Ancient and medieval Indian kings built some of the most wonderful sun temples in India. They were so beautiful in architecture that in those times, they ranked among the greatest temples in India. Even today, tourists visit the sun temples in India and admire the wonderful architecture of these temples. Some of these sun temples in India have turned into ruins, but those which are still preserved are worth visiting. The most amazing thing about these sun temples is their unique construction and unbelievable architecture. Some of them were built in such unique ways that when the sun rose, the first rays of the sun always fell on the temple. Ancient Indian sciences of Shilpshastra and Vastushastra were used in the construction of these sun temples.
Read More: Original Char Dham Temples in India
You will find the most amazing carvings and sculptures in these sun temples of India. These sun temples in India are the national heritage of India and are so beautiful that UNESCO has included these sun temples as World Heritage Sites of India.
The Sun God or Surya Dev in Indian Mythology
The sun is a very powerful god in Hindu cosmology. He is also one of the navagrahas or nine planets of Indian astrology. Ancient Indian sages and rishis composed sacred chants, poetic verses, and devotional prayers and dedicated them to the sun god. The sun god is called Surya Dev in the Hindu religion. He is the giver of power and prestige. Ancient Indian kings worshipped the Sun God and prayed to him so that they may become wealthy and powerful.
Ancient Sun Temples of India
The list of sun temples in India has some of the most wonderful and biggest sun temples that are still preserved in excellent condition. These are:
- Konark Sun Temple
- Modhera Sun Temple
- Martand Sun Temple
- Katarmal Sun Temple
- Ranakpur Sun Temple
- Surya Pahar Temple, Assam
- Suryanar Kovil, Tamil Nadu
- Balaji Sun Temple, Madhya Pradesh
- Sun Temple, Gwalior
- Sun Temple, Ranchi
- Devka Sun Temple
- Surya Temple, Jhalrapatan
- Sun Temple, Jaipur
- Dakshinaaka Sun Temple, Gaya
1. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha
Konark sun temple is one of the brilliant examples of architecture in India. This temple is magnificent and enormous in its structure. Konark means the sun and the four corners. The entire temple is constructed in the form of a huge chariot which is drawn by seven horses. The seven horses are the seven days of the week. There are 12 wheels on both sides of the temple and these suggest the 12 months of the year. There are more symbols in the center of these wheels which suggest seasons and the cycle of days. Konark Sun Temple is completely built out of black stone. In the olden days, the black dome of the temple guided ships in navigation and this is why Europeans called this temple the Black Pagoda.
Read More: 28 Best Tourist Places to Visit in Nepal
Konark Sun Temple was built in the 13th century by the king of the Ganga dynasty called King Narsimhadeva I. The walls of the temple have delicately carved sculptures of deities, apsaras, Gandharvas, and other mythological characters. This temple is one of the finest examples of Kalinga architecture. Such is its construction that the first rays of the sun fall on the entrance of the temple.
2. Modhera Sun Temple, Gujarat
Modhera Sun Temple is a spectacular example of temple architecture in Gujarat. The temple was built in the Maru Gurjara style of architecture. The temple was made during the golden period of Indian history when temple architecture was at its finest. The Chalukya king Bhimdev I, built this temple during 1026-27 AD. This temple is even older than the Konark Sun Temple. The entire temple structure had three main sections. You will first come across the stepwell which is called Suryakund. Beyond this stepwell is the Sabha Mandapa, which is an octagonal-shaped hall with 52 sculptured pillars, a carved ceiling, and exquisite carvings on the walls.
Read More: Gujarat Tour & Travel Packages
The main temple is further away from this hall and is called Guda Mandapa. It is also called Garbhagruha and was constructed in such a way that the first rays of the sun fell on the idol of the sun. There are various carvings on the outer and inner walls and these depict the sun god in various postures. Mahmud Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji looted and destroyed this temple many times in the past, and the looters took the main idol of the sun god with them. But whatever construction is remaining of this temple is enough to show the exquisite architectural beauty of the temples of ancient India.
3. Martand Sun Temple, Jammu & Kashmir
Although Martand Sun Temple is in ruins, whatever structures are left are enough to point to the fact that in its time, this was one of the greatest sun temples in India.
Martand Sun Temple is in the Anantnag district of Jammu & Kashmir. The main deity of this temple is the sun god, who is also known as Martand in the Sanskrit language. The temple is in ruins, but even in the ruins, the temple structure suggests the presence of a huge temple complex in medieval India. Raja Ramdev of the Pandya dynasty built this temple in 3007 BC, more than 5000 years back. But Lalitaditya Muktapida, who was a powerful king of the Karkota dynasty rebuilt this temple in the 8th century. The temple is a striking example of the Kashmiri style of architecture.
Read More: Jammu Kashmir Travel & Tour Packages
The temple architecture is one of the finest in all of Kashmir. There is a vast courtyard, in which the main temple is situated and is surrounded by 84 smaller shrines. The smaller shrines and chambers are so accurately built that they seem symmetrical to each other. The main temple has a conical dome and its walls have artistic sculptures of deities and other mythological figures. A walk in the ruins of this temple will give you the impression of a larger temple complex. Famous Bollywood movies like Haider and Aandhi were shot here.
4. Katarmal Sun Temple, Uttarakhand
Katarmal Sun Temple is the only temple of the sun god that is built in mountainous areas. The main deity of this temple is the sun god, who is also known as Burhaditya or Vraddhaditya. The temple is situated in Almora. Large slabs were transported on hilly roads to construct this temple. The king from the Katyuri dynasty called Katarmal built this temple in the 9th century. The main shrine is surrounded by 44 smaller shrines. All the shrines are sculpted with detailed sculptures and carvings. The walls, doors, pillars, and ceiling have marvelous sculptures and carvings. The most interesting thing about this temple was that during certain times of the year, the rays of the sun would enter the chamber and illuminate the main idol.
Read More: Top 10 Shiva Temples to visit in Uttarakhand
Temple is built over a hilltop and offers magnificent views of the surrounding areas. The temple is situated amid dense deodar forests and sweeping landscapes of Almora. The temple is still an active place of worship and people have tremendous faith in this temple. Chhath Puja and many other religious events are celebrated with great festivities in this temple.
5. Ranakpur Sun Temple, Rajasthan
Ranakpur is a small town near Udaipur which is famous for its massive Jain temples. Although the temples are all dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras, there is also a temple in which the main deity is the sun god. This temple is also called Surya Narayan Mandir. The temple was built somewhere around the 13th century but was later reconstructed in the 15th century. The temple was built with the Nagara style of architecture. The main temple is built on a raised platform. There are wonderful sculptures and carvings on the walls, pillars, and ceiling. The mandapa in front of the inner chamber has carved pillars. The temple faces the eastern direction and the main idol of the sun god is shown riding a chariot. The sun temple of Ranakpur is still worshipped by a priest and is managed by the royal family of Udaipur.
6. Surya Pahar Temple, Assam
The most amazing thing about the Surya Pahar Temple in Assam is that it is not a single temple, but a big temple complex. It has many shiv lingas, stupas, carved sculptures of Hindu gods, and other objects. The Surya Pahar Temple was a place where the ancient people of Assam worshipped the sun god called Surya. This temple complex is believed to be present even before the 12th century. The place is on the banks of the Brahmaputra River. This temple complex was also a place where Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus worshipped their gods and goddesses. There are various stone slabs which are engraved with different Hindu deities engraved on them. It is believed that in ancient times, there was 99,999 shiv lingam here. According to legends, Ved Vyas established the shiv linga here so that he could create a second city that was similar to Kashi.
7. Suryanar Kovil, Tamil Nadu
One of the famous sun temples in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu is Suryanar Kovil Temple. The temple was constructed in the 11th century during the rule of Kulothunga Choladeva. This temple is dedicated to the sun god called Suryan. He is the main deity of this temple and his idol is shown with Usha Devi and Pratyusha Devi, who are his two wives. This temple is one of the famous Navagraha temples in Tamil Nadu and has separate shrines for all nine navagraha deities.
Read More: Tamil Nadu Tour Packages
The temple is famous for its Dravidian style of architecture. The gopuram is carved with wonderful sculptures and carvings of deities and other Hindu motifs. Pujas are done regularly in this temple and people come from nearby villages to cure themselves of the Navagraha doshas. The temple priests do religious pujas and Abhishek strictly as they have been laid out in the sacred books. Festivals like Ratha Saptami are celebrated with great religious festivities.
8. Balaji Sun Temple, Madhya Pradesh
Unao is a small town in the Datia district of Madhya Pradesh. There is a temple which is devoted to the sun god called Brahmanya Dev. The temple is famous for curing skin diseases and leprosy. This temple is very old and historical records suggest that this was built many centuries ago. The temple is still an active place of worship and priests perform daily pujas here. There is a small pond near the temple where devotees take baths to purify themselves. The main deity of this temple is engraved with 21 triangles which suggest the twenty-one phases of the sun.
9. Sun Temple, Gwalior
In the historical city of Gwalior, there is a temple of the sun god which is also a very famous heritage monument. This temple is called Surya Mandir and was built in 1988 by the famous industrialist G.D. Birla. The sun temple in Gwalior is constructed just like the famous Konark Sun Temple in Orissa. The temple was built in such a way that it looked like the chariot of the sun god, which was driven by seven horses. There is a very beautiful idol of the sun god in the temple. The outer structure of the temple was made of red sandstone and the interiors were built out of white marble stone. Elegant stone carvings on the outer walls of the temple are very artistic and wonderful to look at.
10. Sun Temple, Ranchi
The sun temple in Ranchi is amazing to look at and is greatly revered by devotees of the sun god. The architecture of this temple is in the shape of the chariot of the sun god, which has nine wheels on either side. Seven horses drive this chariot and are sculptured in such a way that they look like galloping on their journey. There is a pond near the temple, which is very holy and devotees take a dip in the pond before visiting the temple. Chhath Puja is a festival that is also celebrated with great religious devotion in this temple. Chhath puja is done for the sun god.
11. Devka Sun Temple, Barmer
The Devka Sun Temple in Barmer is an excellent example of the temple architecture of Rajasthan. This sun temple is a heritage site in Barmer and was built in the 13th century. There are two other temples of Lord Vishnu and Lord Ganesha near the sun temple. Idols and sculptures in the temple are chiseled with excellent carvings. The temple is in ruins, but the existing structures suggest that the original temple was one of the magnificent sun temples in Rajasthan.
12. Surya Temple, Jhalrapatan
One of the best temples in Jhalrapatan in Rajasthan is the temple of the sun god Suryadev. The temple architecture is very similar to that of the Konark Sun Temple or the Khajuraho Temple. This temple is also known as Padmanabh Temple and was built in the 10th century. The temple has magnificent architecture and sculptures. The shikhara of the temple has many carvings. The mandapa of the temple has many pillars which are carved with great artistic skills. There are idols of Vishnu and Surya inside the temple.
13. Sun Temple, Jaipur
The Surya Mandir in Jaipur is a heritage temple built in honor of the sun god. The temple is on a small hill and its construction is like that of a mansion or Haveli. The gates and walls of the temple are built to look like a small fort. The temple is similar to the Kalki Temple in its style. Diwan Rao Kripa Ram, who was a minister in the court of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, built the temple in 1734 AD.
14. Dakshinaaka Sun Temple, Gaya
Worship of the sun god, Aditya was very much prevalent in the ancient Magadha Kingdom. Gaya has one such temple of the sun god. This temple is very ancient and the stone idol of Aditya is worshipped here. The temple and its current structure date back to the 13th century. The temple is so old that it is even mentioned in the ancient Hindu puranic scriptures. A king of Warangal called Prataparudra is said to have built this temple. The temple has simple architecture. There is a sabha mandapa in front of the main temple chamber. The pillars of this sabha mandapa are sculptured with idols of various Hindu deities.