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India: Gujarat: Adalaj, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Little Rann of Kutch, Mandvi, Modhera, Nal Sarovar, Patan, Rann of Kutch

Modhera, Gujarat, India: Shining bright
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief

Sabha Mandap, Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat, India

The Sun Temple at Modhera is dedicated to the Hindu Sun-God, Surya. It was built in 1026 AD by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. This temple depicts the essence of ancient times. The sculptures and architecture present in this temple are still magnificent after all these years.

Pillars, Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat, India Honestly speaking a visit to Modhera was not on my list. In fact, on my way to Patan from Ahmedabad I read a board announcing the Modhera Sun Temple. Since it was only a few kms. of detour, I decided to check the premises on my way back. Boy, was I surprised?

We reached the gates of the Sun Temple just before 5PM, the closing time. We had to rush through. Despite the paucity of time, we hired a guide to show us around. I was absolutely fascinated by the architecture and the sculptures.

AD 1026 was the time when Somnath and the adjoining area was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni and reeled under the effects of his invasion. The Solankis, however, regained much of their lost power and splendour. Anahilvad Patan, the Solanki capital, was restored to glory. Royalty and traders jointly contributed to build grand temples.

Solankis were considered to be Suryavanshi, Gurjar or descendants of Sun God. The temple was so designed that the first rays of the sun fell on the deity of Surya, the Sun God, at the time of equinoxes. The temple is partially in ruins after it was destroyed by Allauddin Khilji. However, enough has remained of the temple to convey its grandeur.

Erotic Sculpture, Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat, India Surya Kund, also known as Ramakunda, is a large rectangular stepped tank measuring 53.6 x 36.6 meters under the east face of Sabhamandap. The Kund stored pure water. Devotees were required to perform ceremonial ablutions here before worshiping the Sun God. The Surya Kund is a fine example of geometry. The organization of stone into composition gives shape to a dazzling pattern of art. It is proportioned with innumerable stone steps leading devotees down to its base. 108 miniature shrines are carved in between the steps inside the tank. The number 108 is considered to be auspicious by Hindus.

Lord Surya, Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat, India There are four terraces to descend to reach the bottom of the tank. Small pyramid-shaped steps are for each terrace. Gods and Goddesses depicted are immortalized in stone - Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesh, Lord Natraj and Goddess Sitlamata carvings are a marvel created during the Solanki era.

Two huge ornamental arches called Toran form a gateway to the Sabha Mandap. The Sabha Mandap with ornately carved pillars and ceiling was the hall of religious gatherings. It is open from all sides and has 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks in a year. The carvings depict episodes from the Hindu epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Krishna Lila.

Between the Sabha Mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful hall with pillars and arches, whose facade has been renovated and partially redone. The walls have 12 niches showing the different aspects of the Sun God in each month.

The Guda Mandap or the sanctum sanctorum, opens with sunrise and closes itself with sunset. The entire temple is based on an inverted lotus-base plinth. It was designed so that the rays of the rising and setting sun on the day of equinox (20 March and 21 September generally) fell on the bejeweled pure gold idol of Sun God riding on his chariot driven by Saarthi Arun. Sun's chariot has seven horses and Saarthi Arun sits on the fourth. All the gold idols (including the charioteer, chariot and horses) were placed in a pit that was 15 feet deep and filled with gold coins. It was built by the Solankis in honour of their ancestral God. It was plundered by Mahmud Gazni.

Surya Kund, Sun Temple, Modhera, Gujarat, India All important religions of India like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have presented erotic motifs in their art. In the days when temple was built, sex was neither suppressed nor moralized. It was seen as an act that brought about fertility. Hence at this temple a most profound depiction of sexual iconography is displayed, at the exterior walls of the main temple itself.

I thanked myself for making it a point to visit Modhera. It was a feast for the eyes. Ahmedabad was only 90 minutes away that welcomed me for a good night’s sleep.

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