Monday, December 21, 2009

Sun Temple of Modhera

The Surya Mandir of Modhera, Gujarat, India is a 1000-year-old edifice with a much more ancient architectural style similar to the Konark Temple in Orissa and the Martand Temple of Jammu and Kashmir, India. A paean to Surya, the Sun God, the temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty in 1026 CE. The Solanki Rajputs believed themselves to be the descendants of the lineage of Surya. The area on the banks of the Pushpavati River (God of Wealth Kuber's river of golden flowers) is called Dharmaranya (forest of righteousness).

The temple is composed of three axially-aligned and integrated constituents: Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap or Rang Mandir, and Guda Mandap or Nritya Mandir.

Surya Kund is a 100-square-meter, rectangular, deeply stepped tank at the entrance of the temple. 108 shrines dedicated to Lords Shiva and Ganesh are located within the tank—the number 108 is considered auspicious by the Hindus. The original purpose of the tank was to provide dusty travelers a means to bathe (purification) before entering the temple. A huge toran (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.

Sabha Mandap is an assembly hall where religious gatherings and meetings were conducted. It's open on four sides to the four directions and has a walnut-shaped ceiling supported on 52 pillars representing the 52 weeks of the year.

Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum. It's octagonal shape supported by a lotus-base plinth is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. And it is oriented in such a way that the first ray of the sun at dawn on the equinoxes shines directly through the arched doorway onto the large diamond set in the center of the gold crown placed on the head of Surya's golden statue. The shikhar (dome on the roof) and the statue were plundered by the Mughals of Central Asia: Muhammad of Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji. In medieval times, a surang (tunnel) led from Anahilvad Patan, the headquarter of the Solankis, to this mandap and served as a means of escape for the royal family.

Both the mandaps are covered with scenes depicting social, cultural, religious, moral, and sexual teachings of daily life. Eight directions, twelve facets of the Sun for each of the months, cycle of birth and death, friezes of gods and goddesses, stories from the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharatha and life of Lord Krishna, scriptures Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, Kama Sutra erotica similar to the Khajuraho Temple, Vedic philosophy, and art, mathematics, and science of the day comprise the exterior and interior carved sandstone panels.

The oddest depiction of Surya is the statue in which he's wearing a jacket, a belt with a grand Texan cowboy-style buckle and knee-length boots, similar to the original statue at Dakshinaarka Temple at Bodh Gaya, India (where Buddha attained nirvana). Depictions of stone statues wearing such clothes are found in Iran and Central Asia, leading to the belief that the Indian sun worshippers are descendants of the Persian fire worshippers or Zoroastrians.


Anna Campbell said...

Keira, you always have the most interesting posts. That was fascinating!

Keira Soleore said...

Thanks, Fo. You've made my day!

Sun temple konark said...

Nice post and pics. Konark Sun Temple is also called as Konark Temple. Temple is attract tourist most, it is located in Orissa india.The chariot is very huge and has 12 pairs of stone-carved wheels and also a squad of seven running horses.