Sun Temple Modhera

By Sanjeev Nayyar [email protected] | 2003

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About 100 kms from Amdavad say 1.5 hours drive is the Sun Temple Modhera. It was probably constructed during the reign of King Bhimdev I (1022-1063 A.D.) as it is notified by the inscribed slab in the sanctum wall which reads ‘Vikram Samvat’ 1082 i.e. 1025-1026 a.d. Interesting it was during the same period that the Dilwara temples at Mount Abu were constructed by Vimal Shah and the grand Brihadesvara temple at Thanjavur in South India. The whole complex is set in a rather well maintained garden almost a park. The temple marks the greatest achievement of the Solanki style. Standing on a raised terrace (plinth), this temple consists of three separate elements axially aligned and integrated in a balanced architectural composition. These comprise 1) the Main Temple complex including sanctum with ambulatory, Kapili, closed Mandapa with lateral transepts and porch, 2) A detached Sabhamandapa with a Torana in front and 3) a large flagged tank decorated with numerous miniature shrines. What you see is the tank Ram Kund; one is Sabhamandapa and behind is the main temple.

Destroyed by the Mahmud of Ghazni Modhera still retains enough of its structure to convey the grandeur of its conception. Every inch of the edifice, both inside and outside, is magnificently carved with Gods and Goddesses, birds and beasts and flowers. The Sun Temple is the site of an annual festival of Indian classical dances organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The festival is held every year in January for three days. The idea is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in. You see an informative board. Unfortunately there was no Guide in the complex.

A front view of the complex, Ram Kund in front with temple complex behind. Note the steps that go up to the sabhamandapa and two columns right in front of the temple a close up of which you will see in the next picture. The temples right in front picture are damaged without their mandapas. The temple at Modhera is the most important of all sun-temples built in the whole of Gujarat. It enjoys the same significance as other two well known sun-temples in Kashmir (Martand) and Orissa (Konark). The remains of this magnificent architectural monument still reflect the glimpses of elegance and testify the sanctity of the site.

A close up of the columns that supported a Torana arches that no longer exist. This is the entrance to the Sabhamandapa when you enter from the Kund side. Note the intricate carvings. Modhera or Modherapura also known as Mundera is said to have been the original settlement of modha Brahmans. Having its legendary past relating to the Ramayana it is further believed that modha Brahmans received Modhera as a krsnarpana on the occasion of the marriage of Rama and Sita. According to the Skanda Purana (3.2.40-67) after defeating Ravana, Lord Rama consulted Muni Vasishta to show him a place of pilgrimage where he could go and purify himself of the sin of Brahma hatya (the slaying of a Brahman). The Muni showed him dharmaranya.

In dharmaranya. Lord Rama settled at a village called Modherak and performed a yajna there. Thereafter he established a village and named it Sitapura. It is believed that the village Modherah mentioned above later came to be known as Modhera. The Sitapura village is about 8 km from Becharagi. Once a flourishing town and seaport, Modhera stands 24 km south of Anahitapataka (Patan) on the left bank of Pushpavati river. Standing on a plinth you have a closer view of the temples. Right of picture is Kund that has small temples on its four corners as you see right in the center of this picture. In front is Sabhamandapa. Behind is the main temple complex.

The Sabhamandapa described as a ‘Magnificent pile of Pillared splendor’ is a diagonally disposed hall with an octagonal arrangement of central pillars carrying torana – arches, alternatively triangular and semi circular. It is entered from each cardinal direction by a pillared projection decorated with semi circular torana. In front of the Sabhamandapa stand large pillars, overlooking the tank that you saw in pic 4.

What you see is carvings on a column at one of the four entrances to the Sabhamandapa.

The dance hall has four entrances at the four cardinal points, and it is a little gem of its type in the integrity of fractal geometric principles that determine its fluted design. There are some remarkable bracketed pillars sharing the burden of keeping the roof up, and the interior is profusely illustrated with carvings of scenes from the Mahabharat and Ramayan. Although the picture has not come well it gives you an idea of the size of each column.

The Sabha Mandapa has an exquisitely carved ceiling as you see. "In viewing the Modhera temple as a whole the aesthetic sense at once responds to the elegance of its proportions, the entire composition being lit with the living flame of inspiration. But apart from its material beauty, its designer has succeeded in communicating to it an atmosphere of spiritual grace”.

The closed mandapa has an octagonal arrangement of elegantly decorated tall pillars with ornamental torana – arches thrown across the axial pairs of pillars. This is the entrance to the Main Temple complex including sanctum with ambulatory, Kapili, closed Mandapa with lateral transepts and porch. The inner sanctum, which housed the presiding deity, faces east and was so designed that the solar equinoxes the first rays of the rising sun lit up the image of Surya. We were told the deity made in gold was taken away by Mahmud. Fortunately the toran arch at entrance is in tact.

The exterior wall of the Mandapa is relieved by niches containing images of the twelve Adityas, Sikpalas, Goddesses and Apsaras. The exterior of the sanctum has many carved images of the Sun God, portrayed as wearing a belt and long shoes as in the Dakshinaarka temple at Gaya. You see carvings at temple entrance.

Carvings at the rear side of the main temple.

Carvings at side wall of the main temple.

Surya-Kunda locally known as Ram Kund is conspicuous by its architectural treatment. The tank is rectangular in shape. The side of this Kunda descends to the water in the terrace. The broad terraces are decorated with shrines. The important among them are the shrines dedicated to the Goddess Sitalamata, Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva (Natesha) and Seshasayi Vishnu. The Surya-kunda also known as Rama-kunda is rectangular and measures 176 feet north to south, by 120 feet east to west. An overview of the Surya Kunda, to the left of picture is the main temple.

This picture was taken from the Sabhamandapa. Note the well maintained garden behind and the two small well carved temples in front. Happy to say the water looked clean.

A closer view of one side of the Surya Kunda, this is as we enter the temple complex. In the centre you see a largish temple with two smaller temples on either side with numerous small temples at every level. This is the design on three sides of the Kund except the side that you enter the Sabhamandapa from. Unfortunately not all temples exist to this day.

This picture is of the icon in the largest of the smaller temples that you saw in the earlier picture. Note the carvings at temple entrance. In the absence of a guide do not know details of icon inside of the temple.

This is another view of the Surya Kunda, here again you see a large temple in the center with smaller ones on either side.

After the largish temples that you saw in the previous pictures now you see a series of small temples at different levels. Narrations based on notes taken from various sites. There is something special about Modhera, experienced very high levels of energy there. Am glad the Gujarat government has spruced up the place. There is a Gujarat Tourism restaurant there too.

About 14 kms from Modhera is a Shaktipeth by the name Bahucharaji Mata whose picture you see. I was running out of time so could not click the step wells of Patan which am told was only a few kms away.