Unique even among Indias abundant
architectural galleries, Konark is now a World Heritage Site. A few
kilometer from Puri and Bhumaneswar, Konark like Cuttak was an active
port of the wealthy old Kalinga kingdom. The sun Gods
unforgettable immobils stone chariot was a landmark on Orissas
coast. But the sea has now receded, and this shrine s now surrounded
only by the windswept coastal plain dotted with coconut, cashurina,
and mango trees.
The temples at
Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark were built between the 7th
and 12th centuries, during the Hindu revival era in the
reigns of the Kesari and Ganga kings, when Kalinga controlled the
maritime trade with China, Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Java,
Sumatra, and Bali, plus the land routes to South India from Bengal
patron, king Narasimhadeo 91238-64), wanted the Sun God housed as
Aryan mythology conceived him, blazing his way through the heavens on
the chariot of time, pulled by seven superb white steeds. When the
early Aryan chieftain performed the sacrifices enjoined by the Vedas,
he acted as the son of Surya, the Sun God. His tent or chariot were
marked by his rank emblem, a banner with the sun devise. And vimana
means chariot. The most magnificent example of the vimana existing in
India is undoubtedly at Konark. To simulate the appearance of a
wheeled chariot, the longer sies of the terrace over which the temple
stands were ornamented with reliefs of 12 massive, beautifully carved
wheels, more than 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter. Each of these giant
wheels is a faithful reproduction of the real thing in stone,
complete with intricately carved hub, spokes, and pins. To complete
the illusion of the solar chariot, colossal free-standing statues of
seven galloping horses were installed before the main entrance. But
one is missing. The parapets on either side of the flight of steps
leading to the entrance too are actually a row of richly caparisoned,
life-size prancing steeds straining at their harness.
He Orissa temples (Deul)
consist of a sanctum, one or more front porches (Jagmohan) with
pyramidal roofs; a dance hall (Nat Mandir), and a hall of offerings
(Bhog Mandir) apart from the inner shrine (Garbha Grihya) where the
deity resides. Temples with semi-cylinderical roofs like those at
Puri are called Khakera Deul. Temple architecture throughout the
Indian subcontinent has included sculpture since the Gupta era. Both
the main Deul, Jagmandir, and Nat Mandir of the Sun Temple are
covered with beautiful sculptural friezes and carvings.
But the grandiose Sun
Temple complex conceptualized by Narasimhadeo was never finished, and
the inner sanctuary had to be filled up to sustain the heavy
crumbling roof in the last century. Konrak chiefly consists of the
chariot dubbed the Black Pagoda by the British, and its lofty
ceremonial hall. The great cube of masonry forming the temple
basement is ornamented with those amazing freestanding stone wheels.
The lowest zone of this base has a continuous elephant and hunting
frieze, among which one finds intriguing mythological beasts like the
Gaja Singha, a lion riding an elephant. A series of niches separated
by widely projecting pilasters are full of superb erotic sculpture.
In the Indian ethos, Kama or physical fulfillment and pleasure have
always been intrinsic, necessary interludes on the path to final
liberation or Moksha, and reunion with the souls Divine
beloved. The facades of the hall proper are divided by two carved
friezes with string courses. The pyramidal roof which rises above
this consists of corbelled vaulting with a pleasantly wavy
curvilinear effect. Three distinct terraces recede to the Shikhars
huge stone lotus.
The monumental statues of
female musicians lining the roof terraces visible from a distance
draw the eye to the superbly polished green chlorite reliefs of the
Sun god standing in a frontal pose, between his twin charioteers and
the dawn maidens. The horses carved on the plinth too have that
vibrant sense of motion which distinguishes Konarks sculpture.
The adjacent Maya Devi
temple is also carved with erotic sculpture, stone carvings of
dancing nymphs, musicians, floral motifs, hunting and court scenes.
Twin lions guard the entrance. And on each side of this temple stand
an enormous elephant and a war horse trampling fallen warriors.
Music and dance always
formed an inherent part of every Indian festival and socioreligious
ceremony. Great temples and shrines had their traditional schools of
dance and drama, which suffered a decline during the Buddhist,
Islamic and British eras. In recent years various dance festivals
have been organized and staged every winter at places like Konarak,
Khajuraho, and Mahabalipuram, offering a combination of culture and
entertainment to an international audience keenly exploring these
The highest spiritual
ecstasy is often reached by those fortunate enough to be submerged in
the mesmerizing audio-visual spectacle of such dance festivals. At
Konark the backdrop of that superb floodlit Sun Chariot dominated the
best of them. Having evolved from classic and folk traditions,
Odissi dance has great fluidity and charm, plus the sensuous erotic
overtones of Konarkas sculpture. Innovative Saraikells and
Mayurbhanj Chau dance dramas; and the Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam,
Manipuri, and Kathak styles of classical dance with their different
costumes, themes, and musical accompaniments provide welcome variety
every evening during the three-day festival.
The impressive Rath yatra
of Puri is held two days after the new moon in June. One of
Hinduisms four greatest pilgrimage centers, Puris White
Pagoda houses cared woodenimges of Lord Jagannath, his brother
Balbhandra, and sister Subhadra. There are taken out in annual
procession to their seaside garden, attracting lakhs of frenzied
devotees all eager to gain merit by pulling the Universal Lords
gaily decorated chariot through the crowded streets.
The Kalinga Bali Yatra
celebrates Orissas ancient seafaring tradition. Between 400
B.C. and 1200 A.D., Orissa exported Indian culture, religion,
philosophy and art forms along with its precious stones, textiles,
perfumes, medicinal herbs, elephants, ivory, horses, horn swords and
metalware to Bali and other Far Eastern ports. On Kartik Purnima or
the October-November full moon, people throng the beaches to launch
lamps nestling in banana bark boats into the sea chanting, ululating,
and blowing conch shells to appease Varun Devata, lord of the oceans.
Chaitra Prabha in
March-April is the regional harvest festival celebrated with
colourful tribal dances, including Orissas famous innovative
Dates for all these
festivals vary each year according to the lunar calendar, so check
with the nearest Orissa Tourism office by phone or fax. Advance
booking is also essential for hassle free travel and assured
accommodation during the Konarak and Puri festivals.
Indian Airlines, Jet Air,
and Sahara connect Bhubneshwar to Delhi; Calcutta, Madras, Hydrabad
and Nagpur. The airport is 3 km from the capital. Tourist information
counter and Hotel & Restaurant Association of Orissa give
detailed accommodation information, Taxis and mini buses are
available for transfer.
On the main
Calcutta-Madras line, Bhubaneshwar is well connected to other parts
of India. Dhauli Express from Calcutta; Neelanchal, Utkal, and
Rajdhani Express from Delhi; Falaknuma and Konarak Express from
Hyderabad reasonably fast trains, with computerized tickets and
Orissa State Road
Transport Corporation and private buses provide links with all parts
of the state, particularly places of tourist interest. Deluxe coach
services from Calcutta, Bijapur, and Vishakapatnam available.
Taxis, private air
conditioned tourist cars, mini buses and deluxe coaches for
sightseeing cycle rickshaws and three wheelers used for short
Places of Interest
Bhubaneshwar, city of
1000 temples and new state capital, Lingaraj, Mukteshware, and Raja
Rani temples recommended. Orissa State Museum has fine Hindu,
Buddhist, and Jain sculpture. Handicrafts Museum and Tribal Research
Museum showcase folk art including Patna Chitras, Tarkashi
silverware, Ikat sarees, Pipli appliqué work, wooden masks,
and stone carvings.
Puri, pilgrimage center
and sea resort with good beaches and restful waterfront hotels.
Dhauli, site of Emperor Askokas victory over the Kalinga army
in 361 B.C. and conversion to Buddhism. Remarkable Ashoka edicts
carved on stone elephant, ancient Buddhist sculpture, and brand new
Japanese Peace Pagoda.
Chilka Lake resort and
Nandankanan wildlife park.
Konak: Panth Niwas
and Travellers Lodge.
Puri : Mayfair
Beach Resort, Toshiba Sands Resort; Hans Coco Palms; Holiday Resort
in the Deluxe class. Nilanchal Ashoka, Puri Hotel and South East
Railway Hotel are three star.
Bhubaneshwar : The
Oberoi, Kalinga Ashoka, New Kenilworth, Swosti, and Prachi in the
upper bracket. Keshari, Safari International, Meghdoot, Anarkali, and
Panthaniwas for budget class.