Kalpriyanath Sun Temple

A myth or reality ???

a case study by-

Rahul Mehrotra

Dept. of Electrical Engineering

Indian Institute of Technology - Kanpur

Kalpi- the name sounds familiar. This place was recently in the news as being one of the few places in India where the masses and the scientific community unhindered witnessed the spectacular event of Total Solar Eclipse on the 24th of October 1995 owing to the excellent observation conditions. One might have come across this name in some other context too - the mutiny of 1857 or for the dreaded Phoolan Devi, but nothing more. Its’ glorious past remains confined to a few unpublished books and a handful of papers by some privileged historians - privileged because they got the opportunity to know the town said to be protected by Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the three chief Hindu deities. (Brahamand Purana).
Kalpi, thousands of years ago, was the center of Hindu culture and Aryan civilization. The fragrance of our ancient glory , in every sphere of arts and science, spread from this birthplace of Shri Krishnan Vyas (Ved Vyas), Valmiki Parashar, Uddalak , Vamdeo and a galaxy of great saints. Vyas, the creator of Mahabharata epic, lived, meditated and wrote here - on on the banks of Yamuna Which later became a prominent city in the Buddhist period and then a stronghold of the chandelas in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D.
In the relatively modern age, Birbal,the great courtier and minister of Akbar, was born in Kalpi- also the place where Akbar had his biggest mint and from where Maharani Jhansi, Nanarao, Tatya Tope and others joined front against the British regime in 1857- thousands of patriots had shed their blood for the emancipation of their country and thousands were hanged here by the British tyrants who had sworn to bring this town down to ruins.(Pre 1857 census showed a population of one lakh in Kalpi. Post 1857 census showed a mere nine thousand- majority killed and the remaining fled to Kanpur- then a mere toddler in front of Kalpi.) The British failed , but it seems that the Indian government in their sheer negligence of this town , would ensure the fulfillment of their long forsaken dream.
Why was Kalpi one of the favorite observation sites for the total solar eclipse for the teams of scientists from Indian Institute Of Astrophysics (Bangalore),Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Tamil Nadu Astronomy Association ( Madras) , Indian institute Of Technology (Kanpur) and various others? The answer lies in the fact that the totality period increased from west to east , but the weather conditions deteriorated. Kalpi generally has a clear sky with no low altitude clouds and is in the approximate center of the entire path of the eclipse , thus being an excellent site for observation . Could this be one of the reasons why a sun temple is supposed to have been build here by Lord Krishna’s son - Shamb , and later the famous astrologer and astronomer and one of the `nine gems’ of king Vikramaditya’s court- Varahmihir, with the blessings of the Sun God , took his observations from this `Kalpriyanath sun temple’.
Recent research has established the fact that once there existed a huge sun temple at Kalpi - known by the name of `Kalpriyanath’. It boasted of a huge auditorium where the plays of `Mahavircharitam’ , `Malti Madhava’ and `Uttar Ramacharitam’ , composed by the learned sanskrit scholar - Bhavabhuti, were enacted . Bhavabhuti himself mentioned this fact in the prologue of these plays. Madhav Venkatashele in `Malti Madhav Sar Mapi Vichar’ and Sharda Ranjan Rai in his edited work `Uttar Ramcharit’have considered Kalpi to be the modern name of Kalapriya. The location of the Sun Temple has been traced to a small village called Gulauli, barely six kilometers downstream of Kalpi on the banks of river Yamuna. The embankment (ghaat) of the temple , which in the course of time came to called as `Sooarghata’ from `Surya Ghaat’ , tells of the woes of this once world famous sun temple.
The noted historian and archeologist Dr.V.V.Mirashi,in his book titled `Bhavabhuti and Kalpriyanath in Bhavabhuti’s Plays’ , has proved that once a huge sun temple did exist in Kalpi where people from far off places came to visit and where Bhavabhuti’s plays were first enacted . Further in an article titled `Discovery of an ancient theater at Kalpi’ published in `Mamuliya’, Dr. Mirashi stated that around A.D.915 , when the Rashtrakuta king Indra the third, invaded Kannauj, his army in the course of crossing the Yamuna , stayed in the courtyard of the sun temple . The courtyard was large enough to accommodate an entire army including elephants and horses along with the soldiers . The elephants are supposed to have damaged the walls of the temple with their tusks. Since Kalpi lies on way to Kannauj from Manyakhet ( modern Malkhand - Andhra Pradesh ) , and is on the banks of Yamuna , it supports the existence of a sun temple at Kalpi . Dr. Parpoornanand Varma has written even further . He writes that encryptions in Chamba by Rashtrakuta king Indra the fourth , mention that the elephants of king Indra the third’s army completely demolished the sun temple.
Historian Inayatullah in his work `Aainae Kalpi’ writes that during the time of Mehmood Khan Lodhi, Kalpi was ruled by a Lahariya king Srichand. After conquering Kalpi , Mehmood Khan Lodhi killed Srichand and burried his head underneath `Shree Darwaza’ a huge gate still present in Kalpi. His seven queens burned themselves at the pyre ( sati ) in the sun temple and in whose memory,seven small temples or `mathi’s were build there. This proves that the sun temple existed at least till the Lodhi dynasty - although a major portion may have been demolished by king Indra the third.
Nothing is certain about the time of construction of this temple.
According to the `Puranas’ , in order to get rid of his leprosy , Lord Krishna’s son Shamb erected three sun temples . One of them was Kalpriyanath. Astrologer Varah Mihir of king Vikramaditya’s court in his famous work `Vrihajataka’ mentions that after being blessed by the Sun God at Kalpi , he started his astrological studies. Astrologer Namichandra Shastri confirms this in his book `Indian Astrology and Bhadra Bahu Samhita’ . These intellectuals feel that the temple dates back to the Puranas , but it’s grandeur increased unboundedly when it was worked upon in the 4th and 5th century AD by the rulers of Kannauj. Since the time of Bhavabhuti,the tradition of `Surya Yatra’ or Sun Journey ( a kind of fete ) is going on . This temple was at it’s peak during the reign of king Harshavardhana in Kannauj.
Gulloli, where the sun temple is supposed to have been, has a mound on the banks of river Yamuna , where there are seven `mathis’ and a pool or `kund’ . This place is very difficult to access by land as it is amidst dense undergrowth , but via waterways, it is easy enough . In a span of 4 km, there are 3 pools (kund) at equal intervals. They are called the `lighter pool’, the `medium pool’ and the `Lodha pool’ . Between the last two , at a distance of about half a kilometer from the `Lodha pool’ are the `Satmathia’ or the seven small temples . The local population worships these as the Sun Temples (which they are not ) . Here there are some decorated and sculptured rock pieces (shilakhand) and people worship these as Sun God . The actual temple with the deity is believed to be beneath the mound and the `shilakhand’s are believed to be the portions of the outer damaged walls of the temple.

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When talked about the matter to the Archeological Society Of India, it was expressed from their behalf that nothing could be done in the matter at the moment as a small Muslim colony was constructed right over it . Lets see what happes in the future.