Panel of Navagrahas Above the Doorjamb of Kalingan Temples
Narrative Panel of Navagrahas Above the Door frame of Kalingan Temples
The most venerated Navagraha idols at the Sun temple, Konark
Image source: Shreekhetra
Navagrahas presently on display in the British Museum.
Image source: wikimedia commons
With the initiation of Soura puja( Sun cult) in medieval Odisha, the worship of Navagrahas likewise acquired momentum. It was potentially in light of the fact that Surya ( Sun ) being one of the Grahas according to Hindu conviction , which controls the destiny of an individual . The coordinated worship of the Navagrahas additionally got due acknowledgment and veneration among the mass. The practice of Navagraha worship was hampered with the decline of the Sun cult , particularly when the Sun temple at Konark was deserted . However, Graha puja/Graha stotra( reciting/chanting the hymns) are still in practice by individuals to appease all the Grahas before initiation of any work. People are wearing rings having different stones for the appeasement of different Grahas . Over the most recent few decades, it has been seen that few temples devoted to Sani (an individual Graha) have come up. Most likely it owes its inheritance from Navagrah worship which was widely practiced in bygone eras. In Bengal and Bihar, nine planets are portrayed in standing stance, in certain spots with their Vahanas and in a few different spots without Vahanas. Yet, in Odisha every one of the Grahas is seen sitting cross-legged on a lotus platform .
The Navagraha panel has been found above the entrance doorways since the evolution of Kalingan temple architecture.With the passage of time, this portrayal of the Graha panel turned into an enriching workmanship theme in the Kalingan temple architecture. We find Graha panels in the lintel slabs of even the earliest surviving and best preserved specimen temples of pre Somavamsi period like Laxmaneswar, Shartrughneswar , Parsurameswar temple etc. But astonishingly we find only eight Grahas .Ketu is seen as missing. Ketu as the 9th planet found a spot on the architrave of temples from the tenth century onwards.
Navagraha lintel slab above the entry way to Rajarani temple built in 11th century AD
Image source: Bibhudatta Mishra
The pervasiveness and fame of the Ashtottari framework ( that is astrological estimation of 108 years) in the pre-somavamsi period was the conceivable motivation not to remember Ketu for the planetary framework yet all things considered, the Vimshottari framework ( that is astrological computation of 120 years ) recommended by Varahamihira was brought into Kalinga of those times by the somavamsi rulers accordingly joining Ketu among the Grahas. As per Hindu conviction, the position of architectural lintel containing Grahas or planets was viewed as propitious guaranteeing a long life for the temple and managing the adverse impacts of the evil planets.
As per the Shastra, all work should start with a summon to the Grahas otherwise individuals can’t achieve their desires. The nine Grahs are Suya, Soma, Mangal , Budha, Brihaspati, Shukra, Sani, Rahu and Ketu. The earliest Ashtagraha slab of Odisha belongs to the 7th century AD. originally attached to the architrave of Laxmaneswar Temple at Bhubaneswar ( which is now being displayed in Odisha State Museum). Perhaps the Jain monks were not accepting the existence of nine Grahas till 11th century AD, because the 10th and 11th number rock cut caves ( datable to 11th century AD) of Khandagiri near Bhubaneswar have been spotted having Ashtagraha lintel slab in the front .
As everyone knows, the Kalingan temple architecture reached its zenith in the Sun Temple at Konark, it has been found that the sculpture of Navagraha slab of Sun temple is lavishly ornamented and can be judged as the best available specimen of its sort .
Navagraha idols panel presently being worshipped adjacent to the Sun temple at Konark. Image source: alamy
The fierce looking Rahu holding in each hand a crescent. Being displayed in the British Museum.
Ketu holding a bowl of flame in left hand ( already broken) and a sword in right hand with a serpent lower body.
Sani ( Saturn)
Shukra ( Venus)
Potbellied Brihaspati (Jupiter)
Budha ( Mercury)
Mangal ( Mars)
Chandra ( Moon)
Here an inquiry rings a bell of each onlooker…Why Sun god holding lotus in each hand? Lotus is compared with the pattern of birth, passing and resurrection as it blossoms toward the beginning of the day, blurs toward the distant horizon in the evening and yet again sprouts in the following dawn. Veda says ” Sun is the spirit of the universe”. Sun is generally called Kamalnath , Kamalballabh, Kamalbandhu etcetera. The literary meaning of ‘Kamal’ is lotus in Sanskrit.
The Navagrahas ( nine planets) monolithic slab originally placed over the eastern gateway of the Jagamohan ( audience hall) of the Sun Temple at Konark, Odisha, is now being displayed in a separate shed constructed for this purpose by ASI in the year 1956. This monolithic slab measures 6m in length, 2m in width, and 1.2 m in height. This has been made in to nine different niches representing the figures of Navagrahas which are lavishly ornamented . There were similar two other slabs originally placed over other two gateways of the Sun Temple at Konark. Most probably those two other monolithic Navagraha panels were cut into pieces and taken away by the Britishers, which are now being displayed in the British Museum ( photo attached). All the Grahas are seated with folded legs on a lotus pedestal carrying a Kamandalu (water pot) in the left hand and in the right a rosary ( Rudraskh mala). Watch their Yajnopabita ( sacred thread ), kundala ( earring) in the ears, and anklets on the right leg ( Rahu and Ketu don’t have these).
Navagraha lintel panel in the entrance of Gundicha temple at Puri.
This arrangement of Navagraha idols set at the entrance of Gundicha Temple , Puri looks surprising . Most likely this belonged to another landmark monument when the workmanship and sculptural treatment is carefully considered . A few sculptures were taken out from Konark to Puri when the Sun temple was deserted and henceforth it could be likely recommended that this arrangement of Navagraha was additionally hailed from Konark.
Image source: Dreamstime.com
In different times, efforts ( by different organizations and different individuals) have been made to shift the Navagraha slab to other places but all the attempts failed. Asiatic Society of Bengal tried several times to shift it to the Indian Museum at Kolkata during 1859 till 1893 but in vain. To facilitate its transportation, the slab was sliced longitudinally into two halves in the year 1893 but the shifting couldn’t be possible because of the sandy terrain all around and the heaviness of the sculpture even after cutting. It remained in such precarious condition for more than six decades prior to getting installed in the separate shed near the Sun temple by ASI. This is the story behind our most venerated Navagraha idols in Konark.
Please never forget to offer your significant perspectives in this regard in the comment segment which would provoke me to go for more exploration .
Dr. Manoj Mishra