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Sun Temple Modhera Gujarat

Sun Temple Modhera GujaratModhera is famous for the Sun Temple, which is one of the finest examples of Indian temple architecture of its period. Built in 1026AD the temple is dedicated to the Sun-God, Surya and stands high on a plinth overlooking a deep stone- steeped tank.
As in the Sun Temple at Konark, this temple was so designed that the rays of the Sun would fall on the image of Surya at the time of the equnoxes. Whatever remains of this temple is grand; the shikharas are notaby absent but the Toranas in the frontal halls, and the intricate carvings in the exterior speak of the splendour of this shrine, which still is home to the Modhera dance festival featuring dance celebrities in performance in a natural setting. Ruins of the sun temple at Modhera in Gujarat show a lot of Magha influence. The walls of the temple have representations of the sun god wearing a peculiar West Asian belt and boots as in the Sun temple at Gaya. Mention must also be made of the huge tank in front of the temple with its multitude of images.

The Structure
Built in 1026 during the reign of King Bhimdev I of the Solankhi Dynasty, the temple is dedicated to the Sun God. Destroyed by the Mahmud of Ghazni, the Modhera still retains enough of its structure to convey the grandeur of its conception. Every inch of the edifice, both inside and outside, is magnificently carved with Gods and Goddesses, birds and beasts and flowers. The inner sanctum, which housed the presiding deity, faces east and was so designed that the solar equinoxes the first rays of the rising sun lit up the image of Surya. The Sun Temple at Modhera is divided into three main sections. The first is the Surya Kund (Sun tank), a fascinating massive rectangular stepped tank located in front of the toran that leads one to the temple. Though the kund now stands dry, it was believed to be full of nirmal jal (holy water) in the days gone by. Devotees on their way to offer prayers to the Temple of Sun Modhera GujaratSun God stopped here for ceremonial ablutions and would proceed for worship towards the temple only after cleansing themselves here. Small, miniature shrines dot the steps around this kund. There are 108 of them to coincide with the number considered auspicious by the Hindus. Besides these, there are four larger shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu (one of the principle gods in the Hindu pantheon), Ganesh (the God of knowledge and prosperity and son of Lord Shiva), Natraja (Lord Shiva as the cosmic dancer) and Sitala Mata (the goddess of the dreaded disease-smallpox). Leading to the temple from the tank is a huge ornamental gate or toran. From the toran one reaches the sabha mandap (hall of gathering), which is a magnificent pillared hall. This hall was meant for religious gatherings and conferences.

This unique piece of architecture is open on all sides, with four doorways and 52 spectacular pillars supporting the walnut-shaped ceiling. Each of these pillars is intricately carved, with every inch of available space depicting scenes from the Ramayan (a Hindu epic), the Mahabharat (a Hindu epic) and the Krishna Lila (the story of Lord Krishna). The architectural plan of this temple follows the tradition of the time, which was having twin halls. So, while the sabha mandap was meant for religious congregations, the main temple or the guda mandap was built to house the sanctum sanctorum. The guda mandap forms the third section of the Sun Temple at Modhera and is not attached to the sabha mandap. The guda mandap is based on a lotus-base plinth. It has friezes of the Sun God, other gods and goddesses covering its walls. Besides the depiction of various deities, one can also see on the walls, various aspects of human life like the cycle of birth and death and some erotic scenes from the Kama Sutra or the ancient Indian treatise on love. The sanctum sanctorum, once housed the magnificent idol of the Sun God. The guda mandap has been so designed that on solar equinoxes i.e. on March 21 and September 23, the first rays of the rising sun fall directly on and light up the niche where the idol of the Surya Bhagwan (Sun God) sits. It is said that the guda mandap had a tunnel, which could be used by the members of the royal family to flee, in case of an attack. Though the roof over the Garbhagriha of this hall has collapsed, the ruined shell gives an idea of the dimensions of the structure.
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