Modhera Sun Temple – An architectural masterpiece of Solanki period

The Sun Temple of Modhera was built during the reign of Bhima I of Solanki dynasty in 1026-27 AD. It resembles the better known Konark temple in Orissa, which it predates by 200 years. It was similarly designed so that the dawn sun shone on the image of Surya the sun god during the equinoxes.

Built in Solanki style the temple complex has three axially aligned components – the main shrine (garbhagriha) in a hall (gudhamandapa), the outer or assembly hall (sabhamandapa) and the sacred tank (kunda). The sabhamandapa is not in continuation with gudhamandapa but is placed little away as a separate structure. Both the structures are built on paved platform. Their roofs have collapsed a long ago. The platform of plinth is inverted lotus shaped.

The gudhamandapa measures 51×25 feet. It is almost equally divided into gudhamandapa, the hall and gabhagriha the shrine proper. The pradakshinamarga is formed by the passage between the walls of garbhagriha and the outer walls of gudhamandapa. The roof of the passage has stone slabs carved with rosettes.

Garbhagriha, the shrine proper, is square measuring 11 feet from inside. The outer walls of the shrine is highly decorated. The base and walls of the shrine and hall are divided into several stretches with unique carvings. The hall in front of the garbhagriha was roofed by a dome which is supported by eight principal pillars below arranged in an octagon, four pillars in front of shrine proper and two each in recesses of windows and door.
The sabhamandapa or the assembly hall has extensively carved exterior. There are 52 intricately carved pillars representing 52 weeks of the year. The roof was in shape of stepped pyramid, but no longer exists. Inside, the walnut shaped ceiling rises in tiers which has numerous floral girdles. It is 23 feet high and supported by pillars arranged in an octagon. Toranas or the decorated arches arise from the lower brackets of the pillars.
The tank in front of the temple is known as suryakunda. The flight of steps through kirti-torana leads to the reservoir. It is rectangular. It measures 176 feet from north to south and 120 feet from east to west. There are four terraces and recessed steps to descend to reach the bottom of the tank. Several miniature shrines and niches in front of the terrace wall have images of gods.

Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
Modhera Sun Temple
A closer view of the main temple and the assembly hall
A closer view of the main temple and the assembly hall
Closer view of the main temple
Closer view of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the exterior of the main temple
Details of the pillars inside
Details of the pillars inside
The ceiling of the main temple
The ceiling of the main temple
Main temple - pillars and the ceiling
Main temple – pillars and the ceiling
Intricate carvings on the pillars
Intricate carvings on the pillars
A closer view of the ceiling of the assembly hall
A closer view of the ceiling of the assembly hall
What you see is some of the intricately carved pillars of the assembly hall. There are total 54 of such pillars
What you see is some of the intricately carved pillars of the assembly hall. There are total 52 of such pillars
View of the sacred tank from the assembly hall
View of the sacred tank from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
Details from the assembly hall
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
More details of the carvings
The view of the temple complex - the sacred tank and in the back drop is the assembly hall. The main temple is not visible as it is behind the assembly hall
The view of the temple complex – the sacred tank and in the back drop is the assembly hall. The main temple is not visible as it is behind the assembly hall
Two pillars standing alone near the temple
Two pillars standing alone near the temple
View of the sculptured steps of the tank with various small shrines
View of the sculptured steps of the tank with various small shrines
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
Details of the shrines around the sacred tank
The assembly hall reflected in the sacred tank
The assembly hall reflected in the sacred tank

The waning of the Solanki dynasty and the decline in Sun worship and the vagaries of the Islamic inconoclasts and devastating earthquakes led to the decline of the Modhera Sun temple. This masterpiece of Solanki architecture was plundered and defaced by the armies of Allauddin Khilji. The marauding soldiers placed gun powder inside the sanctum and set fire to it, creating an explosion that caused the main shikhara to collapse. In spite of all this and its magnificent dome missing, the Modhera Sun temple still remains as an architectural wonder, which can amaze any visitor.

The temple is located at Modhera village of Mehasana district in the Indian state of Gujarat.

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