Thousands of tourists visit the famed Sun temple at Konark in Orissa and go back impressed with the grandeur and craftsmanship of earlier days. But very few seem to know that another Sun temple exists at Buguda in Ganjam district of the State. This is made entirely of wood and the designs and imagery enthrall the viewer. This is referred to as the Wooden Konark.

This 200 year old shrine is dedicated to Biranchi Narayan, the Sun God. The temple forms a part of the Biranchi Narayan math where the king of Ghumusar called Sreekar Bhanja lived as ‘Sanyasi Raja’ or the King turned ascetic. The temple is small and is designed in the shape of a chariot driven by a single wheel drawn by the seven galloping horses of the Sun God.

The main temple rests on 32 ornately carved pillars and the ceiling is bewilderingly beautiful in its carvings. Only the pillars, the horses and the wheel are made of stone and the rest is durable polished Sal timber and trunks of palm trees.

The ceilings and the pillars are so intricately carved that one feels tempted to touch its filigree like texture. The themes of Krishna Leela and Ramayana dominate the scenic depictions. At the centre of the ceiling there is a wooden chandelier and from the tip of it is carved with a lotus where Lord Krishna is depicted as a new born and the entire significant chapters of his life is very vividly carved on wood till he kills Kamsha, his cruel uncle. It is like reading a book page by page – the entire panorama of Krishna Leela can be viewed through the wooden beams and rafters.

The wooden mandapa of the temple has several panels displaying Dasavatara images or incarnations of Vishnu, Radha and Krishna, nayikas, musicians, dancers, peacocks, parrots, rows of cows, lions, and elephants and so on.

The walls are embellished with paintings made with themes like Sita’s betrayal, Bali’s killing and the epic battle between Ram and Ravana. The paintings with indigenous paints have great strength in tone and color and have survived over years.

The ante chamber of the temple does not admit any one but the priest. The door where the visitors are stopped is itself is a marvelous work of art with its fine lace work ornamentation. Inside, the walls are painted on every inch and are right and beautiful even today. There a life size image of the Sun God is worshipped.

The residents say that a grazer once stumbled upon a piece of copper pitcher in the dense forest at the nearby Malati hills about 15 km away. When the villagers dug up the site the stone idol was found. This was installed as Biranchi Narayan in the temple inside the King’s hermitage-cum-court.

The five foot high idol is also believed to be the lost idol of the Konark’s Sun temple. This idol is flanked with two smaller but identical idols made of wood and copper. The main statue is in the standing posture, holding stalks of lotuses. It is dressed ornately and wears a truncated crown and a scabbard hangs from his waist and wears boots.

This monastery was set up in 1820 AD. Because of royal patronage the master craftsmen devoted all their skills and made this a unique and outstanding piece of art.

People here believe that the god here protected and heal their diseases like skin ailments. They offer their offerings with everything that is spelt with the letter B.

The wooden temple has a ceiling of copper but now it is topped with cement and lime because the heat it used to emit killed several birds that flew above it.

But the priceless temple has started withering due to lack of funds and poor maintenance. Many wooden artifacts are being pilfered. The temple also has some valuable palm leaf manuscripts and ancient texts.

Buguda is 160 km to the south east of Bhubaneswar and it takes about three-and-a-half-hour of driving to reach the site.