Surya, the Sun God thumbnail 1
Surya, the Sun God thumbnail 2
+1
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Surya, the Sun God

Sculpture
Early 10th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Hindu deity Surya is considered the source of light, and as the solar deity can be traced to the earliest Indian texts, the Rgveda. The sun deity is represented standing erect, holding lotus blossoms in both his raised hands. The high boots and short sword are a legacy of his Iranian ancestry, a feature he retains well into the medieval period. At his feet is depicted his half-brother charioteer Aruna. On the proper right stand the god Pingala with pen and ink-bottle (broken away) and the goddess Nikshubha (“Earth”). On the left is the god Dandanayaka holding a staff (danda) and the goddess Rajni ("Air"). At the god's feet is his principal consort Prabha ("brightness"; later known as Mahasveta) . Above the attendant divinities are the female archers Usha and Pratyusha driving off the hosts of the night. At each top corner of the lotus-decorated frame are celestial singers (vidyadharas) in cloud, bearing garlands. In the lower register are the seven horses and Surya's chariot, here represented by a single spoked wheel. All the horses face left, a unique configuration.

The cult of Surya maintained a key position in the hierarchy of deities into the medieval period. Although usurped by Visnu and his solar aspects, Surya nonetheless
maintained his position as a major, if secondary, deity. Major temples were dedicated to Surya across India, as witnessed by Konarak in Orissa, and Modera in Gujarat. This sculpture, of unrecorded origin, undoubtedly graced a temple of some importance in Bihar, eastern India.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Black Basalt (carboniferous shale)
Brief Description
Surya; prophyritic basalt; Patna, Bihar; early 10th century
Physical Description
The Hindu deity Surya is considered the source of light, and as the solar deity can be traced to the earliest Indian texts, the Rigveda. He is one of the twelve Adityas, presides over the 6th month of the year and is also the guardian of the SW quarter. The sun deity is represented standing erect, holding lotus blossoms in his raised hands. The high boots and short sword are a legacy of his Iranian ancestry. He wears a high faceted headdress decorated in a trellis of diamond-shaped quatrefoils. He wears elaborate earrings which dangle on his shoulders below flaring streamers. He is richly be-jewelled over a diaphanous robe which falls full-length to his feet. At his feet is depicted his half-brother, the charioteer Aruna (the Morn). On the proper right, stand the god Pingala with pen and ink-bottle (broken away) and the goddess Nikshuta (Earth). On the left is the god Dandanayaka holding a staff (danda) and the goddess Rajni ("Air"). At the god's feet is his principal consort Prabha ("brightness"). Above the attendant divinities are the female archers Usha and Pratyusha driving off the hosts of night. At each top corner appears a celestial singer (Gandharva) in a cloud, bearing a garland. In the lower register are the seven horses and Surya's chariot, represented by the spoked wheel.

The figures are carved in high relief against a flat rhomboid-shaped back slab with curved angles at the optics is decorated with a border of abstract floral motifs on a criss-crossed ground. The stele has a stone tenon in the centre of the base for slotting into its original architectural setting.
Dimensions
  • Height: 142cm
  • Width: 86cm
  • Depth: 19cm
  • Weight: 450kg
With mount: H 174 cm, W 100 cm, D 28 cm
Style
Credit line
Given by the Architectural Association
Object history
Given by the Architectural Association who were presented it by the late Sir H Bartle E Frere
Production
Bihar, Eastern India
Subject depicted
Summary
The Hindu deity Surya is considered the source of light, and as the solar deity can be traced to the earliest Indian texts, the Rgveda. The sun deity is represented standing erect, holding lotus blossoms in both his raised hands. The high boots and short sword are a legacy of his Iranian ancestry, a feature he retains well into the medieval period. At his feet is depicted his half-brother charioteer Aruna. On the proper right stand the god Pingala with pen and ink-bottle (broken away) and the goddess Nikshubha (“Earth”). On the left is the god Dandanayaka holding a staff (danda) and the goddess Rajni ("Air"). At the god's feet is his principal consort Prabha ("brightness"; later known as Mahasveta) . Above the attendant divinities are the female archers Usha and Pratyusha driving off the hosts of the night. At each top corner of the lotus-decorated frame are celestial singers (vidyadharas) in cloud, bearing garlands. In the lower register are the seven horses and Surya's chariot, here represented by a single spoked wheel. All the horses face left, a unique configuration.



The cult of Surya maintained a key position in the hierarchy of deities into the medieval period. Although usurped by Visnu and his solar aspects, Surya nonetheless

maintained his position as a major, if secondary, deity. Major temples were dedicated to Surya across India, as witnessed by Konarak in Orissa, and Modera in Gujarat. This sculpture, of unrecorded origin, undoubtedly graced a temple of some importance in Bihar, eastern India.
Bibliographic References
  • Guy, John: Indian Temple Sculpture, London, V & A Publication, 2007, pp.152-3, pl.171 ISBN 9781851775095.
  • Lippincott, Kristen, with Umberto Eco, E.H. Gombrich and others. The Story of Time. London: Merrell Holberton in association with National Maritime Museum. ISBN 1 85894 072 9 / 1 85894 073 7. p. 30, no. 017.
  • Arts of Bengal : the heritage of Bangladesh and eastern India : an exhibition organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum : 9 November-30 December 1979, Whitechapel Art Gallery ..., 12 January-17 February 1980, Manchester City Art Gallery ... . [London]: Whitechapel Art Gallery, [1979] Number: 085488047X (pbk.) :p.28
  • L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466p.104, Cat.59
Collection
Accession Number
IM.109-1916

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdFebruary 13, 2000
Record URL