Surya with attendants

Four armed Surya

This four-armed idol is Surya, the Sun God. Surya is identified by the lotuses in his hands. The other two arms on resting on the nimbi of the attendants, Pingala and Dandi. The attendants look up to Surya. Reminds me of the Vishnu bronzes from Kashmir, where the Ayudhapurushas look up to Vishnu.Four armed Surya back

Four-armed Suya idols are rare. This idol is special for several other reasons as well.

This Surya is very similar to an example in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA),  M.84.223.2, with the exception that the subject of this blog is slightly shorter but is more complete as the front arms with Lotus are intact.

Vishnudharmottarapurana compiled in Kashmir during the fourth and seventh centuries prescribes iconography of four-armed Surya.

  • The front arms should be holding lotuses.
  • The other two arms should be placed on the attendants’ heads.
  • There should be a standard bearing a lion banner placed near God.

As is the case in this example. In addition, here Surya is wearing a long robe and boots in North Indian style. The dagger suspended across his lower torso, an adaptation from Sahi martial attire, reinforces regional attribution.

The rearview shows the rear arms more clearly. Quite unusual to see the patterns on the backside.

The LACMA example is attributed to Kashmir or Afghanistan and is dated to the eighth century. In my view, those assignments will apply to this example as well. This idol is about 8 cm in height.

Metropolitan Museum also has an example of a four-armed Surya.

Note: This blog used material from the book Indian Sculpture Volume II of the LACMA collection by Dr. Pratapaditya Pal.  The LACMA Surya could be found on page 58 of that book, Catalogue item number 2.

27 April 2022: Out of curiosity, I sought professional help to date this Vigraha. Went to a conservation specialist, East Coast USA, based on recommendations from my collector friends. Based on the surface condition analysis and this is what he had to say

“I‘ve had a look at the small sculpture of Surya with the microscope and done a qualitative alloy analysis from the surface.  It consists of copper that was probably unalloyed. The levels of other metals are so low that they probably reflect minor components of the copper ore, or small accidental additions from recycled metal scraps, rather than intentional additions.  These trace components include iron, cobalt, nickel, zinc, lead, tin, and antimony.

The condition of the surface, heavily oxidized, looks typical for an ancient work that has never been buried.  I’m not the person to determine its stylistic age, but the condition is compatible with the 8th-century date that you’ve given to it.


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