Imagine visiting an edifice when the festivity celebrating the anniversary as it were without having to pay any entry fees. I am referring to a world class monument in Suntemple which is supposed to have been built by Bhima I ( 1022 – 1064 ) in 1026-27 AD. The granduer of the temple is enhanced by architectural excellence of combining stepped well tank with prayer hall and sabha enclosure. All the elements of nature are combined to form an edifice for generations to admire and rave about.
Erotica : Unlike Khajuraho erotica at Sun temple is etched out in such a manner that it is hardly talked about unless one has a keen sense of observation. The panels on the second edifice which is known as Sabhagruha has intricately carved Kamasutra postures. The art of intercourse in various styles are exhibited by the artisans of yore. Some of the sculptures display an orgy in progress that too with a circular display of panels. The wear and tear on the structure seems to have robbed the erotic display. Most of the panels seems to crumbling unlike the Khajuraho temple which is well maintained by ASI.
Sun temple and Khajuraho group of temples have lot of similarity in structure. Both have intricately carved pillars, shikara’s and elaborate ornamentation in statues who are either dieties or apsaras. Some of the big statues contain erotica inside the temple premises in Modhera whereas it is displayed boldly on the facade of the temple at Khajuraho.
Kandariya Mahadeva temple at Khajuraho ( 1029 ) which is dedicated to Lord Shiva has the same timeline of construction with Sun temple. Naturally one does get a strong association in terms of artistic style.
Maru-Gurjara ( Chalukyan ) type of architecture is deployed in the construction of Sun temple with 4 side enterances to ensure ventilation and light throughout the year. The main shikara seems to have collapsed after it was set on fire by the invaders looking for a treasure hidden. The main temple complex housed the Surya diety, which is now missing. Probably for this reason there are no prayers allowed or conducted.
Vandalism and vagaries of nature have extensively corroded the structure and pillars of the temple. One can find two windows being installed to provide balance to the missing panels. The roof panels are designed like a lotus in a pond surrounded by dieties.
There seems to have been at least three or more temples which have been lost to nature and destruction with only pillars standing testimony to its existence. There are lot of salvaged materials from the collapsed structures which may have been re-used by ASI for repairs.
A huge rectangular stepwell measuring 176 x 120 feet was built for the royalty and priests to bathe and worship the sun god. One finds lot of small temples created around the steepwell which were locally worshipped. The source of water may be a spring or a channel from the adjescent river Pusphavati. Probably it was used as a rain harvesting place too to ensure storage of water all round the year.
Overall Sun Temple is an excellent blend of nature and architecture with landscaped gardens adding beauty to the complex. Even though Sun temple has not qualified to be a world heritage monument, all efforts are being made by ASI to continously spruce it up to the level of expectation of the approving committee. A large scale destruction has taken place but it has been carefully resurrected to bring back the original glory of the complex by ASI.
Sun Temple Utsav :
Every year Sun temple Utsav is organized with sound and light show almost coinciding with Rann festival look out for the date announcement in search engines. Entry ticket to monument is waived for the public. There are dance and other cultural show with the monument lighted up all around giving a halo to the edifice.
Sun temple is located in Mehasana district which is 110 kms away from Ahmedabad. One travel from Mehasana by train or travel to Modhera junction and than switch over to Modhera by bus. Taxis are available for a round trip of 300 kms, one should start early and negotiate with a taxi operator for best rates. Next major tourist attraction is Rani ka Vav which is Patan district around 40 kms away from Suntemple.
Ack : Panaromic photo wiki Priyash Giriya