Konark Sun Temple: Magnetic Vigraha and Destruction by Kalapahad, the Islamic Convert
“Kalapahad stood mesmerised in front of the gigantic Sun Temple of Konark. He looked up the Sanctum from inside and rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The Surya Vigraha (statue) was actually floating in mid air!!”
Today’s Sun temple of Konark has risen from almost a complete ruin. Thanks to relentless efforts of historians and careful excavations of archaeologists!!
The Sun Temple Splendor
Two massive, seemingly upset lion stone figures jumps out aggressively at the entrance of the Sun Temple of Konark. Crushing down an elephant on each side of the approach, each elephant trampling a human below. A flight of stairs take you to a magnificently pillared platform called the Natyamandir or the dancing hall. All across the base up to the top of this roofless Natyamandir are carvings depicting day to day life of dancers, musicians, hunters, human life cycle, Gods and Goddesses, mythical beast (Lion like) and many more.
Beyond the Natyamandir stands the pyramidal 100 feet tall Jagamohana or prayer hall on a “Chariot of seven horses”. With twelve beautifully carved massive wheels on each side of the chariot, the ruins of seven rearing horses in front gives an impression as if the complete chariot is ready to take off into the sky. What an extraordinary visual treat!!!
The three tiered Jagamohana (Prayer hall) is constructed on an incredible platform. The enormous wheels, platform and Jagamohana has exquisite carvings everywhere from top to bottom on the exterior walls. These include Lord Vishnu’s ten incarnations (Dasavatara), Various Kings of Ganga dynasty, several dancing girls, victory march, Naga mithunas (couples), Individual Naga figures, hunting scenes, elephants and giraffe, the mythical beast (Lion like) almost everywhere guarding the whole complex, erotica and many more sculptures!!!
Occasional glimpses of iron rod peeping out from chipped structures indicate extensive use of iron in constructing this gigantic structure. Three enormous 11 ft tall Sun God statues stand at three outside corners of the Jagamohana depicting different positions of Sun (Dawn, Noon and Dusk). The massive 24 wheels are actually Sun dials giving exact timing of the day!!!
The Sanctum Sanctorum which was a mammoth 230 ft arched structure (Vimana) behind the Jagamohana stands no more now – collapsed forever!! The raised platform with wheels had to be abruptly bent from behind the Jagamohana by the archeologists due to the collapse of the Sanctum. Behind the colossal Sanctum ruin is a platform (probably the spot where the Sanctum originally stood) with a display of gigantic mythical lion sculptors and a peculiar broken figure of hippopotamus which were a part of the Sanctum Vimana’s exterior!!
So what happened to the Sanctum Vimana? What was inside the Sanctum and who was responsible for the complete demolition of this magnificent splendor? A deep dive in history! For some, it’s TRUTH, for some a MYTH!!
12-Year Old Dharmapada’s Role in Creating the Magnetic Vigraha
An engineering splendor along the banks of river Chandrabhaga (now dry) and facing the endless Bay of Bengal within few metres (the sea has receded few KMs now) the Sun Temple of Konark was constructed during the reign of Narshingdeva 1 from Eastern Ganga dynasty in the 13th century AD. The chief architect Bishu Maharana was an outstanding engineer who meticulously designed this extraordinary structure. Such awe inspiring was the design that King Narsingdeva chose it instantly from several architectural drawings submitted by many famous architects in the powerful Ganga Dynasty. The reason for the choice was not only for its colossal structure but also that the Sanctum Vimana had a noteworthy design of a levitating or suspending magnetic Vigraha/Statue involving graphite slabs (diamagnet), metals & magnets!! This unique temple would be first of its kind in the history of Ganga dynasty along with a mesmerising display of natural light from electromagnetic spectrum!!
Ganga dynasty’s trade with East Asia and African countries, especially Egypt encouraged exchange of knowledge on several expertise including ancient Egyptian science and architecture since several decades. Bishu Maharana was an expert in ferromagnetism and also took special interest in ancient Egyptian structural engineering. He blended science with architecture perfectly to design this new marvel.
The 12 years of relentless hard work to construct the Sun temple involved 12000 artisans, cutting and carving stones, building “Sand scaffolding” like the expert Egyptians, carefully positioning iron and magnets in between layers of stones, etc. Various construction materials and special stones were ferried from distant locations on ship and boat using the sea and river route. The busy Sun temple site and city of Konark was bustling with activities!
A complex positioning of diamagnetic substance (which repel magnetic field) in the Sanctum and placing a 52 ton loadstone as a “lifter magnet” to suspend the magnetic statue of Sun God was the biggest challenge for Bishu Maharana. The main magnetic Vigraha or statue had to be suspended mid air under the influence of a strong diamagnetic elevation with graphite slabs at the top and the bottom, while a large loadstone (magnet) with a funnel carved out from inside was placed at the top to act as a lifter for the magnetic Sun God!! The experts struggled for long, a little too long to balance the Vigraha “without a tilt in midair” until Bishu’s twelve year old son Dharmapada came with a solution.
Dharamapada grew up playing with Bishu Maharana’s large magnet collection back home since his childhood. He exactly knew how to float a magnet in between two diamagnetic graphite blocks using a magnetic lifter. It must not be too close either to the top or the base. He knew the exact calculation, more than this was the choice of diamagnetic material. It must be a pyrolytic graphite or Bismuth. He practised it many times perfectly to surprise his young friends at home. Dharmapada heard about the difficulty his father was facing at Konark and rushed to the site of the Sun temple. His advice was executed flawlessly by sandwiching the graphite blocks with Capula (Bismuth) and by adjusting their position in a few hours and the magnetic Sun God was suspending impeccably at a balance in mid air without a slight tilt!!! All ended well, yet Bishu Maharana was worried.
The Sun God Vigraha had a large diamond fixed on the headgear. Bishu Maharana designed the Jagamohana and Natyamandir in such a way that at dawn the first morning sun rays would enter the cosmic doorways of the prayer hall through the Natyamandir and hit the diamond on the head gear and lit up the entire Sanctum acting on the principle of reflection and refraction!! This spectacular display was at its best during the equinox. Depending upon the position of Sun and due to refraction of light the Sanctum as well as the entire Jagamohana used to lit up with different intensity!! Absolute extravaganza!!
Thus the Sun God was suspending in mid air and the Sun rays at various time of the day was creating a dazzling display of light in the Sanctum!! Imagine this breathtaking spectacle!! It was a sheer masterpiece and people from all over the country visited to pray at Konark. The Sun temple of Konark was one of the most revered deities of the eastern empire and was continuously worshiped for the next three centuries until Kalapahad stepped into Konark temple!!!!
So, was Dharmapada acknowledged for this extraordinary contribution in the Sun temple? Why was Bishu Maharana worried? How did the Sanctum come down after centuries? What happened to the Sun God Vigraha? Who was Kalapahad? What is his story?
“Kalapahad tightened his grip on the hilt and slowly pulled out his sword from the scabbard. He cried out aloud inside the Sanctum of Konark temple. “I am not Rajib Lochan Roy nor am I your affectionate Kalachand anymore!! I am Muhammad Farmuli. I am Kalapahad! You made me Kalapahad!!”
The Conversion Trap for Rajib Lochan Roy
The Afghani Sultan of Gaur, Sulaiman Khan Karrani suffered a humiliating defeat in 1565 from the Hindu Kings of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa lead by Maharaja Rudranarayan of Bhurishrestha (Bengal) and Gajapati Mukundadeva of Kalinga (Orissa). The commander in chief of this army was Rajib Lochan Roy of Kalinga who almost annihilated the Afghans in the battle of Triveni. He was merciless on the enemy and showed phenomenal valour in the battlefield. Rajib Lochan was exceptionally loyal to his king Mukundadeva (who was like his father figure) and was affectionately called “Kalachand” (the black moon). Rajib dedicated his life only towards the King and Kalinga kingdom.
Sulaiman Karrani realised that he could never conquer Kalinga or Bhurishrestha unless this valiant general Rajib Lochan was removed. So he hatched a plan. Sulaiman Karrani lured Rajib Lochan to his very charming daughter Gulnaaz!!
Rajib Lochan fell in love with Gulnaaz straightaway. It was love at first sight for him. She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen before!! Although scripted as a trap primarily to distract Rajib Lochan by her father, Gulnaaz actually started liking Rajib Lochan. He was unadulterated, simple, honest, strong, brave above all loyal! She never came across a man like Rajib before. Yes, she too was in love with the dark hulk!!
Rajib Lochan was unyielding. He wanted to marry Gulnaaz and take her back to Kalinga immediately. Sulaiman Karrani played his next move. He was ready to allow Gulnaaz marry Rajib Lochan but under one condition. Rajib Lochan who was a Barendra Brahmin had to convert to Islam!!!!
Rajib Lochan was in love. His heart beat skipped every time he looked into Gulnaaz’s eyes. But how could he face his king Mukundadeva if he converted to Islam. He was torn between his love and his loyalty for the King and Kingdom. Gulnaaz came with the idea that she was ready to convert herself to Hindu later and Rajib Lochan can reconvert from Islam to Hindu when they are back to Kalinga after the wedding. Brilliant! So, Rajib Lochan converted to Islam with his new name Muhammad Farmuli and married His love Gulnaaz with a mutual agreement to convert back to Hindu!!
Mahammud Farmuli and his ravishing begum Gulnaaz reached Jagannath temple, Puri, to take the blessings of his favourite lord. The couple was stopped at the entrance. Non Hindus were not allowed inside the temple. Mahammud Farmuli smiled at the priest whom he knew very well. “I am here to convert back to a Hindu along with my wife,” he exclaimed enthusiastically.
But, in a cruel twist of fate, Mahammud Farmuli could never get himself converted into a Hindu. Maharaj Mukundadeva ruled out any possibility of reconversion. The priests said according to scriptures this can never be allowed. Mahammud Farmuli stood lifeless, staring continuously at the Puri temple, completely heartbroken. He lost his identity in a flash. The King even declared that his children and his children’s children will never be allowed to take the blessings of Lord Jagannath. From that day Rajib Lochan was dead, wiped out of existence on the very land of Kalinga, by his very own King for whom he had devoted his life. The man who stood outside the temple complex was a hulk called “Mahammud Farmuli”. Slowly he walked away from the temple gripping the sword hilt very tightly.
Mahammud Farmuli returned to Kalinga soon, rode into all the temples of Kalinga along with an army of Afghans. This time not as Rajib Lochan or Mahammud Farmuli but as a possessed general of the Karrani sultanate, with a new name – “Kalapahad” (The black mountain). He killed all his friends and acquaintances in Kalinga – the King, the Queen, Ministers, Royal guards, Priests and he didn’t blink before demolishing all temples of Kalinga. The Puri temple was completely ransacked with a vengeance. He didn’t spare the Vigrahas of the inner sanctum!! Kalapahad turned into a dreadful monster, showing loyalty towards his new religion!!
He now stood inside the Sanctum of the most revered Vigraha of his time – the Sun Temple of Konark! The converted Afghan and his soldiers broke down the seven horses of the Jagamohana with a single mad cry. The ceiling of the dancing floor was pulled down, the lions and elephant statues cut into pieces. The entire temple complex turned into a devastated ruin.
Kalapahad knew how Dharmapada levitated the Sun God. He cut the graphite blocks into pieces as the Vigraha spiralled and hit the loadstone hard up in the ceiling of the Sanctum. He wanted the diamond on the headgear which along with the magnetic Vigraha was now stuck to the large magnet about 200 ft above the base. “Break the loadstone” he shouted. His men climbed the Sanctum and smashed the loadstone. The Sun God Vigraha collapsed along with rubble on the floor.
Kalapahad pulled out the diamond with a deliberate force and burst out into a demonic laughter, defacing many sculptures on the way to the exit!!
13th century AD
When Dharmapada completed the task of helping the engineers suspend the Vigraha, Bishu Maharana was worried about the stability of the Sanctum arch. A disturbance in the equilibrium could cause an internal collapse of this structure which had enough metal embedded in it. One more point which concerned him was the whispers among his engineers that King Narshingdeva would ridicule or even punish them for their inability to levitate the statue which the young boy did it in few hours. Bishu Maharana walked towards his son who was waiting for compliments from his father.
As Kalapahad moved out of Kalinga, sometime later, the 200 ft Sanctum arch collapsed along with the loadstone and Kalasha burying the ransacked temple complex completely. Only a portion of the Sanctum of the Sun temple stood for few centuries before collapsing completely. Meanwhile, immediately after Kalapahad and his army left the temple, the Sun God Vigraha went missing mysteriously.
What currently is alive in Konark is probably the spirit of Dharmapada. The young boy was heartbroken when his father asked him not to talk about his extraordinary feat to anyone, as the engineers feared of being punished by the King for their inability. Dharmapada was impatiently waiting to hear his father’s compliments. Instead he was asked to shut up!! The kid was emotionally hurt and was completely shattered. Dharmapada quietly walked up the sand scaffolding that night, climbed further up on to the loadstone and jumped on the rocks below, ending his life!!
Dharmapada quietly ended his life aggrieved by his father’s decision while Kalapahad took away hundreds of life, converted thousands into his new religion, demolished many temples, aggrieved by his King’s decision!!!!
Kalinga has many stories beyond Ashoka. Konark has seen it all!!! Konark is a must visit in your lifetime. To be continued…..
Featured representation image (Kalapahad in battle scene) courtesy: Vishv Books. Rest of the images of Sun temple in article are clicks by the author.
Visit the author’s personal travel blog Travel Truth & Myth. Explore heritage tourist places with Pii India Tour and Travels.