.e., south, west and north, there were three figures of Sun god as side Gods. Now one can see these side gods in north and southern side, whereas the figures on the western side have been displaced and are said to have been preserved in the National Museum at New Delhi. This image is said to have some sculptural specialisation and is regarded to be one of the beautiful images of the Sun god. Though smaller in size, the side-gods of this temple are of similar type in all respect with the side-gods in the Sun temple. The side images of the northern side are in somewhat good condition while the image in the southern side has no head and broken hands.
Concerns over safety
Although the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) are working on the restoration of this magnificent heritage structure, concerns were raised by different quarters in Odisha over the deteriorating condition of the Sun temple.
Legends describe a lodestone (magnet) on the top of the Sun temple. Due to its magnetic effects, vessels passing through the Konark sea were drawn to it, resulting in heavy damage. Other legends state that magnetic effects of the lodestone disturbed ships' compasses so that they did not function correctly. To save their shipping, the Portuguese voyagers took away the lodestone, which was acting as the central stone and keeping all the stones, and the iron columns used to hold them walls together, of the temple wall in balance. Due to its displacement, the temple walls lost their balance and eventually fell down. But there is no record of this occurrence in any historical records, nor is there any record of the existence of such a powerful lodestone at Konark Temple.
But the Konark Surakhya Samiti (save Konark committee) said that falling stones from the 13th-century monument had turned “into a regular feature”. Chunks of masonry have fallen off at regular intervals. In 1998 a two-tonne cornice stone on the northeastern side of the jagmohan fell off onto a ledge. The interior of the jagmohan has been sealed off since 1951, when conservation work on the monument was seriously taken up for the first time. The walls were shored up from the inside and the interior was filled with sand to prevent imminent collapse; such was its tenuous state.
One reason why no major steps are being taken by the ASI officials is for fear it might lead to the total collapse of the crumbling temple.
Konark is not only an ideal choice for monument, beach and scenic beauties but also for its colourful festivals. The "Konark Festival" held every year is a great attraction for cultural cognoscenti. The most popular and colourful festival of Konark, an occasion for a grand congregation of Indian pilgrims and enthusiasts from abroad, falls on the seventh day of the new moon of Magha.
Most tourists would find it comfortable to make a day trip to Konark from Puri or Bhubaneswar and return, rather than stay overnight at hotels in Konark. Usually travellers starts from Puri and covers Bhubaneswar and Konark in a day-trip. But to take a break away from the humdrum of the main city, Konark is the best place to enjoy serenity.
- Light & Sound Show, Konark Sun Temple Complex. 8PM-8:40PM (entry at 7:30PM). A light & sound show is held at the Konark Sun Temple complex the temple acts as a projector. The entire history of the temple, including parts of the Kalinga history, is brought to life through light and sound effect. Photography is not allowed during the show. ₹50.
Chandrabhaga Mela, in February, is the most popular festival. This is a day specially set aside for the worship of the Sun God at Konark. Thousands of pilgrims flock to Konark every year to take a holy dip on the Chandrabhaga River and then circumambulate the shrine or jagamohan to worship the Navagraha stone which used to be above the eastern portal and is now set up in a small shed outside the compound.
This is the most popular and colourful festival of the place when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit Konark to observe the festival. In fact this is the second biggest festival in Odisha, after the Car Festival of Puri.
Konark Dance Festival
Another colourful festival is the Konark Dance Festival considered as the cultural mecca where eminent classical dancers and singers across the country participate to perform before the live audience in an open-air auditorium set on the backdrop of Konark Temple. The festival has assumed a kind of distinctive significance and importance for the timely efforts it has made to wards the revival, preservation and continuation of the unique temple dance tradition of Odisha.
Though famous for its temples, Konark is a fascinating shopping destination too. The best way to enjoy shopping in Konark would be a leisurely stroll through the markets of the city of Konark.
Check out the Patta paintings and the appliqué work of Pipli or the brilliantly embroidered umbrellas that make a fascinating buy. If you are planning to buy souvenirs then the best option would be the government emporiums which stock fabrics and handicrafts items from across the state of Odisha.
Local marketers or shops sells seashells and conches which are good and cheap souvenirs to carry back home however, you need to bargain with the shopkeepers. Normally, the prices are doubled for the products as shopkeepers are aware of the bargaining habits.
- Pipili (23 km from the Sun Temple). It has a very wide and distinctive selection of handicrafts. It is a small village. On the main road at Pipili there are many shops selling Applique work products, tourist visiting Puri buy these products from Pipili.
Eat and drink
The main market area, near the beach and temple complex has numbers of local dhabas (food joints) serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Apart from relishing the local delicacies, fried fish prepared in the Bengali style is highly recommended. Other than Indian cuisines, continental and Chinese dishes are also available at an affordable rate.
There are few decent accommodation options in Konark and the situation is getting better with every passing day. Hotels or lodges in places like Puri and Bhubaneswar offer more choices because they are considered to be more famous travel destinations. But there are a number of decent accommodations in Konark.
- Banita Lodge, Konark, ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. ₹100 - 300 (only lodging).
- Konark Lodge, Konark, ☏ . Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. ₹100 (only lodging).
- 1 Labanya Lodge, Konark (continue up the main road out of "town" in the direction of the beach; a 5-minute walk), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. This place is good for families and backpackers alike. There are tidy rooms with bathrooms and rooms without (the cheapest). Set in an area of comparatively uninspiring hotels, the lodge is an exceedingly short stroll from Konark Sun Temple (turn left) and a very long march from Chandrabhaga Beach (turn right — the only time you'll actually need an auto in Konark). Weak signal Wi-Fi available only in the area near reception and the adjacent veranda. All bathrooms are mosquito-ridden, so opt for a room without. Service no better or worse than what you'd expect in the north of India. This is the best you can expect in such a small town. ₹200 - 750 (early 2015).
- Royal Lodge, Konark, ☏ . Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. ₹75 - 150 (only lodging).
- Sun Villa Konark, Konark, ☏ . Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. ₹200 - 250.
- Tarini Lodge, Konark, ☏ . Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. ₹150 - 300 (only lodging).
- 2 Yatrinivas, P.O.-Konark, ☏ . Check-in: Noon, check-out: 11AM. Only air-conditioned rooms. ₹1750 - 3600.
When entering the temples visitors are required to cover their heads and leave their shoes at one of the shoe-stalls. Photography is free; however, visitors need to pay extra for videography. Terminal guides are available. However tourists may take the assistance of the Tourist Officer, Konark for better information.
Guides advise that as there is no longer a god housed at the Sun Temple, visitors are not required to take off shoes and cover their heads.
- 1 Kakatpur Mangala Temple (30 km from the Sun Temple). A small temple on the Puri-Astaranga road on the bank of river Prachi. This temple is famous for Goddess Mangala. The Kakatpur Mangala Temple has a close relation with Jagannath Temple of Puri during the Navakalebara (Renovation of the Deities) festival. The most popular festival of Goddess Mangala is 'Jhamu Yatra'. It occurs on the first Tuesday of the sacred month Vaisakh (April 14 to May 15) every year.
- Bhubaneswar - 65 km away, the ancient city has a long history of 3000 years and is a popular travel hub especially for its temples, Buddhist caves of monolithic age, and Asia's biggest zoo.
- Chilika - 35 km away the brackish water lagoon is the world's second largest. It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. The lake is home to a number of threatened species of plants and animals.
- Cuttack - 68 km away is a commercial center and host to many ancient temples and excavations sites.
- Gopalpur-on-Sea - 180 km away is a very quiet and one of the most pristine beaches and a favorite among the sea-goers.
- Paradip - 85 km away is a town, a seaport which accepts sea traffic via man-made lagoons.
- Puri - 30 km away, is one of the oldest cities in the eastern part of the country and a religious hub with the Jaggannath temple. The place is also famous among the newlyweds and retirees for its roaring beaches.
- Rourkela - 285 km away is surrounded by a range of hills and encircled by rivers. Quite an industrial area.