Sun Temple of Konark is renowned throughout the world for its stone sculptures. The temple was designed in the shape of a huge chariot drawn by 7 mighty spirited horses on 12 pairs (total 24 wheels) of gorgeously decorated wheels at its base. The size of the wheel is of 9 feet 9 inches in diameter and each one of them having 8 wider spokes and 8 thinner spokes.Out of these 24 wheels 6 are in either side of the main temple, 4 wheels are on each side of the Mukhasala and 2 wheels on each side of steps at eastern front. The huge wheels of the Konark Temple are one of the major attractions for visitors.
Various theories have been advocated regarding the significance of Konark wheel. According to some, the 7 horses represent the days of the week and the 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the 24 wheels signifies 24 hours of a day and the 8 major spokes signifies prahars (three hour period) of a day. According to others, the wheels of the chariot have been interpreted as the 'Wheel of Life'. They portray the cycle of creation, preservation and achievement of realisation. These 12 pairs of wheels may also possibly represent the 12 zodiac signs. Some also believe that the Wheel of Konark is the same as the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists - The Wheel of Karma, The Wheel of the Law. If you hire a guide during your visit Konark Temple then they will explain you similar theories.
The size and architecture of the 24 wheels is same but each one of them has been differently carved all over. The thicker ones are all carved with circular medallions at their centres on the widest part of the face. The axels of the wheels project by about one foot from the surface, having similar decorations at their ends. The rims are carved with designs of foliages with various birds and animals, whereas the medallions in the spokes are carved with the figures of women in various luxurious poses, mostly of erotic nature.
I visited Konark temple several times. During my last visit, I hired anexperienced guide who explained me that the Konark wheels are used as Sun dials in ancient times to know the time of the day. He also explained me that out of these 24 wheels, 2 wheels will show you the time accurately from sun rise to sun set. When I asked about other 22 wheels, he told me that he is not sure about them but he will definitely explain me the technique to calculate the time using these 2 wheels. He took me to one of the wheel and put his finger at centre of the axel and I along with other tourists was surprised that the finger's shadow showed the precise time of the day. It's difficult to explain the technique in writing so I created following images based on his explanation.
The Konark wheel has 8 wider spokes and 8 thinner spokes. The distance between twowider spokes is of 3 hours (180 minutes). The thinner spoke between two wider spokes is of 1.5 hours (90 minutes). There are 30 beads between one wider spoke to the next thinner spoke and each bead represents 3 minutes. The Sun dial shows time in anti-clockwise and the top centre wider spoke represents 12 o' clock midnight.