My friend S and I hired an auto-rickshaw to take us 35km up the coast of the Bay of Bengal from Puri to Konark. This is the site of the magnificent Sun Temple, one of India’s 27 UNESCO World Heritage sites. This temple, dating back to the 13th century, is the representation of Surya’s (the sun god) celestial chariot. It’s well known for the intricate sculptures covering most of the temple’s structure and its 12 giant wheels.
I was disappointed to find the temple in a sorry state. Most of the sculptures have been corroded by the elements and the passage of time. Parts of the temple have also been severely damaged by a long history of attacks, pilfering, cyclones and general neglect. The restoration work seems to have been haphazard in places: large stone blocks cover many of the sculptures and the conspicuous pink cement used to rebuild many sections is an eyesore.
But overall, this is an impressive monument and wandering through the temple is like going back to another time and place. A staircase flanked by two lions leads to the porch which was the natya mandir (dance hall). I found the detailed sculptures of dancers and musicians covering the columns and walls of the mandir exquisite (though in a state of decay).
Above: The Bhoga Mandapa (porch) believed to have once been the Natya Mandir (dance hall).
Above: A detail of the dance sculptures covering the walls and columns of the Natya Mandir.
To visit the Sun Temple, have a look at the slideshow under the section "Take a walk through..." in the right sidebar.