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Friday, April 19, 2013

Sex and the Sun Temple in Konarak, India

Imagining the erotic images and sculptures that drape the ancient temples of India causes us to question the actual meaning and message behind them. Like the ancients in Pompeii, sex was never just sex. Sex  in Pompeii was a completely normal and fulfilling experiencing, much like India, and most of what we know about the eroticism that took place in both of these places was left on the walls.

What is the Sun Temple at Konarak?

© dracozlat
The Sun Temple is a 13th century Hindu temple, created to honor the deity Surya, the Sun God. The temple is a pristine example of Orisssan architecture, but unfortunately the temple continues to crumple. The Sun Temple was said to be created by King Narasimha of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. Although legend says that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna, there is more plausible evidence to support construction during Narasimha's reign. The reliefs on Konarak depict secular events, and one in particular, is a clear celebration of the military victory of Narasimha over the Muslims.

In 1931, the Earl of Ronaldshay remarked on the Sun Temple,

"One of the most stupendous building....a pile of overwhelming grandeur even in it's decay".

The Architecture of Konarak

Like many of the holy temples in India, Konarak is raised off the ground on a plinth. The superstructure and roof of the sanctuary collapsed sometime during the 19th century, however the main entrance still retains its pyramidal roof. Residents and tourists alike cannot enter the building regardless, as the entire structure was filled with sand and stone to keep it from collapsing.

In total, there are three sections that make up the Sun Temple. The main shrine connects to a prayer hall and the entrance to the temple. The pillared dance hall is separated from the main shrine, and is located in front of the main shrine. On of the most fascinating sections of the Sun Temple, in my opinion at least, are the twelve large wheels. It is said that the wheels are meant to represent the chariot of Surya.


Originally, there were seven horses that stood in front of the chariot, however only one remains intact. According to Hamshitha Acharya (2012) , "the spokes of these wheels serve as sundials, and the shadows formed by these can give the exact time of the day. Some says that the wheels represent the 24 hours of the day and others says the 12 months in its concept, where as the seven horses dragging the temple makes up the seven days of the week".

© India Mike
There are several friezes of couples between the wheels, and nymphs, deities, musicians, and also dancers that can be found on the lower section of the Sun Temple. Lively carvings of birds and animals, mythological creatures, and geometrical carvings can be found interspersed throughout the temple.

Erotic Sculptures

The temple is famous for its erotic sculptures, which can be found primarily on the second level of the porch structure. Although it's unclear as to what these erotic art forms represent, we can postulate that they could have been used as amulets to avert evil. Of course, I like to think that that they meant a great deal more than what most people assume. The sculptures on the Sun Temple are lyrical and romantic, majestic and serene, and they all represent a realism that reflects a revolving circle of life.


Acharya, H. (2012 ). Sun temple – konark, a source of sculptural beauty . Retrieved from http://indianmonumentsattractions.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/sun-temple-konark-a-source-of-sculptural-beauty/


Unknown said...

Informative! Thanks for the share :)

Unknown said...

Informative! Thanks for the share :)

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