On the eastern coast of our peninsula, at N 19.53 and E 86.5, lies one of the wonders of the world, the Konark Sun Temple. One the western side of the peninsula, some 160 km from the Gulf of Khambhat as the crow flies, at N 23.42 and E 72.37, lies another wonder of the world, the Modhera Sun Temple. I was struck by the coincidence that two such gorgeous temples were built at two extremities of peninsular India on the East-West axis, both dedicated to Surya the Sun God.
Built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty, Modhera predates Konark by some 200 odd years. When I visited Modhera some months ago, I was really impressed that the Archaeological Survey of India has done a really wonderful job of restoring the temple to reflect some of its pristine glory during its heydays.
The first structure one comes across is a vast stepped pond, and one could almost see hundreds of devotees and local villagers thronging on the ghats of the pond to fill their water jugs during the arid season.
There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of small shrines on all four sides of the pond, at different levels, all in fairly good repair after a thousand years of exposure to the vagaries of wind, weather and time.
You climb from the pond, up the stone stairs to the glory of the Sun Temple itself. No prayers are offered there now, as far as I could understand, but when I visited the temple, I was the only visitor there and I did offer up a prayer for the peace of the souls of those who designed, built and paid for this beautiful architectural wonder.
The sides are covered with beautiful figures and design motifs, with the same vitality as those I found at Ajanta, Ellora, Konark and the other such landmarks. Obviously, the quality of workmanship available in India at that time was truly remarkable, and equally obviously, the inspiration given to the architects, builders, workmen, decorators and others must have been equally remarkable.
If you’ve been to Konark, some day you must make the time to visit its Western Indian sister here at Modhera.