Legend has it that the temple at Konark was built by Krishna’s eldest son, Samba. Samba was devilishly handsome, and rather full of himself, so when a wandering wise man visited he ignored him. The wise man decided to punish Samba for his arrogance and gave alcohol to the wives of both Samba and his father – all 16,100 of them. In a state of inebriation Krishna’s wives, shall we say, lost their inhibitions with respect to Samba. Unsurprisingly, Krishna was a little miffed with what happened, so cursed his son with leprosy. After 12 years of suffering, Samba was cured, and so in gratitude to Surya, the sun god, he built a magnificent temple.

Konark sun temple, Surya figure

Reality is a little more prosaic. The temple was, in fact, built at the behest of King Narasimhadeva I in the 13th century.

The entrance is guarded by two stone lions trampling on war elephants. Under each elephant body is a human crushed.

Konark sun temple, entrance lion crushes elephant and man

The temple is build in the form of a massive chariot (arka) with 12 pairs of wheels pulled by horses.

Konark sun temple horse

Konark sun temple wheel

Konark sun temple chakra

The walls are completely smothered in fine carvings showing animals

Konark sun temple, lion crushes elephant

some weird

Konark sun temple creature

Konark sun temple creatures

dancers and musicians

Konark sun temple dancers and musicians

I couldn’t quite work out what some of the people were up to, though.

Konark sun temple - what are they doing?

As Tagore wrote of this place:

“Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.”

[I2011 4]

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