Poetry in stone, Rabindranath Tagore called it aptly, and the exquisite Sun Temple in Konark lives up to the eulogy. Even though it ceased to be a living temple a few decades after its consecration in the 13th century, it draws nearly 12,000 visitors every day, many of whom come with devotion in their heart. The celebrated temple apart, the sleepy town of Konark is a far cry from the vibrant Puri. It makes for an ideal destination for a wonderful, laidback holiday. Life in Konark revolves almost completely around tourist activities related to the temple.
The Sun Temple
&ldquoHere the language of stone surpasses the language of man,&rdquo is what Rabindranath Tagore was prompted to remark when he first set his eyes on the Sun Temple, and a cursory glance is enough to understand why. Conceived as a grand chariot drawn by seven horses, with 12 decorated wheels on either side, this temple is dedicated to the Sun God. The temple has all the defining elements of Kalinga architecture. It is partly in ruins, but the intricate stonework and colossal size are awe-inspiring. Of the horses, only one stands intact. The temple was built in the 13th century by the Ganga Dynasty ruler Narasimhadev I (1258&ndash64). It is believed that the main tower, now reduced to rubble, would have soared to a height of 227ft. According to legend, it took 1,200 masons 12 years to complete the edifice of the temple. After dusk, the floodlights are switched on and the monument looks surreal. You can sit and enjoy the rustling of the casuarina trees in the evening sea breeze.
Konark Dance & Music Festival
During the famous Konark Dance Festival, held each year, the stage of the natyashala in the Sun Temple hosts artistes of national and international repute, who perform the classical, folk and tribal dances of our country. The aesthetic setting of the festival makes the experience unforgettable.
Some ruined sculptures from the Sun Temple, including colossal sandstone images of Surya, have been exhibited in the Archaeological Museum. Other striking sculptures displayed in the museum include a reconstructed chariot wheel and sculptures of Varaha, Tribikrama and Narasimha. Also look for the stone panels depicting animal and plant motifs and celestial musicians.
Whether you are here for religious reasons or not, the first glimpse of Chandrabhaga Beach will take your breath away. This beach, 3km from town, is known for the glorious sunrise views it offers, but it&rsquos more popular as a sacred spot where the devout congregate for a holy dip during the local festival of Maghamela, usually held in January. Note that the choppy waters are not at all safe for bathing and the beach is mostly empty, except in the evenings and early mornings. Another attraction here is the Konark Lighthouse, which you can ascend to get a spectacular view of the sea and the surrounding areas. The lighthouse, located amidst beautiful casuarina groves on the road leading to the beach, is just a 3-minute walk from the main beach.