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A visit to the Sun Temple

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Architectural splendour A view of the main temple complex
Architectural splendour A view of the main temple complex

Although the temple now bears a bit dilapidated look, it still showcases the artistry of Gujarat

A tour of all the Sun Temples in India was on my schedule for quite some time. And this time I set eyes on the temple at Modhera in Gujarat. I clubbed the visit during a professional tour to Ahmedabad. It was a Sunday and me, along with my assistants V.K. Soujanya, K.S. Mandakini and Prashant Kumar Maharana, a Finance Executive from RINL, visited the temple.

Modhera is situated in the Patan District of Gujarat and is closer to the town of Mahesana. It is located about 35 km from Mahesana and about 105 km from Ahmedabad. We left Ahmedabad at about 7.30 a.m. and reached Modhera at about 10 a.m. On our way we paid a visit to the Devi Temple at Becharji, which is about 10 km before Modhera.

In India, there are seven temples dedicated to the Sun God. Apart from the one at Modhera, the other six temples are: The Dakshinaraka Temple at Gaya in Bihar, Suryanaar Kovil near Kumbakonam in Tamilnadu, Suryanarayana Temple at Arasavilli in Srikakulam, Surya Pahar Temple near Goalpara in Assam, Bhramanya Dev (Baramju) Temple at Unao near Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh and the grandest of all- the Sun Temple at Konarak near Bhubaneswar.

According to an inscription on a slab on the wall in the sanctum, this temple was constructed in the year 1025-26 AD during the reign of King Bhimdev-I. This exquisite temple is located on the left bank of river Pushpavati.

Built in the Solanki style, the temple stands on a raised plinth. The temple comprises of three separate parts or structures, which are axially aligned and combined in a balanced architectural composition. These comprise of the main temple complex, which includes the sanctum with ambulatory (pradikshana padam), Kapili, closed Mukha Mandapa with lateral transepts and the porch. The second phase consists of a detached Sabha Mandapa with welcome arches known as ‘Torana’ in front and in the final stage there is a large flagged tank decorated with numerous miniature shrines.

The large tank in front of the majestic temple, which is known as ’Surya Kund’ (but locally known as Ram Kund) attracts the eye. The tank itself is about 30ft deep and is rectangular in shape. On all the four sides, wide steps are constructed with rock, like a gallery around an arena. One has to descend a long flight of steps to reach the water. The steps are broad and are dotted with small shrines dedicated to Goddess Sitalamata, Lord Ganesha, Nataraja and Seshasayee.

Several niches containing images of the twelve Adityas, Dikpalakas, Goddesses and Apsarasas are sculpted on the exterior walls of the Mandapa. The Sabha Mandapa can be described as a ‘magnificent pile of pillared splendour’. Here the arches are alternatively triangular and semi circular. The ceiling also is exquisitely carved.

Although it now bears a bit dilapidated look, it still showcases the artistry of Gujarat. The temple is positioned in such a manner that at the equinoxes the rising sunrays touches the images in the sanctuary.

The enclosure has a small amusement park, a museum, cafeteria, picture gallery and library. The shrine is still home to the Modhera Dance Festival.

Travel Information

The nearest Railway station is Mahesana. But it would be easier to commute from Ahmedabad. It takes about two-and-a-half-hour by road from Ahmedabad. State transport buses and private luxury coaches connect various major towns and cities of Gujarat. Gujarat Tourism also offers package tours. There are no facilities for stay at Modhera. Mahesana has a few economy hotels but Ahmedabad is a better option for stay. Nearest airport is at Ahmedabad.

S.SRINIVAS BHARADWAJ

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