Mind-blowing Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat - sermon in stone

Sun Temple, Modhera,Gujarat. Kund. modhera.blogspot.com

Gudha mantap, Sun Temple, Modheragujarattourism.com

Situated on the bank of the river Pushpavati, the Sun temple at Modhera village of Mehsana district, Gujarat was built after 1026-27 CE during the reign of Bhima I of the Chaulukya dynasty. This  Sun temple is dedicated to the Solar deity  amd as it is a protected monument of national importance, being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India ASI. The temple  is known locally as Sita ni Chauri and Ramkund worship What is so special about this place? It is a huge temple complex known for artistic beauty and workmanship. Just like Virupakshi Veebadra temple, Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple or Nellaiappar temple of Tamil Nadu, it is a repository of beautiful sculptures and ornate structure; simply a serman in stone. The remains of this ancient Sun Temple at Modhera draw hundreds of tourists, to this village 30 km south of Patan, near Ahmedabad.  Modhera village  is 25 km from Mehsana and 106 km from Ahmedabad.  The main deity Surya is east facing and sandstone is the main material used in this breath-taking old temple.

Tank and sun temple at Modheragujarat tourism.com

sun temple at Modherahistoricaltimeofindia.blogspot.com

Though in its ruined state, the sun temple at Modhera is quite impressive but no worship  is offered here now There is no shikara/tower or gopuram either.

It is to be noted that the main proper shrine of the Sun Temple was constructed during 1024-25 when  Bhima I of Chaulukya dynasty was the ruler. When Mahmud of Ghazni  raided Bhima's kingdom he made a vein attempt to seize the kingdom of Modera,  Historian  A. K. Majumdar is of the opinion that the Sun Temple, it is likely, was built to commemorate this defence. The inscription "Vikram Samvat 1083", corresponding to  1026-1027 CE upside down carelessly made in Devnagari suggests possible  destruction and reconstruction of the cella. As for the kunda (tank) with its corner shrines, it was  built earlier in the beginning of the 11th century. The inscription mentioned above is presumably the date of destruction by Ghazni. King Bhima, having  returned to the power built the temple proper, the miniature and the niche shrines in the tank shortly after 1026 CE. The dancing hall came up during the rule of of Karna in the third quarter of  the 12th century along with the gateways, the porch of the temple proper and the door frames of the temple and the cella.

Architecture of this temple is in Chaulukya style. Built in Maru-Gurjara  the temple complex is characteristic of  three axially aligned components as normally one will find at many Hindu temples. They are, as mentioned earlier:  the shrine proper (garbagriha) in a hall (Gudha Mandapa), the outer or assembly hall (Sabha Mandapa or Rangamandapa) and a sacred reservoir (kunda). The temple also has a pradakshina patha around the sanctum  and a sabha mandap in front.

The distinctive feature is the assembly hall is not linked with the sanctum (garbagriha, rather it is a separate structure; however, both are on the same platform and built on a paved platform whose plinth is an inverted lotus-shaped.  Their roofs, it is believed, collapsed long ago, and constructed with a different plan with a diameter of 15'.9''

 01. The Gudha Mandapa:  It is divided into  a hall and garbagriha, has a dimension of 51 feet 9 inches by 25 feet 8 inches. Both are rectangular in plan having  projections  in the entrance  and on the outer walls; the latter have perforated windows on each side and the  windows (stone screens)  in the the northern part are in ruins and the southern parts  are missing. 

Modhera sun temple: Gudha mandapa/en.wikipedia.org

Modhera Sun temple. Reliefs on Gudha Mandap.en.wikipedia.org

About Garbagrihathe square-shaped Srikovil - sanctum measures 11 feet on one side. There are two cells  - upper and lower at different levels.  The collapsed upper cell once had the presiding deity. The seat of image is now a pit. The lower cell was probably used for storage. Pradakshina marga (corresponding to the  Prakara of South Indian temples) is formed by the passage between the walls of garbagriha and the outer walls of Gudha Mandapa. The roof over the passage has stones slabs carved with rosettes. The Shikhara over it  is missing. 
sun temple at Modhera, Gudha mantap historicaltimeofindia.blogspot.com

The walls inside the shrine are plain and  devoid of decoration unlike the decorated outer wall. The doorway is an interesting one with carved figures of seated Surya in panels surrounded by dancers and amorous couples. It is very  sad that beautiful  carved images are heavily damaged so is the ornate door.  The special feature about the  sanctum is that the first rays of the Sun at dawn bathe the  image of main deity - Surya during solar-equinox days  and on summer solstice days; at noon, the sun shines directly above the temple and does not cast a shadow.

Gudha mandapa has base-mouldings.  The outer walls of shrine  are  richly  decorated. The base and walls of the shrine consist of  several stretches with unique carvings. The pitha or adhisthana, is made of  two square members. There is an inverted lotus like moulding called padma or padmaka. This is followed by  several bands of mouldings. The  broad band, patti is carved with elephants (gajathara). The following band narathara has figures of men in different attitudes.

Mandovara or wall mouldings have several decorated bands, starting with  kumbha, a pitcher. There are panels decorated with  figures of gods but the figures of Surya are placed  more prominently than others as the temple is dedicated to him. Other panels are decorated with dancers and other figures.

 The well-carved figure of Surya is within  three niches of shrine proper as well as on the each side of three windows in the outer wall of Gudha mandapa. The eye-catching feature is the figures of Surya  in standing position with two arms holding lotuses and driven by seven horses. There are 12 niches on the walls, bringing out the different  aspects of Surya in each month. Other figures include eight Dikpals (Dwarapalaks: guards at the gate), Vishwakarma, Varuna, Agni, Ganesha, Saraswati. This is followed by shikhara which no longer exist. The Vimana possesses  horizontal geometrical and figurative bands  rising to create the Mount Meru-like shikhara. 

The Mandap- hall has a big dome and is  supported by eight principal pillars below arranged in an octagon, four pillars in front of shrine proper and two each in the recesses of windows and door.

02. Sabha mandapa: Sabha Mandapa also called Rangamandapa, is actually an assembly hall or dancing hall with rows of pillars opening entrance on each side diagonally. The  exterior is extensively carved and has a series of recessed corners giving impression of the star like plan of it. There are 52 intricately carved pillars in the hall.

abhamandapa with ornate  pillars and exterior en.wikipedia.org

Modhera sun temple. Sabha mandapa exterior mouldings,wikipedia 

About base mouldings, the pitha here  is almost similar to the Gudha mandapa but smaller in size because two courses of fillets are omitted. The richly carved Padma  with floral ornamentation is impressive.

Wall mouldings here  have fine figures of dancers and gods known as rajasena. The  is followed by   sort of bands  decorated with large panels of gods, goddesses and floral designs. There are erotic figures on it interrupted by rail-patterns.

Ceiling and torana enhance the beauty of this temple. The Pyramidal roof  longer exists. Inside, the walnut-shaped ceiling has tiers with numerous floral girdles. It is 23 feet high and  is supported by pillars arranged in an octagon. These pillars have stilts which in turn support the lintels. 

The interesting feature is the Torana or the decorated cusped arches arising  from the lower brackets of the pillars and touching the lintels in middle. There are semicircular and triangular  arches. The lower brackets have makara; hence the name  makara-torana while decoration gives the name - chitra-torana.

Pillars of Kirti-torana and steps leading to kunda ,en.wikipedia.org

Modhera sun temple.Sabha mantapa long, short pillars, arches

Pilars of Kirti-torana and steps leading to kunda are equally interesting. There are two types of pillars both  short and tall in the Sabhamandapa and Gudhamandapa. The short pillars rest on walls and supports the roof whereas the tall ones  rise from the floor and give better support to the load-bearing structure. The square part of the short pillrs have floral designs. Following pillrs is the shaft which is  first decorated with standing figures, mostly dancers, on all eight faces enclosed in ringed pilasters. This followed by a band consisting of men and beasts and later human. The shaft becomes circular and has three or four rows of warriors.  

Iconography here is well depicted. The panels on the Gudha mandapa are  decorated with Surya, the main deity of this temple. These images wears peculiar West Asian (Persian) boots and belt as in the Dakshinaarka temple at Gaya!!  The other corners and niches are decorated with figures of Shiva and Vishnu in various forms, Brahma, Nāga and goddesses. The small flat ceilings and lintels of sabhamandapa has depictions from various episodes of the great epics like  like the Ramayana.

Kirti-torana  was the triumphant arch, in front of sabhamandapa. The pediment and torana do not  exist but  for two pillars. The moulding and decoration are similar to those on the walls of sabhamandapa and pillars.  There were two more kirti-torana on each side of the kunda of which only one exists without upper part.

Kunda is actually a  reservoir or water tank often referred to as  Ramakunda or Suryakunda. The reservoir, rectangular in shape, is accessed through the flight of steps through kirti-torana. The main entrance is on the west side.  It measures 176 feet from north to south and 120 feet from east to west.  Paved with stones all around in a particular geometric pattern,  there are four terraces and recessed steps to descend to reach the bottom of the tank.  There are steps to reach from one terrace to another  terrace. The steps are rectangular or square  shaped except the first step of each flight of steps which is semicircular.  There are several miniature shrines and niches in the front of terrace-wall  and they carry the images of gods including many Vaishnavite deities and goddesses such as Shitala. These miniature shrines adorn the steps of the tank - which itself is an art gallery.

Modhera: Massive pillars  tank with stepsen.wikipedia.org.

The stepwell on the west of Kunda has one entrance and two pavilion-towers.  Moderately ornamented, the door-frame has lotus and leaves and the ruchaka type pilasters suggesting possible 11th century age.  However, the  small mandapa above the ground level located on the second kuta of step well is suggestive of 10th century.Modhera dance festival is a great event here and this place comes alive during that time.  An annual three-day dance festival known as 'Uttarardha Mahotsav' at the temple during the third week of January, following the festival of Uttarayan  attracts lots of people. It is arranged by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The objective is to present classical dance forms and recreate  an atmosphere quite similar to the one under which   they were originally presented. The added advantage is the sun temple and the ambiance here provide a matching  backdrop for the exhibition of performing arts.  


When in 1026 CE, the Sun temple was built. during the same period or just prior, the Jain temples at Mount Abu by Vimal Shah, the Rudra Mahal temple at Siddhapur , the Somnath temple at Somnath, Patan came up. Interestingly, the grand Brihadeeswarar temple at Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu was built by Rajarajan much  earlier in 1010 AD.