Type Dance Festival Time December/ February (Dates Shift) Location Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

I first saw her gleaming in the early rays of the sun on a cold breezy morning. Standing there in all her majesty, she was a sight to behold – delicate, fragile yet resilient, filling one with wonder, this tantalizing lady seemingly dancing was but one of the many thousands of figurines made of the golden-hued Khondalite stone, adorning the Konark Sun Temple. Every inch of it is covered with intricate sculptures of dancers in myriad emotive states and musicians playing drums, cymbals and other musical instruments. It is no wonder that the renowned poet Rabindranath Tagore once remarked, “here the language of stone surpasses the language of humans.”

The festival

The Konark Sun Temple is part of an expansive complex with the main temple structured in the shape of the chariot of Surya, the sun god. Then there is the natyamandir (amphitheatre meant to showcase dance performances), which is a part of the complex. It is against this spectacular backdrop that the Konark Dance Festival is organized every year. As the sun sets, the atmosphere of the open air auditorium resonates with the sounds of bells and mellifluous music as dancers are immersed in the luminescence of the flood lights that illuminate the temple. As I began to watch the grand show, I felt like the the dancing figurines that adorn the walls of the temple had come to life at the natyamandir. Perhaps it was a vision akin to this that motivated Odisha Tourism and Odisha Research Centre to start the Konark Dance Festival here, back in 1989.

The five-day festival, held in either December or February (dates subject to change), has played an important role in the revival, preservation and continuation of Odisha’s unique temple dance tradition.

A delight for connoisseurs, professional and amateur dancers alike, the Konark Dance and Music Festival is a platform that showcases the many traditional and Classical dance forms in India such as Mohiniattam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Manipuri and Chhow amongst others. Celebrated artistes and upcoming dancers take part in this prestigious event.

Renowned artistes such as Srjan Ratikant Mohapatra, Vyjayanti Kasi, Prateeksha Kasi and Chandramani Lenka have performed at this stage in recent years. The festival also showcases performances by famous musicians. Additionally a crafts mela (fair) is held at the festival venue. Beautiful miniature sculptures and souvenirs made by expert craftsmen of the region are sold here. 

Swapan Nayak
The Konark Sun Temple boasts of exquisite sculptures
The Konark Sun Temple boasts of exquisite sculptures

Konarksun Temple

The Sun Temple in Konark is a 13th-century monument believed to have been built by king Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty in 1255 CE. The temple is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is also often referred to as the Black Pagoda. Originally built at the mouth of the Chandrabhaga river, in the traditional Kalinga style of architecture, the structure is oriented towards cardinal east so that the first rays of the sun strike its principal entrance. The temple’s central form – chariot of Surya – has twelve pairs of elaborately carved stone wheels being pulled by a set of seven horses. A significant part of the temple is now in ruins and the dance hall (bhoga mandapa) and dining hall (natyamandir) are amongst the few surviving structures. A collection of sculptures from the temple (partly ruined) are now on display at the Konark Archaeological Museum. The sun dial on the wheels of the chariot of the temple need a special mention – apart from being able to tell day and night, it can be used to calculate time accurately.

The Legend

There are numerous local legends associated with the location and construction of the temple. Bhavishya Purana and Samba Purana, both lay claim to an earlier sun temple in the region dating to the 9th century CE. In fact, the books mention the existence of three sun temples – at Mundira (possibly Konark), Kalapriya (Mathura), and Multan.

Samba (a son of Krishna) was cursed with leprosy. He was advised by Sage Kataka to worship the sun god to cure his aliment. Samba underwent a penance for 12 years near Chandrabhaga river. Both the original Konark temple and the Multan temple are known to be Samba’s places of worship.

What Else To do

Konark is part of the swarna tribhuja ‘golden triangle’ comprising the cities of Puri, Bhubaneshwar and Konark, thus luring visitors with the promise of a plenty of tourist sites. The Jagannath Temple in Puri is a sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath and is amongst the most visited Hindu temples in India. Bhubaneshwar, also called the ‘Temple City of India’ is home to some of the oldest structures and excavations in the country, including the very popular Lingaraj, Rajarani, and Muktesvara temples. If you are interested in archaeology, make a trip to Kuruma, which is 8km away. It is famous for its Buddhist heritage. For the spiritual tourist, a tour to the shrines of Amareswar and Laxminarayan is recommended.

Where to Stay and Eat

The Odisha Tourism Development Corporation run Yatri Niwas (Tel: 06758-236820, Cell: 08763995298; Tariff: 1,000–3,600), close to the Sun Temple is a decent place to stay. Sun Temple Hotel (Tel: 236890, Cell: 09437205163, 09776854459; Tariff: 900–3,500) is another good option. It has an AC restaurant that serves decent food. Surya Inn (Tel: 236841, Cell: 09776300977, 09337566655; Tariff: 800–1,800) near Canara Bank, and Labanya Lodge (Tel: 236824, Cell: 09937073559; Tariff: 450–1,050) on Konark Road, are neat and clean hotels. Right on the beach, slightly away from Konark, is Lotus Eco Resorts (Cell: 09090093464, 07377773003; Tariff: 3,500–8,000) in Khalkatapatna.

A number of joints serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, and local cuisine are present both at the main market area, near the beach and temple complex.

FAST FACTS

Tourist offices

OTDC

Yatri Niwas

Konarak

Tel: 06758-235821

Konark Natya Mandap Office

Cell: 09776008022, 09776660388

W konarkfestival.com

STD code 06758

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Bhubaneswar’s Biju Patnaik International Airport (65km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi costs 1,400–1,600

Rail Nearest railhead: Puri (34km/ 1hr). Taxi costs 800–1,000

Road Drive down NH203 from Bhu­baneswar to Konark via Puri Bus Hourly buses are available to Konark from Bhubaneswar. Full day car rentals cost 2,500–3,000 in tourist season