(Last Updated on : 04/06/2014)
The jagamohana or porch, also called the assembly hall, at Konark follows the same architectural layout as the porches of other developed Orissan temples with a pancha-ratha plan. The brilliance of the artist who conceived the Sun Temple lay in juxtaposing the various constituent elements of sculpture and architecture in such a way that it represented a magnificent unified whole.
The jagamohana is the best preserved structure in the complex. Built on a low pishta or platform, the vertical portion of the porch wall (bada) has five horizontal divisions. In the conspicuously projected middle segment of temple on the front, north and south sides, arc provided doors and steps. The western raha provides a passage leading to the door of the sanctum.
The pishta consists of two mouldings with a honeycombed recess in between. The scrollwork, with animals, flowers and leaves woven within beaded borders on the lowest moulding, is capped at intervals by projected insets relieved with motifs of chaitya windows and animals.
As in all Orissa
temples, the bada of this temple has five divisions -the lowest being the pabhaga, followed by lower jangha, bandhana, upper jangha and varanda. Each division is further divided into sets of lavishly carved mouldings set within beaded borders. The mouldings have at intervals ornate chaitya-window motifs, the khakhara-mundis or the miniature shrines with wagon-vaulted tops, carved on walls are elaborately composed. In the framed niches of these mundis are different compositions. One such is of a seated king, with a small sword in his hand, fronted by two figures, one with a manuscript and the other with a knapsack; a royal cavalier, shooting an arrow at two animals, in the company of a foot-soldier with a shield and sword.
Higher up on the bada, in some of the framed niches were freestanding sculptures, eight of which were dikpalas or the guardians of eight quarters: Indra
(south), Nirriti (south-west), Varuna
(west), Vayu (northwest), Kubera
(north) and Isana (northwest). Most of these sculptures, which were of chlorite, were removed in the first half of the nineteenth century when there was a greedy hunt for carved chlorite pieces.
As one goes up the bada, pidha-mundis take the place of the khakhara-mundis. Many of these are empty, while others have life-size erotic figures in their niches. The veneer-stones of the front face of the rahas (middle segment of temple having greatest projection) have all but disappeared, except a small section at the base and the top of the north side.
Supported by iron beams, the architraves that project from the top of the doorframe were of chlorite with sculptured front faces. The eastern one, originally a monolith, is still at Konarak. The whereabouts of the other two are not known.
The front half of the eastern architrave is now in a shed erected within the complex. It is relieved with nine grahas (the sun, the moon and the planets) each within a tiered pavilion. The pacification of the planets (graha-shanti) is an essential element of Hindu astrology. Above the grahas is the carved frame of an oblong niche that once contained a seated image of Surya.
Of the doorframes, the one on the east is the best preserved, while the one on the north is partially preserved but still in position. Made of chlorite, these luxuriantly carved frames are similar in composition and execution. The eastern door-jamb is divided into eight facets, all on different planes, the innermost being the most receding and the outermost the most projected. The facets bear reliefs of foliated leaves, the double coil of a hooded naga couple, and a vertical succession of miniature pavilions with vajra-mundis (a variant of the khakhara-mundis) containing figures, amorous in nature.
The motifs on the facets, except the topmost, stop at the central part of the lintel that is divided into a succession of niches. In the lowest niche is an image of Lakshmi, the goddess of plenty, being bathed by a pair of elephants, each standing on a blooming lotus. Another niche depicts a bearded figure deep in meditation under a torana, the latter flanked by a makara, a mythical animal with the head of a crocodile and the body of a fish.
The stepped pyramid of the temple roof, above the vertical wall is called the gandi. It is in three gradually receding tiers (potalas), each tier separated from the other by a prominently recessed vertical wall (kanti). The kanti above the first and second tiers are relieved with khakhara-mundis, kanyas and pilasters. The vertical faces of the bottom and second tiers present minutely carved friezes depicting processions, in which elephants and the army - both infantry and cavalry - are the most conspicuous themes.
In the lowest recessed wall are 16 kanyas. Gracefully poised, they are variously engaged in adjusting their ornaments, wringing wet hair, or allowing a pet bird to drink the drops of water falling from their hair, and are mostly displayed in a variety of alluring and seductive postures.
These seductive figures, some strangely in sandals, have fascinated generations of tourists. Above the bottom tier, at either end, is a six-armed, four-headed, life-sized dancing figure of Bhairava with a ferocious expression, teeth bared in a snarl and a garland of skulls around his neck.
Juxtaposed against these grim-looking figures are the beauteous, life-sized images of female musicians. These boldly-carved, vivacious but dignified celestial choristers with their pliable plasticity and dynamic sweep create an unforgettable fantasy in stone. The instruments of this orchestra give us an indication of the musical instruments popular at the time: dholak, pakhavaj
and a longish, cylindrical drum played upon with sticks, cymbals, karatala and the melodious veena.
Except for the youthful and serene veena
player, fully absorbed in the rhythm of the music, all the other musicians are animated by the melodious music and seem to dance in harmony with the measures. The rhythmic actions of the limbs and the delicately tilted heads of some of these figures are unsurpassed in their beauty.
The mastaka or the crowning element of the temple above the gandi, consists of projected bands, a bell-shaped member (sri or ghanta), amla and khapuri, while the crowning kalasa is missing. The sri is divided into two parts by a central band, each part relieved with a row of long petals. It is supported by eight lions, of which four face the intermediate directions. Eight figures, seated on their haunches and with their hands resting on the round, support the amla on their backs. The interior of the porch, now inaccessible, is reported to have been plain but plastered.