Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan- Modhera Sun Temple - Gujarat's Konark

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Crisscrossing Rann of Kutch and Rajasthan- Modhera Sun Temple - Gujarat's Konark

Sun Temple Modhera
Sun Temple Modhera Frontal view with Surya Kund in foreground

Continued From

Sun Temple Modhera


          Standing in front of Sun Temple at Modhera - Gujarat, I am feeling enraged, startled with a tinge of happiness at the same time. Startled at the mastery in planning by architects, finesse of the craftsmen, hard work, the knowledge of the people, the patronage of the Solanki Kings, indomitable spirit of of those people who created this piece of art in stone. Angry because the idol of Sun God, which is said to be made of Gold with a huge diamond in its hand and used to illuminate the entire Garbhgriha with light, when the first ray of Sun used to fall on it during equinox is not there. Startled, because these precise calculations were made 1200 years ago. Angry because if undying will and devotion of a section of the human race created this masterpiece, it was the insatiable greed of another section of human race belonging to a different faith, led by Mahmood Gazani, who plundered it, mauled it, damaged and desecrated it. An then came a feeling of happiness that I was lucky enough to visit a monument, which is a testimony of our past, when we excelled in architecture, Vaastu, engineering, astronomy, mathematics, geography, physics, in short all sciences and culture.

Kirti Toran remains
The remaining pillars on which the Kirti Toran rested

The Legend


The Sun Temple Modhera
The Sun Temple Modhera


                    As per Skand and Brahma Purana, this area was earlier known as Dharmaranaya. After Killing Ravana, who was a Brahmin, Lord Sri Ram asked Rishi Vashishth for the advise to cleanse himself from the iniquity of Brahm hatya. On his advise he established a village Sitapur and performed a yagna here. This Sitapur came to be known as today's Modhera.

         The Sun Temple Modhera, a magnificient offering in sculpture to Sun god, was built around 1026 AD, by Solanki Kung Bhimdeva I on the banks of River Padmavati. Muslim Iconoclasts and devastating eathquakes reduced The Sun temple from being on the pinnacle of glory to its present state. Mahmud Ghazani due to its insatiable greed marched into Gujarat plundering temples, looting and causing mayhem. Solankis then regrouped and attacked him to stop his march killing almost half of his Muslim army. This forced him to flee and dawned a period of peace from foreign invasions. Raja Bhimdev I built Kirti Toran to commemorate this feat. This era of peace continued till Allaudin Khilji after capturing Delhi looked towards Gujarat, again looting and defacing temples. He  made his soldiers to put gunpowder in garbhgriha and set it on fire. The temple was badly damaged and the Shikhars or spires of the temple fell. This explains the missing Shikhars today. After that the temple went into oblivion till it was first mentioned by the then British Surveyor general of India Col. Monier Williams in his report. Later another British officer Alexender Kinloch Forbes gave a detailed account of this temple in his book Ras Mala : Hindoo annals of the province of Goozerat in western India. 


Architecture

                                The Modhera Sun temple is built strictly as per the Vaastu and astronomical principals. The temple has three main parts. A colossal tank, known as Surya kund or Rama Kund. From this Kund the stairs lead to the Sabha Mandapa through the remanants of Kirti Toran and at the end is the Guha Mandap, which enshrines the garbh griha. All the three are lie on the same axis.


Layout plan of  Modhera Sun Temple
Layout plan of  Modhera Sun Temple - Source wiki commons
Kirti Toran and Sabha Mandap
Kirti Toran and Sabha Mandap


The Surya Kund

                                 This colossal water tank lies of the eastern end of the temple measuring 176 feet North to South and 120 feet from East to West. It has four terraces from which the steps lead to the bottom of the Kund. The two factors which take the beauty of this kund to a different level are firstly the pyramid shaped steps forming some interiguing geometeric patterns and second is the presence of numerous small shrines on these steps. It is said that there were some 108 temples on these steps dedicated to various gods including Ganesh, Vishnu on his sheshshayya , Shiva as Natraj and even Sitla mata, the godess of chicken pox, holding neem leaves in one hand , broom in other and  donkey as its ride. This is a classical exmple of Hiduism being so adaptable. Though these smaller shrines are in different stages of decay, but look beautiful. This Kund was probably used for ablutions by devotees before proceeding to main temple for worshipping.

Small shrines in the Kund create a beautiful scene
Small shrines in the Kund create a beautiful Vista
Surya Kund with beautiful steps
Surya Kund with beautiful steps
Surya Kund with small shrines and Suntemple in background
Surya Kund with small shrines and Sun Temple in background

The Temple

                        The temple is built on a raised platform. At the lowest level of this plinth are inverted Lotus flowers, followed by Elephants above it, all around at the base of the temple. Lotus apart from being considered a pure flower also dutifully opens with sunrise and closes at sunset. There are said to be 365 elephant figures called Gaja Petika representing 365 days of a year. Above this are various figures celebrating life. These figurines are shown singing, dancing, playing music and even figures of men and women engaged in erotic postures symolising the start of a life, depicting last rites that is the end of a life, completing the universal cycle of birth life to death. 

Base of the temple with inverted Lotus and Elephants
Base of the temple with inverted Lotus and Elephants 

Rang Mandapam

                          In western Indian temples, the halls  are of two types. Guha Mandap, which are fully closed in with walls and Rang Mandap, which have half walls around them. The first hall is of Rang Mandap category. This hall was meant to be an assembly hall, where devotees will sing devotional songs etc. This Mandap has 52 highly ornate pillars. The number 52 represents the 52 weeks of a year. 


Rang Madap or Sabha Mandap at Modhera Sun Temple
Rang Madap or Sabha Mandap at Modhera Sun Temple

Side view of Rang Mandap or the Sabha Mandap. It has beautiful Toran style entrances on all sides. On extreme right the remains of Kirti Stambha can be seen.

Highly ornate entrance of Rang Mandap
Highly ornate entrance of Rang Mandap

Pillars inside the Rang Mandap
Pillars inside the Rang Mandap

         The pillars inside the rang Madapam are decorated with the montage of  carvings depicting the scenes from the epics of Mahabharat and Ramayan. Also adorning these pillars are the panthenon of other deities. 


Another view of the Rang Mandap
Another view of the Rang Mandap

           The external view of the rang Mandap with half walls,  giving the effect of chajjas and also giving the glimpse of the pillars inside.

                               
Beautifully carved roof of the Rang Mandap
Beautifully carved roof of the Rang Mandap
Beautifully carved roof of the Rang Mandap
Opulant Pillars and roof inside Rang Mandap.

                    The pillars and the roof inside the Rang Mandap are very opulant and have the same arcitecture al style as found in the Jain temples across Rajasthan supporting a Toran which looks like a lace in stone and the roof is multilayered intricately carved piece of art.

Guha Mandap.

                     At Modhera Sun temple, a small passage from the Rang Mandap leads to the Guha Mandap. This Madapam houses the Garbhgriha. Here only was the famous gold idol of Surya Bhagwan worshiped. Between the walls of Garbhgriga and Guha Mandap is the passage for circumbation of garbhgriha called Pradakshina Marg. The outer walls of the Guha Mandap have windows on three sides. These windows once supported stone lattice, which are today damaged or missing. The inner walls of this Mandapam are not very ornate.


The Guha Mandap
The Guha Mandap


Iconography of the Modhera Sun Temple

                The outer walls of the temple are very elaborately carved. They are filled with sculptures of various sizes from top to bottom. Each Mandap has twelve niches representing twelve months of the year. 


Outer walls of the Sun Temple Modhera
Elaborately carved outer walls of the Sun Temple Modhera
            

Twelve Adityas

               Twelve Adityas representing  Sun god for twelve months of the year are carved on the large panels on the twelve niches of the Guha Mandapam. The Aditya is riding on a chariot drawn by seven horses and Arun as its charioteer. They are flanked by two attendants Dandi and Pingala

One of the Twelve Adityas
One of the Twelve Adityas

Twelve Gauris

                As the twelve Adityas adorn the twelve niches of the Guha Mandapam, the Twelve Niches of Rang Mandapam are occupied by goddesses or Devis. These four armed Devis stand in graceful postures, bearing pitchers of water and rosaries in their lower pairs of hands, but the attributes in the upper pair of hands are different. These Devis are known as Gauris. In Hindu pantheon, there are twelve Gauris, known as Dwadash Gauris. They are aspects of Gauri, Shiva's wife.

Gauri
Gauri

The Dikpalas

                      Dikpalas in Hinduism are guardian gods who preside over the eight directions of space and protect the entire universe as under

East -                 Indra - The god of Rains
South East -       Agni - The Fire god
South -               Yama - The god of Death
West -                Varuna - The Water god
South West -      Nirrti - A form of Shiva
North -               Kuber - The god of Wealth
North East -       Isan - A form of Shiva
North West -      Vayu - The Air god

                      Dikpals in Modhera Sun Temple are in standing postures, are four armed and display other attributes


Agni
Agni

Isan
Isan

Vayu
Vayu

Indra
Indra

Varun
Varun

Nirrti
Nirrti

         As we walk around the temple and arrive at the North East facade, a very rare sculpture draws attention. This is a sculpture of Shiva known as Tripad Bhairava having three arms, three heads and three legs. There is no explanation of the philosophy of the three limbs.
                      
Tripad Bhairav
Tripad Bhairav




Parting Shot at The Sun Temple Modhera
Parting Shot at The Sun Temple Modhera
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16 Comments

  1. It is such a detailed coverage of the Sun Temple. The basic structure is quite different from the Sun Temple of Konark.

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    1. Sir Thank you very much for stopping by. Yes the structures are different. Konark is made like a chariot on which Sun god is riding. Undoubtedly Konark is the most famous Sun temple, however this temple was built 200 years before Konark Temple. Another Sun temple at Matan Kashmir is also a built differently and is beautiful. Moreover all the Sun temples are marvels made with such pricse astonomical calculations making first rays of Sun to fall on the idol in a certain fashion. Then the elements of the temple are multiples of the days, weeks or month i.e. time units. Strangely except for 02 Sun temples, all the Sun tenples are nearly on the tropic of Cancer.

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  2. One of the fine example of architecture is Sun Temple, Modhera. I am from Gujarat and there are many such Places which are not most visited by tourists. The structure, Kund and Guha Mandap all are intricately carved and it tells a story.Loved reading about your detailed description and history, you captured it very well.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and appreciating the post. There are uncountable hidden treasures in India. After all we are one of the oldest civilisation of the world and the most advanced and richest one.

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  3. Amazing! The art of ancient India is just incredible. I have seen some of the temples like that, but it was years ago and I can't remember the names of place I have been. Anyhow, I have great memories and would love to come back one day to see more, especially Rajastan as I didn't have enough time for this state.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and liking the Post. You are most welcome to visit India again. If You need any assitance guidance of any kind for planning or anything, I will be happy to help.

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  4. I love this detailed explanation of the temple. I have seen this one as a kid and am itching to get back and explore it for myself. I love the whole concept of the 12 adityas and 52 pillars and their depiction there-of. The ceilings and wall sculptors are just so stunning. I cannot get over its work

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    1. Thank you very much for stopping by and appreciating the post. Yes this temple is gorgeous. In fact all the Sun temples in India are masterpieces of engineering, astronomical calculations and art.

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  5. I can't find the right word to describe how incredible amazing the whole architecture of this place. All carvings are so detailed, and takes a lot of time and patience before they achieve this. This is what the ancient isolation can do.

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    1. Thank you for standing by and reading the post. Yes those people were amazing, the artworts they created with simple chasel and hammer were unimaginable. Do foolow the blog for latest posts

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  6. A magnificent photos and description of the temple. With such writing thats how the temples become a tourist attractions and I mean it in a good way.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, reading and appreciating the post. Do follow the blog for some intersting upcoming posts.

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  7. Wow, these are so ornately beauiful and intricate! I am sure even moreso up close and personal. I love discovering interesting architecture in my travels and learning the history behind it!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by reading and appreciating the post. India is full of such hidden gems. Please do follow the blog to keep receiving such interesting posts

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  8. I'm just blown away by the incredible architecture of The Sun Temple Modhera. Can't even imagine how talented would be the architects of those eras. Thanks for sharing such a detailed post and would love to visit Gujrat and Rajsathan in the future!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and appreciating the post. Yes the architecture is incredible. Do let me know if you need any help or information, while planning your India trip, I will be happy to help

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