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Sun Temple Konark – History, Deities, Temple Info, Travel Guide!

DescriptionKonark Sun Temple in Odisha

If you’re travelling to East India, the Sun Temple Konark is an absolute must-visit for any lover of history. Situated on the coastline of the Bay of Bengal in Odisha, this magnificent temple is dedicated to the Sun god Surya and is a classic specimen of the Kalinga style of architecture.

Sun Temple Konark is a 13th-century Hindu temple located in Konark, about 60 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the state of Odisha. Built out of black granite and resembling a 100-foot-high chariot carrying the Sun god across the heavens, the Sun Temple Konark is one of India’s most iconic tourist destinations. UNESCO declared this stunning monument a World Heritage Site in 1984. The Sun temple is open all year round and is a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus. The stunning architecture and the intricate carvings on every wall will undoubtedly mesmerise visitors from around the world.

The Sun Temple Konark, Odisha
View of the Sun Temple Konark

The History of Sun Temple, Konark

Konark is derived from the Sanskrit words kona, meaning angle or corner, and arka, meaning the sun – together representing the corner of the sun. The Sun Temple Konark history dates back to the reign of Narasingha Deva I, a king of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. Its original plans and construction records, written in the Odiya script, were found preserved on palm-leaf manuscripts in the 1960s. Originally, over 200 feet high and built entirely out of black granite, European sailors often referred to the monument as the Black Pagoda. The temple features huge wheels, pillars and platforms all intricately carved with scenes from daily life as well as erotic sculptures featuring both gods and humans. The temple complex also houses the Mayadevi Temple, built to the wife of Surya, the goddess Mayadevi.

Today, much of the Sun Temple Konark Odisha is in ruins, with many prominent structures including the main temple no longer standing. The reasons for the damage remain shrouded in controversy. Possible causes range from natural disaster to the wilful damage wrought by Muslim armies between the 15th and 17th centuries. The Tourism Department of Odisha currently oversees the temple, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

The Deities At Sun Temple, Odisha

The Sun Temple Konark is dedicated to the Hindu sun god Surya, who is mentioned in the ancient text, the Rig Veda. The pillars and terraces of the temple also feature multiple other Hindu deities. The upper levels of the temple complex feature the goddess Durga killing the buffalo demon Mahishasura, Vishnu in his Jagannatha avatar, and Shiva in the form of a linga. In addition, the chariot wheels feature carvings of Hindu deities like Gajalakshmi, Krishna, Parvati and Narasimha. There are also sculptures of Vedic gods and goddesses such as Agni, Indra, Kubera and Varuna.

Carvings on the walls of the Sun Temple Konark
Close-up of the carvings at Sun Temple Konark

Some Interesting Facts About The Surya Temple

  • The wheels of the temple are sundials – The twelve pairs of wheels at the base of the temple are not just representations of chariot wheels but also accurate sundials. One can tell the time just by looking at the shadows cast by the spokes of the wheels.
  • The main idol of the temple used to float – Konark Sun Temple Bhubaneshwar was constructed in a unique manner, with a heavy magnet situated at the temple top and every two stones sandwiched between iron plates. The distinct arrangement of these magnets created a magnetic field that allowed the main temple idol to float in mid-air.
  • The sculptural depiction of mortality – The entrance to the Sun Temple Konark features two lions on either side, each crushing an elephant which in turn is crushing a human figure. The lions depict pride and the elephants depict wealth. The sculptures represent the typical failing of mankind in which we chase wealth and become too proud, but ultimately both pride and wealth end up crushing us and we die alone and without any wealth to our name.
Konark Dance Festival
Dancers performing at Konark Dance Festival

How To Get To Konark

The Sun Temple Konark is located about 60 kilometres away from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Odisha. You can hire a taxi directly from Bhubaneshwar Airport and reach Konark within an hour. You can also take a train from Bhubaneshwar to Puri, 35 kilometres away from Konark, and then take a taxi. Alternatively, you can take a bus to the Konark Bus Station, which is six minutes away from the temple. Bus services, both government-run and privately owned, ply daily to and from cities like Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack.

Temple Timings And Konark Sun Temple Entry Tickets

  • The Sun Temple Konark timings are from 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM on all days of the week.
  • The Konark Sun Temple best time to visit is between May and August and again between October and December.
  • Watching the Konark Temple sunrise is a magnificent experience and should not be missed by travellers.
  • The Konark Sun Temple entry ticket costs INR 40 for Indians and SAARC citizens, and INR 600 for foreigners. You can purchase tickets at the temple venue or pre-book them online. Free entry is available for children below 18 years of age.
  • You can hire government-approved English speaking guides at the temple complex for a more enriching tour of the site. Try to avoid private or unregistered guides as much as possible.
  • The temple features a light and sound show every night from 7:00 PM, for a duration of one hour. Visitors can buy a Konark Sun Temple ticket to the show for INR 30. Wireless headphones are available and provide commentary in three languages – English, Odiya and Hindi.
  • It is usually quite sunny during Konark Sun Temple visiting hours. So be sure to carry an umbrella, sunscreen lotion and dark glasses to protect yourself from the sun. Winters are never very cold and light winter clothing will be enough.
  • The best mode of local transport is the auto-rickshaw.

Konark Sun Temple Best Time To Visit, Things To Do Nearby

Konark Dance Festival – This spectacular festival is held from 1st to 5th December every year. Artistes and troupes perform after sunset in an open-air auditorium against the grand backdrop of the temple. Performers of international repute come together to exhibit Odissi, Manipuri, Kathak, Mohiniattyam, Bharatnatyam, Chhau and other traditional dance forms. The dance festival also plays host to a craft fair, offering beautiful craftworks and delicious local food.

Konark Museum – The Archaeological Survey of India runs this museum, which is near the temple complex. It houses many of the sculptures, friezes and reliefs from the original monument.

Konark's Sun Temple
The Sun Temple Konark during the evening

Chandrabhaga Beach – If you are looking for a beach that is not overcrowded by tourists, visit the tranquil Chandrabhaga Beach. Clean and quiet, it is ideal for an early morning visit to watch the sunrise.

Chandrabhaga Mela – Hindus from around India flock to this festival, which falls in the month of February and is undoubtedly the grandest celebration at the Sun Temple Konark. On this day, pilgrims worship Lord Surya by bathing in the Chandrabhaga River and offering prayers as the sun rises from the horizon. Afterwards, they walk to the temple complex to circumambulate the shrine to the god. Over the rest of the day, people prepare delicacies and enjoy them together with other worshippers.

Stay Options Nearby

Most travellers opt to stay at Puri and travel to Sun Temple Konark from there. However, the town of Konark also offers accommodation options for tourists. Yatri Nivas is the official government accommodation, with clean and comfortable rooms along with multi-cuisine meals and doctor on call. Several privately run budget/mid-range properties are also available in town, including Labanya Lodge, Lotus Resort, Royal Lodge and Konark Lodge. OYO Rooms also has multiple properties in Konark that offer clean accommodation with all essential facilities like Wi-Fi and breakfast.

The great poet Rabindranath Tagore once said – “Here (Sun Temple) the language of stone surpasses the language of man”. Indeed, few other monuments surpass this temple, which is one of the finest examples of Indian architecture. To watch the first rays of the morning sun strike the temple entrance is indeed a sight to behold. Whether you are a pilgrim seeking spiritual solace or simply a tourist seeking to savour the architectural marvels, a visit to the Sun Temple Konark will undoubtedly delight your heart and mind and is an experience not to be missed by travellers from anywhere in the world.