April 21, 2017

3023 INDIA (Odisha) - Sun Temple, Konârak (UNESCO WHS)

3023 One of the two war horses in front of the southern side
of the Sun Temple at Konârak

The Sun Temple at Konârak, located on the eastern shores of the Indian subcontinent, at 65km from Bhubaneswar, the capital of the Indian state of Odisha, is one of the outstanding examples of temple architecture and art as revealed in its conception, scale and proportion, and in the sublime narrative strength of its sculptural embellishment. It was originally built at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga, but the waterline has receded since then.

The temple has been built in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of the Sun god, Surya, with twelve pairs of elaborately carved stone wheels, each about 3m in diameter, which is pulled by a set of seven horses (4 on the right and 3 on the left). Following the traditional style of Kalinga architecture, it is carefully oriented towards the east so that the first rays of sunrise strikes the principal entrance. It is embellished with sophisticated and refined iconographical depictions of contemporary life and activities, as well as with symbolic motifs referring to the cycle of the seasons and the months.

Between the wheels, the plinth of the temple is entirely decorated with reliefs of fantastic lions, musicians and dancers, and erotic groups. Like many Indian temples, the Sun Temple comprises several distinct and well-organized spatial units. The vimana (principal sanctuary) was surmounted by a high tower with a shikhara (crowning cap), which was razed in the 19th century. To the east, the jahamogana (audience hall) dominates the ruins with its pyramidal mass. Farther to the east, the natmandir (dance hall), today unroofed, rises on a high platform.

The temple is directly and materially linked to Brahmanism and tantricbelief systems, being also known for its erotic sculptures of maithunas. Two smaller ruined temples have been discovered nearby. One of them, dated to the late 11th century, is located southwest from the entrance of the main temple, and it is presumed to have been dedicated to Mayadevi, one of the Sun god's wives. The other one belongs to some unknown Vaishnava deity. Sculptures of Balarama, Varaha and Trivikrama have been found at the site, indicating it to be a Vaishnavite temple.

According to Bhavishya Purana and Samba Purana, there may have been a sun temple in the region earlier than current one, dating to the 9th century or earlier. The current temple is attributed to Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty (r. 1238-1264), and may have been a monument to his victory against Tughral Tughan Khan. Its aesthetical and visually overwhelming sculptural narratives are today an invaluable window into the religious, political, social and secular life of the people of that period.

About the stamps

The first stamp, Airplanes - Induction of the C-130, was designed by Nenu Gupta and issued on October 6, 2016.

The second stamp, depicting B R Ambedkar, is part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, about which I wrote here.

The last stamp was issued on June 27, 2010 to mark the World Classical Tamil Conference. The World Classical Tamil Conference 2010 was an international gathering of scholars, poets, political leaders and celebrities with an interest in Tamil people, the Tamil language and Tamil literature. It was held in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu between 23 June and 27 June 2010 with an expenditure of more than 500 Crores.

Konark Sun Temple - Wikipedia
Sun Temple, Konârak - UNESCO official website
Konark Sun Temple - Official website

Sender: Mansoor B. (direct swap)
Sent from Bolar, Mangalore (Karnataka / India), on 07.04.2017
Photo: Bharath Kumaran

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