The name Konark derives from the combination of the Sanskrit words, Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), in reference to the temple which was dedicated to the Sun god Surya.
The monument was also called the Black Pagoda by European sailors. In contrast, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the White Pagoda. Both temples served as important landmarks for the sailors.
The temple was originally built at the mouth of the river Chandrabhaga, but the waterline has receded since then. The temple has been built in the form of a giant ornamented chariot of the Sun god, Surya. It has twelve pairs of elaborately carved stone wheels some of which are 3 meters wide and is pulled by seven pairs of horses. The temple follows the traditional style of Kalinga architecture. It is carefully oriented towards the east so that the first rays of sunrise strikes the principal entrance. The temple is built from Khondalite rocks.