The Konark Sun Temple was also called as the “Black Pagoda” (Kaala Pagoda) by the European sailors. In contrast, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”. Both temples serve as the important landmarks for the sailors. Konark Sun Temple used Iron beams for its structure.
The Konark Sun Temple was built around 1250 by the King Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to the sun god. Shaped like a giant chariot with a portrayal of intricate and meticulous stone carvings (built from Khondalite rocks), this temple is a popular tourist destination in Odisha and has been accounted as a World Heritage Site since 1984. It is located in the village of Konark, which is 35 kilometres north of Puri, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The temple was originally located at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga. But with the passage of time the waterline has receded. The giant ornamented chariot of the Sun god, Surya has twelve pairs of elaborately carved three meters wide stone wheels, which are pulled by a set of seven horses (4 on the right and 3 on the left).
The temple is an exemplary example of traditional Kalinga architecture. It is carefully oriented towards the east, so that the first rays of sunrise strike the principal entrance.
It is thought that the king built the temple to commemorate military successes against the Muslim invaders. According to local legend, the temple has a great aura of power that comes from two powerful magnets placed in the tower. These magnets allowed the king's throne to hover in the mid-air.
The European sailors sailing off the coast used the temple's tower for navigation, but dubbed it the Black Pagoda for the frequent shipwrecks that occurred along the coast. They attributed the disasters to the legendary magnets' effect on the tidal pattern.
Konark was attacked by the Muslim Yavana army in the 15th century, which led to the severe and crucial damages. The central statue of the temple was smuggled away to Puri by the priests. Nature took over the destruction from there. Over the centuries, the sea receded, sand engulfed the monument, and salty breezes eroded the stone. It remained buried under a huge mound of sand, until the early 20th century, when restoration began under the Britishers.
Trees were planted to prevent the temple from the damaging winds. A museum was opened to display the sculpture that wasn't left in situ or sent to Delhi, Calcutta and London. In 1924, the Earl of Ronaldshay proclaimed the newly-revealed temple to be "one of the most stupendous buildings in India which rears itself aloft, a pile of overwhelming grandeur even in its decay. The original temple had a main sanctum sanctorum or vimana (229 feet tall). Due to the weight of the superstructure (70 m tall) and weak soil of the area, the main vimana fell in 1837. The audience hall, "Jagamohana" (128 feet tall), still stands strong and is the principal structure in the surviving ruins. There are the dance and dining halls namely, "Nata Mandira" and "Bhoga mandapa", respectively. A collection of fallen sculptures can be viewed at the Konark Archaeological Museum which is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.