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HOME : Asian Art : Art of India : Surya, the Hindu Sun God Stele
Surya, the Hindu Sun God Stele - CB.3395
Origin: India
Circa: 9 th Century AD to 11 th Century AD

Style: Hindu Deity

Additional Information: Currently in Korea_ 2020.04.12

Location: Great Britain
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Surya is the solar deity and connotes the source of light in Hinduism. He is first mentioned in the Rigveda, the earliest Indian texts. In the Rigveda, Surya shines for whole world, prolongs life, and drives away sickness, disease and evil dreams. In addition, Surya is mentioned in particular reverence for the 'rising sun' and has a symbolic characteristic as dispeller of darkness, one who empowers knowledge, the good and all life. The iconography of Surya in Hinduism is typically shown as an erect standing god holding flowers (maybe lotus blossoms) in both his hands. The Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira (c. 505-c. 587), a Hindu text that describes architecture, iconography and design guidelines, states that Surya should be shown with two hands and wearing a crown. It specifically describes his dress to be Northern garb, such as a vest of mail and boots. It is thought to resemble that of Indo-Scythian tribesmen, like the Kushans, who ruled Northern India in the first centuries of the common era, and to reflect the influence of Iranian religious ideas on Indian sun worship. However, the iconography of Surya has varied and complicated over time.

This stele assumed to have been manufactured the medieval period in India, is a beautiful example of Surya holding lotus blossoms in both his hands. In this high relief, Surya features a serene face and a natural depiction of the body inherited the style of Gupta period marked the golden age of classical Hinduism. It is adorned with elaborate jewellery, including a tall and decorated crown, bold earrings, necklaces, bracelets and belt. Surya wears an extremely exquisite detail of the Northern style attire such as a breast plate with scales and high boots. The lotus blossoms in Surya's hands and lotus halo behind his head imply the sun itself and the boundless life it nurtures. Surya surrounded by his full entourage. Prabha (the brightness, or Mahasveta), the consort goddess of Surya is standing between his feet. Surya's two attendants, god Pingala and god Danda are standing on the proper right and left with two small goddesses. The bearded Pingala with a pen and pape represents the intellectual, whilst the young Danda carries a sword and shield, represents the physical means. In addition, six celestial singers (vidyadharas) bearing garlands is placed surrounding the lotus halo. -MK

(Reference: John M. Rosenfield et al. The arts of India and Nepal: the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection. New York: October House Inc., 1966; Joseph M. Dye III. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 2001; Krishna Chandra Sagar. Foreign Influence on Ancient India. New Delhi: Northern Book Centre, 1992; Roshen Dalal. Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India, 2010.)
- (CB.3395)


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