Sun Temple Modhera Gujarat

Location: On the banks of Pushpavati river in Modhera, Gujarat
Built by: King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty
Built in: 1026 AD
Dedicated to: Lord Surya / Sun God
Attraction: Marvelous architectural work
Significance: One of the few Sun Temples across the country
How to reach: One can easily reach Modhera Sun Temple by taking regular Buses or by hiring taxis from anywhere in Gujarat

Modhera 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.

Surya Kund
Surya Kund is a deep stepped tank in the front of the temple. The tank was named after the Lord Surya (Sun God). In the earlier times, this 100 sq meter rectangular tank was used to store pure water. The devotees used to take a halt here for ceremonial ablutions before moving towards the temple. Not less than 108 shrines mark the steps of this tank including the shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Sheetala Mata and many others. In front of this tank, a huge 'torana' (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.

Sabha Mandap
Literally, Sabha Mandap refers to an assembly hall where religious gatherings and conferences are conducted. This hall is open from all the four sides and has 52 delicately carved pillars. The intricate carvings depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata (Indian Epics) and scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. In order to get into the Sanctum Sanctorum, one has to cross the passage with pillars and arches.

Guda Mandap
Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum that is supported by a lotus-base plinth. Once, this hall used to house the idol of the Sun God. The designing of the hall was done in a way, so that the idol gets the first glimpse of the Sun at equinoxes. However, the idol was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni yet the walls represent the Sun God in his 12 different facets of each month. The carved walls also depict the aspects of human life like the vicious circle of birth and death. The façade of this hall was renovated in the recent years, despite the fact that the roof over the Guda Mandap had already been shattered.

Modhera dance festival is the major festival that is observed by the Sun Temple. This dance festival is organized to keep the Indian traditions and culture alive. It is held in the third week of January every year. The classical dance forms in the premises of this temple revive the imperial ambiance during the period. Gujarat Tourism organizes this event to promote tourism at this place.