Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Surya, God of the Sun

Hindu Religion Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
--- Buddhist
--- Hindu
- Secondary Figure
- Shristhikantha Lokeshvara emanation
- Surya Trampled underfoot
- Eight Great Planets (Tib. - za chenpo gye)
- Astrological Deities
- Source Literature:
- Masterworks
- Confusions: Chandra
- Others...

Surya is the god of the sun and belongs to a broad Indian cultural context. He is found in all Indian religious traditions. The mandala images below primarily belong to the Newar Buddhist religion of Nepal. Some of the paintings are dated by inscription and others are dated only tentatively based on comparison and style with the dated works.

The chariot of Surya, red in colour, is drawn by seven horses and the god Chandra, white in colour, drawn by seven geese. Based on the number of known examples, the Chandra mandala appears to be more popular with relatively few examples of the Surya mandala identified. Both mandalas derive from the same Newar source literature.

In Tibetan Buddhism the god Surya is rarely if ever depicted as a central figure alone or at the center of a mandala. However, he can be found as an emanation in depictions of Shristhikantha Lokeshvara according to the descriptions in the Karandavyuha Sutra. Surya is generally only found as a retinue deity in various mandalas of the Charya and Yoga Tantra classifications. Surya can also be found as a trampled deity under the feet of Vajrabhairava and other Yoga-niruttara (anuttarayoga) Tantra meditational deities.

In the Karandavyuha Sutra there is a description of a number of Hindu gods arising from the body of Lokeshvara. The original version of the sutra describes nine gods as emanating from the body of Lokeshvara: 1. Surya, 2. Chandra, 3. Shiva, 4. Brahma, 5. Vishnu, 6. Sarasvati, 7. Vayu, 8. Bhudevi and 9. Varuna. A sculpture representation beautifully depicts the nine gods and their locations of emanation from the body of Lokeshvara.

Database Search: All Images | Mandalas

Jeff Watt 3-2020


The Art of Nepal. Pratapaditya Pal. Los Angeles County Museum of Art in association with University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1985.

The Arts of Nepal (2 volumes). Pratapaditya Pal. Leiden/Koln, E.J.Brill, 1978.

Kathmandu Valley Painting. The Jucker Collection. Hugo E. Keijker. Shambhala, 1999.

Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley (2 volumes). Mary Shepherd Slusser. Mandala Book Point, 1998.