The Sun Temple in Modhera is more than just an architectural wonder. Adorned with the most exquisite carvings and breathtakingly splendid architecture this is one such place that will tantalize your senses and leave you with a lingering curiosity for a long long time.
Brutal invaders such as Mohamad Ghazni and Alauddin Khilji had destroyed this temple many a time for the pursuit of hidden wealth and mere power. What must have been an epitome of architectural wonder in those times is now a temple that nurses its own wounds from the past. However, the most prepossessing fact about this historical and architectural marvel is that…
The temple is laden with architectural masterpieces of every proportion. From scenes of Kamasutra to scenes of Mahabharata and Ramayana to captivating depictions of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses to ornately designed sculptures of animals and human beings this temple and its walls look like the canvas of thousand brilliant artists. Apart from the numerous hidden symbolisms in its architecture, it is also a symbol of resilience that has stood the tests of brutality, destruction as well as time over the years.
What really makes it worth the wonder?
- It’s perfect alignment with the Tropic of Cancer
The temple was built in 1026-27 A.D. and the fact that its position is exactly over the Tropic of Cancer is both intriguing and spellbinding. When one imagines the days when this temple must have been constructed it’s really difficult to assimilate the fact that the architects, craftsmen, and artisans could really locate the exact Tropic of Cancer passing through this part of the country and construct a temple dedicated to the Sun. The reason why they built a temple on the Tropic of Cancer could probably be to favor the Sun’s position and the apparent lighting up of the temple during the two days of an equinox.
- Yes, the temple illuminates completely on an equinox
It is said that the main idol of the temple was made of gold and had a huge diamond centered on the third eye area of it. On the two days of equinox i.e on 21st March and 23rd September each year, the rays of the Sun would illuminate the entire temple with a golden glow. Sadly that can only be left to our imaginations now given the fact that the statue of Sun God doesn’t stand in the exact place anymore. It is believed that when the invaders vandalized the temple, the statue was removed by the locals to safeguard it. However, at present no one knows of its whereabouts.
- It is one of the three most significant Sun Temples in India
After the Konark Sun Temple, Odisha the Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat is the most significant Sun temple followed by the Martand Sun Temple in Anant Nag, Jammu and Kashmir. This temple was constructed by the rulers of the Solanki Dynasty and they were believed to be the descendants of the Sun God.
- The intricacy of its architecture
The carvings depict a variety of things from women in dance poses to Hindu deities of every kind to scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana to exquisitely carved elephants to scenes from Kamasutra as well as the entire lifecycle of a human starting from conceiving a life in the womb of a mother to childbirth to death.
- The temple’s architecture and its connotations
The entire temple is home to exquisitely carved sculptures of Hindu Gods and Godesses placed as per their respective corners and directions. At one such wall, you can see how the Goddess Sarswati, the Goddess of Education has been placed high up above the height of the wall signifying the position education must occupy in one’s life. It is said if you have knowledge to your rescue then no obstacle in this lifetime can be big enough to stop you from realizing your dreams.
- 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months, 1 week, day and night all have meanings here
Speaking of the hidden symbolism in this temple, there are 365 elephants carved out on the walls of the temple which symbolize the 365 days in a year. The Sabha Mandapa or the assembly hall in the temple premises has 52 pillars which again signify the 52 weeks present in a year. The seven horses in the chariot of the Sun God signify the seven days of a week. The twelve statues of Aditya or the Sun God represent the twelve months of a year. Day and Night symbolize the two wives of the Sun God Sanjana and Chhaya. Isn’t that just amazing?
- This temple was a treasure trove of wealth
The Garbha Griha or the holy sanctum sanctorum of the temple was a 10 feet deep pit filled with gold and silver above which the idol of Surya sitting on his chariot was placed. The idol had a diamond studded in the third eye area. Apparently, it is the knowledge of this wealth which caused many invasions and destruction of this temple at the hands of Md. Ghazni and Alauddin Khilji.
- The importance of safeguarding other creatures
Apart from the various other sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, and humans, there are numerous sculptures of animals here. According to Hindu Mythology every Hindu God and Goddess has been assigned a Vahana or vehicle in the form of an animal like the Sun God has seven horses as his Vahana, Goddess Lakshmi has an owl, Indra’s vahana is an elephant et al. The reason behind such a practice is so that no individual ends up killing these animals and committing a sin.
I had a wonderful opportunity to visit this architectural marvel this year as a part of my first FAM Trip to Gujarat. The wonder that it exudes and the beauty that it beholds is sure to leave anyone spellbound. If you are traveling to Gujarat in India, please make sure you include this wonderful temple in your itinerary. Modhera is located in the Mehsana district of Gujarat and is at a distance of around 108 km from Ahmedabad. It is easily accessible by buses that ply regularly on this route from Ahmedabad.