India has so many temples that it might take you more than a lifetime to visit all the temples. A major factor that has contributed to the large number of temples in India is the number of deities that are worshiped by the population. There are not just a hundred or thousand, but more than a million deities that Indians worship. Although there is only a single force that drives the universe, the names and the avatars segregate and elaborate the existence of the combined force. One prominent deity worshiped by a majority of people is Surya or the Sun God. Like every other deity, Sun has its own share of temples in India, out of which one is in the Modhera town of Gujarat. The Sun Temple in this town has been in existence for around thousand years and is one of the major tourist attractions of Gujarat state.
The temple is at the bank of Pushpavati river in Modhera, which is at a distance of around 102 kilometres from the city of Ahmadabad, the largest city and the former capital of the state.
Like all other historical sites of India, this temple too has legends associated to it. According to the religious texts, the area around the current city of Modhera was called Dharmaranya, which translates to the forest of righteousness. The place was visited by Lord Rama, who was looking for a sacred place where he could be delivered of the sinful act of killing a Brahman, Ravana. The place where Rama settled was a small village known by the name Modherak. It is said that Rama performed a yagna, a vedic ritual. Post the ritual, he named a village as Sitapur after his wife’s name Sita.
The temple was built in 1026 AD by a ruler of the Solanki Dynasty named Bhimdev. The design of the temple allowed the morning rays of the sun to fall on the idol installed in the sanctum sanctorum. The cost incurred to construct the temple was raised through donations.
The temple had its share of struggle to defend against the attacks launched by the enemies. Mahmud of Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji managed to destroy some portion of the temple. Still, whatever remains now is more than enough to showcase the beauty of the temple.
The Sun Temple is a large structure built with exqusitie attention to detailing. Each section of the temple exhibits the mastery of the architects who were behind the construction of this historical shrine. The temple premises are divided into following areas:
The kund or the reservoir is a rectangle shaped structure with a built up area of approximately 1962 square metres. The devotees coming to the temple were expected to perform all the ceremonial rites prior to worship at this tank.
The tank can be reached by walking down the stone steps which are adorned by miniature shrines. A total of 108 shrines are carved out here, which resemble the 108 beads in a traditional Hindu rosary.
Four statues of deities, each carved in stone, are installed at the pathway that leads to the base of the tank.
The congregation of the devotees takes place in this mandap or hall. The span of an year or 52 weeks is represented by 52 pillars carved with events described in various religious texts.
Walking towards the sanctum sanctorum, there is another hall where 12 niches, each depicting a different image of the sun for the 12 calender months.
At the time when the temple was built, an idol of Sun God made of pure gold was installed here. At the time of equinox, the rays of the sun at the time of sunrise and sunset fell directly on this idol, which Mahmud Ghazni took away when he attacked the kingdom.
The exterior walls of the temple carry carvings of the Sun God and a few other deities. Apart from these carvings, erotic sculptures have been a distinctive feature of the temple walls ever since it was built.
What to Do
Visitors have the privilege to access all the sections of the temple. The pundits here are warm and friendly, and it would be a nice experience to listen to the stories and facts they have to tell about the temple.
Capturing the beauty of the temple through your lens is definitely a perfect way to carry and share the memories created during your visit to the temple.
Best Time to Visit
Although the temple is open all year long for the visitors, you might look out to arrange your trip in the month of January, when the Modhera Dance Festival is organized. Administered by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, this festival is scheduled in the third week of January. Devotees and artists gather and pay their homage to the Sun God and celebrate the spirit of dance.
How to Reach
You can reach Modhera by opting for a flight to Ahmadabad, the nearest airport to the city, from where you can board a private taxi or a state transport run bus. Alternately, you can board a train for the Mehsana railways station, which is only 27.4 kilometres away from the city of Modhera. The city is well connected with all other parts of the state through road network as well.
Visiting the Sun Temple of Modhera is an exciting experience for all the travel enthusiasts who are fascinated by the beauty of ancient structures that have been dedicated to the Gods. We wish you a comfortable and safe journey followed by a mesmerizing experience at the temple and the nearby areas.