The Sun Temple at Modhera
The Sun Temple at Modhera (Surya Mandir) was built in the year 1026AD by King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty prominent during that period Gujarat’s history.
The temple consists of three parts: Suryakund, Sabha Mandap (assembly hall) and Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum).
The Suryakund at Modhera is a huge stepped tank in front of the temple which would have held pure water (a little less than pure today from what I could tell – green!). Pilgrims would bathe in the kund before entering the temple. The tank has a number of terraces that allowed pilgrims to descend to the water using pyramid shaped steps. The architecture combines to create some impressively complex geometric forms. Amongst the steps are 108 shrines – an auspicious number in Hinduism.
A series of steps would have led pilgrims out of the Suryakund into a hall called the ‘Sabha Mandap’. They would have entered through two beautifully carved pillars which belong to a ‘Toran’ – a sacred gateway in Hindu architecture – this has long since disappeared.
The Sabha Mandap is a kind of assembly hall and has many intricately carved pillars which depict stories from the Hindu epics and the life of Krishna.
As you move towards the next part of the temple complex (Garbhagriha) you’ll pass some amazing wall carvings which show the twelve different aspects of the sun. The main temple was once capped with a dome, but this is now gone.
The Garbhagriha is the interior of the sanctum sanctorum which is the innermost sanctum of a Hindu temple and contains the idol. Sadly the idol of the Surya Mandir at Modhera was plundered centuries ago – nowadays you’re more likely to find bats inside the temple.
The Sun Temple at Modhera was built facing east. This meant that something magical would happen at the equinox. The first rays of the sun would cross the Suryakund, pass through the pillars of the Sabha Mandap and penetrate the main chamber illuminating the idol.
Here are some more pictures of the Sun Temple at Modhera: