The Surya Majapahit is perhaps the most recognizable of all Indonesian symbols. It is a cosmological diagram which forms an octogonal Sun (Surya) mandala, holding the Eight Gods placed at the eight cardinal points, with Shiva in the center.
Together, the Eight deities and Shiva in the center are known as the Nava-Dikpāla (‘Guardians of the Nine Directions’), or Dewata Nawa Sanga.
The Surya Majapahit is a holy symbol that functions as a powerful protection and prosperity talisman. It is a more complex version of the Star of Lakshmi, which emits the Aṣṭalakṣmi (‘Eight Forms of Wealth’). Its principles are used for the construction of houses and temples, according to the principles of Vaastu Shastra (sacred architecture) in Java and Bali.
In Indonesian Hindu Dharma (mostly based upon the Shaiva Siddantha tradition), the highest principle is Parama Shiva (God, the Supreme Creator, the Supreme Reality). The Dewata Nawa Sangha are are manifestations (tattvas) of this highest power in Space and Time.
Each direction of Space is therefore occupied by certain gods along with their colors, weapons, scriptures holy syllable and spiritual functions. In the center of all of these, Parama Shiva is the highest principle, permeating, preserving and neutralizing the Universe with all its contents. He is transcendental and also immanent. He is Nirguna and also Saguna Brahman.
There are also eight minor deities, or Lokapāla (‘Guardians of the Worlds’) located at the outer rim of the Sun diagram:
Because of the popularity of this Sun symbol during the Majapahit period, it is nowadays called “Surya Majapahit”, although its origins trace back to the origins of the Hindu religion, several thousands of years ago.
The Surya Majapahit carving is often found on the ceiling of the Garbhagriha of temples. We can see it in the Bangkal, Sawentar and Jawi temples. It is sometimes engraved as just a simple eight-pointed sun ray such as the one set into the ceiling of Candi Penataran.
The carving of Surya Majapahit is also commonly found on gravestones of the Majapahit era, such as in the Troloyo cemetery in Trowulan.
The Star of Lakshmi was later copied from India by the Moslems of the Middle East, under the name of “Rub El Hizb“, which is why it is nowadays also found on mosques in a much simplified form.