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A Time Travelling Experience at the Ancient City of Konark

Embark on a virtual voyage to a bygone era where each stone whispers tales of devotion and innovation, all within the awe-inspiring embrace of the Konark Sun Temple and the many wonders beyond.

The top of the Sun Temple and a cloudy sky

by Yashika CG

29 de sept de 2023

There is something about ancient structures that invites me. The wilting walls, the vandalized sculptures, the restored treasures — they speak to me. They tell me stories of bygone grandeur. Stories of persistence in mastering intricate skills, stories of endurance, pain and grief, stories of being lost, then rediscovered and loved again.

They carry the sweat, blood, and wisdom of thousands of masterful artists and sculptors who came together to bring them to life. The sacrifices they made, the lessons they learned, and the joy they lived are etched in every stone they shaped.

It was one such surreal experience at the Jagmohan temple or the Sun Temple of Konark in Odisha, India.

First impression

I was led to the temple by a roadway with flea markets on either side. A lively display of splendid colors. Artifacts and toys made of marble, wood, clay, coir and various other sustainable materials created an enchanting ambiance. I was slightly distracted by my purpose of being here and was carried away by these stunning handmade wonders. I purchased a couple of coir toys to send home.

As my effervescent emotions were taken care of, it was now time to lose myself to the magnificence of this 13th-century CE architectural marvel.

Although the temple is not functional anymore, by that I mean it's no longer used for religious purposes, it welcomes travelers from far and wide.

The Sun Temple stair and people walking up and down

Visiting the Sun Temple Photo by Yashika CG

My experience in this enchanting city

Slowing down and closely examining the details of the mysterious architecture was a day well spent for me. I enjoyed figuring out how people probably calculated time with the help of the giant wheel. The temple can be called an equivalent of a modern-day calendar with elements of date, month, year, and time embedded in its architecture.

The statue of the main deity The Sun God is said to have been installed in a way that appeared to be suspended mid-air with the use of magnetic technology. However, that technology is lost now. I could only see an animated version of it in the short film they display at the museum that’s part of the temple complex.

The impeccable carving on the temple walls transported me back in time and gave me a glimpse of the progressive past. We live in a time when talking about sex is taboo, sculptors had sculpted such sexually bold sculptures on the temple walls approximately 773 years ago.

“What was the time like then? What were their beliefs? What purpose drove them to carve these provocative sculptures? How did our beliefs evolve from theirs?” An endless trail of questions arose within me. Ironically, people in ancient times seemed to have lived a more conscious life. One of acceptance of self and laws of nature in contrast to modern times.

The Sun Temple Museum which houses ancient artifacts, took me through the journey of the temple from its concept to its rediscovery by the British. I spent a good four hours reading through every description, marveling at every little piece, acknowledging their beauty and survival through the test of time. For they are here as a bridge to connect us to our past. They are the messengers whispering clues about the technological capabilities we once possessed. The short film at the end of the museum tour succeeded in stirring my emotions further.

The intense weather within me was lightened by the brightness of summer outside. The weather in this region remains humid throughout the year. However, the summers are scorching hot with temperatures going up to 40 degrees Celsius. But that did not stop me from my trailless expeditions. I loved how the sun made my skin feel, soft and supple. In my opinion, the coastal sun is medicine for the skin—a natural balm.

I savored loads of coolers from the street side stalls to keep myself hydrated. Lemon soda, a chilled drink made with lemon, sparkling water, and chat masala (a spice mix) gave me instant boosts of energy to carry on.

Slurping Ice Golas, a summer delight made of ice shavings and flavored syrups, sprinkled with a dash of spice mix was refreshing. It evoked the playful child within me, bringing back memories of joyful summer vacations where we eagerly waited for the bell sounds from the gola vendor’s cart to resound the streets. Little children with vibrant tongues we were. Turns out the origin of this enlivening summer recipe traces its roots back to Japan, believed to be invented during the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD) it has managed to preserve its position in the hearts of people of all ages across time.

Given that tourism is the primary source of income for most locals in this region, if you are identified as a foreigner, you might face inflated charges. Being assertive yet friendly often helps you go a long way.

The Taj Mahal and people

Konark Sun Temple Photo by Yashika CG

Other destinations to visit near Konark

The time-traveling experience did not stop at Konark but expanded to places around it adding layers to my adventure.

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves: partly formed by natural phenomena, hiking up these hills to uncover their secrets was a test of my stamina. Great saints are said to have meditated in these caves during ancient times. The view from the top of the hill is awe-inspiring. The monolith spread across the area with caves scooped out of it filled my gaze evoking a sense of magnificence.

Chilika Lake: a little away from historical time travel and moving to another kind of time traveling, I landed at Chillika Lake. Taking a four-hour boat ride at the largest brackish water lake in Asia was an exquisite experience. While the rest of Odisha was getting fried in the heat, it was unbelievably cool and reviving on a motor boat in the middle of the lake at peak afternoon. With the gentle breeze soothing my soul, I was absorbed in deep introspection, observing my thoughts as they passed, acknowledging my emotions, and letting go of what was so longer serving me.

Jagannath Puri Temple: I had heard stories of a mysterious element that was present at the heart of the wooden figurine of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of lord Krishna. People believe that it is the immortal heart of Lord Krishna himself. This was one of the reasons I was driven to this temple. To experience the ancient living heart. The deity is known to be a foodie and is offered 56 different food items around the clock. Hence, the streets of Puri are filled with stalls offering a variety of sweets. I got to try some delicious Malpua (a crispy sweet made of flour fried in clarified butter and soaked in spiced sugar syrup) Gulab Jamoon, Rabdi, and a range of milk cakes.

The city is filled with ancient temples with beautiful Kalinga-style architecture and I visited a bunch of them too just to soak in the vibe of a mystical past.

Closing Thoughts

Back from my time travel to the ancient Kalinga period, I must acknowledge the way it has shaped my view of the world. From the mind-blowing architecture kindling my wonder muscles to unfathomable rituals conveying the complexity of our existence, from opening my heart to see perspectives to relishing some soul-filling food that remained unscathed over generations. It was a wholesome experience. With all these learnings inscribed in my book of life, I have surely grown from where I was. Would I go back again? Without a doubt! But this time to experience the indigenous tribes of the land and immerse myself in their art. Until then Odisha takes a special place in my heart.

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