“Modhera” – The radiant Sun Temple

The Sun Temple of Modhera is one of the few shrines, dedicated to the Sun God, situated on the banks of Pushpavati River, near the town of Mehsana in Gujarat. The temple’s architect is not known but its sheer grandeur has led art historian Percy Brown to call him a “weaver of dreams”.

From “Rani-ki-Vav”, the Sun Temple is about 35 kms to the south, on the return journey to Ahmedabad. From Ahmedabad, it is just 100 kms away. There were lot of tourists visiting the Sun Temple being a Sunday but very few guides were available. I decided to explore on my own with some help from wikipedia.

Interestingly, like many other historic sites in India, Modhera too was ‘rediscovered’ by the British in 1809 by Col. Monier Williams. In 1026, the temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty (believed to be the descendants of Sun God). Modhera was once a mighty capital of the Solankis when they ruled here from 942 to 1305 CE. This ancient temple revives the reminiscences of Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa. Turning in the pages of history, one can notice the mention of Modhera in the scriptures like Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana. The surrounding area of Modhera used to be known as Dharmaranya (forest of righteousness) and the place was blessed by Lord Rama.

The temple is not a place of worship yet the brilliant architecture of the temple is one of its own class. In 2014, Modhera Sun Temple was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple encompasses three different yet axially-aligned and integrated constituents. Just as Konark Temple, this shrine is designed in a manner, so that the first rays of the Sun cast an image of Lord Surya. The Temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni yet the architectural grandeur is not diminished. No matter what is left, yet the remnants provide a great enchantment to behold.

Erected on a high platform, the Temple appears majestic with its grand structure. The ‘Toranas’ (Archways) that lead to the main halls overshadow the absence of spires or shikhars, that are out of the scene. The exterior walls are engraved with intricate carvings, boasting about the mastery of art in those times. Every single inch of the structure is covered with the sculptural patterns of Gods, Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers. Actually, the Sun Temple is divided into three parts namely Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap. 

Surya Kund is a deep stepped tank in front of the temple. The tank was named after the Lord Surya. In the earlier times, this 100 sq meter rectangular tank was used to store pure water. The devotees used to take a halt here for ceremonial ablutions before moving towards the temple. Not less than 108 shrines mark the steps of this tank including the shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Shitala Mata and many others. In front of this tank, a huge ‘torana’ (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.

Sabha Mandap refers to an assembly hall where religious gatherings and conferences were conducted. This hall is open from all the four sides and has 52 delicately carved pillars depicting 52 weeks in a year. The intricate carvings depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. In order to get into the Sanctum Sanctorum, one has to cross the passage with pillars and arches.

Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum that is supported by a lotus-base plinth. Once, this hall was used to house the idol of the Sun God. The designing of the hall was done in a way, so that the idol gets the first glimpse of the Sun at equinoxes. However, the idol was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni yet the walls represent the Sun God in his 12 different facets of each month. The carved walls also depict the aspects of human life like the vicious circle of birth and death. The façade of this hall was renovated in recent years, despite the fact that the roof over the Guda Mandap had already been shattered.

The famous Modhera dance festival, held in the third week of January every year, is the major dance festival organised to keep the Indian traditions and culture alive.

After visiting the two great architectural wonders of our country, I was left in awe. Modhera reminded me of Belur-Halebeedu temples and the architecture was so similar though located more than 1,000 miles away. India has so much to offer and we have so much to explore, with no end. To know more about Rani-ki-Vav please click on this LINK