Situated on the banks of Pushpawati is the breathtaking Modhera Sun Temple which was built in 1026 CE by King Bhimdev I who was the ruler of Patan and who belonged to the Solanki dynasty. Is it said that the Solankis were the decedents of the Suryavamsha or the Suryavanshi dynasty and were the lineage of Sun God, also known as Surya.
The Sun Temple of Modhera was hence dedicated to the Sun God and is located just 100kms from Ahmedabad in the village of Modhera in the Mehsana district in the state of Gujarat. This was my second visit to Gujarat having covered the Rann Utsav, Dholavira, Wild Ass Sanctuary, Nadabet, and Rani ki Vav earlier.
What is Modhera Sun Temple famous for?
Modhera Sun Temple is famous for its intricate architecture which depicts our life from the past and also our culture from the time of Ramayana to the Mahabharata. The Sun temple is also famous because it shows the life cycle of we humans in the form of Kamasutra which has been beautifully carved on its pillars.
What is the Modhera Sun Temple architecture style?
The Modhera Sun Temple architecture style is the Māru-Gurjara architecture, Chaulukya style, or Solaṅkī style. This is said to have originated in Gujarat and Rajasthan between the 11th and 13th centuries BC.
The Sun Temple of Modhera is divided into three parts such as the main temple, a mandapa, and the stepwell or the Surya Kund. The temple is said to be earthquake resistant as the entire temple is built using the locking system due to which during an earthquake the temple will shake but not fall.
What to see when you visit the Sun Temple of Modhera?
Once you are at the Sun Temple of Modhera there are mainly three things that you need to see such as the
- Surya Kund or Step Well
- Assembly Hall or Sabha Mandapa and
- Main Temple or Guda Mandapa
Surya Kund or Step Well
As you set your foot inside the premises of the temple the first thing that you cross is the Stepwell or the Surya Kund which covers an area of 21,000 sq. Feet. The steps leading you down to the water are square and rectangle-shaped which forms an interesting pattern and for those who love architecture, you will fall in love at the very first sight.
Right opposite to the temple on the steps is a temple that has Lord Vishnu on it. Apart from this, there are 108 small and big-sized temples or shrines built around the steps leading to the well which looks amazing. It is said that the small temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, and Lord Shiva.
Assembly Hall or Sabha Mandapa
The Assembly Hall or the Sabha Mandapa is where the religious gatherings were conducted. This is the second structure that you see right after Step Well. It is believed that the Assembly hall was being used for all the public meetings and religious functions. This hall is open from all four directions and there are around 52 pillars that are delicately carved and which represent 52 weeks of a solar year.
It is amazing to see that the intricate carvings on the pillars depict scenes from the Ramayana, scenes from Mahabharata, and also many scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. Some of the carvings also depicted scenes such as the Vanar Sena making the Ram Setu bridge with stones and which is still visible in Rameshwaram.
There are also scenes of Krishna lifting the Govardhan Parbat on his fingertips, Arjuna during Draupadi’s swayamvar holding the bow and arrow, Vishkanya’s doing makeup, and also Sita in Ashok Vatika.
As you look up towards the ceiling you will notice the opulently carved ceiling and the beautiful carvings in it will make you think about the amazing talents that the artisans had during those days. It is one of the key points of attractions within the temple and during evenings the entire place is lit up with different colors of lights making it a breath-taking experience.
Main Temple or Guda Mandapa
The third structure that you see immediately after the Sabha Mandapa is the Guda Mandapa or the main temple. This structure will surely blow your mind off with the kind of architecture, carvings, and detailing done here. This is the only Hindu temple where there is no idol present and hence no pujas are done here anymore.
The entire temple is carved with different figurines of Gods, Goddesses, Deities, and Apsaras. The shape of the temple resembles a lotus that has been placed upside down. The temple is sitting on a plinth that looks like an inverted lotus and on the outer walls and top of the lotus is a huge panel where there are carvings of Elephants called Gaj Petka. There are a total of 365 elephants which depicts the 365 days in a year.
Apart from this, there are different carvings on the temple mainly the pillars that signify the different phases of human life. Right from the circle of birth to the circle of death, everything has been carved on the walls of the temple so in such an intrigue way that you cannot take off your eyes from here.
There are many sculptures of people playing various musical instruments along with 12 idols of Goddess Parvati in her different forms. These idols of Parvati are known as Dwadesh Gauri. You will also be surprised to see different idols of the Sun carved in the pillars and walls of the temple out of which some are also in Irani style with a long cap and gumboots.
Surprisingly Modhera Sun Temple also has scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata carved on them and on the walls of the temple you will see the 12 diverse modes of the Sun God for all 12 months. There are also 7 horses of the Sun God carved on the walls of the temple. These 7 horses depict the 7 days of a week.
What is the legend behind the Sun Temple of Modhera?
As beautiful and intriguing as the carvings of this temple is, such intrigue is its legend too. According to the Skanda Purana and also the Brahma Purana it is believed that Ram wanted to wash away from his sin of killing Ravana in Srilanka as Ravana was a Brahmin.
Lord Ram asked Rishi Muni Vashishth to show him a place where he could wash his sins and Rishi Vashishth pointed him to Dharmanarayana which is a forest of the Dharma.
Lord Ram performed his yagna in the forest and over time established a village there called Sitapur which came to be known as Modhera later.
How was the Sun Temple of Modhera destroyed?
It is believed that in 1025 Mahmud Ghazni attacked King Bhimdev of Modhera and left the place with his loot. Later the Chalukya dynasty rebuilt the Modhera Sun Temple only to be re-attacked by Allaudin Khilji who destroyed the temple and even broke the idols in the temple due to which it is prohibited to worship in Sun Temple Modhera.
It is said that the idol in the Sun Temple of Modhera was of the Sun God and it was made of pure gold. It is believed that Surya was sitting in his chariot which had four horses and his sarathi was riding the chariot. The entire idol was believed to have diamonds embellished on it and hence it could light up the entire temple.
What are some of the interesting facts about Sun Temple Modhera?
Some of the most interesting facts of the Sun Temple Modhera are
- This temple is located near the tropic of Cancer which means it is located at a latitude of 23.5835° N, 72.1330° E facing the east-facing towards the east. The latitude at which the Tropic of Cancer passes is 23.4999° N, 85.4866° E
- This is one Hindu temple where no worship takes place
- The carvings on the temple walls and pillars depict stories from Hindu mythologies such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. Some carvings depict the different phases of human life right from the circle of birth to the circle of death
- The Sun Temple of Modhera is built in such a way that all the structures are meant to balance each other. There was no use of limestone or any other material used to build the temple
- A very interesting fact about the Sun Temple of Modhera is that during every Equinox the first rays of the sun fall straight on the temple which in return was supposed to illuminate the idol of the Sun God and lighten up the entire temple. Although there is no idol present at the temple today during every Equinox the first run rays do fall straight on the temple
- It is believed that Ram and Sita during their return from Sri Lanka had visited this place hence the Surya Kund is also known as the Ram Kund
- Another interesting fact about the Sun Temple of Modhera is that during summer solstice the sun shines at the top of the temple without casting any shadow just speaking about the marvelous engineering skills of the artisans
How to reach the Sun Temple of Modhera?
To reach the Sun Temple in Modhera you can choose to travel either by Train, Air or by Road.
Which is the nearest Railway Station to reach Modhera Sun Temple?
The nearest railway station to reach Modhera Sun Temple is the Becharaji Railway Station in Mehsana which is just 15kms from the temple. From the station, you can hire a cab and reach Modhera in around 20 -30 minutes.
Which is the nearest airport to reach Modhera?
To reach Modhera by air you will have to take a flight to the nearest airport which is Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Modhera which is at a distance of 100kms and will take around 1 hour 45 minutes.
When is the best time to visit Modhera Sun Temple?
The Modhera Sun Temple is open from morning 7 am to evening 6 am. Ideally, the best time to visit Modhera would be early morning when there are little or no people around or during sunset when the entire temple lights up in colorful lights and it’s a sight to behold.
When is the best season to visit Modhera Sun Temple?
The best season to visit Modhera is during the colder months which is from October to March. During these months the weather and temperature are much under control. However, if you visit Modhera Sun Temple during January then you will get to witness the Modhera Dance festival which is celebrated for 3 days and is an experience you just cannot miss.
Is there any entry fee to visit Sun Temple Modhera?
Yes, there is an entry fee to visit Sun Temple Modhera.
Indians have to pay INR 25
Foreigners have to pay INR 300
For children below 15 years, there is no entry
The marvelous Sun temple of Modhera needs a visit as the experience of being in a temple built in 1026 will simply blow your mind. The minute and detailed architecture are worth seeing and believing at the engineering geniuses of that time. No wonder the Sun Temple made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014 and is now preserved and is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India.
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