THE GLORY OF GUJARAT
Shreya Gohel | 24.01.2021
The legacy of Solanki’s, the Sun Temple at Modhera, Gujarat is an eclectic glimpse of the artistic and ingenious beauty that makes it exotically state vibrant. The soothing drive amidst green farmlands just 35 km away from Mehsana, reposes the village Modhera. Set along the backdrop of river Pushpavati, surrounded by a terra-formed garden of flowing trees and songs of birds rests the famed Sun Temple of Modhera.
The remains of the Sun temple at Modhera are relying on times gone by when reverence of the natural elements- fire, air, water, and the sky was at their peak sharing space with the myriad manifestation of Vedic gods. The ancient philosophy venerating natural elements and their association with a human was considered the prime force and energy of the life cycle. The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted Kund are jewels in the act of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was known as the Golden age of Gujarat.
Built on the bank of river Pushpavati, Modhera Sun temple today stands as an obsolete temple where no worship is offered anymore. The extraordinary piece of art was crafted even before the Konark Temple of Orissa.
The whole temple is pillared on a lotus-shaped structure and each inch of its walls showcases edgy, detailed carvings and those carvings represent every bit of our culture: from Ramayan to Mahabharat, from human life cycle to Kamasutra.
The temple is expertly divided into 3 segments:
1. As you enter the historical complex, you first come across the magnificent Kund known as Ramakund or the Surya Kund. It is built in rectangular shape containing 108 shrines to various gods and demi-gods. 3 main shrines positioned on the three sides of the Kund are dedicated to Ganesh, Vishnu, and the image of lord shiva dancing the ‘Tandav’ facing the temple of the sun which covers the fourth side. The Suryakund which is a deep, stepped tank right in front of the temple, was earlier used to store pure water. it is believed that earlier there used to be an underground spring.
2. The assembly hall or the ‘Sabha Mandap’ used to be the place for religious gatherings and conferences essentially built for the pilgrims. The Sabha Mandapa is sculpted with a rendering of ‘12 Adityas’. The 12 representations carved on pillars represent the sun according to the 12 months. It is believed that these Adityas are the base myth to the temple of the sun and the legend imparts Aditya’s to be the son of ‘Aditi’ the goddess of infinity and the constant within the inter-connectedness of the Universe.
3. The Guda Mandapa or sanctum sanctorum by crossing the passage with pillars and arches. Once the hall used to bear the idol of the sun god before being plundered by Mahmud Ghazani. Still one can see the 12 different facets of the sun god on its walls. The 52 carved pillars add grace and poise to the temple section.
According to strong ancient belief, the walk from the Kund to Guda mandapa via the main temple is observed as the transcending journey from death to moksha. It’s mesmerizing.
Let us have a look at its HISTORY
The temple one of the most exquisite in western India is situated in Modhera, once mighty capital of Solanki’s.
Modhera temple was constructed under the reign of the Kind Bhima-I of the Chalukya dynasty. Created back in the 11th Century, Modhera has been mentioned on the history pages of Skanda and Bhrama Puran. Even in Vedic times, Modhera and its surroundings are referred to as ‘Dharmaranya’ or the forest of Righteousness. On top of that, this place was also blessed by Lord Rama. It is believed that after victorying over the Ravana in Lanka, Lord Rama with Mata Sita came to Modhera Sun temple to offer their prayers to Lord Sun as they belonged to the Suryavansh ancestry.
At present, the temple is undertaken by the Archeological Survey of India for renovation and restoration. In 2014, Modhera sun temple was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
FACTS to be known for sure
Modhera temple and its dedication to the sun god will leave you stunned.
- The temple was so constructed that during every equinox, the first sunrays would fall on a diamond placed on the sun god’s head. And the entire temple would illuminate in a golden glow.
- On other days, two pillars before the Garbhagruha would stay illuminated throughout the day, regardless of the position of the Sun.
- The Sabha Mandapa still stands on 52 pillars, depicting the 52 weeks in a year.
- Carvings of the sun, along with its unity and the other 4 elements- air, water, earth, and space can be spotted on the walls.
- The temple is situated at 23.6 degrees latitude, close to the Tropic of Cancer. Built-in such a way that during the summer solstice, the sun shines directly on the top of the temple, casting No shadows.
- Gujarat Tourism hosts a 3 days festival every year known as Uttaradha Mahotsav at the temple every January after the Makar Sankranti festival to showcase the artistic talent of India.
The temple is not a place of worship today but it’s still a sight to behold and a testament to the glory of the Solankis and the heights they reached in the early years of the 1st Millenium CE.
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