How the British saved the interior part of Konark temple, Odisha

Konark sun temple, Odisha

Konark sun temple, Odisha

Above image: Konark Sun temple, Odisha is the  finest example of Kalinga style of art and architecture, it was built during the reign of king Narasimha Dev I of the Ganga dynasty in the13th century. A UNESCO world heritage site ,it was was designed as a colossal chariot with seven horses and 24 wheels carrying Surya, the Sun God..................

Konark sun temple, Odisha

Above image: Photographed by Archaeological Survey of India, the South-West View of the collapsed Shikhara and Standing Mandapa from 1890. Source: British Library. Though other speculations are available, from a geological perspective, it is likely that some kind of seismic  activity may have been responsible for the collapse of the earlier temple structure.”The tectonic activities in coastal Odisha and the led to drying of many active water bodies. The ancient Chandrabhaga River passing north of the Konark temple could have become dried up due to this. What is left of today is the Jagamohana/Mandapa or the assembly hall. The main spire or Shikhara of the temple under which the main shrine (Garbhagriha) lies has been collapsed.......................

Konark temple, Odisha.

The British during their reign under the Company and later under the British Crown took particular care  and interest about the ancient monuments -Hindu, Buddhist temples, Mosques, cave temples, etc and tried hard to preserve them as much as they could to maintain the historical connectivity. 

In the case of the Sun temple of Konark, Odisha, they were keen to preserve the 13th century monument with special care because it is made of soft sandstone and not that of hard stone. Subject to vagaries of weather, they could get crumpled over a period of time considering the harness of the construction materials. It meant loss of fascinating and amazing small stone-carved images of exceptional beauty and numerous amorous sculptures. 

Way back in the 1900s in the colonial period the archaeologists were not sure about the structural stability of the interior portion of the temple. So, the sand was filled in the assembly hall (Amalakha) of the Konark Sun Temple by the British  to prevent the structure from collapsing. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials said Britishers predicted  the sand would take the entire load of the top of the monument when it was filled 100 years ago. The 13th century temple  as it is made of soft sandstone,  is prone to natural process of weathering. The British were concerned about  signs of decay on the structure  and feared that it would soon collapse if no precaution was taken before hand. 

So, with a view to preventing further structural instability,  they  between 1900 and 1903, sealed  four entrances to the Konark Sun Temple’s assembly hall (Jagamohan)  and filled with sand to prevent the structure from collapsing as part of  preservation work.  Sand filling was done in the main assembly hall in the hope that the weight of the sand would help to stabilize the primary structure. On the contrary the prevention process  had put additional stress and  strains on the walls of the assembly hall, and it  also caused the sand to settle on its own weight  and compact causing  cracks in the walls. Stones were very much affected as the  sand prevented the water from  draining away from the temple. The decay of the stone was a serious one.  

Konak Sun temple, Odisha,

The sand over the years caused cracks to the structure from the inside and prompted the Centre  government in Feb. 2020 to order its removal from the world heritage monument; if the sand is not taken away, it would make the structure a lot weaker.