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Gurpreet @gurichopra
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Thread on Modhera Sun Temple. Modhera Suryamandir is an exquisite display of Solanki temple architecture at its peak. Very few places evoke the kind of awe that Modhera does! Built in 1026 CE, its a fitting tribute to Surya Dev & a worthy contemporary to Chola & Khajuraho Temples
Acc to the ‘Skanda Purana’ & ‘Brahma Purana’, Modhera was an ancient town, known as Dharmaranya (the forest of righteousness). Its believed that Shri Rama performed a yajna here, for the sin of having killed a Brahmin-Ravana. Rama built “Modherak” which later became “Modhera”.
Modhera became a pilgrimage centre, as hordes of people thronged to pay homage to Surya Dev. It was built in 1026 AD under reign of Bhimdev I of the Solanki Chaulaukya dynasty. The architectural style shows affiliation with pre-existing Jain temples in Gujarat.
Along with Konark Surya Mandir in the east & Martand Surya Mandir in the north it is part of tradition symbolizing Surya bhakti, prevalent in ancient India. Even though not as grand as Konark in scale, Modhera is unique because of the Surya Kund & predates konark by 200 years!
The Temple consists of three parts – (1) Garbhagriha with an attached Guda Mandapa, (2) Sabha Mandapa (Dancing Hall) (3) Surya/Rama Kund. The Surya Kund without doubt is the most unique feature of this temple. It reflects the Sabha Mandap & creates stunning reflections. 😍
Modhera holds special significance for Surya bhakti as it lies bang on the Tropic of Cancer. Rama Kund, Sabha &Guda Mandapa are all axially aligned to the tropical line. At the Equinoxes the first rays of sun would directly fall on the murthi of Surya Dev! Astronomical Marvel!🙏
Kund consists of the diagonally intersecting steps placed symmetrically on all 4 sides. Another unique feature is the presence of 108 shrines surrounding the Kund. 108 has always been sacred number for Hindus. The major shrines are dedicated to Vishnu, Sitla Mata & Ganesha.
Few more clicks giving a birds-eye-view of the shrines lining Surya Kund. Sitting on the steps among the shrines, gazing at the reflection of the Sabha Mandap on the water- the symmetry, the beauty will leave you enthralled! Its an unforgettable experience. Surreal.
One of the major shrines dedicated to Vishnu, shows him in Yoga Nidra atop Sheshnag. Even though the Murthi is badly eroded & mutilated,its intricacy &beauty can be easily discerned. The shrine facade is also heavily ornamented - a miniature model of Nagara Temple architecture!
Another major shrine is dedicated to Shiva in the form of Nataraja.The murthi is unfortunately badly mutilated. One of the legs is raised, in midst of Tandav, while the front arms seem to form a Mudra. Imagine the devotion it must have commanded. Really painful to see it thus.🙏
Sitala Mata can also be seen occupying a major shrine. 🙏 She was worshipped as the cure to Small Pox. An incarnation of Devi, she holds a broom in her hand & rides donkey as her vahan.
Classic Islamic Jehadi variety of mutilation observed here as well. 😔
Another deity I could clearly discern was Trivikrama form of Vishnu. Normally seen in the south, its presence here should not be surprising. Only proves that language of devotion was the same across Bharat. We were one! 🙏
Other murthis were too badly damaged to be identified.
The Kund & the shrines dotting it are a lesson on Symmetry. Fractals or symmetrical repetitions of same pattern were employed to create the shrine shikharas as well as the design of the kund! Evident in the repetitive diagonally intersecting steps. Beautiful!😍
Some clicks of the shrines & the ornamented shikharas present around the Kund. In some cases (Pic 1) a false facade was created just below an actual shrine to portray symmetry & also magnify the shrine for the observer. Ingenious architectural capabilities.
Sabha Mandapa offers amazing views of the kund & is an example of stonecraft at is best! It consists of 52 pillars symbolizing the no. of weeks in a solar year. Each pillar is a masterpiece depicting episodes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, war scenes, nritikas, musicians etc.
The Sabha Mandap is Octagonal & has entrances in the 4 cardinal directions. It appears to be the same when viewed from each entrance. The base of the Sabha Mandap is composed of upturned lotus petals & the structure appears to float on it! The columns are heavily ornamented.
The construction of the Sabha Mandapa is as per Shilpa Shastra and components such as the lotus petals base, Gajapatti(Strip of Elephants) appearing to take the weight of the monument are seen. Other sections depict the entire lifecycle of a human & war scenes. Image:Wikipedia
Every surface of the Sabha Mandap is intricately carved to create beautiful figures of devas, Nritikas, Musicians, couples. Every niche is a masterpiece! You can spend hours pouring over these & still feel dissatisfied in the end. I had a tough time!😍
The entrances to Sabha Mandap are decorated with exquisite Torans. Interior consists of Domed roof. The column ends depict dwarfs in a posture as if holding up the ceiling. Sections of the roof are intricately carved with scenes from Ramayana & Mahabharata.
The main attraction at the Sabha Mandapa are the stories depicted from Ramayana, Mahabharata & Krishnaleela. Even though the exposure to nature (Roof had fallen after invasion) has caused significant damage, the themes portrayed can still be discerned.
Scenes from Ramayana-Shri Hanuman visitng Devi Sita in Ashok Vatika (Pic 1); Ravana disguised as an ascetic abducting Devi Sita. Pushpak Vimana can be seen on top with Devi Sita in it as well (Pic 2);
Prabhu Rama holds a greviously injured Lakshman with Vanaras in background. Even though the expressions have worn off, the body posturing clearly shows the anxiety that Prabhu Ram experienced, while waiting for Shri Hanuman to turn up with Sanjivni.
Mahabharata - Pic 1: Bhim violently shaking the tree causing Kauravas to fall down. An episode from the childhood of Pandavas. Pic2: Bhim kills the elephant Ashwatthama setting stage for deception of Dronacharya.
Following is a very famous scene. It depicts the final gada-yuddha between Bhim & Duryodhana. In the second picture Duryodhana falls while Bhim targets his Thigh (Jangha).
Another theme depicts Shri Krishna lifting Govardhana parvat to save the lives of Gokulvaasis from Indra's deluge.
Musicians & dance performances are a common feature carved on the Sabha Mandap Columns. Many believe that Sabha Mandapa was used for both public ritual/gatherings as well as dance performances dedicated to Surya Deva.
The carvings also include war scenes as well as hunting parties attacking prey. Every scene blends effortlessly with its surroundings. The detailed carvings are attributed to the Silawat Masons who created these with traditional methods passed on through generations.
The temple deviates from the traditional Nagara Architecture due to existence of Kund with its own miniature shrines, and a Sabha Mandap some distance away from Guda Mandap & Garbha Gruha. However, the Guda Mandap displays the typical Nagar characteristics.
The ornately carved columns at the entrance of Guda Mandapa & facade covered with intricately carved sculptures are unbelievably enthralling. If you don't focus, you will miss out on some aspect of the deities! Thats the level of detail & artistic skill at display here.Fantastic!
The Guda Mandap has sculptures of 12 Adityas or forms of Surya Dev symbolizing the 12 months in a solar year. Each Aditya has 7 horses as his vahana, representing the 7 colors that form white light. They hold lotus flowers in each hand – lotus is especially beloved to Suryadeva.
Some more clicks of the Aditya's adorning the facade. They are sometimes accompanied by 2 female figures - Usha/Pratyusha. The space around the main murthi is filled with smaller niches incorporating dancers and beautifully dressed Nayikas posing in elegance. 😍
Every corner, every niche is painstakingly transformed into a canvas of beauty. I must have circled the Guda Mandapa atleast a dozen times at snails pace & I still feel I've missed capturing something. Its humbling & also a source of Pride! Naman to our forefathers 🙏🚩
In addition to the 12 Adityas, the Guda Mandapa also displays 12 forms of Gauri known as Dwadasha Gauris on its façade. Worship of Dwadasha Gauris was prevalent in this region, as they are observed at Rani ni Vav, at Patan. Each form has different shringaar & presentation 🙏
Every Dwadasha Gauri figure is surrounded by subsidiary niches, occupied by beautiful Nayikas striking a compelling pose! Niche of every Gauri is uniquely decorated. In pic below u can see Kirtimukhas around Gauri. Note the pouch suspended from Devi's waist & ornate kamarband!
Another interesting sculpture is Bhagwan Murugan, seen as a prominent deity on the Guda Mandapa!! Even though the figure is eroded &mutilated, one can clearly discern the peacock on lower right (Vahan) & the spear held in his upper left hand. So much for Dravidian appropriation😒
The Ashta Dikpalas or guardian deities of the 8 cardinal directions are also sculpted on the walls. Most of their murthis are mutilated & can only be recognized based on the directional orientation & weapon (If present). Not able to discern the one below.
Agnideva is seen here as the guardian of the south east quarter of space or ‘Purajyotisa’. The flames behind the murthi represent his flaming hair. Also note the knotted beard and the goat at the base (Beheaded in the pic). He is accompanied by his consort Swaha & an attendant.
Even though rarely any murthi has been left intact, this one of Mahishasurmardini was particularly heartbreaking 😔It hurt to even look at. Barely recognisable. The Trishul is absent. On bottom left Devi's vahana - Lion is seen biting into mahishas flesh, while Devi spears demon
The entire structure of Guda Mandapa appears to float on an upturned lotus similar to Sabha Mandap. The lotus is especially beloved to Surya due to its relationship with sunlight – blooms only while the sun exists in the sky.
The pictures below display the names of different parts of the Adhisthana (Base) & Mandovara (Wall carvings) for the Guda Mandapa as per Nagara Shilpa Shastra. Source: Wikipedia
Some other sculptures seen are: Devi Saraswati playing a vertically held Veena near base of Shikhara (Pic1), Vishnu with Chakra (Pic 2).
At the base are visible panels displaying a dance performance accompanied by musicians. The hand mudras of dancer are also clearly visible.
Every section of the mandapa from the base has different sculpture panels. There is a Gaja-patti, followed by a section that displays armies marching out to war. Above the same are scenes from daily life & human life-cycle. Birth-Copulate-Death. In Pic - Nobleman with attendants.
Few closeups of the base. 1st pic, shows dancers in a squatted posture in the midst of a performance. The 2nd pic - shows linga puja 🙏 The theme of Gaja's is repeated all along the base. They appear to be lifting the weight of the monument!
The entrance to the Garbha Griha is probably one of the most intricately carved panels. Entrance has a beautifully arched Toran supported by columns studded with small deities. A fitting welcome to a devotee! Breath-taking. 😍Zoom in to see details of the figures in the niches.
The door jamb of the Garbha Griha is very ornate (Fittingly so) with depiction of Suryadeva & Trimurthi. In the Second Pic, from top to bottom you can see Surya (With 7 horses as vahan) followed by trimurthi in subsequent niches.
Another view of the imposing Guda Mandapa. Helps one to appreciate the spatial arrangement of different sculptures intended to produce a harmonic effect. We are truly dwarves in front of the tall achievements of our forefathers. 🙏
Another click & zoom-in on a section of the Guda Mandapa. This helps to understand the overall architectural scheme applied. The bracketing of the walls creates a very fluid effect on the monument. Its a formidable creation🙏
The Garbha Griha is comparatively modest & has niches with carvings of the 12 Adityas interspersed around the inner sanctum. The pillars show detailed carvings consisting of Nayikas & social scenes. There is a pradakshina path that allows you to circle around the main chamber.
The entire temple at Modhera was built with interlocking method, which ensures that even during an earthquake, the building may shake but not disintegrate! Such was the genius of the Silawat community that built this magnificent structure with traditional knowledge systems.
Modhera Surya mandir survived natural calamities. It was designed to absorb shocks from earthquakes. What it could not survive, was Islamist Iconoclasm. In following tweets I will discuss how the temple came to be in its current state. It is painful as hell but its our history.
Its believed modhera sun temple was built immediately post Mahmud Ghazni's raid on Somnath in 1025 CE. He attacked Anahilwad Patan first in Oct 1025, bt Raja Bhimdeva had evacuated the city & fled. From here, Mahmud moved onto Somnath & the first plunder of the Mandir occured.😔
20,000 soldiers tried to give chase to Ghazni during his exit from Anahilwad but to no avail.They perished trying to stop him & it seems that Raja Bhimdeva may have built Modhera to commemorate this sacrifice. Anothr possibility is that the mandir existed & Bhimdev expanded on it
After looting Somnath, Ghazni was challenged by the Raja Bhoja of Bundel. Fearing for his life & to safeguard his loot, he escaped by adopting an alternate route to Afghanistan via Sindh. Heart breaks to think abt the thousands killed & the lingam at Somnath smashed. If only….🙏
But Modhera was not spared the barbarism of Islamic Jehad & hate for everything Hindu. Even though Ghori was defeated by Solankis in 1178 near Mt Abu, he is believed to have plundered the sun temple. Modhera was attacked in 1197 by Qutb Din Aibak who defaced several murthis.
Aibak fled with the gold murthi of Surya Dev believed to be studded with gems & surrounded by gold coins in a pit around it. Later Allaudin Khilji landed the strongest blow on Modhera. Its believed that khilji placed explosives under the shikhara & it collapsed.
Hence we see a flattened Sabha Mandap & Guda Mandap. The shrines on Kund are a good approximation of how the shikhar must have appeared. Even the Kund is believed to probably be an inverted model of Shikhar itself. The magnificent structure, its priceless sculptures are all lost.
The roof of the Sabha Mandapa also collapsed due to this attack & the structure was exposed to extreme erosion for centuries. Imagine the splendor of the structure, had this not happened. Im left struggling with impotent rage whenever I see the damage inflicted. 😑
Its very important that we realize the cultural wealth that is part of our identity. Embrace modernity bt with your feet firmly rooted in our traditions, our values. Our temples, festivals, attire play a crucial role in preserving cultural & dharmic unity. Value these treasures🙏
I will leave you finally with this amazing image of the Modhera Sun temple - Before & After the first rays of the sun fell on it. It was magical! One of the best mornings of my life 😀Thanks for reading! 🙏
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