Saturday, 16 July 2016

Gujarat Diaries: Modhera Sun Temple

The famed Sun temple of Modhera is set along the backdrop of River Pushpavati, surrounded by a beautifully maintained lush green garden of flowering trees and songs of the birds. A soothing drive amidst the green farmlands just 35km from Mehsana and 102km from Ahmadabad lays this majestic architectural legacy of the Solanki dynasty in all its glory. Sun Temple at Modhera was  constructed as an offering in sculpture to the Sun God, under the patronage of Bhimdev I in the year 1027 AD. The Solanki kings of Anhilwad Patan enshrined their eminence in history through stones. The Sun temple at Modhera is the only temple structure to have a 'kund' or ceremonial tank dovetailing into the main complex thus emphasizing the dichotomy of the elements of fire and water.

The temple is constructed in three different yet axially aligned and integrated constituents. It is designed in such a way that the first rays of sun are cast on the image of Lord Surya. The temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni but the architectural magnificent still regains.The temple has been erected on a high platform and divided into three parts namely the Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap. Every inch of this majestic structure is engraved with sculptural patterns of Gods, Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers indicating the mastery of art in those days.

Surya Kund is in the front area of the temple which is a deep stepped tank named after Lord Surya(Sun God). This tank is 100 sq. meter, rectangular in shape was used to store pure water which the devotees used to cleanse themselves before entering the sanctrum. There are more than 108 shrines along the steps of the kund dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Sheetal Mata and many more. The entry to the Sabha Mandap is through a huge archway from the tank. Sabha Mandap is a gathering hall where religious meets and conferences were held. The hall is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars and the delicate carvings depict the scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and the life of Lord Krishna. Guda Mandap is called the main temple or the Sanctum sanctorum.The entire temple is constructed based on an inverted lotus base plinth as generally lotus is said to be sun's flower.It was designed and constructed in such a way that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the days of  equinox fell on the bejeweled gold idol of Sun riding on his  chariot driven by Saarthi Arun. It is said that sun's chariot has seven horses and Saarthi Arun rode the fourth one. The entire was said to be placed on a 15 feet dip pit and was filled with gold coins. When the temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni he took away the entire gold idol along with destroying the temple with gunpowder thus defacing the ancient structure of its glory and grandeur.

The exterior of temples have beautifully carved sculptures depicting the twelve postures of Aditya, the Sun God along with eight dipkals. Legend narrates that after the defeat of Ravana, Lord Rama and Sita halted here on their way back. Lord Rama conducted a yagna here to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a Brahmin named Ravana who was a Shaivite with consultation of Vashishtha. The yagna was carried out by a Brahmin from the Modh community thus the name Modhera originated.

A dance festival is organized every year in the third week of January to ensure that the Indian traditions and culture do not dwindle with the passage of time. The Gujarat tourism organizes this event to promote the tourism of this place. Do visit the place if you get a chance to do so. Its a perfect example of the genius architectural structures of our past.

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