India is a land of temples where one can find these holy shrines in the most modern cities to under-developed rural areas. Temples are important for worship, act as a sign of auspiciousness and are centres of positivity. However, most of the temples in India are dedicated to a few of the Gods. Thus, temples of the remaining Gods are fewer in number and therefore carry an aura of mystery with them.
The Sun God, also known as Surya or Aditya, is known to be the source of infinite energy as per ancient scriptures. Temples constructed to perform rituals for the Sun God are few in number and have been built by various kings during different eras. It is this scarcity of temples that make them an interesting prospect for tourists.
Here are 5 Sun Temples you should visit in India.
1) Konark Sun Temple, Orissa
Portraying Kalinga architecture at its finest, the Sun Temple in Konark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and truly a sight to behold. The temple is believed to be built in the 13th century in the form of a chariot. There 12 pairs of wheels depicting the hours in a day with 7 horses in front. The highlight of the construction was that sun rays fall on the principal entrance of the temple.
Also known as the Black Pagoda by sailors, the temple fell into ruins and is currently a historical and mythological site. Further, the 24 wheels are actually sundials and help in calculating time accurately. Finally, in the words of the great Rabindranath Tagore, “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.“
2) Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
This temple is located in the Mehsana district of Gujarat and was built in the 11th century by Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. This holy monument is now under the maintenance of Archeological Survey of India. This temple was built on the Tropic of Cancer and it was designed such a way that the rays of the sun fall on the idol on equinoxes. Also, on the summer solstice, the sun is exactly above the temple at noon and no shadow is seen.
The temple has three components – the shrine, an outer assembly hall and a water reservoir. The walls are exquisitely carved and designs on the pillars are noteworthy. The Shikhara no longer exists but it has to be said that this temple is a rich source of Hindu mythology as well as the history of the time. This temple also witnesses the Modhera Dance Festival in January every year.
3) Arasavalli Suryanarayana Temple, Andhra Pradesh
One of the few Sun temples still being worshipped, Arasavalli Sun Temple is located in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. It is believed that Kalinga ruler Devendra Varma built it in the 7th century. The deity is made of black granite and holds lotus buds with Usha and Chhaya on either side.
The architecture is considered to be a mix of Vishwakarma Brahmins and Maharanas of Odisha. It is a famous tourist attraction in the state and attracts a lot of visitors over the year. Further, a festival of the Sun God, Rathasaptami is celebrated with grandeur every year, which commemorates the birth of the Surya.
4) Dakshinaarka Temple, Bihar
This Sun Temple is located in the ancient pilgrimage centre of Gaya in Bihar. A significant feature of this temple is the attire of the Sun God. He is carved on granite to be wearing a jacket, waist girdle and high boots similar to Iranian tradition. This lends credence to the fact that the worshippers in the region may have originated from Central Asia.
This holy shrine reportedly dates back to the 13th century and a good few worshippers are known to still live around the area. The architecture is simple, there is a Vishnu temple nearby and the temple has several sculptures of Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Durga and Surya.
5) Suryanaar Temple, Tamil Nadu
This temple dedicated to the Sun God is located in the town of Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. It was supposedly built during the reign of Kulottunga Choladeva of the Chola dynasty between 10th to 11th century. This holy abode has Surya as the principal deity with separate shrines for remaining planetary deities as well. It is also considered as one of the nine Navagraha temples in Tamil Nadu.
This temple is built in the Dravidian style of architecture with a five-tiered rajagopuram. A healthy dose of pilgrims visit this place frequently both as a standalone and also as a part of the Navagraha tour of Tamil Nadu.