Konark Sun Temple, Odisha - Restoration and removal of sand filled Jagamohan (assembly hall)

.Konark Sun Temple, odisha. localguidesconnect.com

Above image: The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI ) on Thursday 8th Sept. 2022  performed the Bhumi Pujan, the ground-breaking ceremony, at Odisha's Konark sun temple to remove sand from the Jaganmohan (sanctum sanatorium) of the 13th CE world heritage temple....

Konark Sun temple, Odisha. .localguidesconnect.com

Sun Temple at Odisha’s Konark is a famous tourist destination and it is one of the important world heritage site recognized by the UNESCO.    The name of this temple, Konark, is adapted from joining together two Sanskrit words, “Kona” and “Arka.” The word “Kona” signifies an angle or a corner and the word “Arka” signifies the sun. An  interesting fact is the prime deity Sun God  is not worshipped in the temple. 

Konark Sun temple, Odishaquora.com

conservation of Konark Sun temple, Odisha. twitter.com

Ganga dynasty king Langula Narasingha Dev had the  temple built 800 years back to worship the Sun God.  The construction materials used were soft non compacted sandstone and chlorite. It is said that every part of the temple was meticulously planned and built by highly skilled  1,200 stone craftsmen and artists  and it took over 16 years to complete the richly ornate temple. The entire  framework was constructed with stones  interlinking  with metals. An amazing fact is the entire  metal frame was held  together firmly by a gigantic magnet which weighed around 5,000 kilograms

The 13th century monument after along time lost its main temple and natya mandap leaving alone only the Jagamohan remains. Reasons are: Weak construction materials susceptible to  natural weathering activities; and the coastal climates' corroding effect.  It could have been triggered by some kind of seismic activity which the structure could not withstand.  The  Shigara that stands to day is only 127 feet high but the actual height was 227 feet high. There are no pillars in the structure.

Konark Sun Temple, Odisha melangeoftales.com

Since 2010s this heritage structure has been a subject of debate  over  structural stability  and the pressing needs to take protection measures  to be carefully followed by the undertaken by the national conservation agency. The Archaeological Survey of India After a two day conference on the conservation  of  Sun temple  and to prevent additional damages finally agreed to  to remove sand from inside the Sun Temple - in the assembly hall. 

Konark Sun Temple, Odisha melangeoftales.com

More than 119 years ago, the British filled the inner part of the   structure with sands and stones to prolong its life . The conservation,presently,  became a bone of contention among the groups involved in it. The Roorkee-based Central Building Research Institute  upon its study,   recommended fresh sand-filling to prolong the life of the structure. The sand poured in by the British  subsided  by 12 feet creating a vacuum as well as causing lateral stress on the walls that bear enormous weight of the top dome. After long discussion it was decided  that refilling of sand as followed by the British won't either safety or long life. The ASI, finally agreed  for careful removal of sand from the interior  and if the need arises, the complete temple may be dismantled and reconstructed Removing sand from the Amalakaha

Removing  huge amount of sand from the interior portion without causing any untoward incident is a tough one. According to the ASI openings are to be made through which sand could be removed.  As planned way back in the past  opening could be made at three points -  atop Amalakaha (fluted finial stone) and from north and west sides. The removal of the sand will be started by digging holes at the western door. The aim was to follow the safest route to enter the assembly hall without disturbing the structural stability. To open the interior, stones had to be dismantled one by one  from the sand, treat the interior and reconstruct it carefully. In October 2019 TNIE prepared a report suggesting removal of sand to assess the damages.  Temporary support [involving] is to be given in the form of stainless steel fabricated beams inside once a void is created after the sand is taken out. Once the process is completed, people can pass through Jagamohan. A stainless steel structure will be put up to support the structure and prevent it from collapsing.

As for conservation, refilling it with sand may extend the life by 100 years. But, treating the interiors and carrying out major repair work would extend the life farther by 500 years. in 1903 the Jagamohan was closed by sealing all the entrance gates by the british Archaeology team to save the vast interior temple.

  ''Everyone has been waiting to see the sand removed from the structure and it should remain there for the next 500-700 years. I have asked ASI to prepare a report on the modalities of removal of sand,” said Union Culture Minister Prahalad Singh Patel.

 The ASI  in the past successfully carried out such  delicate conservation work in other parts of India.and also abroad. Being the guardian-custodian of the Konark Temple, an international tourist spot the onus is on the ASI to use the best conservation method to protect this  rare amazing cultural splendor and grandeur without compromising on is historical or heritage elements.