Monday, June 17, 2013

Travel Essay Contest -- Entry 10

I Must Be Off! is having its first annual Travel Essay Contest. Each entry will appear at first without byline or bio. These will be added at the end of the contest. As you enjoy these travel essays from around the world, please feel free to comment; but if you offer criticism, remember to be positive. These writers are my guests.

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Konark: Where Stone Speaks
by Swarnalata Patel

To have a splendid summer vacation, we decided to visit the Konark temple from Puri, the place I belong to. The Konark temple is situated in Orissa state of heritage rich India.  The journey itself was a romantic drive as light was playing hide and seek with our car due to dense forest in the road side. The paddy fields were turned to golden color as they were ready for harvesting. When the wind blew over them, it seemed as if they danced in rhythm forming an artificial tide. Acres of paddy fields are broken by palm and coconut fringes.

The road side vendor informed, this is the only place in earth where you can have fresh fried palm nuggets, not bothering to hide a hint of pride in its uniqueness.

We reached Konark temple by noon. We hired a guide to understand the legends of the temple. The whole temple is constructed in stones. There are numerous statues, in different poses, engraved in each inch of temple’s body. The artisans and architects have given life to the stones. At the gate, there are two fierce lions standing on elephants. Each elephant lies on top of a human body. The sculptures in temple’s body include flawless geometrical patterns, natural lives of numerous birds, animals, humans, deities, mermaids, celestial bodies and mythological creatures. Human sculpture of dancer, lover sometimes indulging in classic erotic pose, musician, nymph are vivid. Thousands of elephants are engraved at the base of the temple. The lively creatures celebrate the different aspects of life ranging from hunting, military battle to open and free expression of intimate relationship, courtly relaxation along with numerous festivals of life as engraved in stones. The excellence, splendid carving and fine craft of artisans makes this temple distinct from others. Sometimes, the grace of the temple is beyond imaginable which makes it belong to ‘just-see-it-to-believe’ category. Our heart got lost in the eyes of lively sculptures.

This temple is dedicated to the Sun God. The structure of this temple resembles the giant chariot of Sun with twelve pair of highly ornamented splendor intricate wheels, twelve representing months of year. Each wheel is of three meter dimension. The chariot is pulled by seven mighty horses, seven representing days of week. The spokes of the wheel serve as sundial and it’s amazing that the shadow of the spokes conveys the time accurately. The guide mentioned, due to the presence of the fifty two ton of magnet at the heap of the temple, the main idol of Sun god used to float. In the morning the sun ray first used to pass the temple and radiant the face of floating Sun God than any other place. The magnet is removed from the temple long ago. The alignment of the Sun temple is on the east-west direction.

The temple is an absolute treat to eyes, beauty at its best. The proportionate integration of efficient technology, design, architecture, astronomy knowledge moreover artistic traceries is admirable. Tourist cameras do not take a break in capturing the masterpieces. Many people from far and near places travel here to catch a glimpse of the stunning and knockout craftsmanship. This is a place of solace and creativity for artists, painter, poet, writer or anybody having finest sense of taste.  The noble prize recipient poet Rabindranath Tagore has described Konark as "Here the language of stone surpasses the language of man." This is declared as a world heritage site.

It was built by twelve hundred best artists of Orissa and architects over a period of twelve long years. This temple is also known as black pagoda as it is made of black granite. The name Konark is derived from the Sanskrit word Kona (meaning angle) and word Arka (meaning the Sun). The legend says; the temple is constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. He was cursed by Lord Krishna and was suffering from leprosy. By observing panacea for twelve years he got cured by the grace of lord Sun. To be thankful to lord Sun, he constructed the Sun temple.

The Naata Mandir (the Dancing hall of Konark) houses many renowned classical Odissi dancers.  In this place, the temple dancers used to perform dances in homage to the Sun God. As per the guide, the annual dance festival called “Konark Dance Festival” is held every December. It is devoted to classical Indian dance forms and specifically the traditional dance of Orissa renowned in the world as Odissi.

The temple is surrounded by numerous trees like rosewood, eel, and mahogany enhancing its grace.

Adjacent to the temple, there is a sea shore, Chandrabhaga. This is the coast of the Bay of Bengal. We built sand castle and my son collected few pebbles, shells from sand. Although the heart stayed in Konark, we had to come back to our place at evening.  

No wonder, Konark is one of the seven wonders of world! 

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Swarnalata Patel is an author and works as a Senior System Engineer. She has a published anthology of her short stories. She is recipient of “Kathha Nabaprativa Award” for best short story. She writes in various well accepted magazines and newspapers.  She lives with spouse Sunil and their son Suyash.


RESULTS OF THE CONTEST ANNOUNCED ON JULY 20!