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This rare cast bronze arm ornament depicts a central figure of the Vedic sun or solar deity Surya riding his chariot driven by his charioteer Aruna pulled by seven horses, or by one horse with seven heads (Uchchaihshravas), and accompanied by his attendants Pingala and Dandi. To Surya’s right is Ganesh, and to his left is Vishnu rising his vahana or celestial vehicle Garuda.
Aruna has no legs and is the brother of Garuda, whose body protects the world from the scorching sun.
Surya himself is considered the centre of creation, and a source of light, warmth, life and knowledge. He was regarded as the solar deity from very early on – the personification of the sun. Probably, Surya represents a borrowing of an Iranian or Persian sun god. In medieval India (around the 12-13th centuries) it is likely that Surya had his own cult.
Surya became seen as related to Vishnu particularly. The ornament here has many emblems and motifs, including a pair of feet before Uchchaihshravas which can be seen as representations of Vishnu (Vishnupada.)
The ornament here has a fine, chocolate-brown patina, and a lustrous worn surface. There are four eyelets or remnants or eyelets that would have been used to attach the plaque – either to the upper arm of an individual, perhaps a priest, or perhaps to a statue. An old collection label is attached to the reverse. It describes the piece (incorrectly) as being from Tibet.
Dursum, B., et al, Change and Continuity: Folk and Tribal Art of India, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, 2004.
Guy, J., Indian Temple Sculpture, V&A Publications, 2007.
Skelton, R. & M. Francis (eds.), Arts of Bengal: The Heritage of Bangladesh and Eastern India, Trustees of the Whitechapel Gallery, 1979.