Fascinating Surya (Sun) temples of India - 01

 In the Hindu pantheon, there are countless gods and goddesses and most of them  are depicted in the Hindu temples. Including  trinity gods - Siva, Vishnu and Brahma,  certain deities are worshipped on certain days. Methods of worship, rituals and offerings (neivedhyam) differ among them. In order to  propitiate the deities Shastras suggest  days of prayer for some gods. 

God Shiva  is worshipped on Mondays; Hanuman ji  on Tuesdays; Lord Ganesha on Wednesdays;  Lord Vishnu  on  Thursdays;  goddesses like Durga and others on   Fridays and Shani Bhagavan, Hanuman and goddess  Kali on  Saturdays and Sun God on  Sundays.  

Sunday is  considered to be an auspicious day  for Sun God / Surya. On this day,  offerings,  pujas, etc  to the Sun, will  give you success, confidence and positive attitude. Worshipping sun God will remove ignorance and negativity around you.  

The following are the famous Surya temples in India

01. Konarak Sun temple, Odisha: 

Konarak  Sun temple, Konarak, Odisha.  

Konarak  Sun temple  built in  13th-century CE (year 1250) is  a UNESCO world heritage site  (declared in 1984)  and is a major tourist attraction not only in India but also from abroad. Every year the temple comes alive during  the Chandrabhaga Mela in  February.   It is located  at Konark about 35 kilometres NE of  temple town Puri (famous for jagannath temple) on the coastal Odisha state.   Built by king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty about 1250 CE, the popular sun temple complex resembles   a 100-foot (30 m) high chariot with huge wheels and horses, all carved from stone. Much of the temple complex is in ruins for various reasons;  one being destruction by the invasion of Muslim rulers in the 15th and 17th centuries.

South Indian worship the Sun during Pongal / Sankaranthi festival.vectorstock.com

1815 sketch of stone horses and wheels of the mandapa. upload.wikimedia.org

In Hindu Vedic iconography ''Surya'' symbolizes the sun  as rising in the east and traveling rapidly across the sky in a chariot drawn by seven horses. which  horses are  referred to as Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, and Pankti.   The two women flanking   Surya  represent the dawn goddesses, Usha and Pratyusha. The goddesses are seen as  shooting arrows, a symbol of their efforts to get rid of  darkness.  The architecture is a representation of a chariot  with  twelve pairs of wheels corresponding to the 12 months of the Hindu calendar, each month paired into two cycles (Shukla and Krishna paksha). Here,way back in the 13th CE  the whole structure is conceived as a chariot on wheels in which the Sun god rides across the heavens



02. Khajuraho Chitragupta temple dedicated to the Sun God (Surya), MP:

Chitragupta Temple,Western Group , Khajuraho, M P, alamy.com

Chitragupta Temple,Western Group , Khajuraho, M P, alamy.com

The Chitragupta Temple is the only temple in the whole of Khajuraho  complex dedicated to the Sun God (Surya).  It is in the  north of the Jagadambi Temple and  is on the same platform as the Kandariya Mahadev and Jagdambi Temples.

Chitragupta Temple,Western Group , Khajuraho, M P. ourismindia.co.in

The  architecture of this temple is very similar to that of  Jagadambi temple with more or less similar garbagriha / sanctum, prathakshana path,  a vestibule, a Mahamandapa and most importantly an entrance porch. The impressive feature is the ornate ceiling in the hall. The temple has two balconies and in the  sanctum is consecrated  a fine idol of God Surya riding a chariot, drawn by seven horses. Three similar figures are also carved on the lintel of the doorway.

On the  exterior walls of the temple are  sculpted  numerous  erotic couples, nymphs of the Sun God and a 11-headed Vishnu sculpture. This sculpture shows God Vishnu  with ten avatars. 



03. Surya Narayana Temple, Arasavalli, AP: 

Suryanarayana temple, Arasavalli, AP. timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Suryanarayana temple Arasavalli, AP. wikipedia.

Arasavalli Sun Temple in Arasavalli Village about 1 km east of Srikakulam Town of Andhra pradesh is a  pretty old Hindu temple. A famous  temple of  Lord Surya (Sun god)  it is believed to  have been built in  the 7th century CE by Kalinga king Devendra Varma;  the present structure is  of recent origin -  18th century.  The temple is still being visited by lots of dvotees today and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town. This temple is considered one of the oldest sun temples in India.

The legend has it once Indira, unmindful of Dwarapalaka Nandi's warning  tried to enter the precincts  of God Shiva  (Sri Rudrakoteswara Swamy) at a wrong time when  God  was resting with his consort Parvati.  Infuriated Nandi (bull), being a guard at the gate,  gave a powerful kick and injured Indira fell on to the earth unconscious.  In his  unconscious state Indira had a dream of building  a temple for Surya to get rid of his pain and injury. Upon regaining his consciousness, he decided to build a temple and accidentally, he unearthed an idol of Surya with three consorts Usha, Chaya and Padmini  The  black stone idol is depicted as riding a chariot drawn by 7 horses with Anura as sarathi. 

It is one of the two ancient Sun temples inin this part of  India and the other one is the Konark Sun Temple. In the former, according Padmapuranam, the idol of Surya was consecrated by sage  Kasyapa  for the benefits of the people. and god's gotra  is Kashyaba. The stone inscription mention that the temple came up during the period of Devendra Varma and the temple underwent major renovation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Apparently, the temple fell into disuse for a long span of time. Reconstruction was done in 1778 CE by Elamanchili Pullaji Panthulu. This temple has fine architectural features that match those  skills of Vishwakarma Brahmins or Maharanas of Odisha. The striking feature of this temple is  the early morning rays of the sun fall on the feet of the deity twice a year (Uttaraynam - March 9-11 and Dakshinayam - October 1-3),



04. The Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao, Madhya Pradesh:

The sun is revered as an important source of energy in the Indian system of beliefs without which there will be no rains and no agricultural products.  Unao in Madhya Pradesh near Jhansi has  a Sun  temple  which is visited by  a large number of devotees. The Bhramanya Dev Temple in Unao known as the Baramju temple,  was once patronized by the Maratha rulers. The reason for its popularity is, it is believed, that people with   severe eye and skin ailments  can find  great relief if they trust the god  and offer  sincere prayer  here.

The Brahmanya Dev temple,Unao near Jhansi

The  metal covered God's idol is on a platform that  is covered with black plates. A unique feature is  21 triangles symbolic of  21 phases of the sun are engraved in the shrine.  On Sundays (being auspicious days)  special pujas are held for the sun god here.




05. Martand Sun temple, Jammu:

Martand Sun temple, Jammu,en.wikipedia.org

in ruins.Martand Sun temple,Jammu,Central shrine.commons.wikimedia.org

The Martand Sun Temple dedicated to Surya  of Jammu, India, about 5 miles from Anantnag  is in ruins. Atop the hill from where one can view the Kashmir valley,  it was destroyed during the reign of  Muslim ruler Sikandar Shah Miri.  Martand in  ''Sanskrit'' means Surya. The builder was the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida, in the 8th century CE (built during 725-756 CE). Records mention that the foundation for the temple was laid  between 370 to 500 CE.  It is believed to be the only sun temple in the entire north India. Other sun temples are at Konark in Odisha and in Gujarat. on the east and west respectively.

What is special about this temple in the northern most part of India is its native architecture - a blend of   Gandharan, Gupta and Chinese forms of style falling within the concept of Hindu temple  design.  An engineering marvel,  once a temple complex, it is the  largest example of a peristyle (continuous porch formed by rows of  columns surrounding the perimeter of the structure)  in Kashmir. The original temple measured 220 feet long and 142 feet wide shrine and had  84 smaller shrines around it. The primary shrine  (Sannadhi), it is believed,  was  located in a centralized structure (the temple proper) that is thought to have had a pyramidal top.   The tradition of Sun worship is believed to have been brought into Kashmir by Kushan kings from Iran.

Martland suntemple, kashmir, shutterstock.com

A centrally protected temple as Kartanda (Sun Temple) the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  has declared the Martand Sun Temple as a site of national importance in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the ASI has not carried out any major repair or restoration work to safeguard the structure against vagaries of nature -  snowfall, rains and scorching heat. It is said there are innumerable sites of historical value in Kashmir and they need serious attention. The department of tourism will get good benefits out of it if the monuments in ruins are well-taken care of and restored back to old glory.