India’s Nobel laureate Rabindranatha Tagore says about this temple, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man.” Very true indeed.
This is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site. This 13th century temple also called the Black Pagoda is located on the deserted stretch of the Orissa coast overlooking the Bay of Bengal at the northeastern corner of the city of Puri. This is about 65 km from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. This was built by King Narasimhadeva (AD 12136-1264) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
The heavily carved temple represents a huge chariot of the Sun god drawn by seven spirited horses carved on twelve pairs of exquisitely decorated wheels. Two lions crushing a war elephant guard the entrance. The Nata Mandir or the Hall of Dance at the entrance was used for dancing by the temple dancers. Human, divine, and semi-divine figures in various postures are carved out here. Intricate carvings are seen both inside and outside the temple. Originally the temple had three parts, sanctuary, porch, and the detached Hall of Dance.
The Sun Temple belongs to the Kalinga School of Indian Temples with characteristic curvilinear towers mounted by cupolas. The design conforms to the earlier styles of the country’s eastern region. The temple suffered heavy structural damages from repeated attacks by various kings. It is believed that in AD 1626, the then king of Khurda took away the Sun and Moon images to Puri for safety from the approaching Muslim armies. They can be seen inside the Puri Jagannath temple. Bereft of the presiding deities, this Sun Temple seems to have lost its sanctity. Subsequent natural calamities like floods and gales did cause serious damage.
Konark lay directly on the path of a total solar eclipse of 1980.
Legend says that the 12-year-old son of the chief architect solved the technical issues in the construction of this temple, but died mysteriously shortly thereafter.
Presently in ruins, the Sun Temple museum houses some of the sculptures maintained by the Archeological Survey of India.
Konark beach is a popular tourist destination, though the waters are deceptively calm. Its main attraction lies in its views of the temple. Konark is located at 19°54′N 86°07′E / 19.90°N 86.12°E / 19.90; 86.12. It has an average elevation of 2 m (7 ft).