Why they built Sun Temples in India?
Building of Sun Temples in India shows ‘how dependent is life upon the Sun’ people felt in older days. The sun is the primeval source of energy for all of the life forms on the earth. Without the Sun, life is impossible. It is the central cause for almost all the natural forces acting on and around the earth. The earth herself has evolved from the Sun.
Our ancestors knew the very fact. They were well aware of the importance of the Sun for our life. That’s why the ancient civilizations practiced Sun worship in this or that way. In India, since the development of human intelligence, Sun got the significant place in country’s socio-religious arena. In the Rigveda it was one of the leading gods of Indian pantheon. Later, this all-available ‘universal’ living God found a place in the dark sanctum-sanctorum of temples, and thus Sun-worship began in the all new form of anthropomorphic idols in temples.
In many states of India there are archaeological evidences of Sun temples where the practice of worship is still going on to these days, or been obsolete. Well, let’s now have a look on some of the significant ancient Sun Temples in India-
1. Sun Temple Konark, Odisha:
‘Ark’ is a synonym for the Sun and ‘Kon’ for angle. So, ‘Konark’ means the Sun at angle. The Konark Sun temple is the most magnificent and biggest of all Sun Temples in India. It was built by Ganga ruller Narsingh Deva of Odisha in 13th century. It is a marvel of the Nagar style of temple architecture in India. Konark is 66 km from the Odian capital city of Bhuvaneswar and 35 km from the major pilgrim center of Jagannathpuri. The temple is architectured in the way that it seems 7 rock horses pulling the chariot of Lord Sun. At the base of the temple there are 24 decorated huge wheels hewn on stone, each having the diameter of 12 feet- at least 2 times the height of a standard tall man. In 1984 this temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site. At present, the temple is only an archaeological treasure as no ritual is performed in the temple.
2. Martanda Temple of Anantanag, Jammu-Kashmir:
One another name for the Sun is ‘Martanda’. This temple is about 8 km from Anantanag of Jammu-Kashmir. Archaeologists find the temple as a fine example of mixed architectural style of the Gandhara, Gupta, Greek, Chinese, Roman, Syrian architectures. The temple was built by Karkota Kinga Lalitaditya Muktapeed of Kashmir in 8th century AD. . At present there is only the ruins of the original structure. 700 years later, the hardliner Muslim king of Kashmir Sikeder Butshikan demolished this unique piece of Architectural heritage.
3. Katarmal Sun Temple, Uttarakhand:
Situated in Mid-Himalayan range of Uttarakhand this temple is situated 17 km from the district headquarter of Almora, and 5 km uphill from the Kosi Bazar. Among all Sun Temples in India, Katarmal Sun Temple is the highest situated Sun Temple in the country. The height of the temple from mean sea level is more than 2100m. The distance from Nainital is about 78 km. The temple was built by king Katarmall of Katyuri dynasty ruling the Kumaun region between 9th – 12th century AD. Made of huge and heavy blocks of rock this temple is a significant specimen of the Katyuri architecture style of Uttarakhand.
4. Sun Temple Modhera, Gujarat:
Situated is the district of Mehasana, this temple is about 25 km from state capital of Ahmadabad. Built in 11th century AD, by the Chalukya king Bhima-I, this temple is now only an archaeological heritage. No rituals performed here at present.
5. Sun Temple of Unao, Madhya Pradesh:
Situated in the district of Datiya this temple is 17 km from Datiya MP, and the same distance from Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. Another names of this temple are- Unao-Balaji Sun temple and Bhramanyadeo Sun temple. As per the tradition, only a ‘Kachhi’ (a so called low cast) man can be the main priest of this temple. Belief says, one can be free from any kind of skin disease if he/she bathes in the near-by river ‘Pahuj’ and them pray in the temple. On Sunday, special rituals are performed in the temple. It’s a popular belief that a legendary king Maruch built the temple thousands of years ago.
6. Suryanarayana Temple of Arasawalli, Andhra Pradesh:
This temple is situated at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. It was built in 7th century AD by king Devendra Verma of Kalinga dynasty. Every year, there is the Rathasaptami ceremony observed in the temple. This temple is built in Odisha architectural style. It’s a common belief that Vishwakarma, the divine architect had himself built this temple!
7. Suryanar Temple of Kumbhakonam, Tamilnadu:
Suryanar Kovila in Tamil, this temple is 15 km from Kumbhakonam and 55 km from Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. Temple was built by the Chola ruler Kulottunga-I in 11th century AD. A fine example of Dravida architectural style, this temple is one of the 9 Navagraha temples in Tamilnadu.
8. Sun Temple of Osian, Rajasthan:
Located on the Jodhpur-Bikaner highway the temple is 70 km from Jodhpur city of Rajasthan. Between 8th-11th century AD Osian was under the rule of Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty. These Gurjara-Pratihara kings have the credit of constructing many of beautiful temples for the Vaishnava and Jaina cult. Among these beautiful temples one is the Sun temple. At present, there is no idol of the deity present in the temple. Many other sculptures and artifacts found here suggest their origin in Kushana era.
9. Navlakha Temple Ghumli, Gujarat
This temple is located in Ghumli village 45 km from Porbandar, western Gujrat. Built by an unknown king of Jethawa dynasty (a clan of Suryavanshi Rajputas) in 11 century AD the temple is a fine instance of Gujarati-Mauryan style of architecture. It is said, the temple was built by a handsome cost of 9 Lakh and this is why it got the name ‘Nava Lakha’.
10. Devark Sun Temple of Aurangabad, Bihar
Located at a place called Deo (150 km from state’s capital Patna) in Aurangabad district of Bihar, this temple is a representative example of an Odia style temple in Bihar. Not much clear historical evidences of its construction are available so far. Though, archaeologists have a common opinion that the architectural characteristics of the temple suggest its dating somewhere in 9th century AD. The saying goes that the temple was built in a single night by the divine architect Vishvakarma himself. Sunday is the day of special rituals here and on the eve of Chhath festival- attributed to the Sun God, this temple witnesses the largest audience of year.