LEGENDS of OPENINGS -3 Door and the Sun

Post 481 –by Gautam Shah


Sun Temple

The Door and the Sun are omnipresent in this world. The Sun relates to the horizon, from where it appears. And the Door in spite of its portal of sides and threshold is held by the lintel head. The skyline is a reachable limit, but the lintel head makes a door godly or human. For Gods, the threshold is inessential but for mortals it is ubiquitous hurdle and challenge. The sun rises at the edge of the earth, at different points and time, but its reincarnation is inevitable, yet reassuring. Mystically the sun opens the door with a new day of changed fortunes.


Helios Greek God on Chariot (Greco-Roman mythology) NW pediment of temple of Athena in Ilion (Troy)

The sun takes many forms of travel across the sky, some realistic and other symbolic. Sun flies like an eagle, swims like a crocodile, drifts like a tortoise, ride a regal chariot with seven horses, floats with a boat or glides on the light rays. The sun’s passage has also been represented through flying, moving and rotating objects such as the wheel or dharma chakra, flag, toran, festoons, light mobile objects and shiny metal spirals. The sun’s rises in distant hills, ocean or landmarks but its arrival is celebrated as a passage through some built-forms such as an opening, gate, portal, arch, door, a colonnade of pillars or obelisks.


Japanese Sun Goddess Amaterasu emerging from a cave or opening bringing out sunlight back to Universe


Pharaoh Akhenaten and family worshiping the opening, the Aten with rays emanating from the solar disk

The Chariot of Greek solar deity Helios

Helios, a Greek solar deity drove a fiery chariot through the heaven by day, but at night floated back across the ocean in a golden bowl. The Egyptian Ra. swept across the sky in the sun-boat. The Japanese Sun, the king of nature comes like a bird, and roots over the bent beams of the Tori gate.

Shimogamo Jinja no Tori

Early Egyptian places of worship were entered through a cleavage formed by parallel pylons. It had set of shuttered doors at the bottom, just of height to conceal the magical ceremony preparations. The lower shuttered portion was for the mortals, but upper section was left open for the Sun god to enter. Ordinary mortals need a threshold, a mark of opening, but an ethereal god like Sun or Ra. needs no threshold. The god Ra. enters from high up so required no lintel or door head.

Ra in his solar boat

Egyptian’s temples and tombs had two openings: the East and the West one. The East door was real, for the dead body and soul to arrive. But the West door was a false or make-believe entity, known as ‘Ka door’. It allowed the Ka (the soul) to pass through onto an eternal journey. The False door was not a replica of the real door, but a metaphoric presentation of exit or departure. It had an offering niche, for real and imitative offerings, a stela with hieroglyphic inscriptions that contained the wishes for the afterlife and prayers or entreaty. It was a threshold between the world of the living and the dead.


False Door

Peruvian people, believe in a prophesy that God will appear in the light ship through the portal called ‘Gate of the God. It is a gateway to the lands of the Gods. The legend tells about heroes who had gone through it for a new life of immortality, and occasionally return to check the affairs of the kingdom.


Peru Door of the God

The idea of return fills the mortals with hopes. A door is duality of two heads of Janus (the God of doors), as that of Sun and Moon. A door is as much for departure, as for return, or as in Sanskrit for Aagaman and Nirgaman. But life after death is uncertain, so complete your home duties before you step out and accomplish your tasks before you step in the door. Christ says ’small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it’ (Matthew 7:14).

Inspiration for Mid Lands

Author J.R.R. Tolkien (of Hobbit, 37, Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion) talks of Door of Night and Door of the Day.

The Sun was to pass through the Door of Night as it travelled above Arda. When the Sun passed through the Door, night would fall upon Middle-earth. The Moon would then rise from its resting place and continue on its path over the Earth. The Sun would traverse the border of the Wall of the World, re-entering the world in the East, at the Gates of Morning. At the same time the Moon would be sinking in the West and a new day would begin’.

Gateway of the Sun from the Tiwanku civilization in Bolivia (restored version)

Rear view 1903

Sun God Image over Door Head

Dharma Chakra Sanchi India


A high level object reveals the arrival of sun. It could be a dynamic object flying in the air and scintillating in the golden dawn, or static, gilded and decorated door head. The moving Dharma-Chakra of the Buddhist temples and stupas and over a Stambha -pillar had this purpose. Sun rays also shined the metal-clad tops of tall obelisks. It also lit up the moving flags, torans and festoons. The door heads had Sun, symbolically as eagles, rayed globe or heads. A Canton tomb door head is sculpted with the sun rising from the clouds. A falcon headed sun god Horus, after a battle with darkness took the shape of a human-headed lion, the sphinx or ‘sun on the horizon.’





Post 392 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


An opening is any space or gap within a barrier. An opening is meaningful so far it is in a barrier. The opening could be a ‘puncture’, surrounded by the barrier on all its sides, or a cleavage between two barriers. Openings are also called ports, as across the opening one can ‘board’ a new system. An opening is called a passageway, as this is the only way, one can, transit a territory.

Chaco Canyon Pueblo Bonito doorways

An opening can never be larger or equal to a barrier within which it resides. All physical openings have a finite size. A smaller opening makes a barrier system very evident, whereas a large opening or multiple openings make barriers less effective. Opening systems are also ineffective in transparent, translucent or frequently interrupted (broken or discontinuous) barriers. A room with a lattice wall all around has no need for a window, or a glass cabin has no need for an opaque (solid) door.

Manhattan Bridge Arch and Colonnade

Openings are defined by superlative structures to denote the presence and control the activities occurring through it. The superlative structures over passageways such as Gates, Gateways or Doorways are large in size and very distinctively formed. Formal structures have shutter devices whereas symbolic structures are simple openings. Nominally a passage is a linear entity, and so do the gates have singular passage. Cross junctions of passages require four or more sided gates.

Multiple Openings

The superlative structures function as control Gateways over openings. Such openings’ control the transactions, by way of the size, volume, temporal rate of passage and the qualitative nature of things. The transactions across the openings are of two ways, exit and entry types, and so the controls are also dualistic.

Gates with sensors

Gates with minimal structure

All communication channels have Gateways, from where the traffic gets diverted to appropriate channels and portals where divergent traffic gets ‘routed. These gateways register size of individual transactions, time of arrival-departure and source-destination of traffic. But most importantly there are ‘protocols’ that check whether the destined item has reached or not.

Surveillance gates or ports

In buildings openings like Gates, Doors, Windows, Ventilators, Gaps, Cracks, Crevices and Punctures all denote physical entities, but there are innumerable imperceptible points where observance and control occur. The sensors, cameras, readers, etc., are concealed, made minute in size and programmed so that ‘Gates’ structures are not imminent.

Openings in buildings have facilities for allowing sunlight, air, sounds and for framing view of the outside. The openings also create architectural patterns, compositions through scaling and proportioning, endow specific style character, affinities and identities. The openings occur in a barrier system as a connecting threshold or edge between two distinct worlds, but their own presence assumes many different guises. An opening is designed to be a distinct medium investing a nature of relationship between spatial domains.



Post 294 – by Gautam Shah


Gates were entry and exit points to a fortified settlement. Goods, men and livestock passed through this point, so it became a check-post not only for control, but assessment and collection of revenue. Gates had structures that housed the sentries and revenue officials. Gates being a sensitive point in terms of security and transactions, a regular set up for intelligence collection (Kotwali in India) was established here.

Constantinople Istanbul Turkey

Portas do Cerco — the border or revenue gate between Macau and Zhuhai, China

Fortified areas were usually very small and with limited resources. To control the population inside the fortified area, right of habitation was restricted to select few. All outsiders and their livestock were allowed to stay inside, from sun up to sun down periods only. This required a time keeping and a signalling system, usually enforced from the gate area. The signalling systems included cannons, guns, flags, smoke signals, light torches, conch shells, bells, drums, nagara, shehnais, nadswarams, trumpets, bugles, echo reflector walls, etc. In each case the solutions to house them were equally varied.

Nagara Shehnai room over the gate

Gates and Gateways are structures that denote a change in the environment. Such structures are real, or indicative metaphysical entities. Gates have been a symbol of power, protection, and prosperity. The gate is a point of transition into a world that is civilized, peaceful and ordered, unlike the chaos, fear and uncertainty outside it.

Gate just to mark change of Domain -Muscat

Gates as symbol of power

Symbolic gates are structures with large openings at the ground level, though high plinth structures with steps are common. Gates as the symbolic structure mark the domain itself, or an opening into it. Such gates also project abstract ‘dominance’ or extent, even when definitions of the domain may be weak or not existent.

City Palace Jaipur India

Formal gates function as controller entry or exit and so have shutters. Such gates are usually in fortified or bounded areas. Such gates need functional shutters, but the size of gate would require equally large sized shutters. This has been a technological restriction, so in spite of very large gate and architecture of opening actual ‘door’ sizes are usually smaller. The large size shutters, even, if functional in terms of opening and closing, required small gap for passage of a person or delivery of a message and objects.

Sher Shah Suri Gate Delhi > Large Gate small Door

Estate Gates are associated with landed assets such as complex of buildings, temple or residential complexes, army cantonments, royal animal yards, jails, educational institutes, graveyards, burning ghats, river ghats, ports, markets and parks. Gated communities have their own domain of privacy and security. Such communities actually begin to be status symbol or sign of exclusivity.  Modern gated community flourish with means or surveillance and communication. These two major modalities can work, if only part of the larger framework.

Estate gate 10 Downing st London

Front Gate of Toshogu, Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan.

Memorial Gates are erected at important locations and denote important sections of town. Mid Town Gates also occur to signify important sections of the town.

Chinatown San Francisco gateway

Green Gate in the Main Town of Gdan’sk

Red Square Moscow

Gates, monuments and other edifices have been associated with points where an acute change of environment exists or is required to be enforced or indicated. Gates on state boundaries signify the change in a political authority, though across the border, geographic, climatic or social change may not really occur. A gate structure like Char Minar does not register any change before or across it.

Cloud Gate Chicago

Charminar Gates Hyderabad India

A Ghanta Ghar, Bell or Clock Tower is designed as a gate like structure that signifies an important location or landmark in an urban landscape but does not mark a different environment on the other side. Gates erected as a memorial can be anywhere in town, at cross roads, edge of the land or water or in parks.

Jodhpur Clock Tower India

Clock tower Faisalabad Pakistan

India Gate New Delhi

St. Louis, Missouri Jefferson Memorial Arch United States Wikipedia Image



Post 158 by Gautam Shah

Gateway of India, Mumbai (Bombay) India

A Gateway is an inclusive definition of a gate. A gateway is a gate, but has the sense of passage in it, giving an idea of depth. The depth is created by the deeper section of the gate structure, or by dual or multiple gates with an intermediate passage.

Bhadra Fort, Ahmedabad, India, -Multiple gates

The depth due to the elongated structure or the passage enforces the discipline and place for intervening changes. Gates are nominally two-way structures that are have single passage across it, but some gateways are four-way structures with crossing passages. Gateways have one, three or five passages, if more it expresses a colonnade or arcade.

Two way structure gate / Dura-Europus, a Hellenistic structure on the bank of Euphrates river (Syria)

Char Minar Hyderabad India – Four-way gate

Agra Fort Gate Inside view, India

A gateway stands alone or is part of a wall structure of a fort, but in both the cases as a very significant entity due its scale and proportions. Formal gates function as controller entry or exit and so have shutters. Such gates are usually in fortified or bounded areas. These gates need functional shutters. A gateway structure, however, could be so large that no gate of such a size (doorway) is technologically feasible, and even if feasible, it is difficult to operate it frequently. Such gateways have doors of manageable size, or the large doors are inset with small doors just sufficient for one person entry.

Shaniwar Wada Gate with smaller inset gate -Pune (Poona), Maharashtra, India

Gateways structures denote a change in the environment. Such structures are real, or indicative metaphysical entities. Gates have been a symbol of power, protection, and prosperity. A gateway is a point of transition into a world that is civilized, peaceful and ordered, unlike the chaos, fear and uncertainty outside it.

Gates of the Nations, Persepolis Iran

Muscat Road Gate -a symbolic structure

Gates are conceived to be very significant, and naturally receive all the due patronage. The functional importance and patronage of the society for the gate are often so overwhelming that it becomes a superlative entity with more grandiose than the king’s palace or temple of God.

Thirukovilur Temple Tower -Gopuram (South India) -a gate structure as a superlative entity then the building (Temple)

Golden Gate Kiev – a superlative structure



De Waag, Amsterdam, 1904 Giclee Print by Nico Jungman Art com