Orissa: A Memoire (Part 2: Konark, The City of the Sun Temple)

Continuing on the journey through Odisha I would like to take you to a place called Konark. Konark is one of the most well known places of interest in India. It is a small town in the Puri district in the state of Odisha, India. It lies on the coast by the Bay of Bengal, 65 kilometers from the capital of the state. Konark is also home to an annual dance festival called Konark Dance Festival, held every December, devoted to classical Indian dance forms, including the traditional classical dance of Odisha. Ok that is all about Konark. Did I miss something? Oh yah…it is home to the 13th-century Sun Temple, also known as the Black Pagoda, made up of black granite. It is in the shape of a gigantic chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels, pillars and walls and is dedicated to the Sun God.

While on my visit to Odisha a couple of years back I visited Konark as part of my unplanned itinerary. While the visit was a very fruitful one, the journey from Puri to Konark was an adventure in itself. The seamless natural beauty, trees forming a canopy over the endless perfect empty road (believe me the roads are perfect), traveling with my cousin at 100 km/hr on a bike (well now that I think of it, it was absolute stupidity) and making stops to drink fresh coconut. Those are the 45 minutes of my life I would like to relive all over again.

Standing besides a carved out wheel at the Sun Temple, Konark

Standing besides a carved out wheel at the Sun Temple, Konark

While most of you may associate Konark with the Sun Temple, my recollections of the coastal town of Konark is not limited to temple…in order words I don’t remember much about the temple. I would like to repeat myself I am not what you call a religious man. So you may ask why did I bothered to visit the temple in the first place. Well I have always read about the temple in my history books and was curious to visit the site.

So what were my first impressions of the temple you ask? Proud, I felt proud. Proud to be a part of the culture which gave us such a monument. Besides I was much more proud about the amount of work being done in order to maintain the structure, to bring it back to its glory days. Sure being on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site helps. The funds, the expertise and the motivation is all there but you never know, this is India, a place one may not associate with where things get done properly.

The first thing I noticed while entering the premises of the temple was the very fact that I hate going to such sites. A mere Rs. 10 ticket for citizens of India and others SAARC nations while Rs 500 for citizens of non-SAARC nations. These sites of national importance have been turned into mere money minting machines. Yes, yes money is required to maintain such a site. But then why such a large discrimination and surely there must be other ways to raise money. Moving on I was amazed at the sheer size of the structure. Unquestionable it looks huge in the books, but a one on one encounter with the mega structure is a different cup of tea all together. While the temple remains more or less in ruins (the temple was raised by the army of Kalapahad, a general of the Sultan of Bengal, a mortal enemy of Mukunda Gajapati, the then king of Cuttack), much of the fascination remains with the integrate carvings in the temple walls (the wheels of the chariot is a thing to behold), the gardens surrounding the same and its resemblance with the Jagannath Puri temple.  All in all a good place to visit with your friends and family and spend some quality time under the blissful blessings of the Sun God.

In front of a light house at a Konark Beach

In front of a light house at a Konark Beach

I have talked about the journey from Puri to Konark, the Sun Temple, what I liked about the temple and what I was not very fond of. However my travel diary about Konark cannot be completed without mentioning its beaches. So all of us have visited beaches and with a coastline of more than 7.000 km beaches are not a rarity in India. So what makes the beaches at Konark stand out? For starters the beaches have more or less remained untouched by humans which has preserved its natural beauty. Additionally the beaches are merely 100 meters from the main road, which in itself is an eye candy.

A visit to Konark should be a part of the itinerary of every single traveler, for the religious, for history buff, for the adventure seeking and for the nature loving.

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