Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

The name Konark is derived form the words Kona – Corner and Arka – Sun; it is situated on the north eastern corner of Puri or the Chakra Kshetra. King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of the Ganga dynasty had built this temple, with the help of 1200 artisans from 1243-1255 AD (13th Century). The temple complex is in the shape of a gigantic chariot, having elaborately carved stone wheels, pillars and walls.

The 24 wheels of the chariot are thought to be carved only for decorative purpose. It is only about a 100 years ago that we came to know that two of these wheels can be used as sundials when one of the yogi is found measuring time using one of the wheels.

Few mind-blowing facts about the wheels (Wheel Facts And History):

  • Two of the wheels can actually be used a Sundials.The sundial has 8 major spokes that divide 24 hours into 8 equal parts, which means that the time between two major spokes is 3 hours. There are 8 minor spokes as well. Each minor spoke runs exactly in the middle of 2 major spokes. This means that the minor spoke divides the 3 hours in half, so the time between a major spoke and a minor spoke is an hour and half or 90 minutes.

  • Now, at the edge of the wheel, there are lot of beads. There are 30 beads between a minor and a major spoke. So, the 90 minutes are further divided by 30 beads. This means that each bead carries a value of 3 minutes. The beads are large enough, so we can notice if the shadow falls in the centre of the bead or on one of the ends of the bead. This way we can further calculate time accurately to the minute.

  • The sundial shows time in an anti-clockwise fashion. At the top, the major spoke stands for midnight.When we place a finger or a pen at the tail of the animal in the axle, the shadow will fall on the edge of the wheel. Now, we simply note the bead where the shadow falls, we can easily tell the current time precisely down to the minute. Imagine how much time and coordination would have happened between the astronomers, engineers and sculptors to create something like this 750 years ago.
  • Since the wheel is carved on a wall, the sun would not shine on this wheel at all when the Sun moves from East to West. Now, there is another wheel or sundial, located on the west side of the temple as well. We can just use the other sundial that will work perfectly from afternoon, until sunset.
  • After Sunset, we do not know if one/more of other wheels can be used as moon dials. And our knowledge of just these 2 sundials themselves is actually very limited. There are multiple circles of beads. You can see carvings and markings all over these sundials, and we don’t the meaning of most of them. For example, this carving on a major spoke has exactly 60 beads. In some carving you can see leaves and flowers which may mean Spring or Summer. In some carvings you can see lemurs mating, which only happens during winter. So, these sundials could have even been used as an almanac for a variety of different things. Now you can understand how limited our knowledge is about the rest of the 22 wheels.
  • There are clues on these wheels that people have overlooked for centuries like:A woman wakes up and looks at a mirror in the morning showing that, that particular area of sundial is meant to show time in the morning. She is stretching, being tired and ready to go to sleep in other place , etc. For centuries, people have ignored these hints and thought that these were carvings of Hindu Goddesses.

This is also a perfect example of how people think ancient explainable carvings are just for beauty or religious purposes. If ancient people spent a lot of time creating something, there is a very good chance that it was done for a valuable, scientific purpose.

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