Ideal Time: 2 - 3 hours
Situated on the north eastern corner of Puri, Konark Sun Temple is a World Heritage site and one of the prime tourist attractions of Odisha. Pulled by a set of seven horses, four on the left side and three on the right, this massive temple is built in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of the Sun god. The word 'Konark' comes from the combination of two words 'Kona' and 'Arka'. 'Kona' means corner and 'Arka' means the sun so the temple means 'Sun of the Corner.' This massive temple is understood to be a cosmic chariot of the sun god. It has three deities dedicated to the Sun God on three different sides of the temple which catch the direct rays of sun in the morning, afternoon and evening. There is also a dedicated archaeological museum inside the temple complex. The Konark Dance Festival is held every year usually in the month of February which attracts a lot of foreign and Indian tourists. The Sun Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dedicated to devotees of the Sun God.
An engineering and artistic masterpiece, The Sun Temple has been standing rigid for two thousand years. Despite much of the temple in ruin, it still reflects the artistic genius of architects and sculptures of the time.
The surviving structures on present day apart from the entrance are the 'Nata Mandir'(Dancing Hall) and 'Bhoga Mandapa'(Dining hall). The Nata Mandir refers to the 'Devdasis' tradition when dancers lived inside the temple complex dedicating their entire life to dance forms like Odissi and Bharatnatyam. Imagining the grand scale of the temple back then leaves one awestruck. Sculptures, erotic carvings on walls and images of wars, animals, and warriors are found everywhere. Konark Sun Temple is the third link of the state's golden triangle with Jagannath Puri Temple as the first link and Bhubaneswar as the second link. Initially built on the sea bank, it is now a considerable distance away from the sea shore. A Navgraha Temple (Nine Planets Temple) is also located just outside the Sun Temple; it contains a huge black colored slab with idols of the nine planets made of chlorite stones. The slab was initially kept above the main doorway but is now kept inside the Navgraha Temple.
Government approved English speaking guides are available at fixed charges. The Government of Odisha Tourist Offices can be contacted by tourists for the services of approved guides. Local guides are also available in most tourist places, but it is advised to ask the guides for the identity card. Be extremely vary before hiring a local guide while visiting religious places. They may take you to unnecessary places and crooks posing as Sadhus or Yogis to extract money out of you.
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