Katarmal Sun Temple

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Katarmal Sun Temple


Nestled among the thick deodars of the Kumaon hills, the imposing Katarmal Sun temple is dedicated to Surya Dev. Built by the Katyuri rulers of Uttarakhand in the 9th century AD, it is regarded second only to the Konark Sun temple in Orrisa.

Katarmal Sun Temple

katarmal Sun Temple at Katarmal, ALmora, Uttarakhand, India

katarmal Sun Temple at Katarmal, ALmora, Uttarakhand, India

Date of construction 9th century CE
Constructed by Katyuri Kings

Background

The sun has been propitiated in India since ages immemorial and the Vedas have mentioned it as the store house of inexhaustible energy and radiance. There are several hymns in Vedic literature dedicated to the sun describing the celestial body as divine and the source and sustainer of all life in the universe. One of the famous hymns in praise of the sun is the Surya Upnishad. References of sun worship are also found in Puranas and the scriptures. The sun worship became more prominent with the vicissitudes of time and when Mayura - Bhatta one of the literates in the court of Harsha Vardhan in the 7th century A.D composed Surya Satkam in praise of the God Surya and it is believed that he was cured of his blindness. In Yajur Veda it has been mentioned that in the Himalayan region sun worship assumed an important place owing to the harsh climatic conditions. In Uttarakhand too it has been in vogue since ancient times and with the onset of winter it is believed that worshipping of sun at sunrise by giving oblations of water is very beneficial for health and energizes the human body to brave the cold. As the sun has moved to the southern hemisphere during this period and the region is blanketed with cold it has become customary to invoke the Sun God and the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra.

Main Temple

In Uttarakhand the cult of Surya, besides Shiva, Vishnu and Durga is very popular. It seems to have its roots in the remote past and must have entered this region at least in the beginning of the Christian era. However its antiquity on the basis of archaeological and primary historical records can be traced to the Taleshwar copper plate grants of the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. In the grant virtues of the Sun God have been extolled as a life giving deity of the universe. According to the eminent archaeologist Professor K.P Nautiyal the Katyuris and the Chand kings of Kumaon favoured the cult of Surya is testified by the presence of a large number of sculptures and monuments pertaining to the Sun God in Uttarakhand. There are more than 80 icons of Surya throughout Kumaon and Garhwal and more than a dozen temples dedicated to him. The statues installed in them are locally known as Baraditya, Surya Narain and Bhaumaditya etc. The following of the cult is manifested during the present times in the festivals celebrated in his honour generally in the month of Paus (15 December to 15'* January) or during the eclipse. The God is given oblations with water mixed with milk followed by flowers. [ref]

History

The Katarmal temple is situated on a lofty hill on the right bank of the River Kosi at a distance of approx 17 km from Almora preached at an elevation of 2, 116 metres above the sea level in the Almora district of Uttarakhand. This temple was constructed by king katarmalla of Katyuri dynasty in the 9 th century CE and from there it has got the name Katarmal and is a stunning example of Katyuri's rich history. There are about 50 subsidiary shrines of the late 7th to 8th century A.D clustered around the main temple. The significance of the temple  according to Professor KP Nautiyal is notable since it is the only important shrine dedicated to Surya in this part of the country( north india) while the other temple dedicated to lord Surya is the famous Konark temple in Odisha located in the eastern parts . The temple is locally known as the Bara Adit or the great Sun God.

Architecture

The Katarmal Temple is presumed to be the grandest of all temples and monuments constructed in the Kumaon region The temple exemplifies the immense creativity and architectural excellence possessed by the sculptors and artisans of the era.

The deity to whom the temple is dedicated here is the old sun god known as Burhaditya or Vraddhaditya. Sculptures of Shiva-Parvati and Laxmi-Narayan have been established in the premises. The temple has a remarkably unique architecture, which includes carved pillars and doors along with intricate stone and metallic sculptures. As can be expected, the temple faces east so that the first rays of the sun fall on the shivling. The main temple is an older structure that is surrounded by 45 smaller shrines. To reach it, one has to trek almost 3 km, crossing Hawalbagh and Matela near Kosi rivers. [ref]

 The main shrine is surrounded by a paved enclosure measuring about 50 metres by 9.46 metres north to south and east to west respectively. It stands on a raised platform (jagati) consisting of a grabha griha or sanctum sanctorum, which measures 1.15 square metres and 7.6 metres along each side with a projecting portico on the outside towards the east. The pillars on the portico are quite massive though they lack ornamentation. The sanctum sanctorum is constructed in such a manner that the first ray of sun falls on it. Another important feature of this temple is that there is one more storey over the garbha graha, t has a striking resemblance with the Solanki temples of Gujarat and Rajasthan , and the Sas-bahu shrine at Gwalior. The shikhara of the temple has a remarkable  superstructure and the elevation can roughly be estimated to about 15.5 metres.[ref]

 It is built on a stepped pattern and there are broad horizontal recessed division, followed right up to the end. There are some interesting wooden leaves on the doorway, which are arranged in four panels. The subjects delineated in them are related mainly to the Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. It is stated that the original panel outside the main temple has been removed. 

Other details

Dr. D.D. Sharma a noted historian is of the view that in the medieval ages the worship of Sun in its iconic representations had become very popular in Kumaon and the best preserved images of the period are located in the temples of Jageshwar, Dwarahat, Baijnath, Katarmal and Daniya. In Kumaon the portrayal of Surya images like in Northern India has been influenced by the Iranian style and invariably in all the images Surya is sporting a pointed cap, tunic, open coat and high boots. However its South Indian counterpart remained chaste and pure and did not adopt the Iranian elements. Art historians are of the view that in earlier times when the practice of worshipping the celestial forces came into vogue, their images were carved out of wood particularly in the Himalyan region where the environmental conditions were favourable to preserve them for a longer period. It is said that the wooden doors of Sun Temple of Katarmal, which at present for the sake of safety are kept in the National Museum in New Delhi, are the best specimens of this craft. Even the magnificent statue of the Sun God is kept in the National Museum and the statue of Paun Raja in Katarmal, which has now been smuggled to America, was one of the best specimens of metallic art of the age. [ref]

In India according to the architectural considerations the katarmal temple is one of the best temples of the ancient period constructed in the the the hilly regions

Tourism

  • Travel time- 45 minutes approx from Almora ( bus station) 2km trek from main motoroad
  • Entry type_ Free entry
  • Exploration time_3 hrs approx from sunrise to sunset
  • Best time to visit_ Mar, April ,May, June , September, October November
  • Photography and Viedography - Allowed

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