The architecture of India’s ancient monuments have always been a point of interest and symbol of pride for us. Though a lifetime may fall short to visit these stunning iconic structures, Gujarat’s Modhera Sun Temple deserves to be in your bucket list. Here is everything about this beautiful 9th century temple that has no idol of deity and draws millions of visitors every day.
Modhera temple is dedicated to the Sun god, Vedic gods and elements of nature that create humanity. It is said that during the reign of Bhima I of Chaulukya dynasty, Mahmud of Ghazni had invaded his kingdom around 1024-1025. A 20,000 strong force of soldiers unsuccessfully tried to avert his advance at Modhera. Few historians believe that the Modhera Sun Temple was built as a tribute to this defense while others establish that it was built much before that. The exact date of the temple’s foundation remains a mystery till date. On stylistic evidence it is assumed that the kunda (stepped water well) and surrounding corner structures were built around the 11th century.
What makes Modhera Sun Temple special?
- Modhera Sun Temple is one of the few Sun Temples left in India and has some resemblance to Konark Sun Temple.
- The main sanctum of the temple is designed in a manner that the first rays of the Sun would cast on the image of Surya Deva. The temple does not have any idol now.
- The temple is located in very close proximity to Tropic of Cancer. The latter is the northernmost line or latitude on the Earth at which the Sun appears directly overhead. Standing on the tropic of cancer on 21st June, your shadow will not fall on earth. Hence Modhera temple does not cast its shadow on the ground on this day.
- There are 12 Sun Gods carved in Modhera Sun temple, symbolizing 12 months of the year. There are 365 carved elephants that represent 365 days of the year. An interesting depiction of the solar calendar, isn’t it?
- The Sabha Mandapa (Assembly hall) is built on 52 pillars that signify the 52 weeks in a year. There are carvings of the sun on the walls to show its unity with air, water, earth and space.
- In December 2022, Modhera Sun Temple made it to the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Through the premises of Modhera temple
1. The museum
A large number of religious figures and carved structures were discovered during the temple’s excavation. These relics have been put in a museum display few meters away from the temple to the left of the entrance.
Maintained by the Archeological Survey of India, the museum timings are 10 am to 5 pm and remains closed on Friday. There is no entry fee for the museum.
2. Stepwell named Ram Kund
The Surya Kund, a water tank or reservoir that resembles a stepwell and marks the entrance to the temple, is also known as Rama Kund. The 21,000 square foot kund includes steps that lead from one terrace to the next that are square and rectangular in shape. Before going into the main temple, folks used to take a bath here.
The stepwell is more impressive because it is surrounded by 108 temples of all sizes and shapes. These temples are devoted to Lord Ganesha, Goddess Sheetla Mata, Lord Shiva as Nataraja, and Lord Vishnu as Shesh Shaiya.
Checkout other must-visit marvelous stepwells of Gujarat.
3. The Garbagriha or main sanctum
The garbagriha or the shrine proper is a square measuring 22 feet which once housed the statue of Surya Deva. Ancient scriptures describe the statue made of pure gold and had a diamond studded in the crown. The idol was plundered by Ghazni’s troops. The seat is now an empty pit, locked from outside. Inside of the main hall has plain walls except for the doorway which has carvings of Surya and several celestial nymphs.
On the other hand, the outer walls of the main hall have ornate carvings and beautiful structures. The stone work leaves you spellbound with its precision, creativity. In evenings when the temple dazzles in warm artificial lights, it is a sight to behold.
4. The Sabha Mandapa or assembly hall
With 52 gorgeous pillars and a highly decorated ceiling, the octagonal assembly hall faces the main sanctum hall. The hall has 4 entry ways, out of which one faces the garbagriha, one faces the kund and other two are on the side. The three structures (main hall, assembly hall and the kund) are in perfect alignment with each other. During the solar equinox days, the first rays of the sun shines through the sabha mandapa and would directly fall on the Surya Deva’s image (which doesn’t exist anymore).
Timing and other information
- The Sun Temple Modhera remains open from 8am to 6 pm.
- Photography is allowed but use of tripod is prohibited.
- The best time to visit Modhera Temple is in winter from October to March when the weather is pleasant.
- Atleast half a day is required to tour the entire premises and appreciate the architectural magnificence. We advise you to visit in the evening when the weather is pleasant. After sun down you can witness the temple bathed in artificial lights and also attend the light and sound show near the kund. (Tickets for the evening light show have to be purchased separately)
- Modhera temple lies in Mehsana District of Gujarat, around 30 km from Patan. You can hire a cab or auto from Patan.
- Entry fee costs Rs 25 for Indians and Rs 300 for foreigners.
In the end
Historians and researchers have revealed architectural facts about the temple that will leave you awestruck. How was it possible for ancient builders and architects to design something like this with so much accuracy, alignment with planetary positions and celestial events? Modhera Sun Temple is a marvel of Gujarat that deserves to be in every traveler’s bucket list.