Whenever one thinks of travelling across eastern India, Odisha always springs to mind and thanks in no small part to the town of Konark in Puri, Odisha. This town near the Bay of Bengal has a glorious past and boasts of stunning monuments and splendid natural beauty. Konark finds mention as Mundirasvamin or Mundira in the ancient Hindu scriptures called the Puranas. So, the town's historical legacy dates back hundreds of years ago and is matched by only its untainted cultural legacy. Located about 65 kilometres away from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, Konark is the perfect place to spend a day exploring ancient Indian art and architecture and relaxing at the beach afterwards. Here are some of the must-have experiences in the town.
To call the 800-year-old Konark Sun Temple, an architectural marvel is an understatement. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Konark Sun Temple, was built by King Narasimha Deva I of the Eastern Ganga dynasty in the 13th century. The temple, dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, is a mammoth embodiment of Surya’s cosmic chariot pulled by seven horses and running on 24 wheels.
The 100 feet-high temple is adorned with intricate iconography portraying the then-contemporary life. On the north and south of the temple, there are 12 carved wheels each. These wheels represent the 12 months in a year, while the seven horses pulling these stand for seven days in a week. The day-night cycle is illustrated by the eight spokes on each wheel. The wheels act as sundials and make visiting the Konark Sun Temple almost like watching an eight-century-old clock in action. The temple’s pedestal, visible from between the wheels, is embellished with relics of musicians, dancers, animals and so much more. A thousand and two hundred artisans took over 12 years to build this artistic behemoth that is the best instance of ancient Kalinga architecture. Rabindranath Tagore, Asia’s first Noble Laureate and a polymath, visited the temple and famously said: “Here, the language of stone surpasses the language of human”. And no one could have said it better.
The Konark Sun Temple remains open from sunrise till sunset. You should definitely hire a guide over here. The temple is surrounded by myths and legends, which the guides help unravel the best.
Established in 1968, this museum houses several antiquities, including sculptures that had fallen from the Konark Sun Temple, paintings, manuscripts and other sculptures excavated from the various Hindu and Buddhist archaeological sites in the state. Do visit this museum if you are interested in exploring the lesser-known slices of Indian history.
A hidden gem in the bevvy of beaches that lace Odisha, Astranga Beach is located about 34 kilometres away from Konark. The name Astranga means colourful sunset. True to its name, the Astranga Beach on the coast of the Bay of Bengal sees incredibly beautiful, multihued sunsets. So, dusk is the best place to be here. Astranga is the fishing centre of Odisha’s Puri district. Here, you will see scores of fishermen and boatmen returning from the sea with their nets and the day’s catch at sunset. It is a beautiful picture of the co-existence of man and nature.
Konark is located 65 kilometres away from Bhubaneswar and 35 kilometres away from the holy town of Puri, the most visited place in Odisha. The nearest airport is the Biju Pattnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar, and the nearest railway station is the Puri railway station at a distance of 30 kilometres. You will easily get taxis on hire outside both of the places to reach Konark. Shuttle buses also ply between Puri and Konark, but you can also hire a private car. Odisha gets unbearably hot during the summer months, from March to June. The monsoon that follows is humid and uncomfortable as well. So, the best time to explore Konark is during the cooler months, from November to February.
‘Kona’ means corner, and ‘Arka’ means sun. Together, Konark stands for the corner of the sun. The first sun rays of dawn on this part of India’s east coast illuminates the main entrance of the Konark Sun Temple. So, it is quite apt that the ancient town in Odisha was named after the famed temple. Many such anecdotes make up the historical and cultural legacies of the town steeped in heritage. To know them all, come spend a day in Konark!
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