September 26, 2023

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Older Than Konark’s, This Sun Temple of Gujarat Has ‘Garbhgruh’ Where Sunlight Enters Only Twice a Year

3 min read

Did you know Modhera Sun Temple in Gujarat is much older than the popular Sun Temple in Odisha’s Konark?

According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the Modhera Sun Temple was built in 1026-27 CE during the reign of Bhima I of the Chaulukya dynasty.

While Konark Sun Temple was made during the 13th century, around 35 km from Puri city.

News18 travelled to the Modhera Sun Temple on the seventh day of the IRCTC-operated Garvi Gujarat train, capturing the essence of the historical marvel.

Every inch of the temple’s walls showcases edgy and detailed carvings that represent every bit of Indian culture from Ramayana to Mahabharata, to the cycle of human lifecycle and Kamasutra.

Nothing much is visible from the main entrance but as one walks inside, the beautiful grand structure becomes clearer.

The temple complex is divided into three parts – Garbhgruh (the shrine hall), Sabhamandapa (the assembly hall) and Kunda (the reservoir). Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat. (Photo: Nivedita Singh/ News18)

Across the Surya Kunda there is a stepwell kind of structure, with small pyramidal stairways, that contains 108 shrines of various Gods and demi-gods. Three main shrines positioned on the three sides of the Kund are dedicated to Ganesh and Vishnu and Shiva while on the fourth side is the Sun Temple.

The inner sanctum or the Garbhgruh of this temple, situated on the Tropic of Cancer, shines like a diamond on the equinoxes, as the first rays of the sun enter the structure.

According to Girish Goswami, who works as a local guide, there used to be a grand statue of Surya in the Garbhgruh which is no longer there.

“This temple is not used for worship because of a number of reasons. One, the statue of the lord was destroyed. And another being the top of this temple, called ‘shikar’, was also destroyed,” Goswami said while talking to News18.

Speaking about the entry of sunlight on equinoxes, he explained that the structure was designed with a perfect planning and precision of the architecture that sun rays enter the main sanctum.

“The idol of the Sun had diamonds and in those days, light used to further reflect to other idols from the correctly placed diamond on the head of Sun God,” he said.

He said the place where the idol stood is locked now has around 20 feet deep pit to hide precious metals.

“The statue was destroyed because the Muslim rulers wanted to take away these hidden precious metals.”

He also said the Sabha Mandap of the temple stands on 52 pillars – depicting the 52 weeks in a year.

Modhera finds a mention in the ancient scriptures like Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana. The old texts also refer to Modhera and its surrounding areas as Dharmaranya or the forest of righteousness.

The next and the last stop of the trip was magnificent Rani ki Vav, which was supposed to be built from the leftover sandstone from the Sun Temple.

The step well was built in 1063 by Rani Udayamati of the Chaulukya Dynasty to commemorate her husband, Bhimdev I.

The structure is in a very good shape, according to the guide. It was completely buried under silt for several hundred years and only the shaft and few pillars were visible. The stepwell was rediscovered in the 1940s, and the Archeological Survey of India restored it in the 1980s.

The stepwell has been listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites since 2014.

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