The Sun Temple of Konark in Orissa is a significant World Heritage Site for many reasons. It was built during the 13th century by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I, who hailed from the Ganga Dynasty. It was dedicated to the Sun God, Surya. This temple is known for its grand dimensions and ornate designs, its majestic presence and intricate proportions. Originally, it was conceived as a high chariot of Surya with 24 wheels (12 pairs) that would be pulled along by seven horses. All of these would be decorated using only the finest sculptures and materials to create an opulent structure of praise. Indeed, this temple demonstrated just what Kalinga architects could accomplish, and was designed to portray the joy of life and the incredible heartbeat of the world around human beings. It is positioned along the shores of the Bengal Bay, allowing its inhabitants to stand on the porch and appreciate the wonders of nature.

The external decoration of the Sun Temple is characterised by minute detail and impressive sculptures of humans and animals. The main sanctum, which has since fallen off the temple, measured 70 metres in height and enshrined the deity presiding at the time. The Audience Hall measures 40 metres and is still standing today, while the Dancing Hall and the
Image of steps leading to the ancient Hindu Temple at Konark, Orissa, India. 13th Century AD.
Steps leading to the ancient Hindu Temple at Konark, Orissa, India.
13th Century AD. Large stone building with statues guarding access.
Dining Hall have, for the most part, collapsed. The entire temple measures approximately 261 metres by 164.5 metres. It has been built within gorgeous untouched surrounds, only adding to its aesthetic appeal.

The wonder of this temple was fascinating to people even at the time of its construction. Various writings have indicated that saints and others travelled long distances to witness the magic of the Sun Temple.

Nobody knows exactly how long the temple stood before its demise began. Some of the structures have been altogether destroyed, others damaged, while still others remain standing. There are various theories regarding the extent of these damages and the causes thereof. These include the possibility that the temple was simply never finished in certain places, that it was rejected after Dharmapada committed suicide on it, that Saint Sumanya Risi cast a curse on it and that it was damaged by earthquakes, amongst other theories.

Orissa has a population of well over 15 000 people. There are several other attractions near the Sun Temple, including beautiful beaches. Konark is host to an annual dance festival that is held in December, which showcases traditional Indian dancing and enthrals visitors that want to learn about Indian culture. Other popular sites include Chandrabhaga, Ramachandi, Bhagabati Temple, Kuruma, Puri, Beleswar and Chilika.

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