E

very year in Samskriti, Bharat Darshan is an eagerly awaited event – a journey to a state in India to have a peek into its culture. We went to Orissa in December last year and visited many significant places including Puri Jagannath, Pipli, Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneshwar, Udayagiri caves, Nandankanan Zoological Park and the Chandrabhaga Sand Art Festival. We also witnessed a number of cultural performances like Gotipua and Odissi. To top it all, Orissan cuisine followed us everywhere. Yet, there was one place that I found particularly fascinating: Konark.

Konark is famous for its Surya Deva or Sun Temple, built by King Narasimhadeva I of the Ganga dynasty in the 13th century CE. Though half destroyed, what a monument it is! The place has enough to leave you gaping, especially the stone work. There are 24 magnificent wheels, 12 on either side of the temple, designed like a chariot. At the forefront of the temple were 7 stone horses that drew the chariot, however now only one has been fully restored. The intricacy of the structure is astounding; a description would be a disgrace so I’m not attempting it.

Considering that the temple was completed within 12 years, the devotion of the people towards their work is amazing. It is hard to imagine the thousands of workers all working to one plan, following the instructions given without adding the smallest idea of their own. Without this devotion such a monument would not have been possible. This focus, this devotion and this involvement of all those who made the temple happen is something I must imbibe and take back. Looking at the ongoing Theerthakund and Adiyogi Alayam construction here in the ashram, we have so many cranes, trucks and other equipment. None of these existed in the 13th century and the Konark Surya Deva is an outstanding example of the capability that a human being holds. Our own Dhyanalinga is an elegant temple by itself and now after Konark, I can’t help imagining a magnificent structure befitting him…a 350 feet Gopura… maybe that’s too tall a dream…

The next day we witnessed the unique dance known as Gotipua. The Gotipua dance originated when the British banned women from dancing in the temple. In order to keep the tradition of temple dance from dying, young boys were dressed as girls and would perform during festivals. The Gotipua dancers had us spellbound with graceful and acrobatic movements for an hour. It was full of difficult poses but they continued for an hour without exhibiting any signs of tiredness.

As a trip, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the food, places and people. There were only two volunteers who organized the whole thing for us – only now do I know that the trip wouldn’t have happened without them. Like them, I’m sure there are many more people who gave themselves to make it happen for us and we would like to express our gratitude to all of them.

It has been a vibrant trip and the culture has taught us many things. As an ode to Orissa, the least possible thing would be to take back with us the devotion, intensity and state of offering that the state has showered on us.

– Isha Samskriti Student