Sun Temple under threat

Demand for new structure gaining momentum

Sun Temple under threat

Sun Temple in Konark

Can we ever have another architectural marvel like the Sun Temple of Konark? If someday somebody manages to build a replica of the 13th century monument, can it be as popular as the present one? These are the questions being discussed in different circles in Orissa after a section of the people as well as socio cultural organisations raised a demand for construction of another Sun Temple in Konark.

A cultural organisation, Orissa Sanskruti Manch, has already submitted a memorandum in this regard to chief minister Naveen Patnaik. "This is high time another Sun Temple should be built at Konark which would definitely be as popular as the present temple", insist members of the Manch headed by B K Verma, a former MLA.

The organisation has suggested that the state government should chalk out a Rs 1,000 crore plan to build the new Sun Temple and approach the Central government to share the cost. “Both the State and the Central governments should contribute Rs 500 crore each for the construction of the new temple which should be completed within the next ten years”, said the Manch in its memorandum.

The Manch as well as others who favour the construction of the new Sun Temple argue on the need for another architectural wonder as the condition of the present temple is deteriorating fast and one can not rule out the possibility of the internationally-known monument collapsing and completely vanishing in the coming few years.

The Sun Temple, popularly known across the globe as “Black Pagoda” was built at Konark by King Langula Narasingha Dev of the Ganga dynasty nearly 800 years back. If literature on the history of Konark temple is to be believed, about 1,200 stone craftsmen and artists were engaged in the construction of the temple over a period of 16 years. The king had dedicated the temple to the Sun God.

According to some historians, the present Sun Temple at Konark is not the actual Sun Temple. The original Sun Temple was a 240 feet high structure and had collapsed long back. The exact cause of the destruction of the original temple is not yet known. The present 130 feet high structure is a part of the original temple, the temple's Jagamohan (front audience hall) to be precise.  

Significantly, the demand for construction of the new Sun Temple at Konark has come at a time when there is a hue and cry, both within Orissa and outside, over the safety of the monument following reported falling of stones from the temple structure. Cracks also developed is some parts of the temple.

A couple of months back, a worried Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is in charge of protection and preservation of the internationally acclaimed monument, had convened a two-day conclave of top experts and archaeologists from within the country and outside to chalk out a plan to save the important monument from complete destruction.

The brainstorming meeting which was held at Konark is understood to have prepared a blue print for the protection of the monument. However, it is widely believed that for the protection of the temple, there is an urgent need to remove the sand presently stuffed on the interior of the 130 feet high structure.

When the then British government undertook a major preservation work of the present Sun temple between 1900 and 1903, the interior of the temple was sealed with sand to prevent the structure from collapsing. However, according to experts, more than a century later, these huge quantities of sand have started causing cracks on the Khondalite structure from inside.

The ongoing demand for the construction of another Sun Temple may intensify further if the ASI fails to take adequate and appropriate steps to protect and preserve the popular monument which was bracketed as one of the seven “wonders” of India in a survey conducted last year by a national television news channel.

But there are some people who believe that even if a new Sun Temple is built in Konark, it can not match the present world class monument. “Original is original. It can not be replaced. Impressed by the Taj Mahal after a visit to Agra, a businessman from neighbouring Bangladesh had constructed a replica of the Taj in his home country a few years back. But that structure failed to match the popularity of the original Taj Mahal”, said 65-year-old Ashok Jena, a Bhubaneswar resident and long time ardent lover of the

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