Konark or Konarak is a temple town near Puri in the state of Orissa, south of Kolkata in India. It is most famous for its Sun temple.
The magnificent Sun Temple at Konark is the culmination of Orissan 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’.
Built by King Narasimhadeva in the thirteenth century, the entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens. Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.
It is opined by some historians that, due to the early death of the king Langula Narasimha Dev, builder of the Konarak temple, the construction of the temple had been left in a haphazard state. As a result of this, the incomplete structure eventually collapsed. But this view is unsupported by historical data. The records of Madala Panji of Puri Jagannath temple, as well as from some copper plates dated 1278 A.D., state that the king Langula Narasimha Dev reigned till 1282. Many historians are of the opinion that the construction of the Konark temple was completed between 1253 and 1260 A.D. So the argument that the temple collapsed due to non-completion during construction is not tenable.
Konark is at a distance of 60km from Bhubaneswar and 30km from Puri and well connected to both the places. Conducted tours are available from Puri, the main tourist centre, covering the various important temples in and around Puri, Chilka Lake and Konarak.
Konark is not only an ideal choice for monument, beach and scenic beauties but also for her 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.
- The Konark Sea Beach is at a distance of 2 miles from the temple. The Romantic Beach has the distinction of being considered as one of the finest beach in the world. Quiter than Puri beach, it offers beautiful sunrise and sunset. The scene charm in a seclusion has made it the “Lovers Paradise”. The Beach is especially lovely early in the morning, or when it is illuminated during the evenings.
- MUSEUM : There is a small Museum outside the temple compound. Run by Archaelogical Survey of India, the Museum has an excellent collection of sculpture from the temple ruins.It remains open from 9.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M. of Saturday to Thursday. Friday is closed. Entry is free of cost.
- RAMACHANDI : To the south west of the Sun temple there is the temple of Goddess Ramachandi. There are, however, difference of opinion about the presiding deity of this temple. It has been surmised by some
- KONARK MATHA : One Math (monastery) is situated in south just close to the compound wall of the Sun temple. There is no deity and only Nirakar Brahma (or void) is being worshiped in the Matha. Sunya Sadhana or the contemplation of the Eternal void is associated with the concept of Budhism. Local people identify it as ‘Samba Ashram’, place where Samba had raised his hutment for worshipping the Sun. There is a Dhuni Kund (fire place) where it is said, the fire has been reserved undiscontinued since the beginning of the Matha.
- KAKATAPUR : Situated on the Prachi Valley 61 kilometers from Bhubaneswar and 45 kilometers from Konark, Kakatapur is famous for housing the shrine of Goddess Mangala and Ranadurga. Ritualistically, Goddess Mangala is related to Lord Jagannath during the Navakalebar (Renovation Ceremony). The direction for locating the holy log which forms the icon of Lord is believed to come from Her. “Jhamu Yatra”, celebrated in the month of Chaitra (April-May) is the major festival is her.
- PURI : Puri, the city by the sea, is a major pilgrim centre in India. Adi Sankara founded one of the Peethas here. Puri is also famous for its golden Beach, idal for swimming and surfing. It is 35 kilometers away from Konark.
- BHUBANESWAR : Bhubaneswar, 65 kilometers away from Konark and the modern capital of the state of Orissa, has been a political, religious, and cultural center for more than two millennial. It is the arrival point for most visitors to Orissa, and with its excellent hotels, headquarters Tourist Department offices, and central location, it is an excellent base for visiting other parts of Orissa, as well as an engrossing destination in its own right.
- KURUMA : Eight kilometers from the world famous Sun temple at Konark, Kuruma is a small village. Recent excavations here have brought to light the reminiscence of some ancient antiquities like the image of Budha seated in Bhumisparsa Mudra along with the image of Heruka and a 17 meters long brick wall (brick size 22 cm *17 cm). Scholars are of opinion that this was once of the sites containing Budhist stupas described by Hiuen T’Sang. The place is approachable by jeep
- CHAURASI : Fourteen kilometers from Kakatapur on the way to Konark one can visit the shrines of Amareswara, Laximinarayana and Barahi at Chaurasi.