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Konark Wheel becomes centre of attraction at G-20 summit venue

By, Debabrata Mohanty
Sep 09, 2023 05:05 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose a wall depicting the historic Konark Wheel of Odisha’s Sun Temple as the backdrop for his welcome handshake with world leaders at the G20 Summit venue

The historic Konark Wheel of Odisha’s Sun Temple became a centre of attraction at the G20 Summit venue on Saturday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose a wall depicting the 13th century artefact as the backdrop for his welcome handshake with world leaders at the Bharat Mandapam in Delhi.

PM Modi was seen explaining the historic significance of the Konark Wheel to world leaders like American president Joe Biden at the G20 venue in Delhi on Saturday. (AFP)
PM Modi was seen explaining the historic significance of the Konark Wheel to world leaders like American president Joe Biden at the G20 venue in Delhi on Saturday. (AFP)

PM Modi, who had rekindled the memories of Sengol (a historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu) during the inauguration of the new Parliament building earlier this year, was also seen explaining the significance of the Konark wheel to world leaders like American president Joe Biden at the G20 venue.

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Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who is from Odisha, said that it is a moment of great pride for all Indians.

“Odisha’s magnificent culture and heritage finds a place of pride at #G20 India. The Konark chakra is an architectural marvel illustrating the civilizational concepts of time, space, continuity and the future. PM Narendra Modi explaining the significance of India’s heritage and knowledge traditions to Joe Biden is truly a beautiful sight,” Pradhan said on X (formerly Twitter).

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“Odisha’s timeless wonder— KONARK CHAKRA at G20 for the welcome handshake. A moment of great pride for all Indians, particularly my Odia brothers and sisters. A symbol of India’s civilisational, cultural and architectural excellence, the Konark chakra symbolises continuity and progress,” he added.

The monument dedicated to the sun god Surya and shaped like a gigantic chariot with 7 horses on 12 pairs of beautifully decorated wheels was built during the reign of King Narasimhadeva-I.

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore once described it as a place “where the language of man is defeated by the language of stone”. Of all the parts of the World Heritage monument, the wheel remains the most celebrated symbol of the temple as it adorns several drawing rooms. Last month, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna unveiled a replica of the wheel at the Times square of New York City. The wheel is also depicted on the back side of the currency notes of 10.

Experts say the 12 pairs of wheels made of Khondalite stones signify the 12 months of the year and the 8 spokes on each of the wheels represent the 8 prahars or time divisions of the day.

“The 7 horses represent the days of a week and the 12 pairs of wheels represent the 12 months of the year and the 24 wheels indicate 24 hours of a day. As for 8 major spokes, they signify prahars (three hour period) of a day. The wheel has 8 wider or major spokes and 8 thinner or minor spokes. The distance between two major spokes is 3 hours while the same between a major spoke and a minor spoke is 90 minutes, said Professor Sushant Patra of department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology in Bhubaneswar’s Utkal University.

“There are 30 beads at the edge of the wheel between one major spoke to the next minor spoke and they divide the 90 minutes. When there was no clock, the Konark wheel probably served as a timepiece as the intricate design allowed sunlight to pass through it and cast shadows that could be used to determine the exact time. The wheel was designed to align with the sun’s rays at different times of the year, indicating the changing seasons,” he said.

Patra said though all the 24 wheels are similar, each one of them is decorated differently. “The thicker wheels have circular medallions carved at their centres. The rims are carved with designs of foliage with various birds and animal. The medallions in the spokes have carvings of figures of amorous women mostly of erotic nature,” he said.

Superintending archaeologist of Archaelogical Survey of India’s Puri circle, Dibishad Gadnaik said the wheels symbolise ‘Wheel of Life’. “It is believed to represent cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The 12 pairs of wheels may also possibly represent the 12 zodiac signs. Some researchers also believe that the wheel is the same as the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists - the Wheel of Karma or the wheel of the Law.

At the G20 venue, a 27-ft-tall bronze statue of Nataraja, weighing 20 tonne, also grabbed much attention. Nataraja is Lord Shiva in his dynamic dance posture, called “tandava”, which in a single pose captures Shiva’s roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer.

The sculpture has been made using traditional casting methods and “ashta dhatu”, a blend of eight metals, with copper as the primary component at 87%. Artisans from Swamimalai in Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu devoted approximately 325,000 man-hours to bring the sculpture to life, according to officials familiar with the matter.

Prime Minister Modi reached Bharat Mandapam on Saturday morning, accompanied by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and national security advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, among others.

US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and several other top leaders were welcomed at the two-day Summit.

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