History and Ancient Architecture of Modhera Sun Temple



The Sun temple of Modhera is a fusion of art and architecture. It is very much older than Konark sun temple which was built around the 13th century.  It falls exactly on the tropic of cancer (23.5836° n, 72.1401° e). The temple is an excellent example of craftsmanship and engineering and depicts the advanced technical knowledge of India. 

Do you know that the Temple building is earthquake-resistant?

Along with being a stunning piece of architecture and design, it is one of the most earthquake-resistant buildings ever built

It has quite evidently survived the ravages of time unlike the many great structures and, buildings of our past whose rubble is no longer to be seen. The temple withstood earthquakes and attacks by plunderers for centuries. The secret lies in its ingenious design and engineering.

Pillars in Modhera Sun Temple
PC: Jerin Reji

Modhera sun temple, history and architecture

The story behind Modhera Sun Temple is an interesting one:

Legend says that after the legendary battle with Ravan, Lord Ram and Sita made a stop here on their way back to Ayodhya. Here, Ram conducted a yajna to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a brahmin, namely Ravan. The yajna was performed by a local brahmin who belonged to the Modh community and from there the name Modhera was born.

The temple architecture is a marvel of Solanki architecture, devoted to the god of the sun, Surya. The temple was built with the support of Bhim devi in the year 1027 ad. Vaastushastra was thoroughly followed throughout the construction of the temple. Beautiful carvings of not only the deities but also of flora and fauna are seen on the walls radiating with the passion of those who sacrificed their days and nights in construction of this marvel.

On the equinoxes, that is on 21st March and 21st of September, the idol of the sun in garbhagriha is illuminated by the first rays of the sun. Quite an engineering marvel it is. The base of the sun temple is in the shape of an inverted lotus. The lotus signifies the affinity for the sun because a lotus flower responds to the sun’s rays. Above the petals, various carvings can be seen depicting the various aspects of life.

Do you know that the sun rays fall on the diamond on the head of Sun God? 

 

 

Modhera Sun Temple
PC: Krishna Rawat (@kkrawat1959)

What are the 8 directions?

There are 8 deities who represent the 8 directions known to man:

  • north – Kuber, the lord of wealth
  • north-east – Rudra – a form of shiva
  • east – Indra or lord of rains
  • south-east – Agni or lord of fire
  • south – Yama, the God of death
  • south-west – Nairiti – a form of shiva
  • west – Varun or lord of water
  • north-west – Vayu or lord of air

But how was this engineering marvel actually constructed?

The answer lies in the ingenious locking system which gives it its earthquake-resistant ability. There was no use of the lime, cement, mud or adhesives, these being the very basic material for modern construction. This is an ancient marvel itself. All the stone slabs are interlocked by making grooves and sealed with seasoned wood. Even after the destruction caused by Muslim invaders like Ghazni and Khilji, the structure stood tall against all odds. A large number of columns also increased the structural strength of the temple. The construction of the temple is based on the position of the planets and stars.

 

Sun Temple of Modhera
PC: Bhargav Ravat (@bhargav.ravat)

Temple division

The Surya Kund

Sun temples are usually constructed with large tanks or kund. These kunds, according to the Vedas, depict the divine sun emerging from the cosmic waters. The Surya kund of Modhera Sun temple is known as the Ram-kund and it is an enormous rectangular water holding tank that covers an area of 21,000 sq. Feet. Devotees visiting the temple to offer prayers stop here for ablution, and then would proceed further towards the temple with a cool mind to offer oblations to the Lord.

Guda mandap

The main temple is known as guda mandap and is supported by a lotus-shaped base. The mandap was designed as such that the idol received the first rays of the sun. There are many carvings on the wall depicting human life in the form of the vicious circle of birth and death.

Sabha mandap

Sabha in Hindi means assembly and as the name suggests this hall was used for the purpose of large gatherings. All the four sides are filled with 52 intricately carved pillars, the same pillars that give the temple its strength. Each pillar depicts different scenes from great epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana.

The sun temple is one of the many ancient engineering marvels of India, which no doubt is a unique portrayal of craftsmanship and artistic skills that flowed in the blood of our ancestors.

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