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Archaeology

Surya

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Surya
13th century AD, Eastern Ganga Dynasty

Place of origin: Konarak, Orissa
Materials: Stone
Dimensions: Ht: 189.2 L: 89 W: 40.5 cm.
Acc. No. 50.178

Carved minutely with a wide range of subordinate imagery this sculpture, representing the Sun-god Surya, is one of the finest from the Sun temple, Konark, in Orissa. Besides the main image it portrays 'Maladharas' showering flowers, vina-playing Gandharva, and equestrian messenger, though largely damaged, on the right and left of the prabha's upper part, flower-bunches carrying female attendants, male attendants, sages and the figures of seven horses with charioteer Aruna driving his cart. The texts identify the two female figures attending on him as his consorts Chhaya and Suvarchasa, and two males, as Danda and Pingala, his trusted attendants. Pingala begins appearing in sculptures as an independent theme since at least the 4th century AD.

The sculpture was once the sanctum image of the Konark's Sun-temple installed for worship in the temple's 'garbha-griha' and was later shifted to the National Museum for safety and better upkeep. The image is normal two-armed rendered pursuing standards of human anatomy. Sadly the sculpture's forearms holding lotuses have been completely destroyed which the sun-god once held in both of them. Two full-blown lotuses are still in their positions above the shoulders of the deity. A more characteristic feature of Surya, the Sun god has been represented as riding a chariot driven by seven galloping horses with reins in the hands of his charioteer. There is over the divine figure of the Sun god complete arch with decorative details to add beauty to the image. The face of the deity seems to glow with inner delight and energy and a subtle smile on the lips.

A Rig-Vedic deity alternating with Vishnu Surya, the source of light, warmth and life, stood for time and cosmic dynamics. Surya sculptures begin pouring in from around the early centuries of the Christian era. The dagger-carrying 'udichya vesa' images in tunic, girdle and high boots of this early conception were widely different from his contemporary sculptures. Apart from the chariot he rode in these early sculptures driven by four horses. As the cult of worship the sun was prevalent also in other parts, Greece, Rome, Iran... these early images seem to be influenced by extraneous elements, especially Iranian. Later sculptures are more Indianised.

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