A sun temple (or solar temple) is a building used for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, dedicated to the sun or a solar deity. Such temples were built by a number different cultures and are distributed across the world including in India, China, Egypt, Japan and Peru. Some of the temples are in ruins, undergoing excavation, preservation or restoration and a few are listed as World Heritage Sites individually or as part of a larger site, such as Konark.
The Temple of the Sun in Beijing, China, was built in 1530 during the Ming dynasty by the Jiajing Emperor, together with new temples dedicated to the Earth and the Moon, and an expansion of the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of the Sun was used by the imperial court for elaborate acts of worship involving fasting, prayers, dancing and animal sacrifices, as part of a year-long cycle of ceremonies involving all the temples. An important element was the colour red, which was associated with the Sun, including red utensils for food and wine offerings, and red clothes for the emperor to wear during the ceremonies. The temple is now part of a public park.
In ancient Egypt, there were a number of sun temples. Among these old monuments is the Great Temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel, and complexes built by the Fifth Dynasty, of which only two examples survive, that of Userkaf and of Niuserre. The Fifth Dynasty temples usually had three components, a main temple building at a higher elevation, accessed by a causeway, from a much smaller entrance building. In 2006, archaeologists found ruins underneath a market in Cairo, which could possibly be the largest temple built by Ramesses II.
The sun temples of the Indian subcontinent were dedicated to the Hindu deity Surya, with the most prominent among them being the Sun Temple at Modhera, Gujarat, built in 1026-1027, and the Konark Sun Temple (also known as the Black Pagoda), at Konark in Odisha. Konark was constructed around 1250, by Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty, and was built in the shape of a large chariot with carved stone wheels, pillars and walls. Other sun temples in the Indian subcontinent include:
- Sun temple at Katharmal, near Almora and 70 km from Nainital was built in 9th century CE by the Katyuri kings.
- Sun Temple at Modhera in Gujarat, built in 1027 by King Bhimdev of the Chaulukya dynasty
- Martand Sun Temple, near Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir built in 10th century
- Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao, Balaji in Madhya Pradesh
- Sun Temple at Kalpi in Uttar Pradesh
- Soorya Narayana Temple at Maroli, Mangalore, Karnataka
- Surya Pahar Temple at Sri Surya Pahar in Assam built in 9th century
- Suryanar Kovil Temple at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu built in 1060-1118 CE
- Surya Narayana Temple at Arasavalli in Andhra Pradesh built in 7th century
- Dakshinaarka Temple at Gaya in Bihar
- Biranchinarayan Temple, Buguda in Buguda, Ganjam, Odisha.
- Biranchinarayan Temple, Palia, a 13th century temple in Palia, Odisha.
- Multan Sun Temple, also known as Aditya Sun Temple, in Multan in Punjab, Pakistan was destroyed by Muslim rulers in 10th century.
- Navlakha Temple, Ghumli, Gujarat, built in the 11th century.
- Katarmal sun temple in Uttarakhand, built from approximately the 10th century onwards.
- Adityanarayan temple (Hindi: आदित्यनारायण मंदिर), Parule, Maharashtra.
- Birla Sun Temple in Gwalior
- Sri Suryanarayana Swamy Temple, Gollalamamidada, in Andhra Pradesh built in 1920.
There are also sun temple sites in a number of other countries:
- In the United States, the first temple dedicated to Surya, Shri Surya Narayan Mandir, Inc., was built in Queens, NY in 1993. A second temple was built in Ocoee, Florida in 2005 www.ssnm.org.
- The Temple of the Sun in the Temple of the Cross Complex, at the Mayan site of Palenque, in southern Mexico, built sometime between 200 and 900 AD.
- The Temple of the Night Sun at the Mayan site of El Zotz, Guatemala, possibly abandoned in the fifth century.
- Qurikancha, in Cusco, was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to the sun god Inti.
- There are several Shinto shrines in Japan, dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu including:
- In the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, United States, there is a structure which may have been used as a sun temple by the Pueblo culture, with construction thought to have begun in 1275 AD, although it does not seem to have been completed.
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