Travelers and merchants following the Silk Road trade routes carried ideas as well as trade goods. Scholars believe that the sun-worshipping religions of the ancient Middle East, like Mithraism and Zoroastrianism, came eastward into India, where they merged with texts and beliefs, and influenced Surya’s visual identity.
For example, even the earliest images of Surya show him wearing the “northern” or “Scythian” long tunic, leggings, and boots of central and western Asia. In addition, his two smaller companions wear cone-shaped felt hats, known as Phrygian caps (FRIH-jee-ihn) in ancient Greek art. This distinctive headgear was associated by the Greeks with “barbarians,” or non-Greek people, living in Phrygia, now modern Turkey.