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The Greek God Helios & the Indian Deity Surya

Osmund Bopearachchi (Author) Gandharan Art Revisited

This book examines, in the light of numerous iconographies, the syncretism of three deities associated with the sun, the Indian Surya, the Greek Helios, and the Iranian Mithra. The Gandharan statue of the Bodhisattva Siddhartha in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, wearing a headdress depicting the sun god in the guise of a Bodhisattva, performing the abhayamudra ("the gesture of fearlessness") standing frontally in a chariot drawn by four horses, was the starting point for this study. This syncretic image of the Greek Helios and the Indian Sürya with Buddhist overtones is a direct result of the cross-cultural nature of Gandharan art. The evolution of sun-god imagery in central India and in the Great Gandhara owed much to the worship of the Indian Surya and the Greek Helios as creators of the universe and source of all life. Nor is it surprising that this remarkably syncretic image emerged in the Kuşan period as a Buddhist icon, perhaps even a Buddha. The earliest representations of the sun god in India, Central Asia, and China took place in a Buddhist context. Surya in the railing at the Mahabodhi Temple, at the Bhäjä Vihara cave, and in the lintel from the Huviška Vihara at Jamalpur represent Surya synchronised with the Buddha's 'achievement of dispelling the darkness of ignorance. 'Likewise, the Sun god dressed similarly to a Bodhisattva but in the guise of Indian Surya and Greek Helios in the headdress of the Bodhisattva Siddhartha in the Royal Ontario Museum and the Sun god taking the form of Iranian Mithra at Bāmiyan also symbolise the Buddha who will 'blaze forth in this world to dispel the darkness of delusion.'

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About the author
In the spotlight

Osmund Bopearachchi

Osmund Bopearachchi is a numismatist, historian and archaeologist. He has authored twelve books, edited six books and published 162 research articles in reputed international journals. He has read 91 papers at international colloquia; presented 275 conferences in 80 cities, and has carried out 120 archaeological missions in 24 different countries.  Going beyond the traditional approach of simply cataloguing coins, he has made an attempt to link numismatics with sculptural and pictorial iconography. These attempts made him more and more interested in diverse art forms in ancient India. The exhibition catalogues that he has edited and co-authored, the international colloquia that he has organised and published and the numerous research articles that he has written are the outcome of his deep-seated interest in Central Asian and South Asian archaeology, art and architecture.  Prof. Bopearachchi holds a B.A. from the University of Kelaniya (Sri Lanka), and B.A. honors, (M.A.), M.Phil., Ph.D. all with first class passes from the Paris I-Sorbonne University, and a Higher Doctorate (Habilitation) from the Paris IV-Sorbonne University.  Prof. Bopearachchi currently serves as the director of the Sri Lanka-French Archaeological Mission, and also has launched a joint project with the Department of Near-Eastern Studies of the University of California at Berkeley focusing on Sri Lanka’s role in ancient maritime trade in the Indian Ocean.  He recently published a book on Gandhāran art entitled: “When West Met East: Gandhāran Art Revisted (Manohar, Delhi, 2020) based on a selection of hitherto unknown masterpieces from Gandhāra and Greater Gandhāra dispersed in museums and private collections in Japan, Europe, Canada and United States of America. At present he is working on a new catalogue of Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek Coins.

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Bibliographic information

Title The Greek God Helios & the Indian Deity Surya
Format Hardcover
Date published: 08.02.2022
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 8194829410, 9788194829416
length 116p., Number of Colour Plates and Pictures; 130 GSM Jacket; 224x290mm