Sandstone figure of Surya


British Museum

British Museum

The cult of the Hindu sun god, Surya, has a long and interesting history. By the early years of the Christian era, the ancient Indian cult of Surya was influenced by its Iranian counterpart. As a result it is common to see him in what is called a 'Northerner's dress'. This sometimes includes a chain-mail armour covering part of his chest, and tall boots. He is flanked on either side by the female attendants Usha and Pratiusha, the two aspects of the dawn that drive away darkness. His seven-horsed chariot, seen right at the bottom of the stele is usually shown with Surya's charioteer, Aruna. Two bearded sages also flank the image.Surya himself stands straight and tall, with a tall rectangular crown, shrivatsa symbol on his chest and vertical sectarian mark on his forehead. This is similar to images of several images of Vishnu. Even though the two deities had separate cults by this date, they share a common history, both being solar deities in early Vedic texts. Surya carries two lotuses in his hands, symbolic of the world beyond (para) where the sun resides and this world (apara) upon which he shines.

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  • Title: Sandstone figure of Surya
  • Date Created: 1000/1099
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 102.00cm; Length: 42.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: deity; attendant
  • Registration number: 1872,0701.56
  • Place: Found/Acquired India
  • Material: sandstone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Bridge, John. Donated by Bridge, Fanny. Donated by Baker, Edgar. Previous owner/ex-collection Bridge, John. Previous owner/ex-collection Stuart, Charles