LEGENDS of OPENINGS -3 Door and the Sun

Post 481  by Gautam Shah

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.’

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LEGENDS of OPENINGS -2 God of doors -JANUS

Post 457 –by Gautam Shah

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Janus-VaticanIn Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. Janus symbolized change and transitions such as: the progression of past to future, of one condition to another, of one vision to another, and of one universe to another. He represented the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood. He was worshipped at the beginnings of all events like planting and harvesting, births, marriages, etc. The cult of Janus dates back to a period even before founding of Rome. Janus has no equivalent god in Greek mythology. The oldest lists of Roman gods began with Janus. He was surnamed ‘divom deus’, an ancient Latin form meaning ‘the god’s god’. Lord Ganesh, elephant headed God of Indian mythology has many similarities with Janus. Ganesh is the presiding deity, and first to be invoked in all ceremonies. Presence of Ganesh is considered auspicious for all beginnings and is symbolically represented at the door-head. Ganesh is called Devadhi-Dev or God of the gods.janus-91

Ganesha_statue,_Asian_Civilisations_Museum_Singapore_-_20061231Rome had many freestanding ceremonial gates (‘jani’) that were marks of auspicious beginnings, departure and return from victory, as entrance and exit. One of the famous jani, Janus-Geminus was a shrine at the north side of the forum.

Temple_Janus_Autun_31640px-Autun_Temple_Janus_PA00113101_01_JPMJanus was depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. Some believe Janus represents sun and moon. ‘Janus Geminus’ -Bifrons the two-faced Janus was replaced by -Quadrifrons the four-faced Janus, by emperor Domitian. The two-sided gates began to be four faced structures. Four forums were erected such as, Forum of Peace, Forum Transitorium, Forum of Julius Caesar, and Roman Forum.

17th_Century_Statue_of_Hanuman_and_Bhairav_(Hanu-Bhairav),_two_gods_in_One

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Four sided Buddha Head

A Typical Janus temple had a square room, a dual faced Janus statue or bust in the center, and two doors, (called Gates of war or peace) on opposite sides. The main street or forum side door (some claim both the doors) was kept open during war, so that he could easily intervene. The doors and gates were closed during peace. ‘The gates were closed to keep the War in’, or as stated exactly opposite by Ovid and Horace, ‘it is Peace that is kept inside the temple of Janus’. Symbolically Janus is represented by a Key.

Temple of Janus

Janus is remembered for the month of January. The fingers of Janus’ hands were placed in strange positions, which Pliny interpreted as an indication of the number 355, a reference to the number of days of the oldest Roman calendar. It is also suggested that origin of the name of the Italian city of Genoa is a derivation of Janus.

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GateOfAugustus

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