Ranakpur in Rajasthan is synonymous with its world-famous Jain temple. So much so that another, older temple located less than half-a-kilometre from the Jain temple lies virtually forgotten, visited only by the someone who knows about it existence – the 13th century Suryanarayan Temple or Sun Temple.
It is around 3 in the afternoon when our group arrives at the Sun Temple. Looking back, I’m still astonished that we made it to the temple for there are no signboards or markers to guide a visitor to the Sun Temple. If the manager of our tour group had not known about the Sun Temple, I doubt we would have visited it.
Built from low-grade marble, which has weathered beautifully over the centuries, the exterior of the temple is intricately carved with Surya or the Sun God seated on a chariot drawn by horses. The temple faces east, and has a sanctum topped by a shikhara in the nagara style, and an octogonal mandapa preceding the sanctum. The mandapa has some of the most exquisitely carved pillars and sculpted toranas I have seen. This is the first time I’m visiting a sun temple and I’m fascinated by the unusual motifs and iconography on the walls here.
There is nobody at the temple and our small group has the temple to ourselves. As I walk around the Sun Temple and note its details and delight in its carvings, the harsh afternoon light does not deter me from imagining how this east-facing temple would appear during sunrise.
As the eastern sky pinkens with the readiness of sunrise, the horses neigh impatiently. And with a burst of light they are off drawing the chariot bearing Surya in his day’s journey across the skies.
What a sight it must be in the mornings, I tell myself. I wish I can visit it during sunrise, but know that it is not possible as I am in a group and we are on a schedule. I’m happy that at least I got to visit the temple unlike many people who pass through Ranakpur completely unaware of the existence of the Suryanarayan Temple.
Have you visited this Sun Temple? If yes, do tell me what you thought of it and its unique sculptures?