Figure of Surya, the Sun god

On display


  • Catalogue text

    This slightly unusual bronze figure of Sūrya, the Sun god [see EA1972.45], probably dates from as early as the end of the 7th century. Except for his boots, there are no specifically Kuṣāṇa traits to his costume: his crown, the way his hair is dressed, and the scarf looped down between his two arms with fluttery ends, are all reminiscent of certain generally small reliefs in potstone, found in north-west India and probably of late Gupta or early post-Gupta date; the Museum has one such fragment [EAX.244]. So is the shape of the little cape or bolero over the god’s shoulders, perhaps a distant echo of the Greek schamys.

    The principal figure holds a highly stylized lotus in each hand. A massive sword hangs by his left side, in contrast to the small dirk suspended horizontally below the belt on many Kashmiri male Hindu gods. The two attendants are called Piṅgala, who may well hold, as prescribed, a pen in one hand and an ink pot in the other, and Daṇḍȧ who, as his name implies, holds a staff (daṇḍa). They too wear boots and, instead of the Kuṣāṇa square cut tunic or a coat, the same long gown, slit at the sides, as Sūrya. The eyes of all the figures are inlaid in silver and there is a small inlaid gold dot in the middle of Sūrya’s forehead.

    In: Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987)

Further reading

Harle, J. C., and Andrew Topsfield, Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1987), no. 34 on p. 26, illus. p. 26

Ahuja, Naman, Art and Archaeology of Ancient India: Earliest Times to the Sixth Century (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2018), no. 67

Reference URL

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