Bharat Virasat-Sun Temple, Modhera

Sun Temple, Modhera

Place of Worship. Hindu


The Sun temple at Modhera was built during the reign of Raja Bhimdev I of the Solanki Dynasty in the early 11th century CE. It stands on the left bank of the Pushpavati river. It is an east-facing temple. There are three distinct structures at this temple, aligned axially - a temple tank on the east, the sabha mandapa, and the main shrine which contains the gudhamandapa, the antarala, and the sanctum sanctorum itself.
The temple is built in Maru-Gurjara architectural style which is typical of the later-day Chalukya Empire. The influence of the woodcarving tradition of Gujarat is evident in the lavish carving and sculpture work seen in the temple.

The Gudhamandapa measures 25m x 16m in an east-west direction. It is divided length-wise into almost equal sections which form the Gudhamandapa (the ante-chamber) and the Garbhgriha (the sanctum sanctorum). Both are rectangular in plan with one projection on the smaller side and two projections on each of the longer sides. The projections on the smaller sides form the entrance and the back of the shrine, respectiely, while the projections of the outer wall form windows. These windows originally had perforated stone screens.

The garbha-griha is a square chamber of 3.3m side, and had two cells, one below the other, the upper of which had the pedestal on which the principal idol stood. The walls of this chamber are plain both inside and outside.
The circumambulatory (pradakshinamarga) is formed by the passage between the walls of Garbhgriha and the outer walls of Gudhamandapa. It is largely plain with niches near its corners bearing images of deities. The ceiling of the circumambulatory passage has stone slabs carved with rosettes. The doorway has carved figures of seated Surya in panels surrounded by dancers and couples in intimate poses.
The vimana or principal spire no longer exists in its entirety. It is understood to have had horizontal geometrical and figurative bands rising to create a Mount Meru-like shikhara. The central spire is assumed to have had Urushringa - miniature shrines - as judged by the shrines on the steps of temple tank.
The gudhamandapa had a dome which is understood to have risen in concentric circles. It is supported by a set of pillars laid out in the form of a regular octagon, with an additional two pillars in front of the sanctum.

The main structure stands on a jagati or plinth about 1.6m in height. The base and walls of the structure are divided into several horizontal friezes. The base moulding has nine layers - two square members (bhat), a cyma recta carving (lower part convex and upper part concave), padma o padmaka moulding in the form of an inverted lotus, an antarita which is a fillet or an astragal with a sharp edge between two recesses, an alinga or band with sharp-toothed gargoyles set between two chhajas which are bands with a rectangular profile, a broad band carved with elephants (gajathara), and finally a band with human figures in different poses (narathara) - from bottom to top, respectively.
Above this base, is another set of horizontal friezes, the wall mouldings, which are also in nine layers - the kumbha which is a pitcher with a broad undecorated lower band and oval discs in the center, kalasha which is also a pitcher, kevala and manchi which are bands with chaitya style windows, the kevalamanchi. Above these is the jangha which is the most elaborately carved and decorated of the friezes. It contains mini shrines and niches, with figures of guards (dikpalas), the goddess Gauri, dancing angels (apsaras) and musicians. These shrines and niches are separated from each other by decorated columns with floral patterns. The udgam is a cornice with a triangular the pediment above these shrines. The malakval is another kevala styled band, and is topped by a chhajli which is an awning with a convexo-concave profile. Above this awning is another kevala which forms the roof of the structure. The main spire (shikhara) of the temple stands above this kevala.

There are twelve figures of Surya prominently carved in the three niches of shrine as well as on each side of three windows in the outer wall of the Gudhamandapa. Surya is depicted as standing with lotus flowers in his hands, riding a chariot driven by seven horses. The walls have 12 niches for Surya, one for each month of the year. Figures of dkipalas, Viswakarma, Varuna, Agni, Ganesh and Saraswati are interspersed with these images of Surya.

The pillared sabha mandapa or assembly hall is an independent structure standing to the east of the gudha-mandapa. Its base is in the form of two concentric rectangles, overlaid with another set of concentric rectangles of shorter side, overlaid with a concentric square, thus forming a 36-sided star. There are a total of fifty-two pillars supporting this structure. The four longest sides have arched entrance ways, while the rest of the faces have walls rising to about 1m above the plinth, forming a pillared pavilion. These walls are decorated on the outside with mouldings similar to the ones seen on the main structure, while the interior is decorated with scenes drawn from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
There is a band with figures of dancers and gods known as rajasena above the narathara, The next band above that is the vedi which correspond to the jangha of the main structure and is decorated with large panels of gods, goddesses, and floral designs. Above this is the cornice (asinot), followed by the kakshasana which slopes outwards and forms the back-rests of the bench (asana) which runs around the hall. There are erotic figures on it interwoven with geometric patterns.
While some pillars arise from the side walls and support the roof, there are other pillars which rise from the floor and form the lintel upon which stands the domed ceiling that rises 7m above the base. These supportig pillars which are laid out in an octagonal form. The pillars are connected by garlands (torana) which are cusped arches arising from the lower brackets and coming together in the middle of the lintel. These garlands are of both semi-circular and triangular form. Both the outer set of pillars and the inner set of pillars have square, octagonal, and circular shafts and are richly ornamented with human, floral, and geometric patterns.
A huge ornamental arch - kirti-torana - once stood on the east of the sabha mandapa. The pediment, cornice, and torana elements of this arch no longer exist, but the two massive columns are still surviving. There were two other kirti-torana that stood on the north and south of the temple tank, of which only the columns of the northern one exist today.

The is a massive rectangular stepped well, called the surya kund, on the eastern side of the sabha mandapa, measuring 53.34m x 36.57m. This rectangular pond is one of the grandest temple tanks in India, with a hundred and eight miniature shrines carved in between the steps inside the tank, which have relief of various deities such as Ganesha, Sheshashayi vishnu, Nataraja, and Sheetala Mata. It is accessible by steps on all four sides and has four levels of terraces connected by recessed steps leading down to the level of the water. The main access to the tank was from the west, in front of the sabha-mandapa.

Constructed in:

11th century CE


90m x 65m

Local Language(s):

Gujarati, Hindi



Children under 15 years


Indian Citizens

25 /-

All others

300 /-



Time required

2 hours

Best to visit




(30.8 kms)


Getting There

Ahmedabad (95 kms, 120 mins):Ahmedabad airport is 95 km from Modhera and is well connected to cities both in India and overseas.

Patan (35 kms, 50 mins):Patan Railway station is serviced by the Western Railway and is directly connected to several cities including Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur.

Mehsana (25 kms, 40 mins):Mehsana lies to the east of Modhera

Ahmedabad (101 kms, 150 mins):Modhera is accessible by road from Ahmedabad. While there are some public transport buses, hiring a taxi will be a more practical option.