Modhera Sun Temple Gujarat
It was a bright sunny day as we drove towards Modhera Sun Temple Gujarat from Ahmedabad, located 100 kms away from the city. And in this small village, which is about 33 kms from Patan, the ancient capital of the Solanki Dynasty is a grand edifice dedicated to the Surya or the Sun God.
The Solankis were worshippers of the sun as they called themselves Suryavanishis or the descendants of the Sun God. King Bhimdev had built this temple in the 11th century dedicating it to Surya. It is believed that the worship of Surya would have dated back to the 5th century BC and it lasted almost until the medieval period.
My first glimpse of the Modhera Sun temple Gujarat was its glowing reflection in a large tank built in front of it called the Suryakund and Ramakund. A step well by itself with four terraces, I can see several miniature shrines – 108 says the guide who follows me around, hoping I will hire him. The Ramakund or the Suryakund is as auspicious as the main temple and the shrines inside are dedicated to a pantheon of deities include Vishnu, Ganesha, Shiva and Sitlamata.
The main temple faces east so that the rays of the sun lit the idol carved in the main shrine. The structure is divided into three parts- starting from the Ramakunda which then leads to a Sabha Madapa or the assembly hall called Sita Chavadi and then the final garba griha or the shrine.
As I walk towards the main temple, I enter the Sabha Mandapa through the large two ornamental arches that forms a gateway. I see 52 pillars inside, representing time and the 52 weeks in a year.
Built on the base of a lotus flower that symbolically opens and closes with sunrise and sunset, the Modhera Sun temple Gujarat is an ode to time. Besides the 52 pillars, I see the 12 niches representing the months with different images of Surya carved on them. There he rides in one of them, a chariot drawn by seven horses with the God of dawn , Arun as his charioteer.
A montage of images carvings depicting deities and demi gods besides stories from the epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata decorate the walls of the temple. The sculptures also narrate stories from the pantheon of other deities. .Besides Surya, there are also images of the Devas – Indra, their king, Agni, the God of fire, Varuna, the God of the seas, Vishwakarma, the Architect of Gods, besides other deities.
Modhera’s story dates back to the Ramayana according to legends. It is believed that Lord Rama arrived here on Sage Vashistha’s advice to wash off his sins for committing Brahma-hatya as he had killed Ravana, a Brahmin by birth. He came to a village called Modherak to perform a yagna and called it Sitlapur. According to the Puranas, it is believed that the region was called Dharamaranya and the village later came to be known as Modhera.
Walking around I can see quite a few erotic images as well, like the ones depicted in Konark. The universal cycle of life with birth and death is portrayed here as well and as my guide says, it is eventually a depiction of time .
The temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni who took the original idol that was carved in gold, which was then housed in a deep pit covered with gold coins. The shrine was eventually destroyed by Alauddin Khilji before it was restored recently. However standing there and seeing it sparkling in the evening sun’s rays, I realize that the sun may have set on the Solankis many centuries ago, but their monuments speak of their glory.
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