Modhera Sun Temple
Sun Temple at Modhera is one of the few shrines that are dedicated to the Sun God. Situated on the banks of Pushpavati River in Modhera, Sun Temple is easily accessible from Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat. It was built in 1026-27 AD during the reign of Bhima I of the Chaulukya dynasty. No worship is offered now and is protected monument maintained by Archaeological Survey of India. Earlier, during 1024-25, Mahmud of Ghazni had invaded Bhima's kingdom, and a force of around 20,000 soldiers had unsuccessfully tried to check his advance at Modhera. Historian A. K. Majumdar theorizes that the Sun Temple might have been built to commemorate this defence.
In 1026, the temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty (believed to be the descendants of the lineage of Sun God). This ancient temple revives the reminiscences of Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa. Turning in the pages of history, one can notice the mention of Modhera in the scriptures like Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana. The surrounding area of Modhera used to be known as Dharmaranya (forest of righteousness) and the place was blessed by Lord Rama.
Although the districts of Patan and Mehsana are best remembered for the historical lineage of the Solanki dynasty, the area around Modhera traces its origins to antiquity. Puranic references refer to the place as ‘Modherak’ or ‘Moherak’ meaning mounds of the dead, and the locale has seen layers upon layers of settlements. Jain Manuscripts refer to the land as ‘Bhagvad Gram’. The Brahmapurana and the Skandapurana, alludes the legendary land of ‘Dharmavanyakshetra’ or land of righteousness to the area around Modhera.
Legend narrates that after vanquishing Ravanain battle, Lord Rama and Sita halted here on their way back. After due consultations with sage Vashishtha, Lord Rama decided to conduct a yagna here to cleanse himself of the sin of killing a Brahmin, namely Ravana who was a Shaivite and one of Shiva’s most glorious disciples. This yagna was performed by a local Brahmin belonging to the Modh community thus originated the name Modhera. There is even a temple of Modheshwari, a manifestation of the mother goddess near by.
The brilliant architecture of the temple is one of its own class. The temple encompasses three different yet axially-aligned and integrated constituents. As per the Konark Temple, this shrine is designed in a manner, so that the first rays of the Sun cast on the image of the Lord Surya. The Temple was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni; still the architectural grandeur is not vanished. No matter what is left, yet the remnants provide a great enchantment to behold.
Erected on a high platform, the Temple appears majestic with its grand structure. However, the spires are out of the scene, but the 'Toranas' (Archways) that lead to the main halls overshadow the absence of spires or shikhars. The exterior walls are engraved with intricate carvings, boasting about the mastery of art in those times. Every single inch of the structure is covered with the sculptural patterns of Gods, Goddesses, birds, beasts and flowers. Actually, the Sun Temple is divided into three parts namely Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap and Guda Mandap.
Surya Kund is a deep stepped tank in the front of the temple. The tank was named after the Lord Surya (Sun God). In the earlier times, this 100 sq meter rectangular tank was used to store pure water. The devotees used to take a halt here for ceremonial ablutions before moving towards the temple. Not less than 108 shrines mark the steps of this tank including the shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Sheetala Mata and many others. In front of this tank, a huge 'torana' (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.
Literally, Sabha Mandap refers to an assembly hall where religious gatherings and conferences are conducted. This hall is open from all the four sides and has 52 delicately carved pillars. The intricate carvings depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata (Indian Epics) and scenes from the life of Lord Krishna. In order to get into the Sanctum Sanctorum, one has to cross the passage with pillars and arches.
Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum that is supported by a lotus-base plinth. Once, this hall used to house the idol of the Sun God. The designing of the hall was done in a way, so that the idol gets the first glimpse of the Sun at equinoxes. However, the idol was plundered by Mahmud Ghazni yet the walls represent the Sun God in his 12 different facets of each month. The carved walls also depict the aspects of human life like the vicious circle of birth and death. The façade of this hall was renovated in the recent years, despite the fact that the roof over the Guda Mandap had already been shattered.
With the waning of the Solanki dynasty and a decline in Sun worship, vagaries of time'Islamic iconoclasts and devastating' earthquakes have all chipped at this structures form. Mehmood Ghazni during his raid of Gujarat marched into the Solanki Empire creating mayhem and after a great deal of loot and plunder was finally attacked by a regrouped Solanki army under Bhimdev which through knowing the terrain well destroyed almost half of the Muslim army and Mehmood and his shattered remnants had to flee to Ghazni where his death occurred in Ad 1030.
Owing to this ignomous defeat Gujarate njoyed immunity from foreign invasion for a period of 160 years. This peace was disturbed by the arrival of Allauddin Khilji, who after occupying Delhi and the north looked towards Gujarat as an ocean link for trade. Master pieces of Solanki architecture including Modhera once again defaced and plundered. Not content with just looting the temple marauding soldiers under royal command placed gun powder in the Garbagruha and set fire to it creating an explosion that damaged and caused the main shikhara to collapse.
In spite of it all and a shikhara missing the Modhera sun temple is still a magnificent work of art in stone and if your Itinerary allows you only one town in this region, then by all means make it to Modhera.
Modhera dance festival is the major festival that is observed by the Sun Temple. This dance festival is organized to keep the Indian traditions and culture alive. It is held in the third week of January every year. The classical dance forms in the premises of this temple revive the imperial ambiance during the period. Gujarat Tourism organizes this event to promote tourism at this place.
From Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel airport, Ahmedabad this temple is 95 Km and it is 26 Km from Mehsana Airport , From Mahesana Junction the distance is 28 Km, Mehsana Central Bus Stand is 29 Km, Modhera Circle Bus Stand is 26 Km. from Modhera bus stop it is only 650 m.
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