ANCIENT ANTHROPOMORPHIC SOLAR CULT OF ASSAM AND ITS LEGACY

Banasree Phukan
Assistant Professor, Department of History, Pandu College, Maligaon, Guwahati, Assam, India

Abstract
Worship of Surya, or the Sun God of the Hindu Pantheon, was a popular cult in ancient Pragjyotisa-Kamarupa. It is evident from archaeological remains, ancient manuscripts and epigraphs. Large numbers of Surya sculptures in human form (anthropomorphic) have been dated to 13th Cent CE or earlier, but very few thereafter. This implies an abrupt decline of anthropomorphic sun worship in Assam. The main objective of the research article is to obtain updated information on history and, ii) trace the legacy of anthropomorphic sun worship. 23 sites were visited and traces of anthropomorphic sun worship located at 5 sites. At least five Panchayatanas were noted; three in standing condition and two in ruins, but Surya was not the presiding deity in any. Assam State Museum displays two ‘Objects used in Satras’ showing ‘Surya’. Navagraha temple at Guwahati shows combined features of the Solar cult and the Saivite cult, with Ravi (Surya) placed in the centre in the form of a linga. Some medieval temples, including the famous Kamakhya temple, bear ancient anthropomorphic Surya sculptures on their outer walls. No new idols are presently constructed for sun worship, and no ancient sun temple currently exists in Assam.

Key words: Solar Cult, Surya, Anthropomorphic, Assam, Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa

1.   Introduction
Solar cult refers to the cult of worship of the Sun god. In the Hindu Pantheon, the Sun God is Surya, also known by alternative names as one of twelve solar divinities.[i] Its earliest symbol-the rayed orb and its variants, is depicted on the potteries of many proto-historic cultures of India.[ii] The wheel and the Svastika symbolized its motion. Anthropomorphic, i.e., representation in human form, likely evolved during the later period of the Rig Veda (1500-1100 BCE) (Srivastava, 1972).
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[i] Surya Upanishad, which is a minor Upanishad allied to Atharva Veda, and the Bhavisya Purana, which is one of the 18 major Puranas.
[ii] Mohenjodaro, Harappa

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