One of the most stunning monuments of religious significance, a true masterpiece of architecture proudly stands in the form of Sun Temple at Konark. A culmination of Oriya architecture, the temple is a wonderful place as the language of stone defeats the human language here. Built in 13th century by King Narasimhadeva, the temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across heavens.
Located at a manageable distance from the seat of Lord Jagannath, Puri at 35 kms; the temple is around 65 kms from the capital city of Bhubaneswar. The name of Konark temple is an amalgamation of two words--Kona meaning corner and Arka meaning the Sun. That is to say that the Sun god worshipped in Ark Kshetra is called Konark. Legend says that after killing the demon Gyasur, Lord Vishnu placed his belongings at several places to commemorate the victory. With His conch at Puri, Disc in Bhubaneshwar and Mace in Jajapur; He placed the Lotus at Konark.
The temple being an important landmark in the coastal voyage of European sailors was named 'The Black Pagoda' by them. The mythological reference states that Lord Krishna's son Samba was smitten with leprosy due to his father's curse. The former underwent severe penance for 12 years at Mitravana near the confluence of Chandrabhaga River with the sea at Konark and ultimately succeeded in pleasing the God Surya, the healer of all skin diseases, and was cured of his illness. In gratitude, he decided to erect a temple in the honor of Surya.
While bathing in the river on the following day, he found an image of God, fashioned out of Surya's body by Viswakarma. Samba installed this image in a temple built by him in Mitravana, where he propitiated the God. Since then, this place has been regarded as sacred.
In ancient times worship of Sun god was in vogue and the people were accustomed with the worship of two Supreme deities--one mother Earth as Dharitri Maata and the other the Sun, the Dharam devata. Sun god is regarded as the supreme lord of the universe and the prime object of life giving energy, being the healer of diseases and bestower of desires.
Surya has been a popular deity in India since Vedic period. Therefore, it is described in Rig Veda regarding Prayer of Sun God as follows. It was dedicated to the Sun-God (Arka) popularly called Biranchi-Narayan, and the tract in which it is situated was known as Arka-Kshetra as well as padma-kshetra. Among the five great religious zones or Kshetra which were located in Odisha (Orissa), Konark was considered to be one, the other four being Puri, Bhubaneswar, Mahavinayak, and Jajpur.
There are several smaller shrines situated in the neighborhood of the Sun Temple. In them are found Rameswar,Chitreswara,Tribeniswara, and Utpaleswar, all Siva-lingas; and Ramachandi Rudrani, Khileswari, Charchika and Chitreswari, various forms of Goddess Durga. Legends embodied in the Kapila Samhita, the Madala Panji, and the Prachi-mahatmya, take the sanctity of Konark back to mythical times. The legends of these late texts are an obvious adaptation of a much earlier tradition as recorded in the Bhavisya Purana and the Samba Purana.