City: Modhera State: Gujarat Location: West India Year of Construction: 1026-27 A.D Constructed By: King Bhimdev Type of Construction: Ancient Type of Building: Temple Dedicated To: Lord Surya Religion: Hinduism Importance: Lord Rama performed here a Yajna (sacrifice) to purify himself of the sin of having killed a Brahmin - Ravana, the king of Lanka Famous For Temple was so designed that the rays of the Sun would fall on the image of Surya at the time of the Equnoxes. SUN TEMPLE - WORSHIPPING THE SUN: The Sun Temple at Modhera is one of the many temples in India dedicated to the Sun God. This temple not only reflects the architectural abilities of the Solanki dynasty, which built it but also, speaks highly of the devotional zeal of the ruling dynasty at the time. SUN TEMPLE - NORTH INDIAN STYLE OF TEMPLE ARCHITECTURE: The basic structure of temples in India is a room or the Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol of the main deity is kept. The temple is approached by a flight of steps and is often built on a platform. A porch covers the entrance to the temple and is supported by carved pillars. A prominent roof called the shikhara surmounts the top of the Garbhagriha and dominates the surroundings. The temple at Modhera has a hall within it known as the mandap, a feature common to some large temples. Temple architecture in India is broadly divided into the northern and southern styles. The form and shape of the shikhara and the distinctiveness of its decoration have led to this classification. The shikhara of the temples in south India tends to be made up of distinct horizontal levels that diminish to form a rough pyramid. Each level is decorated with miniature temple rooftops. The shikhara of the temples in north and central India, in contrast, resembles an upturned cone that is decorated with miniature conical shikharas. Though the Sun Temple at Modhera belongs to the north Indian style of temple architecture, it has some unique features of its own. The structure of the main temple cannot be reached directly because the main temple and the gateway or toran are separated by a pillared mandap. There is a large water tank in front of the toran, which leads to the temple and is a distinct feature of this temple. SUN TEMPLE - SUN TEMPLE MODHERA: The imposing Sun Temple stands in the middle of a large compound, in the small town of Modhera. This temple was constructed at a time when the cult of Sun worship held its sway in many parts of India in the early medieval period. Various Hindu rulers, in their acts of obeisance, erected magnificent structures like the huge and elegant Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa, the Suraj Kund temple near Delhi, the Sun Temple at Modhera etc. Raja Bhimdev I built the Sun Temple at Modhera in AD 1026. The Raja belonged to the Solanki dynasty, which was considered Suryavanshi or descendents of the Sun God. The Sun Temple at Modhera is divided into three main sections. The first is the Surya Kund (Sun tank), a fascinating massive rectangular stepped tank located in front of the toran that leads one to the temple. Though the kund now stands dry, it was believed to be full of nirmal jal (holy water) in the days gone by. Devotees on their way to offer prayers to the Sun God stopped here for ceremonial ablutions and would proceed for worship towards the temple only after cleansing themselves here. Small, miniature shrines dot the steps around this kund. There are 108 of them to coincide with the number considered auspicious by the Hindus. Besides these, there are four larger shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu (one of the principle gods in the Hindu pantheon), Ganesh (the God of knowledge and prosperity and son of Lord Shiva), Natraja (Lord Shiva as the cosmic dancer) and Sitala Mata (the goddess of the dreaded disease-smallpox). Leading to the temple from the tank is a huge ornamental gate or toran. From the toran one reaches the sabha mandap (hall of gathering), which is a magnificent pillared hall. This hall was meant for religious gatherings and conferences. This unique piece of architecture is open on all sides, with four doorways and 52 spectacular pillars supporting the walnut-shaped ceiling. Each of these pillars is intricately carved, with every inch of available space depicting scenes from the Ramayan (a Hindu epic), the Mahabharat (a Hindu epic) and the Krishna Lila (the story of Lord Krishna). The architectural plan of this temple follows the tradition of the time, which was having twin halls. So, while the sabha mandap was meant for religious congregations, the main temple or the guda mandap was built to house the sanctum sanctorum. The guda mandap forms the third section of the Sun Temple at Modhera and is not attached to the sabha mandap. The guda mandap is based on a lotus-base plinth. It has friezes of the Sun God, other gods and goddesses covering its walls. Besides the depiction of various deities, one can also see on the walls, various aspects of human life like the cycle of birth and death and some erotic scenes from the Kama Sutra or the ancient Indian treatise on love. The sanctum sanctorum, once housed the magnificent idol of the Sun God. The guda mandap has been so designed that on solar equinoxes i.e. on March 21 and September 23, the first rays of the rising sun fall directly on and light up the niche where the idol of the Surya Bhagwan (Sun God) sits. It is said that the guda mandap had a tunnel, which could be used by the members of the royal family to flee, in case of an attack. Though the roof over the Garbhagriha of this hall has collapsed, the ruined shell gives an idea of the dimensions of the structure. HOW TO REACH SUN TEMPLE: Modhera is 102 km from Ahmedabad. The town does not have an airport and the nearest airport is in Ahmedabad. Modhera does not have a railway station either and the nearest railway station is in Mehsana, which is 26 km away. A good network of roads connects the town to the various centers in the state of Gujarat.
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