Thursday, 29 June 2017

Awe-inspiring Konark Sun Temple and Time Wheels

Konark, a  town in the Puri district of the state of Odisha, India is a favourite tourist destination. It lies on the coast by the Bay of Bengal, 65 kilo meters from the state capital  Bhubaneswar. The Sun
temple was built  at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga River in the 13th-century during the reign of Narasimhadeva-I. Also known as the Black Pagoda, because it was built using black granite stones, the Sun temple  is a World Heritage Site.

Konark Sun Temple dedicated to the sun god Surya is as famous for the erotic sculptures of countless  couples making love in various postures as for the "time wheels" carved out of stones.
Beautiful small erotic figures carved on the walls and roof of the temple and the wheels of time attract tourists to this historical temple site from all over the world. The  temple is partly damaged and weathered because of vagaries of weather and its proximity to the sea shore.

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This unique temple that unashamedly depict the  man-woman relationship  as part of life, is  designed as a chariot for the Sun God. We have come across countless pictures in which the sun god is seen riding a chariot driven by  seven beautiful muscular horses or one sturdy horse with seven heads.

SunTemple, Konark time wheel

Besides the main attraction of the temple - small stone images of amorous couples and women, the  12 pairs of richly  adorned wheels located at the base of the temple never fail to grab the attention of the visitors.  What is so special about these huge ornate time wheels? They tell us the time of the day. The spokes of the wheels make the sundial and each one of them having 8 wider spokes and 8 thinner spokes. Out of these 24 wheels, 6 are on either side of the main temple, 4 wheels are on each side of the Mukhasala and 2 wheels on each side of steps at the eastern front. One can calculate the precise time of the day just by looking at the shadow cast by the spokes.

Wheel of
The entire chariot temple is on the amazingly sculptured 24 ornate  wheels, each about 9 feet and 9 inches in diameter and  pulled by 7 spirited horses.
There are many interpretations with respect to the significance of Konark time wheel. According to some, the 7 horses represent the days of a week and the 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the 24 wheels indicate 24 hours of a day. As for  8 major spokes, they signify  prahars (three hour period) of a day. Others believe that  the wheels of  chariot are symbolic of  the 'Wheel of Life'. They point out  the cycle of creation, preservation and achievement of realisation. The 12 pairs of wheels, it is believed,  may also possibly represent the 12 zodiac signs. Some researchers suggest that the Wheel of Konark is the same as the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists - the Wheel of Karma or the Wheel of the Law.

Architecturally  all the 24 wheels are similar  but each one of them is decorated differently. The thicker wheels have  circular medallions carved at their centres on the widest part of the face. The axles of the wheels that project by about one foot from the surface, are characteristic of similar decorations at their ends. The rims are carved with designs of foliage with various birds and animal and dominate the rim. On the other hand,  the medallions in the spokes have carvings of figures of amorous women  mostly of erotic nature.

Time wheel. Konark, India.Sun

The beads are large and the sun's shadow falls on them.The Hindu FAQs

The Konark wheel has 8 wider or major  spokes and 8 thinner or minor  spokes. The distance between two major  spokes is  calculated as 3 hours (180 minutes). The minor  spoke between two  major spokes indicates 1.5 hours (the time between a major 
spoke and a minor spoke is an hour and half or 90 minutes). There are 30 beads at the edge of the wheel between one major  spoke to the next minor spoke and they divide the 90 minutes, each bead representing 3 minutes. The beads are large enough to see the shadow falling on them. The Sun dial shows time in an anti-clockwise fashion and the  major  spoke at top center is taken as  12 o' clock midnight and this spoke stands for 3 A.M and this one for 6 A.M and so on. If there is no sun or sky is overcast how one would calculate the the time? To calculate the time  after sunset, the moon dials work just like sundial and can work well on full moon. Every night after full noon, the average time is  48 minutes slow, while every night preceding the full moon it is roughly 49 minutes fast,  if there is enough light to take a reading by. Thus, one week either before or after the full moon the time will be calculated (based on the moon dial) as  5 hours and 36 minutes before or after the proper time.

01. It is said that very  heavy magnet was kept atop the temple  and iron plates are sandwiched between every two stones of the temple to facilitate construction of higher floors over them. This ingenious arrangements of  the main magnet along with the other magnets caused the main idol of the temple to float in the air.

02. The magnet at the temple was, it is said, was removed by the British who were unable to conduct geodetic survey, etc. Further, it affected the functioning of the compasses used by the ocean-going ships.

03. More than 100 years ago, the people  thought the stone wheels were  carved artistically for aesthetic purpose and never thought about the utility value of the time wheels.  People came to know about the use of time wheels when a yogi read the time, using the wheels and the shadow cast by the sun on the spokes.




01. It is reported that there was a heavy magnet kept  atop the temple  and every two stones of the temple were sandwiched by iron plates to construct the higher floors . Consequently, this  unique arrangement of the main magnet along with the other magnets caused the main idol of the temple to float in the air. The magnet at the top is said to have disturbed compasses for coastal voyagers and was later removed by the British.

02. More than 100 years ago, the people  thought the wheels were  carved artistically for aesthetic purpose and never thought about the utility value of the time wheels.  People came to know about the use of time wheels when a yogi read the time using the wheels and the shadow cast by the sun on them.


Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. You can also find Nidhi on Google+.

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Konark (Odia: କୋଣାର୍କ) is a medium town in the Puri district in the state of Odisha, India. It lies on the coast by the Bay of Bengal, 65 kilometers from the capital of the state, Bhubaneswar. It is the site of the 13th-century Sun Temple, also known as the Black Pagoda, built in black granite during the reign of Narasimhadeva-I. The temple is a World Heritage Site. The temple is now mostly in ruins, and a collection of its sculptures is housed in the Sun Temple Museum, which is run by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Konark is also home to an annual dance festival called Konark Dance Festival, held every December, devoted to classical Indian dance forms, including the traditional classical dance of Odisha, Odissi.

On 16 February 1980, Konark lay directly on the path of a total solar eclipse.

The name Konârka is derived from the Sanskrit word Kona (meaning angle) and word Arka (meaning sun) in reference to the temple which was dedicated to the Sun god Surya.
The Sun Temple

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Sun temple

A sun temple (or solar te,_india_moondial_too