Around 35km away from Mehsana on way to the temple of Goddess Bahucharaji, lies the small village of Modhera. There, along the banks of River Pushpavati, nestled between flowering trees and chirping birds, is one of the few Sun temples of India – the Modhera Sun Temple, or what remains of it.
The remains of the Modhera Sun Temple are symbols of the times gone by when reverence of the natural elements – fire, air, earth, water and the sky were at their peak, sharing space with myriad manifestations of Vedic Gods.
The ancient philosophy venerating natural elements and its association with humans was considered the prime force and energy of the life cycle. A walk around the serene temple campus makes you aware of the positively strong aura of energy which the place radiates and through it brings one closer to the environs.
The exclusively carved temple complex and the magnificently sculpted kund are jewels in the art of masonry of the Solanki period apparently which was also known as the Golden Age of Gujarat.
Legend has it that after defeating Ravana in battle in Lanka, Lord Rama and Sita stopped here on their way back to Ayodhya. Upon advise from Lord Vashishhta, Lord Rama decided to conduct a yagna here to cleanse himself from killing a Brahmin. Ravana was a Shaivite Brahmin after all. This yagna was performed by a Brahmin from the Modh community, hence, the name Modhera. Even today, there is a temple of Modheshwari, which is one of the manifestations of the Mother Goddess.
On entering the historic complex, the first thing one comes across is the magnificent kund, known as the Rama Kund, built in rectangular shape, containing 108 shrines of various Gods and Demigods. There three main shrines positioned on the three sides of the kund, dedicated to Ganesh and Vishnu and an image of Lord Shiva dancing the ‘tandav’ facing the temple of the sun which covers the fourth side. Various shrines showcasing different mudras are arrayed along the staggered configuration of steps leading down to the base of the ‘Kund’.
Walk up the steps to the ‘Sabha Mandap’ or the assembly and convene with sculpted renderings of twelve ‘Adityas’ (another name for the sun god). The twelve representations carved on the pillars represent the sun according to the twelve months. It is believed that these ‘Adityas’ are the base myth to the temple of sun, the legend imparts Aditya’s to be sons of ‘Aditi’, the goddess of Infinity and the constant within the interconnectedness of the universe. The Solanki’s era was known for master carvings on stone, creating marvals of flora and fauna, creatures of fantasy along with judicious use of lime mortar. Such artistic marvels can also be spotted in structures like the Rani-ni-vav in Patan, Jain temples at Taranga, Rudra Mahal at Sidhpur, etc.
If you love listening to stories, make sure you find the purohit or priest who has been taking care of the temple, and stays close to the vicinity. Request him to narrate or explain the tales and sequences from epics and legends which are carved on the 52 pillars adding grace and poise to the temple section.
In the Garbhagriha, the idol of the Sun God no longer exists. It is said that after capturing Delhi and North of India, Ala-ud-din Khilji turned towards Gujarat as a major sea link, and his soldiers planted bags of gunpowder in the underground shrine, which led to a huge explosion destroying the shikhara.
The most beautiful time to visit the Modhera would be during the Equinoxes in spring or in autumns, and also during the three day classical dance festival known as Modhera Dance Festival held just after Makar Sakranti in January each year.
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