“Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human”
— Rabindranath Tagore (Indian poet and Nobel Laureate, 1861-1941)
I tried to regard the scene from the perspective of my younger brother, who was seeing this magnificent relic from history for the first time.Till that moment, he had only seen it in his history books.
We were standing in the vicinity of giant archaic monument- The Sun Temple at Konark in the state of Orissa (India). I had been there previously, several years ago, the memory of the last visit was fresh in my mind.
During my previous visit, I was probably 14 years old. I was there with my father, my sister and my elder brother.That time, when our bus had brought us near this tourist site, my excitement had knew no bounds.Old things- artifacts and monuments from yore, thrills me immensely.
Just finding a simple archaic book in library escalates my fascination to heights, then imagine in what a mesmeric state I would have gone into, standing there in front of that monument, which had every essence of archaism imbued in it.
As I had entered the exquisite compound in that previous visit, a colossal sculpture of what looked like a dragon over an elephant had caught my gaze. A tourist guide was explaining about it to an entourage of visitors some distance away.I could make out his words, though it had required me to strain my ears a bit ” ..the man lying below symbolises Humanity, but above it is an Elephant, signifying that Buddhism is superior to it.Elephants were used to depict Buddhism.But on top of that is the ferocious roaring lion, symbolizing Hinduism, and that, it is superior to them all..”
When I was walking on that same path again, 10 years later, with my younger brother this time, I could catch his interest upon seeing the same sculpture of man, elephant and the lion.I could hear the echo of the words I had heard from that tourist guide in my mind. I started explaining it to him, with excitement.
When we were inside the prime temple compound, a feeling of awe and wonder started surging within me again as the sensation of thrill, of being around archaic things started to crawl in. I stood before the temple, the old decrepit structure, now supported by iron columns to prevent it from collapsing. I recalled from my memory having read about it in history books.
Built in the 13th Century by King Narsimhadev-I, this temple was dedicated to the Sun God.The temple was made in the shape of a vast chariot, the wheels and horses sculpted on its side.The temple faced east, such that the first rays of the sun in the morning traced the path in between the pillars at the entrance and reached straight to the main chamber, falling upon the deity of Sun God, sculpted inside in the sacred position.
I recalled from my previous visit, the information, that over the years the temple had been pillaged for the ancient sculptures of the deities. The manhandling, and also because of the geological reasons, it was crumbling down.The iron beams were installed to protect it from breaking. Furthermore, in 1903 the whole interior chamber of the temple was ordered to be filled with sand and its main door sealed with big bricks made of rocks to further reinforce support and save it from falling down.
I walked again towards the main door, where the sunlight used to enter without any hindrance once, there, nothing could enter now as only big blocks of stone bricks laid closely thrust blocking the entrance solidly.
As my brother went about exploring the spacious temple compound I sat on the old stone stairs just gazing at this old piece of historical remnant, silently standing without any emotion.The sun was setting behind it.I could see young people studying the architecture, families taking photographs of each other, children running around and playing cheerfully. The sun was warm and dizzy.I slowly felt every voice around me starting to fade.All the signs of modern world disappearing, the iron beams that supported the temple vanished, the clouds ran amok like a time lapsed film and I saw it! Ancient people walking around the temple, clad in white loin clothes, with the ceremonial threads hung across their shoulders, their foreheads smeared with holy symbols. I looked back, and saw dancing girls, in their adorned yellow saree with red borders, and white flowers curled up in their hair.They were performing Oddissi, a classical dance form, to the beats of mridangam, a barrel-shaped double-headed drum ,an ancient musical instrument. They sang songs in an archaic language.I turned around and saw the sky above turn dark, then suddenly, light sprouting like a blooming flower from the clouds, a strand of light, golden in color raced from the heavens and traced its path along the walkway, passing by the lion and elephant sculpture.The dancers greeted it with their dance. The musicians eulogised it in their songs.The ray moved swiftly and entered the main door of the temple, the rock bricks were no longer there, it reached over the solemn deity of the Sun God, illuminating the chamber and the priests showered flowers upon it, rang the holy bells and chanted the sacred mantras. The temple was back to life. Back with the people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.
When we were departing, I asked my brother what things he liked about the temple.He went on to tell with animation how much he delighted seeing the actual magnanimity of it which hadn’t become apparent in the books. He went on to tell of his admiration for the intricate designs carved all across the monument in fine details and admirable symmetries.
As we were boarding the vehicle to return back, I turned to take a one last look at the monument. For more than 800 years, it has stood here.It has seen several weathers come and go, land forms change, people come and go- it has been the witness of mankind from the age of kings to this age of technology. It has grown old now, its wall has eroded, its frame has cracked, it is feared to crumble down, more beams have been added for its support.
I began to perceive the monument as an old abandoned person.Very weak, sick and not willing to talk with anyone.It had its glorious years, with its people who had created it and whose lives revolved around it.They were all long since, dead.It was the only survivor.And it had lost all interest in life.It now didn’t bother who was walking around.These new people were anyways very different and it didn’t belong to this era of them.It laid solemnly gazing at the sky unaffected by the sound of cheers and the strange flashes of light these people produced- recalling the years it actually belonged to, when the morning ray of light used to enliven everything around it.
(18th April has been declared by UNESCO as the World Heritage Day.When I came to know of this information, I at once sat on my computer to make a post about my visit to the Sun Temple, which forms a very dear part of my memory.My first visit there had been in 2004, then again in 2014.The Sun Temple was declared as UNESCO’s World Heritage site in 1984 and is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of India)
(Images not owned by me, All images sourced from: Wikipedia)