Konark Sun Temple is a 13th-century Hindu temple dedicated to the sun god (also known as the Black Pagoda). This temple built in 1278 CE by the Ganga King Narasimha Deva is one of the grandest temples of India and was referred to as the Black Pagoda.
The Konark Sun Temple is the most popular tourist destination in Orissa and has been a World Heritage Site since 1984. It is located in the village of Konark, which is 35km north of Puri on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
Designed and constructed in the form of a pyramid and stretching above like a tower, Konark Sun Temple resembles the structural formation of the temples that can be found in Kalinga, with twelve pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven pairs of horses. The Sun temple belongs to the Kalinga School of Indian Temples with characteristic curvilinear towers mounted by Cupolas. In shape, the Temple did not make any major departure from other sikhara temples of Orissa. The main sanctum which (229 ft. high) was constructed alongwith the audience hall (128 ft. high) having elaborate external projections. The main sanctum which enshrined the presiding deity has fallen off. The Audience Hall survives in its entirely but of the other two viz the Dancing Hall(nata Mandir) and the Dining Hall (Bhoga-Mandap), only small portions have survived the vagaries of time. The Temple compound measures 857 ft. by 540 ft.
The alignment of the Sun Temple is on the east-west direction. The Temple is located in natural surroundings, abounding with casuarina plantations and other types of trees, wchich grow on sandy soil. The environment is by and large unspoiled. Gentle undulating topography around the Sun Temple lends some variation to the landscape
According to local legend, the temple has a great aura of power that comes from two very powerful magnets said to have been built into the tower – magnets that allowed the king’s throne to hover in mid-air.
European mariners sailing off the coast used the temple’s tower for navigation, but dubbed it the Black Pagoda for the frequent shipwrecks that occurred along the coast. They attributed the disasters to the legendary magnets’ effect on the tidal pattern.
Konarak was sacked by the Muslim Yavana army in the 15th century. The central statue enshrined in the temple was smuggled away to Puri by priests, but the Sun Temple was badly damaged in the attack.
Nature took over the destruction from there. Over the centuries, the sea receded, sand engulfed the building and salty breezes eroded the stone. It remained buried under a huge mound of sand until the early 20th century, when restoration began under the British.