On the way back from Patan, where I couldn’t have enough of the gorgeous Rani Ki Vav, we stopped at Modhera. Located 33 km from Patan, this small Gujarati town is primarily known for the imposing temple, dedicated to Surya, or the Sun God. The impressive edifice was constructed in the 11th century during the reign of Bhima I, one of the most prominent rulers of the Solanki dynasty. In fact, the Solankis believed themselves to be the descendants of the solar deity and therefore worshiped to the sun.
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The architecture of the Sun Temple in Modhera
Architecturally, the Sun temple in Modhera consists of three parts:
Gudhamandapa (the shrine hall)
Sabhamandapa (the assembly hall)
Kunda (the water reservoir constructed as a stepwell)
The first thing I saw when approaching the complex was the stepwell, but I thought it would be great to leave if “for dessert” after savouring the main courses – the shrine and the pillared hall. However, I couldn’t resists climbing down and spending a few glorious minutes being surrounded by the perfect geometrical shapes of triangular stairs and myriads of miniature shrines.
On the way towards the main shrine hall I entered Sabhamandapa – an open place with 52 ornately carved pillars, where people used to gather for the ritual purposes back in the medieval times. The stone carvings of the pillars depict the scenes described in the ancient epic poems Ramayana and Mahabharata. The ceiling of the temple is especially impressive – multilayered and intricately carved, it’s really a sight to behold. After I missed one of the most impressive stone carvings in Champaner, I always make sure to look up in temples and mosques. You never know when you fail to notice an exquisite mural, a beautiful gold chandelier or something equally worthy to look at.
The heavy base of the main hall is shaped like a lotus – a flower that symbolically opens with the first rays of the rising sun. The shrine used to enclose a golden idol of the Sun god, depicting the deity sitting on his chariot with seven horses, but it was taken away during the invasion of Mahmud Ghazni, the ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire. Every bit of the shrine’s walls is carved with ornaments and sculptural patterns. Apart from Surya, one can see the sculptures of other deities: Varuna – the god the oceans, Agni – the god of fire, Vishwakarma – the creator God, and also Indra, Saraswati, Ganesha and so on. There are also a lot of floral and animalistic motifs, as well as scenes from humans’ life.
The Modhera Sun Temple in numbers
The numbers of this temple are rather symbolic and celebrate the significance of time. For example, the 52 pillars of Sabhamandapa (the assembly hall) stand for the 52 weeks of a year. 12 niches of the shrine’s walls represent the different images of the Sun god for each month. Other numbers are no less significant: for example, there are 8 sculptures of the deities symbolizing directions: Kubera, the god of the material reaches, faces the west, Rudra, the deity associated with storm, wind and hunt, faces the north-east, and so on.
The Sun Temple in Modhera in photos
The Sun Temple on the map
~ Modhera is around 100 km from Ahmedabad. I traveled by the local buses, which was a bit tiring, but extremely cost effective. Alternatively, one can always hire a car.
~ The tickets cost Rs. 15 for Indian visitors and Rs. 200 for foreigners.
~ The place is open seven days a week, from the early morning till sunset.
~ It’s convenient to visit on the way to/from the Rani Ki Vav in Patan.
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