Modhera Sun Temple

Modhera Sun temple is one of the 3 Ancient Sun temples of India. The other 2 are Konark in Orissa & Martand in Kashmir.

Built on the banks of the Pushpavali river, this temple dates back to 1026 CE. It was built by Bhima 1 of the Chalukya-Solanki Dynasty during the Golden period of Gujarat. Built-in Maru-Gurjara style also known as Chalukya style of architecture which was prominent in most of the temples built during that period including Dilwara Temples and Rani Ki Vav.

Why Modhera Sun Temple is in complete ruins & not worshiped

This Grand Temple was Plundered & Looted multiple times. Mahmud Of Ghazni raided Gujarat in 1024 CE. He plundered Somnath Temple and looted it. He even killed 50,000 devotees and took away booty worth 20 million dollars. During these attacks, he targeted Modhera Sun temple too.

Later in 1299, CE Allauddin Khilji attacked Gujarat and destroyed many temples including this one. When he was not content with just looting the temple, his soldiers under his command placed gunpowder in the Garbhagriha and exploded it which damaged the main temple and even caused the main shikhara to collapse.

First Ghazni and then Khilji plundered the main idol. They defaced most of the structures and broke the main gates. The hands, breasts, and face of most of the statues were broken. The main Idol enshrined in the temple made of Gold was broken and looted along with all the gold & diamonds.

Original idol of Sun God no longer exists at the Modhera Sun Temple. Prayer is not offered in temples where idols are broken, defaced or missing.

Representation of Lord Sun in Hindu Mythology

  • In Hindu mythology, Sun God travels on a seven-horse, twelve-wheeled chariot, driven by Arun (God of reddish glow), Usha ( Goddess of Dawn), and Prattyusha on his sides.
  • He is holding a lotus in both of his hands, which is his favorite flower.
  • The seven horses represent Seven days of the week and seven colors of the light.
  • 12 wheels represent 12 months in a year.
  • The basis of yoga practice begins with the Sun Salutations, Surya namaskar.

The Sun causes day and night on the earth,
because of revolution,
when there is night here, it is day on the other side,
the sun does not really rise or sink. —Aitareya Brahmana III.44 (Rigveda)

Interesting facts about Modhera Sun Temple

This temple is not just a place of worship but a complete knowledge hub. This is how the knowledge was passed from one generation to another.

  1. The entire life cycle of human life is carved, starting right from the time it is conceived with an act of intercourse to the death depicted by sculptures performing the last rites.
  2. Various events of Mahabharat, Ramayan, Krishna Leela & Vishnu Avatar.
  3. 52 Pillars representing 52 weeks of the year.
  4. 364 elephants and 1 lion carved out depicting 365 days in a year.
  5. Walls depicting Solah Singhar how women would dress up in those days, from extremely delicate jewelry to elaborate hairstyles even wearing lip color and high heels was a norm back then.
  6. Temple walls don’t shy away from erotic art too, teaching people various poses of Kama. It is a mini Khajuraho. All the erotic art on walls is higher than 4 feet making it inaccessible for kids.
  7. Many activities from the daily lives of people like hunting, agriculture, celebrations are carved on walls.
  8. Brilliant example of Ancient Indian Architecture.
  9. Temple passes through Tropic of Cancer, giving us a glimpse of how evolved technologies were back then.
  10. Temple is built in a way that during equinox(when day and night are equal in length), sun rays will fall on the diamond ornamented on the head of Main deity Sun God, which illuminates the entire temple with beautiful Golden Glow.
  11. 12 different styles of Sun God representing 12 months.
  12. Built using two different ways of locking system – male-female interlock system & rock locked with wood making it earthquake-resistant.
  13. In the case of an earthquake, the structure would shake but not fall.
  14. Some idols of Sun are in Irani Style with Gumboots hinting Iranian influence during that era.
  15. 7 horses of the sun represent 7 days of the week.
  16. The horizontal stairs in the Kund are of different heights, making it easier for adults to walk down with their kids to avoid falling.
  17. Sun-Earth distance is roughly 108 Sun diameters and the diameter of the Sun itself is 108 times that of Earth, represented by 108 small temples in Surya Kunda.

The entire temple complex consists of 3 main sections

  1. Surya KundaStepwell water tank
  2. Sabha Mandap – Meeting hall or Dance hall
  3. Garbh Grah – Main Temple

Surya or Ram Kunda

The first part of the temple is rectangular Stepwell based Kunda (tank) which has 108 small and medium-sized temples on all 4 sides. In earlier times it was used to take a dip before entering the temple. One side of the Kunda gives direct entry to the temple. Kunda is home to many turtles now. One of the main temples here is of Sitladevi Mata temple (Goddess to cure smallpox )

Sabha Mandap (Meeting Hall)

When you enter Sabha Mandap from the Kund two tall pillars (Torans) welcome you. Sabha Mandap is adorned with 52 pillars that have an elaborate carving of Ramayana, Mahabharat, Krishna Leela, Women adorning themselves in the mirror and few erotic carvings too. The ceiling has an intricate design similar to Dilwara & Ranakpur Temples.

Garbha Graha – Main Temple

The main temple stands on a lotus-shaped structure. On top of Lotus-petal is a panel that consists of 364 elephants and 1 lion representing no. of days in a year. No two elephants are similar in design. The next panel has carvings of human life at various stages, the daily life of people back then, many dance forms, Kamasutra, musical instruments, student life, hunting, celebrations, women delivering babies and death.

12 Sculptures of Sun God & Goddess Parvati

Deities representing different directions & Vastu

  1. East – Lord Indra – Deity of Rain.
  2. North EastShiva – Always keep your Puja room in NE.
  3. North – Lord Kuber – Deity of Treasure – North facing house brings prosperity, keep valuables, treasure in North.
  4. North West – Lord Vayu – Deity of Air, Have a window in NW.
  5. West – Lord Varun – Deity of Groundwater – Keep drinking water in West.
  6. South West – Demon, Suited for master bedroom.
  7. South – Lord Yamaha – Deity of Death, Keep bathroom, heavy storage in South.
  8. South East – Lord Agni – Lord of Fire – Keep Kitchen & electronics appliances in SE.

Main Sun Idol enshrined in Garbha Grah was made of pure gold and ornamented with diamonds. It was Sun sitting on his chariot of 7 horses which was driven by Lord Arun (Deity of SunRays ). Since the Idol is missing now, all you can see is a deep plinth that was once filled with gold coins. It is said that the diamonds on the idol would light the temple in a beautiful golden glow.

Exterior part of the main temple

The exterior of the wall is still in good condition, every section is beautifully adorned with detailed carvings of Gods & Goddess. There are 12 idols of Sun and 12 of Goddess Parvati.

Elaborate hairstyles & Singhar

Krishna Leela

Ramayan

Mahabharat

Various phases of human life

Vishnu, Ganpati & Vishvakarma sculptures

Modhera Sun temple erotic Art

There are erotic figures on the interior and exterior parts of the temple which implies that the temple was not just used for worshiping purposes but even as a learning center to educate people with 4 pillars of Hinduism: Dharma (Moral Values), Artha(prosperity), Kama(pleasure) & Moksha(Salvation). The Kama being an important pillar in Hinduism; these sculptures represent how sex education was passed from one generation to another which has become a taboo now.

Festivals dedicated to Sun God

  • Pongal in Tamil Naidu and Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra are the main Hindu festivals dedicated to the Sun God. These celebrate a good harvest and offer the first grain to Lord Sun.
  • Chhath Puja in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Nepal is another Hindu Festival dedicated to Surya Dev.

How to reach

  • Modhera is a 2 hours drive from Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar.
  • 30 minutes drive from Patan.

Stay

We stayed in The Grand Raveta in Patan, it is equipped with all the basic facilities.

Nearby Places to Visit

  • Rani ki Vav in Patan which is at a 40 minutes drive from here
  • Little Rann of Kutch ~ 90 min drive.
  • You can even visit Ahmedabad which is famous for many old architectures

Tips

  • Not a functional temple but, try to maintain the sanctity of the place.
  • The ideal season to visit is winter months, but during the equinox, you can see it in its full glory, when the rays of the sun will enter the main Shrine.
  • In the 3rd week of Jan, a 2-day Modhera Dance festival is organized. If possible, plan your trip around the same time.
  • Please hire a good guide.

Ancient Temples of India

“We can’t draw them on paper and they did on rocks”

Whenever I explore any part of India, I always try to visit old temples.
I am not a very religious person but I like to peek into the grand history and culture of our beautiful country. I feel our ancestors spent generations building these beautiful temples.
We can definitely spend a few hours to soak into their tranquility.
I will keep on adding more to the list as and when I visit more such place

1) Kailasha Temple – ( Ellora – Maharashtra)

  • Kailasha temple is definitely one of the wonders of the ancient world. Carved out of single rock and drilled down from top to bottom this 8th-century temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • This rock-cut temple is the largest monolithic structure in the world and took only 2 decades to build. Around 200000 tons of rock was removed with just hammer and chisel.which is a daunting task even in this era with all the modern facilities.
  • Temple walls are beautifully carved depicting many events of Ramayan and Mahabharat. Every corner of this temple tells a story – all you have to do is to sit and observe. 
  • Mughal ruler Aurangzeb tried to vandalize it with 1000 men for 3 years, but all he could do was minor damage here and there which speaks volumes about the craftsmanship of our ancestors. 
  • I visited it around sunset climbed the hill surrounding it and sat there wondering how that era must have been like, how many craftsmen might have worked day and night to finish it in just 20 years with zero precision of error.
  • In its full glory when decorated with diyas it would definitely have been the most beautiful sights to witness. If there is only one temple in your wishlist to visit in India, it has to be this one.

Tip: A little climb to the top of the hill will give you a splendid view of the grandeur of this massive temple.

2) Dilwara Group of Temple ( Mount Abu – Rajasthan)

  • Dilwara is a famous pilgrimage of the Jain community. There are five shrines within the huge complex dedicated to different gods.
    These temples are made of white marble and were built between the 11th to 13th centuries.
  • One can witness intricately carved beautifully designs on ceilings, entrance, and pillars. You can get lost in each and every design especially the ones carved on ceilings.
  • No camera or mobile phones are allowed inside the temple complex, this allows you to be present in the current moment and admire these beautiful monuments and experience-rich culture of Jainism.

3) Martand Sun Temple – (Kashmir)

  • This 8th-century temple is dedicated to the Sun god ( Martand means Sun in Sanskrit) and was built by ruler Lalitaditya of the Korkota Dynasty. The foundation of the temple complex was laid somewhere between 35- and 500 CE.
  • It is known as the most elegant structures ever built in the world during that period due to its breathtaking architecture and grandeur.
  • Constructed in limestone the entire temple complex is built on top of the plateau. 
    Write H. Gotezi ” The temple of Martand set the model for Kashmir Hindu Art in all the following centuries. Thus Lalitaditya must be regarded as the founder not only of the short-lived empire but also of six centuries of Kashmir Hindu Art.”
  • Muslim ruler Sikandar Butshikan destroyed it in the 15th century. It took his army 13 months to fully damage and destroy it, and in the end, his army left the temple burning for many days. It stood in ruins since then and even today one gets surprised over the art and skill of the builders by looking at its ruins.
  • I visited Martand temple in 2009 and have lost all the photos from that trip, hopefully, soon I will get to visit Kashmir again.
    You can check the glory of this temple in this Bollywood song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul3wufPJ4UE

4) Hampi group of temples

I have consolidated list of all the Hampi ruins and temples in this blog post –https://rahgeir.blogspot.com/2019/11/ruins-of-hampi.html

5) Chennakeshava & Halebidu Temples ( Hassan – Karnataka )

  • Chennakesava temple is a Vishnu temple on the banks of river Kaveri while Halebidu Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Both of these temples are grandest examples of Hoysala architecture.
  • These temples were built in the early 12th  & 13th Centuries, during this period Belur was the capital of the Hoysala Kingdom until annexed by Allauddin Khilji. The Hoysala Dynasty ruled over three centuries from the 10-14th century and built many beautiful temples in Karnataka.
  • These temples have vast complex and beautifully carved structures giving them an old-world charm. Walls are adorned with many important events from Mahabharat and Ramayan.
  • It took 3 generations and around 100 years to build the Chennakeshava temple. Idols are carved so beautifully that they shine and almost look like grillwork.

6) Shravanabelagola Temple ( Karnataka)

  • The Gomateshwara statue is a 57-foot high statue dedicated to the Lord Bahubali. Built around 983 A.D it is the world’s largest monolithic statue. Chandragupta Maurya spent the last few years of his life here post converting to Jainism.
  • Located on Vindhyagiri Hill one has to climb around 600+ stairs without shoes to reach the main temple. On August 5, 2007, the statue at Shravanabelagola was voted by the readers of Times of India as the first of the Seven Wonders of India.

7) Jagdish Temple ( Udaipur- Rajasthan)

  • Built around 1651 Jagdish temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is an architectural marvel of Mewar dynasty, The temple is in the heart of the city close to most of the tourist places in Udaipur.
  • The temple consists of beautiful carvings on the walls and ceilings and is raised on a tall terrace

8) Mahadev Temple Tambi Surla (Goa)

  • This 12th Century Shiva Temple is the oldest temple in Goa. One of the few temples which survived religious intolerance during Muslim & Portuguese attacks due to its remote location in the deep forest.
  • If you want to explore something offbeat in Goa then you should definitely add this to your list.

9) Ranakpur Temple ( Rajasthan)

  • Located in the lush green Aravali mountain range and built-in the 15th-century is this beautiful Jain temple. It was built using white marble and is one of the largest and most important temples of Jain culture.
  • Walls and pillars are carved with intricate designs and is a masterpiece of architecture. Ranakpur is near Udaipur and can be easily covered in a day’s trip from Udaipur.
  • detailed post here http://triponcards.com/ranakpur-treat-to-eyes-and-soul/

10) Samadeeshwara Temple (Rajasthan)

  • Temple is dedicated to lord shiva and was built by Raja Bhoja in 11th Century AD. Trimurti Shiva is enshrined in the sanctum and the interior and exterior of the temple are elaborately carved with many beautiful sculptures.
  • On the backside of the temple is sacred Sunder Kund.

11) Lepakshi Temple ( Andhra Pradesh)

  • Lepakshi is famous for its temples dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, and Veerabhadra. During the exile of Lord Ram when Ravan was forcefully carrying Sita away to Lanka, Jatayu tried to protect Sita and was wounded in that fight. When Lord Rama reached the spot, he saw the bird and compassionately said  “Le Pakshi” — ‘rise bird’.
  • The temple is also famous for the hanging pillars which are only suspended from the roof and don’t touch the ground. Don’t miss the massive Nandi statue a few meters away from the temple.

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Ranakpur – treat to eyes and soul.

Dedicated to the first Tirthankara Lord Adinath Ranakpur Jain temple ~ 100kms from Udaipur is the largest & one of the most important temples of Jain Culture. It is also a popular tourist destination and is visited by Indians as well as foreign tourists.

Temple was built by a Jain businessman in the 15th century amidst the forest in the Aravalli range, it got its name from Mewar King Rana Kumbha who donated land for the temple.

More than 2700 workers were involved in building it over 50 years, I feel these craftsmen were driven by deep-rooted faith and devotion towards their lord. They seem to have surrendered to their gods who guided them in the journey and the final result was a blissful treat to the eyes and soul.

Built-in Solanki (Maru – Gurjara) architecture and carved of white marble for which boulders were transported from nearby areas.

It is built on an elevated platform. All the walls, entrance, and ceilings are ornamented with intricate carvings and designs. I couldn’t find any section of the temple left unadorned. It even has an elevated sitting area where you can enjoy views with some cool breeze, definitely helps in getting some relief from the scorching heat.

At the center of the temple are four identical images of the Lord Tirthankara which are facing in all four directions, hence it is also known the Chaumukh Temple. An idol in all four direction represents the Lord’s pursuit in all directions.

If you have ever visited Dilwara Jain temples you can’t miss the similarity especially the elaborate designs hanging at the entrance.

Temple was damaged during the Mughals invasions, post that it was lost in history and even briefly used by dacoits. Later re-discovered renovated and opened for pilgrimage.

Lord Parshvanatha with 1008 serpent head depicting story where the serpent had protected Lord.

Marble marvel not only on walls but even the ceilings of this temple are also intricately carved with detailed geometric designs.

Temple has more than 1400 Pillars all carved in a different manner without any two having the same design.

Few of the 1400+ marble pillars

How to reach

  • ~ 2.5 hours drive from Udaipur
  • ~ 1 hour from Kumbhalgad
  • ~ 3-4 hours drive from Jodhpur

Where did we stay

We didn’t stay in Ranakpur, we chose Kumbhalgad as our base.

Travel Tips

  • Ranakpur is a popular day trip from Udaipur you can combine it with Kumbhalgad and Eklingji.
  • Non-Jains and cameras are allowed between 12.00 PM and 5.00 PM only.
  • Oct-March will be the best season to visit to avoid Indian Summers.
  • We had lunch in the temple Bhojhnalay. Simple unlimited Indian Thali in community kitchen for less than 100 Indian rupees.
  • Dress modestly carry a scarf \ long skirt to cover your legs and arms for ladies as well as for men.
  • Avoid carrying any leather items, keep them in your car or submit then at the security counter.
  • Respect religious sentiments.
  • Maintain peace and please ask Pandit Ji before clicking photos of the main idol.