Konark (also known as Konaditya) is a small village in India 20 miles north of Puri in the coastal region of the Bay of Bengal. It is famous─it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in fact─for being home to a sun temple of the same name which is widely regarded as both the culmination of Orissan architecture and one of the most stunning examples of religious architecture of any kind to be found anywhere in the world.
The massive structure sits a little more than a mile from the sea, but the sand that surrounds it testifies to the fact that the ocean originally came right up to its base. Not long ago, in fact, the Konark remained close enough to the shore to be employed as a navigational marker by European sailors, who reputedly dubbed the structure “The Black Pagoda”. The temple, whose name translates as “Corners of the Sun”, was constructed in the mid-thirteenth century by Raja Narasinghs Deva-I of the Ganga Dynasty. The design originally took the shape of a colossal chariot carrying a depiction of the sun god, Surya, pulled by seven horses, ostensibly across the heavens. Despite being currently in partial ruins, it is nonetheless a sight worth traveling a considerable distance to see.
There are regular buses that make the round trip to Konark from Puri and back again that charge a pittance to make the journey. It is also possible to rent auto-rickshaws for a bit more money, if you’d rather set your own schedule. Guided tours leave from the Orissa Tourism office in Bhubaneswar Tuesday through Sunday, and also visit Dhauli. Be forewarned, however, as said excursion can take as many as 12 hours to complete.