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SUN TEMPLE AT MODHERA
The Sun Temple, Modhera, at Modhera in Gujarat, is a temple dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God, Surya. It was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. This temple depicts the essence of ancient times. The sculptures and architecture present in this temple are still magnificent after all these years. In the present times, prayers are not offered in this temple.
According to the Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, the areas near Modhera were known during ancient days as Dharmaranya (literally meaning the forest of righteousness). According to these Puranas, Lord Rama, after defeating Ravana, asked sage Vasisthato show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself from the sin of Brahma-hatya (the sin of killing a Brahmin, because Ravana was a Brahmin by birth). Sage Vasistha showed him Dharmaranya, which was near the modern town of Modhera. In the Dharmaranya, he settled at a village Modherak and performed a yagna there. Thereafter he established a village and named itSitapur. This village is about 15 km from Becharaji Modherak village and it subsequently came to be known as Modhera.
The Sun Temple was built by Rushabh Bhimdev I of Solanki Dynasty in AD 1026. This was the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni and reeled under the effects of his invasion. The Solankis, however, regained much of their lost power and splendour. Anahilvad Patan, the Solanki capital, was restored to glory. Royalty and traders jointly contributed to build grand temples. Solankis were considered to be Suryavanshi, Gurjar or descendants of Sun god. The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the image of Surya, the Sun God, at the time equinoxes. The temple is partially in ruins after it was also finally destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji. However, enough has remained of the temple to convey its grandeur
The Sun temple is of a unique architecture.
The temple comprises three separate, axially aligned and integrated elements: Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap.
This Suryakunda, also known as Ramakunda, is a large rectangular stepped tank measuring 53.6 x 36.6 meters under the east face of sabhamandap used to store pure water. Devotees were required to perform ceremonial ablutions here before worshiping the Sun God. The Suryakund is a finest example of geometry. The organization of stone into composition gives shape to a dazzling pattern of art. It is proportioned with innumerable stone steps leading devotees down to its base. 108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank. Also number 108 considered to be auspicious by Hindus as Hindu rosary has same number of beads.
There are four terraces to descend to reach the bottom of the tank. Small pyramid-shaped steps are for each terrace. God and Goddess depicted in immortalized stone unfold the sculpture wealth: Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesh, Lord Natraj, Sitlamata’s presence a marvel created during Solanki era. Two huge ornamental arches called Toran forms a gateway to the Sabha.
This hall of religious gatherings is a magnificent pillared hall. It is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks in a year. The carvings depict episodes from the Hindu epics of Ramayan, Mahabharat and Krishna Lila (i.e., story of Lord Krishna)
Sun temple, Modhera
Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches, whose facade has been renovated and partially redone. The walls have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month.
This is called the main temple or the sanctum sanctorum. Lotuses open with sunrise and close itself with sunset; it is considered to be the sun’s flower. The entire temple is therefore based on an inverted lotus-base plinth. It was designed so that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of equinox (20 March and 21 September generally) fell on the bejeweled pure gold idol of Sun riding on his chariot driven by Saarthi Arun. Sun’s chariot has seven horses and Saarthi Arun sits on the fourth. The entire gold idol (including the charioteer, chariot and horses) was placed on a pit that was 15 feet deep and filled with gold coins. It was built by the Solankis in honour of their ancestral God. It was plundered by Mahmud Gazni. The entire gold idol was taken away by him.
The exterior of the temple walls has 12 different postures of Adityas – Sun God along with eight Dikpals, Lord Vishwakarma – who constructed Golden Dwarka city for Shri Krishna, Varundev – God of Water, Agnidev – God of Fire, Ganesh – God for starting, Mata Saraswati – Goddess of Education &
Wisdom. Also seen Samundramanthan.
All important religions of India like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have presented erotic motifs in their art. In the days when temple was built, sex was neither suppressed nor moralized. It was seen as an act that brought about fertility. Hence at this temple a most profound depiction of sexual iconography is displayed, at the exterior walls of the main temple itself.