Ancient Temples on the Beach - Puri, India

Konark Sun Temple

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We lazed around after early morning rains. Around 2 pm our driver took us to the nearby Konark Sun Temple. We arrived about 3 and, as usual a guide found us. Our plan was to tour the temple while the afternoon light was good, then remain for the free light show after sundown.

Built in the 13th century, Konark was designed as the gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with twelve pairs of enormous ornamented wheels pulled by seven pairs of horses. While walking around the temple, it’s hard sometimes to picture the totality, but the wheels themselves bring the concept back. The poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote of Konark: "here the language of stone surpasses the language of man."  The temple was once quite near the coast, but silting  and ocean tides have changed the landscape.

Like the temples at Khujaraho and the southern Indian temples, Konark is covered by scultptures that make gothic cathedrals look like plain brick walls. Thousands of images include deities, celestial and human musicians, dancers, lovers, and scenes of courtly life, ranging from hunts and military battles. We didn’t have time to cont, but two thousand individually conceived elephants march around the base of the main temple

Also like Khajuraho, the temple is famous for its explicit depiction of scenes from the Kama Sutra. Our guide distinguished the scenes by identifying pointing out monogamy, bigamy, polyandry, etc depending how many people were involved. At one end of the temple are several statues of Sutra, sun god – on the eastern side, a young Sun in morning with full complement of horses pulling his chariot, on the western side, an older Sun only 1 horse left in evening. Very hot and clammy, absolutely soaked thru. After tour, waited til dusk for illumination. It started raining lightly about 5:30, and got heavier with lightning and thunder which were unscheduled additions to the light show. We made our way back thru the gauntlet of stalls selling cashews, religious items and tourist trinkets, reaching the car as it opened up completely. This was mid November, well beyond monsoon season, but we were were deluged for about 30’, roads flooding in places. The road into the hotel is already severely damaged from a storm last year –sometimes only ˝ lane left with no shoulder – just a 2-3’ drop to the beach.

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