Location: Modhera, Mehsana district of Gujarat
Built by: King Bhim I of Chaulukya Dynasty
Built in the Year: 1026-1027 years
Architectural style: Maru-Gurjara style of architecture
Timings: 7 am to 6 pm
Entry Fee: Rs40 for Indians, Rs200 for foreigners
Standing tall as a glorious personification of radiance of the sky, the Sun, the Modhera Sun Temple is a pre-historic edifice dedicated to the Sun God and is one of the most significant and exquisite looking Sun Temples in India. Located in Modhera in the Mehsana district of Gujarat, this sun tempe might not match the Konark Sun Temple in sheer size, but the intricacy and beauty of Modhera Sun Temple has a charm of its own with its splendor architectural magnificence. Modhera Sun Temple is one of the trinities of the famous sun temples in India, the other two being the Martand Surya Temple in South Kashmir and the Konark Sun Temple in Odisha.
A magnificent blend of culture, architecture, history, and stories, Modhera Sun Temple is a treat to the eyes and a personification of awe-inspiring beauty. The existence of Modhera Sun Temple dates back to even older than that of Konark Sun Temple and some of the structure is in ruins, but the pristine view of the landscape and the grand construction is still standing gloriously with the story of the past inscribed in its walls. In 2014, the temple entered the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During the evening, the temple glows to a glittering delight with its demonstration of the Light and Sound Show. After witnessing the spectacular architectural beauty during the day, the Surya Mandir can also be best witnessed after 4 pm with all the colorful lights and the sound of soulful music which is a symphony to the ears. The temple also provides a stunning background for the annual Modhera Dance Festival, also called as Uttarardh Mahotsav or Modhera Utsav. The event celebrates dance and culture of not only Gujarat but of the entire country. The dance festival is held in the month of January to accord with the ending of the Uttarayan Festival, the popular Kite Festival of Gujarat .
The region of Modhera draws its origins past the historic figures and in the realms of Hindu mythology with its mentions in the Skanda Purana and the Brahma Purana. The majestic Sun Temple of Modhera is believed to have been built in the proximity to the river Pushpavati during the reign of King Bhima I of the Chaulukya (Soni) dynasty, who were believed to be the descendants of Lord Surya, between 1026-1027 years, though the exact date is not agreed upon by any historian. This date relates to the Gregorian calendar year 1026-1027 and it has been established that the temple was constructed during King Bhim’s reign. Though, one thing is agreed that the main temple and the Kunda (man-made pond) had been constructed earlier than the Sabhamandap and the decorative torans which were built extensively during the reign of Bhim I's son and heir Karna.
There are mainly two theories pertaining to its destruction. One story tells that Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the city of Modhera around 1025 and were faced by the army of King Bhimdev. But they were not very successful in defending the attack and Mahmud Ghazni raided the sun temple and left after looting it. The Chaulukyas rebuild the temple only to get re-attacked by Allaudin Khilji on a later date. Another story tells that Mahmud Ghazni actually attacked the temple and left with the main deity of Lord Sun which was made of gold. The temple was then destroyed by the attacks of Allaudin Khilji which left it in ruins. Whatever the events were, the original idol of the deity is no longer at the shrine and no reverence had been presented ever since the idol went missing.
The magnificence of Modhera Sun Temple lies in its architecture which is built in the classic Maru-Gurjara style of architecture. The architectural style is related to the Chaulukya Dynasty (Solanki dynasty) that reigned over what is present-day Gujarat and some parts of Rajasthan between the 10th and the 13th century. The Maru-Gurjara architecture flourished during the Chaulukya rule and had a unique feature that is the striking and intricately carved outer walls. Mother's Sun Temple is no such exception and is known for its spectacular richly decorated exterior walls. The craftsmen associated with the construction of the temple let their creativity and imagination to soar high and have truly weaved dreams in sandstone. Carvings such as of elephants running horizontally across the temple walls, various figurines showing characters from the epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other Hindu pantheons, and several aspects of human life such as procreation and creation, men and women in various erotic postures, women dancing, and the process of childbirth are also depicted in the walls. Every carving and each sculpture that decorate the outer and inner walls of the temple are the testament to the abilities of the craftsmen who made the vision of the people who envisioned it come alive.
“Although the roofs of the buildings and the tower above the sanctuary are ruined, the harmonically balanced arrangements of the site give the impression of an extraordinary work of art. Its size together with the extravagant abundance of sculptural decoration is fascinating.”
- Wibke Lobo in his book, The Sun Temple of Modhera-A Monograph on Architecture and Iconography
The Modhera Sun Temple is nestled in a well-landscaped garden whose pathway has now been made clear with lush green lawns on either side and several figurines placed there that have been discovered by the Archaeological department. The temple can be divided into three main structures, the first being the Suryakund which is a water body, Mandapa (also referred to as Sabhamandap or Rang Mandap), and the most important structures are the main shrine comprising Garbhagriha and the Gudhamandapa.
Surya Kund, locally known as Ram Kund, is a rectangular water body constructed on the premises of the Sun Temple that has emerald colored water in its depths and is surrounded by stairs from all four sides. The water reflecting the stairs gives an illusion that the stairs are going beyond the water into infinity. Measuring 176 feet * 120 feet, the intricate architectural design around the Surya Kund distinguishes it from most of the water bodies in temples around India. The architecture is like that of step wells built in the region, but the peaceful ambiance and landscape seem to have taken the design to a zenith.
There are 108 miniature shrines placed on all four sides with geometric accuracy which are dedicated to several Gods and Goddesses of Hindu mythology. Panels illustrating sensual scenes can also be seen near the steps of the Kund and the main shrines that can be seen from here include the Shitalamata temple, Vishnu temple, temple of Ganesh, and Shiva.
The sheer beauty of Sabhamandap and the magnificence of the striking design on the pillars and walls make you mull over the architectural geniuses of the craftsmen who have etched poetry in sandstone. The soul of Modhera Sun Temple, Sabhamandap is believed to have been built after the main shrine or Garbhagriha and carves the epitome of excellence in terms of its architectural brilliance. The Sabhamandap comprises 52 pillars which are comprehended as representing the 52 weeks of the year and are intricately carved with scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana as well. Other carvings such as Bhim lifting an elephant with his bare hands and the Narasimha avatar of Lord Vishnu are depicted on other columns.
The ceilings here are walnut-shaped and are supported by eight pillars placed in an octagonal shape. The structure looks like a parallelogram with pointy edges that renders the Sabhamandap look like a star-shaped edifice when viewed from the top. From the Sabhamandap you enter the Garbhagriha and Gudhamandapa.
Behind the Sabhamandap standing tall are the Garbhagriha along with Gudhamandapa which are constructed in a rectangular shape in equal proportions. The Gudhamandapa is bare from the inside with pillars supporting the ceiling while the idol of the deity in the main shrine of Garbhagriha is missing. It is believed that an idol of Sun God made of gold was placed here with a diamond crown on its head. The temple is designed in such a way that during the equinox the first rays of the sun would graze the surface of the water in the Kund, then piercing through the Sabhamandap and Gudhamandapa directly fell onto the diamond atop the deity. The refraction would scatter the light from the diamond in all directions rendering the temple a stunning glow.
Today, the Garbhagriha is empty without its idol and the Gudhamandapa is also simple apart from some pillars and sculptures. There is a Pradakshina path within the Gudhamandapa for devotees to circumambulate the Garbhagriha. The visitors today, imagine the idol in the Garbhagriha and circumambulate the path with belief.
Modhera is accessible by road which is connected to all the other cities of Gujarat. The train station at Mehsana is a 30-minute ride for Modhera and the nearest airport is at Ahmedabad which is 101 kilometers from Modhera. You can get a cab from the airport or a bus from the bus station to reach the location.
The truly splendid architecture of ancient India, the Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat, is a Hindu temple dedicated to the solar deity Surya and was built after 1026 CE during the Chaulukya dynasty. The temple is designed in the Maru-Gurjara style of architecture in a way that in every equinox the first sun rays fall on the diamond placed on the head of Sun God. The architectural brilliance of the temple and its significance makes it a worthwhile destination.