Worshipping the sun is a practice widespread across the world. Almost all older religions have deities presiding over natural elements, and may it be the Egyptian sun God Ra or the Incan sun God Inti, temples dedicated to the sun deities can be found all over and draw a large number of devotees and tourists alike. In Hindu mythology, the sun deity Surya Dev is worshipped for good health and well-being.
Among the sun temples in India, Konark Surya Mandir or the Chariot Temple in Konark is the most famous. It is not however the only sun temple in India. No matter what direction you’re headed to, you’ll find sun temples adorned with elegant carvings. They are not only important religious structures but also hold immense historical significance as symbols of the architectural styles from the glorious past.
Here are some sun temples in India you must know about
1. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha
Konark’s Surya Mandir is hands down the most famous and best preserved of the sun temples in India. Often also referred to as the Puri sun temple for its proximity to the city of Lord Jagannath, Konark Surya Mandir is a temple complex that serves as a stunning example of the Kalinga architecture. Referred to as the Black Pagoda Temple in India by the British, this sun temple dates back to 1250 CE and was constructed by the Eastern Ganga dynasty ruler Narasimhadeva I.
Konark Surya Mandir also features on the back of the 10 rupee note, and while this is one of the most significant sun temples in India now, do you know that it was deserted in the 17th century as it was in ruins and was consequently revived? The preservation efforts are ongoing and aim at making it structurally sound again.
2. Martand Sun Temple, Kashmir
One a spectacular blend of Gandharan, Gupta, and Chinese forms of architecture, this sun temple in India is now in ruins but holds a lot of significance. Built by the Karkota dynasty ruler Lalitaditya Muktapida, this sun temple in India was destroyed by Sikandar Shah Miri, and subsequently, earthquakes. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for the local Hindus and also holds an important place archaeologically with the Archaeological Survey of India now categorising it as a protected structure. When in the Kashmir valley, this sun temple in India is a must-visit.
3. Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
Situated merely 100 km from the city, Sun Temple Ahmedabad as it is commonly referred to, the complex in Modhera is an architectural marvel you have to see to believe. Built by the Chalukya dynasty ruler Bhima I, this sun temple in India is now categorised as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. Religious activities aren’t allowed in the premises but it is open for tourists, and even hosts the Modhera Dance Festival in the third week of January each year.
4. Suriyanar Koil Temple, Tamil Nadu
One of the nine Navagraha Temples in Tamil Nadu, this sun temple in India is a striking example of Dravidian architecture and was made by the Chola dynasty ruler Koluttunga Choladeva. Situated in the Thanjavur district, this sun temple in India also has a five-tiered rajagopuram and a granite wall encloses the nine shrines dedicated to the nine planets in the temple.
Legend has it that the nine planets were cursed by Lord Brahma to suffer from leprosy and dwell in the nearby white wildflower jungle. They then prayed to Lord Shiva, who granted them relief from the curse and asked them to grace the devotees praying to them from this place, hence the nine-planet shrines.
5. Katarmal Sun Temple, Uttarakhand
Situated in Almora, Uttarakhand, this sun temple in India will make you walk a bit to reach here but be prepared to not only be mesmerized by the architecture but also the views. Constructed by the Katyuri dynasty ruler Katarmalla, this sun temple in India is carved out of rock structures and the complex houses 44 smaller temples in addition to the main temple dedicated to worshipping the sun. Declared a monument of national importance, this sun temple in India is easily reachable from not just Almora but also Ranikhet, Nainital, and Khairna, making it a must-visit when planning to visit Uttrakhand.
6. Deo Surya Mandir, Bihar
Situated in Deo, Bihar, this sun temple in India is one of the older ones on the list. According to the Archeological Survey of India, this was built sometime in the Gupta era, around the 7th or 8th century AD. It is also a significant sun temple in India that you should visit because of its Chhath Puja celebration. Chhath Puja is a festival dedicated to worshipping the sun, for the bounties it bestows upon human civilization. This festival is one of the, if not the most important festival in the state of Bihar, and Deo Surya Mandir is one the most sacred places to experience it. When visiting the often overlooked state of Bihar, do explore this sun temple in India.
7. Sri Suryanarayanamurty Temple, Andhra Pradesh
Located in Arasavalli, Andhra Pradesh, this sun temple in India is another stellar example of Kalinga architecture. Built by Eastern Ganga dynasty ruler Devendra Varma, this sun temple is one of the oldest, and with Konark Sun Temple, and Martand Sun Temple, is one the most important sun temples in India.
One of the most striking features of the architecture of this sun temple happens to be the fact that despite all entrance gates being closed, twice a year, the sunlight falls on the feet of the deity, making it one the most revered and marvelled at sun temples in India.