Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
The land of the majestic Asiatic lion, home to the unrelenting stretches of Kutch, where the never ending horizon of barren land and the eternal sun meets the historic waters of the Arabian Sea, where on 16th April, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi shook the very foundations of the imperial British Empire with nothing but a handful of salt lying on the shore. The birth place of the Father of the nation, Gujarat is the little oxymoron of India, where the principles of Satyagarha lie deeply rooted in the soil upon which the wild forests of Gir bloom.To this beautiful verse, history has added innumerable gems through ages, in the form of monuments – colossal and small, some towering the antiquity of man, others hidden between alleyways whispering tales of their existence to daily passers. And these include devoutly carved temples of the state. For centuries, the people of Gujarat have worshipped the Sun God Surya as the principal deity. Sun temples across the state built in honour of the lord are a symbol of its great artistic past and the cultural heritage of the eras that lapsed. Read on to know more about one such temple at Modhera near Ahmedabad, built hundreds of years ago but is still living to tell the tale of its glory.
Traveller’s Digest :
The Sun temple is located at Modhera, a small village near the Gujarati city of Patan and about 102 km from Ahmedabad. The village is situated on the banks of the river Pushpavati and is one of the most significant landmarks of medieval age in the state. The temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty in 1026 AD. Interestingly, the Solankis considered themselves to be the Suryavanshi Gurjar, i.e. , the descendants of the Sun God Surya.
The temple was destroyed by Allauddin Khilji in his conquests of Gujarat but a considerable amount of the building has survived with enough beauty to form a glimpse of its original magnificent form. The architecture of the temple is the most stunning orientation of geometry and symmetry with beauty and art. It has three major separate and axially aligned rudiments known as the Surya Kund, the Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap. The Surya Kund is also known as the Rama Kund and is a rectangular stepped tank which was used to store water for devotees to perform ceremonial ablutions before worshiping at the temple.
The Sabha Mandap is a resplendent pillared hall which was used for religious gatherings and meetings in the temple. 52 ornately carved pillars representing 52 weeks in a year form the centre attraction of the hall. While the Guda Mandap or the sanctum sanctorum is the main worship house of the temple. The sanctum is designed on an inverted lotus – base plinth because lotus is considered to be the flower of the sun, opening with the sunrise and closing with the sunset.
The Eccentricity Factor :
The most astonishing fact about this beautiful temple is that it was never planned on paper and no blue print was designed prior to the construction of the building. Even then the architecture of the building turned out to be so perfect that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the 21st of June, i.e., the summer solstice fell exactly and accurately on the bejewelled gold idol of Surya riding on his chariot driven by Saarthi Arun ! The brilliant artwork at the temple is as intricate as the mathematical calculation of its architects, the walls of the Sabha Mandapa have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month and the stone steps leading devotees down the Surya Kund are actually 108 miniature shrines carved in between the steps inside the tank, 108 being the fortunate number of Hinduism.
These carvings inside the tank depict episodes from the Ramayan, Mahabharat and the life of Lord Krishna. Legends say that after defeating Ravana, Lord Rama asked sage Vasistha to show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself from the sin of killing a Brahmin. Sage Vasistha told him to visit Dharmaranya, a village near the modern town of Modhera where he performed a yagna and renamed it Sitapur. Since the village is near the village of Becharaji Modherak, it subsequently came to be known as Modhera.
What to explore :
The temple is now under the administration of Archaeological Survey of India and you can appoint a walking tour around the temple premises with the authorities there. The tour takes along the artistic history of the temple and the Solanki dysnasty.
The Modhera Dance Festival is held during the third week of January every year for three days in the backdrop of the Sun temple, immediately after the festival of Uttarayan. The festival is organised by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat and aims at recreating the grandeur of ancient Gujarat and present classical dance forms in an atmosphere that they were originally performed in- before gods and goddesses in temples.
How to reach :
The nearest airport is Ahmedabad, about 102 km from Modhera.
The nearest railway station is Mehsana, about 25 km from Modhera.
Buses operated by the Gujarat Road Transport Corporation and private cabs are easily available from Mehsana and Ahmedabad to Modhera.