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For us Indians, the sun is Surya: the source of light, life, time, its daily round the oldest story of our aging and creaking planet. At the Surya Mandir or Sun Temple of Modhera in Gujarat, 100km northwest of Ahmedabad, the sun has for nearly a thousand years risen over, and flooded the arches and friezes of a monument built as a kind of rest house, if not home, for it on earth. The Rig Veda, a text drunken with the sun’s gifts and glories, extols the sun’s eye at dawn as the force that “reveals creation”. On a wintry December morning in Modhera the rising sun not only reveals the world—the sleepy village with its jumble of nondescript houses, the fields and a placid lake part-covered by lotus leaves on which long-legged birds stand still in meditation, a tourist bus disgorging a platoon of chattering schoolboys—but also completes it, as it enters with slowly advancing strides the monument expressly constructed with the arc of its journey in mind.

The idol of Surya inside the sanctum sanctorum, of the Modhera temple is long gone, plundered by Mahmud of Ghazni on one of his many raids on northern and western India in the 11th century. The temple’s spire, or shikhara, too, is broken. But to completely destroy the temple’s heliocentric spirit, Mahmud would have had to have possessed the power to throw the sun itself off its course. Twice every year, on the days of the March and the September equinoxes, the rays of the rising sun glide over the Surya Kund (the deep tank that forms the first of the temple’s three distinct but axially aligned features), pass through the arches of the music-hall or Ranga Mandap, pierce the entrance to the main chamber or Guda Mandap, and illuminate the sanctum, where the idol once stood. The spectacle has disappeared, but the thought—of the sun bringing its own image to life on a pre-appointed day as if keeping a vow, of the trajectory of a distant star and that of human intelligence and devotion meeting in a kind of architectural handshake, of a sense (even if fabricated) of concord between the earthly and the celestial realms—thrills the mind yet.

From the lower steps of the the kund or holy pond , I saw a whole group of school girls. Even though I was shooting pretty much into the late afternoon light, I composed this picture, trying to frame between the ‘toranas’.

Please do check these fine pictures of the Modhera Sun Temple taken by Ken Boulter (sardonik),
here, here, here, here, here, here, here and
here.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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