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Temples: Sun Temple's Steel Connection

Dr Ujwala Chakradeo

Dr Ujwala ChakradeoSep 27, 2021, 06:54 PM IST

Temples: Sun Temple's Steel Connection
Sun temple at Konark

The famous Sun Temple at Konark is grand and unique. Steel clamps were used in its construction. This temple is unique because of the quantity and quality of steel used. Use of steel was unprecedented till then  

 

Hindu temples in India from the 5th century onwards were usually constructed in stone and dry masonry. Dry masonry means no mortar. Huge blocks of stones were placed one above the other and they remained there due to self weight. With seasoning in weather their position was fixed. Sometimes steel clamps were also used  to hold the stones together.

The Sun temple at Konark is an exception. The temple is very large, constructed out of huge blocks of Khondolite stone. Steel clamps were also used, but the construction of the temple is unique because of the quantity and quality of steel used in the temple.  Use of steel in construction was unprecedented  till then. 

The iron pillar of Qutub Minar complex is now the world famous heritage structure. International tourists visit India to view the iron pillar. It is amazing no doubt. But there is no comparison between this pillar and the steel beams used in the construction of the Sun temple of Konark. 

Iron pillar of Delhi is 22 feet above the ground and the longest steel beam used in the temple is 35 feet in length. Diameter of the iron pillar is 16 inches, and the cross section of the beam is 35 inches. The weight of the beam is much more than that of the pillar. Many such steel sections were used in the construction of this temple. Abundant use of Steel in that era itself is an astonishing  fact. This means the technology to produce steel of that quality was available in India at that time. 

A powerful and large sized magnet was placed in the Shikhara of the temple to maintain the equilibrium and balance of the entire temple. Calculations of power of magnet and quantity of steel were precise to keep the temple upright. 

In the 17th century when Portuguese ships came to India from the waterway next to the temple, they were attracted towards the temple. This bothered Portugal traders. They removed the magnet from the top of the temple and then onwards  the temple  started collapsing. 

The temple never had a fortune to be a living temple. However, the designer had made an arrangement to keep the  statue of Sun god floating, a few inches above the ground with the help of a magnet.  This great technology can  be revived. 

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