16 August 2009

Surya Sthalams / Temples - The Dakshinaarka temple at Gaya, Bihar

The Dakshinaarka temple in Gaya is an ancient shrine to the Sun God. Gaya has been an ancient pilgrimage center since time immemorial. The other well known temples in Gaya are the Vishnupaada Temple, the Mangalagowri Temple and the Prapitaamaheshwara Temple.
The ritual of offering pindas or offerings to the dead has been long associated with Gaya and has been mentioned in the epics. (Vaayupuraana). The Sun temple is an ancient structure in Gaya Offerings to the ancestors are made at the Surya Kunda or the Dakshina Maanas tank in front of the temple.
Origin of Sun worship: Sun worship apparently was very popular in the Magadha region which included Gaya. Numerous old images of the Sun God Aditya are found in the Gaya region and there are still quite a number of sun worshippers in Gaya. It is said that they may have descended from the fire worshippers of Central Asia. In fact, the granite image of Aditya (this particular image here is also referred to as Dakshinaarka) or the Sun God worshipped here is portrayed as wearing a jacket, a waist girdle and high boots in the Iranian tradition. Hundreds of people visit this temple on Sundays.
Antiquity: Sun worship in the Magadha region has been mentioned in the Puranas and thus this temple is said to be of very ancient origin. The current structure dates back to the 13th century, where the South Indian emperor Prataparudra of Warangal is said to have built it.
Architecture: This temple faces east and it stands close to the Vishnupaada temple. To the east of the temple is the tank Surya Kunda. The temple is a simple and plain one, with a dome over it. The comparatively larger sabha mandapa stands in front of the sanctum. Massive pillars line the mandapa where there are graceful stone sculptures of Shiva, Bhramaa, Vishnu, Surya and Durga.
Other related temples: There are two other notable Sun temples at Gaya, namely the Uttaraka temple near the Uttara Maanas tank and the Gayaditya temple on the river Falgu.
How To Get There: Air : Nearest Airport is at Patna 130kms away. Indian Airlines connect Patna to Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Ranchi and Lucknow.
Rail : Nearest railhead is Gaya, 12km from Bodhgaya. From Gaya local transport is available to BodhGaya.
Road : Bodh Gaya is well connected by road to Gaya (12kms), Patna 178kms via Rajgir & Nalanda and Varanasi (245kms). Attractions Chhath Puja

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