- Hinduism is arguably the only natural religion that has been able to resist the proselytizing zeal of Christian missionaries as well as forced conversion by Islamists.
- In Eastern India, the worship of the Sun is very popular in states like Bihar and Odisha.
- In Odisha, the 13th-century Konark Sun Temple (as per legends it is older), is a living example of people’s devotion to Sun God.
Given the fact, India is the world’s oldest surviving civilisation, the people of the country have a special relationship with nature. Hinduism is arguably the only natural religion that has been able to resist the proselytizing zeal of Christian missionaries as well as forced conversion by Islamists – despite around 800 years old attempts by both. From Iran to Egypt to Rome, and in the New World from America to Australia the countries with flourishing pagan culture were destroyed by Abrahamic religious zeal, but Hinduism survived.
And this is the reason behind the fact that the worship of the Sun, Moon, earth, water and other natural elements and forces is common in Indian culture. In Eastern India, worship of the Sun is very popular in states like Bihar and Odisha.
In Odisha, the 13th-century Konark Sun Temple (as per legends it is older), is a living example of people’s devotion towards Sun God. The people of Odisha were seafaring people and popularized the Hindu religion in Southeast Asia, and this is the reason behind the fact that many Sun Temples are found in the region.
However, the Sun god is not worshipped at the Konark Sun Temple. Konark Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha, built by Emperor Narasingha Deva I (1238–1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, is now a World Heritage Site and has become more of a tourist place rather than a Hindu worship site.
King Narasimha Deva ordered the Konark temple to be built in 12 years. 12 thousand men worked under the chief architect Bisu Maharana. Stones were brought from Udayagiri and Khandagiri, carved and held interlocked by metal strips which in turn were held together by a giant magnet.
However, on a penultimate day, everything was over other than the placing of the crown stone. Out of nowhere appeared Dharmpada, the lost son of Bisu Maharana, who fixed the problem. Dharmapala was distressed at this and ended his life by jumping from the temple into the Chandrabhaga river.
It was during this time that the Konark Temple- at one point, the largest in India- was constructed by the Ganga Emperors to honour Surya for the Victories.
At Konark, on the Beki (parapet) of the Jagamohana (audience hall or hall in front of the sanctum) of the Sun temple, the Martanda Bhairavas are shown dancing on boats. Another interesting stone sculpture of a full-fledged boat of Odisha, which is supposed to have been collected from Konark (c. 12th century) and now preserved in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, depicts a boat being rowed by four persons.
It is observed from this sculpture that in the middle of the boat there is a cabin with an upraised platform inside, and a man probably of a royal personage is sitting with a bow and arrow. This type of boat on the basis of the location of the cabin is called the Madhya-Mandira type of royal pleasure boat as described and categorized in the Yuktikalpataru of King Bhoja. The depiction of a giraffe, exclusively an African animal in the sculpture of the sun temple, Konarak positively indicates that Kalinga had an overseas commercial link with Africa.
Konark has a long history, and it will survive only if Puja is allowed at the temple. Kashi (Varanasi), its temples and culture, survived for thousands of years only because Puja is an integral part of its lifestyle, not something that is designated only for tourists.
The Odisha Government must ensure that Puja is allowed at the Konark Sun temple rather than keeping it as a place for tourists.