Orissa unlike many other parts of India has the prized distinction of possessing an uninterrupted series of temples illustrating the history of the welldefined Challenge (former name of Orissa) from its very inception to decline. And the Sun temple of Konark marks the highest point of achievement. This world famous Sun temple of Konark also spelled as ‘Konarak’ or ‘Konaraka’ is situated on a lonely sea shore of the Bay of Bengal and is 20 kilometers north-east of the holy city of Puri.
Standing on the desolate sand-dunes this famous temple is remote, grime and desolate. Its silence brokes only by the soft lapping of the distant waves and the occasional roar of the breakers. The Sun temple of Konark should not be judged merely as an isolated, individual monument of glory onits own rights, like the Taj Mahal, but should be studied also as the grandest art-epic of an entire people, the Oriya, the small Indian sub-race on the east coast of India, who tried to give shape to their national dreams and aspirations, in ceaseless experiments of noble buildings for a period of over 16 years. Konark is undoubtly the last wonderful chapter of a long and varied national history of creative work. But it is the most tragic of all the monuments of Orissa, though the grandest of them all, like the brightest flaming of a lamp before it dies out, presenting to the on-lookers the saddest asemble of beauty and bereavement, desire, desolation, ambition and frustration – a book in stones, of magnificent human endeavour and defeat.
This marvelous temple deserves the title a poem in stone. Gorgeously conceived as a colossal chariot drawn on tewlve pairs of exquisite wheels by a team of seven richly-caparisioned horses in spirited gallops and symbolizing the Sun-god himself as if emerging from the depth of the blue expanse, the temple, of epic imagination and vastness, is the supreme realization, through ceaseless architectural experiments, of the creative upsurge that fired the architects of Orissa since the seventh century AD. The temple was built by King Narasimha Deva I (AD 1238-64) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, rulling over Kalinga sometimes in the middle of the 13th century.
Today the main sanctum is in ruins, but the Dance Hall and Audience Hall are intact. The most amazing fact is that the number twelve is closely related to this temple.Twelve-hundred massons being engaged by king for sixteen years to complete the project. It is said that the ambitious king spent twelve years revenue of the old Orissa state. There are twelve pairs of wheels in the platform of the chariot like temple, which are taken as the twelve months of a year. There is a story which tells that a boy named as Dharmapada of age 12 year, who was the son of chief architect of Konark, jumped from the top of the temple to save the life of twelve-hundred workers after setting the finial of the temple, which the workers couldn’t set.
Narasimha Deva and his planners and architects, his master- builders and massons, dreamt of huge horse-drawn chariot, the processional car the vehicle of the Sun god Surya who rode the high heavens in it from down to dusk, from the east to west.
Today no temple bells break the silence of the Sun-god Surya, no priests chant their prayers in devotion. No faithful devoties wends his daily way to the temple portails to pay homage therein. And yet, once in every year, during Magha Saptmi, the ancient tempel walls resound to the chanting of many voices and the tramp of a million feet, as like some migratory birds, instinctively and unearringly winging their way homewards to their nesting lands, thousands of devout pilgrims plod slowly onwards to the temple of the Sun to pay their homage to the deity within. For one full day the air vibrates with the sound of religious favour. But as the night drops her sable pall on the light of the day, the pilgrim departs and once more the ancient stones swiftly sink into silence and solitude.
The black granite of its structure, begrimed and dimmed by the passage of ages, earned for it the name of the Black Pagoda from the 17th century Europian sailors who must have seen it afar from the sea, alone and mystery laden in its loneliness, black in comparison to the white brilliance of the Jagannath temple on the sea-washed shores of Puri, only a few miles away.
The fame of this temple as a wonderful monument had spread so much far beyond the limits of Orissa in the 16th century that the great Vaishnava saint Chaitanya’s (A.D. 1486-1533) as well as Abul-Fazl, the famous chronicler of the court of Akbar (AD 1556-1605). He wrote-Even those whose judgement is critical and who are difficult to please, stand astonished at its sight. Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore felt that, The language of man here is defeated by the languageof stone.
Like the personality of all men of genius, Konark remains an eternal enigma. It generates questions, leaving no clue whatsoever for answers. It looks as though it was a deliberate design of it great makers to produce onlyone total cumulative effect in the spectators and that of wonder , astonishment, and amazement. and they have succeeded in their objective almost miraculously.