17 August 2009

Surya Sthalams / Temples - Sun Temple at Surya Pahar in Assam

Sri Surya Pahar, a confluence of the three religion of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, is a treasure trove of ancient monuments, is situated about 12 kms. Southeast of Goalpara, 136 kms northwest of Guwahati.In addition to being a confluence of the three religions which is evident from the innumerable sculptures , Sri Surya Pahar can also be called a garden of medicinal plants, most of which awaits identification. The hills are also abode to rare primates and local legends claim that one less than a 100000 shivalingas dotted the hills but after centuries of neglect and pilferage, not all remain. All this together makes it a favored destination for naturalists and adventure tourists, in addition to religious tourists.Recent archeological find indicate that an ancient civilization flourished in and around Sri Surya Pahar and some scholars refer to the accounts of Chinese traveler, Huen Tsang and to the unearthed relics to claim that it was Sri Surya Pahar and not Guwahati that was the ancient land of Pragjyotishpur, capital of the Kingdom of Bhaskarbarman. The finding of the nearby archeological site of Pagletek is cited to strengthen this claim. The name Sri Surya Pahar implies association with the cult of 'Sun worship', and with references available in the Kalika Puran that there were two seat of Sun worship in Assam, Sri Surya Pahar stands identified as one of them. A carved stone slab, housed in the Surya Temple is worshipped as Surya. Archeologists have identified this circular carvings as Prajapati, which is in an inner circle, the outer circle of which includes twelve lotus petals, each seated with a figure of Aditya, each Aditya depicting the twelve solar divinity of Dharti, Mitra, Aryaman, Rudraara, Varuna, Surya, Bhaga, Vivashan, Pushan, Savitri, Tvastri and Vishnu. Other Brahmanical pantheon in Sri Surya Pahar includes the Twelve armed Vishnu, covered with a seven hooded canopy standing erect on a lotus, worshipped as Dasabhuja Durga , however some scholar argue that this is a likeness of Manasha. Other notable remains include Ganesha, Harihara, Shivalingas, Vishnupadas etc., all dated to the 9th century AD.Amongst the identified Jain figures in one of the first Tirthankara, Adinath , carved in sitting posture in the rocky ourcrop with two bulls in the base, also believed to be of the 9th century AD,.There also exist about 25 votive stupas of different sizes in the southern fringe of Sri Surya Pahar. The stupas are significant for it shows two points, . One ,that there was Buddhist influence in Kamarupa and two, much earlier then the rest of the country, because the design point to the early Hinayana stage of influence , earlier to the Mahayana and Vajrayana esotericism seen in Bihar and Bengal.Animalism, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism all seem to have left their mark on this very sacred destination. Added to that, it's scenic beauty, wildlife and a live archeological spot at Pagletak ... Surya Pahar has something to offer for all. With this, my Chapters on Surya Sthalams/Temples comes to an end. The next Chapters of mine will be on " Jyotirlinga Sthalams/Temples".

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