Saturday, December 24, 2011


Of Golden Brilliance – Surya God of Light
“Tat savitr varenyam bargo devasya dimihi dhiyo yonaha pracodayat” We meditate on the splendour of the Sun, who may enlighten our intellect. (Gayatri mantra)
In Vedic imagery, Surya or the Vedic gold of light is pictured as riding a golden chariot with just one wheel, driven by several powerful steeds that carry him at the speed of three hundred and sixty-four leagues per wink! Riding through the sky he keeps a watchful eye on the world.

Who can match the brilliance of the sun! meditate upon the celestial object for but a second and it rises to create everlasting wonder. Who created the sun on whom al life is dependent? Is the big dying star just a scientific phenomenon or is it the powerful and majestic Lord Surya, or Savitr who embodies the spirit of the Vedas and represents the Trinity, Brahma during the day, Shiva at noon and Vishnu in the evening. Were there many suns as some sun – worshipers believe or was that just a manner of saying the sun can be fierce. The source of all energy, light and heat, when did man begin to worship the sun?

The solar deity perhaps became an object of veneration as soon as man became conscious. Sun worship is common to all ancient civilization. In Egypt sun worship is believed to have reached its zenith in 16-14th centuries BC. That was perhaps the most ancient date that can be quoted with some evidence. The rest of the story whether it comes from Babylonia or Iran or the Greek-Roman culture, talk of the different attributes of the sun and the glory of the glowing ball of fire. In India the Vedas, the earliest Hindu texts, begin with a salutation to the sun. There is a story of a great sage called Ygnyavalkya who is said to have learnt the Vedas from the sun for it embodies them.

Many communities distinguish themselves on the basis of their worship of the sun. There are tribes who pray directly to the sun and one such group of tribes are in Arunachal Pradesh, the north-eastern state of India. Here people believe sun is feminine as she is the source of all creation.

Prayers are offered to the sun in many ways. Sometimes totems and symbols are used to invoke the sun. The eagle was worshiped as symbolizing the sun and so by the derivation the snake, on which the eagle preys represented darkness. The sun is also represented by a golden wheel or as a circle with radiating rays or even the open flower of a lotus. The most abstract and common representation is in the form of a swastika. The swastika symbol is used all over the world and has penetrated even into the folk art forms of floor drawings and wall paintings.

Naturally then, when life is derived from the sun how can sun’s origin be even thought of. And yet it is not necessary that wherever the sun shines, there is not life. So by that logic the sun perhaps preceded creation.

Story goes that Aditi, the primeval power, the endless and boundless heaven who is at times identified with mother earth, Prithvi, and at other times as the wife of sage Kashyapa, was the beginning. She begot eight children. She retained seven. The eighth was deceptive. It was in the form of an egg. Aditi called it Martanda or son of a dead egg, and discarded him. He went into the sky and positioned himself in all glory to then be called the sun. Another story goes that Aditi asked the first seven sons to create the universe, but they were unable to for they knew only of birth, they did not know of death. But for a life cycle to be established, immortal life could not form the pattern. So Aditi then called for Martanda who created day and night, as symbolic of life and death.

Equally where the sun was venerated as the life giver, there are those who look at the sun as the killer. He kills with his rays just as he gives sustenance with them. For each attribute of his, he has a name. As Savitr, he is the stimulator of everything. As Pushan he is the beneficial aspects of the sun. Vivasvat represents the rising sun while Bhaga refers to the evil in the sun.

All the while when we praise and sing the glory of the sun, we are simultaneously talking of his consort, Samjna is the personification of fame and glory. Samjna was a good wife to Surya and bore him children. Yama and Yami were two of them who later came to embody death and the river Yamuna respectively. But somewhere along the line, Samjna agot the itch. She found her husband rather too bright for her. She left her shadow Chaya behind and ran off. Chaya impersonated Samjna for a very long time till one day, the secret was out. Surya who was desperately in love with Samjna launched a search for her. Many versions explain the manner in which Samjna came to an understanding with her husband’s brilliance, but the important point that remains is that Samjna returned to live with her husband ever after.

Over time, when the forces of nature seemed fierce but more and more comprehensible, man began to reshape his conceptions. Surya as the main deity gave way to the embodiment of aspects of the sun in every God. Personas replaced the elements and the sun though vital became an attribute. The wheel or chakra in Lord Vishnu’s hand, the trident in Lord Shiva’s hands, the mace of Kubera, the spear of Skanda and the rod of Yama were all representative of the sun. Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu is himself believed to have been born in the Surya vamsha (dynasty).

Most temples have a sculpture representing the solar deity. He is never shown with bare feet. There is reason for this when Samjna came back to live with her husband, her father, pared off his excessive effulgence for Samjna’s comfort. The sun did not allow his father-in-law to pare his feet and so they are very brilliant. That is why the Sun God always wears boots. Any architect trying to fashion Surya’s feet, is believed to fall ill.

All over the country there are many temples devoted to the Sun God, the most famous of which is the Sun Temple of Konark.
From: Surya God of Light, Vedic imagery, worship the sun, solar deity

Surya is the important ancient Hindu Solar God. There are many hymns found in the Rig Veda which mention or honor Surya. The Rig Veda is a collection of more than a thousand hymns written between 1200 and 900 B.C. by people known as Aryans, who came to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India from the Eurasian steppes to the north. The Rig Veda is one of the earliest known writings written in any Indo-European language. Hymn I.50 speaks to the Sun. (This passage is from The RigVeda; an anthology, a translation by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Penguin Press, London, 1981)

His brilliant banners draw upward the god who knows all creatures, so that everyone may see the Sun.
The constellations, along with the nights, steal away like thieves, making way for the Sun who gazes on everyone.
The rays that are his banners have become visible from the distance, shining over mankind like blazing fires.
Crossing space, you are the maker of light, seen by everyone, O Sun.
You illumine the whole, wide realm of space.
You rise up facing all the groups of gods, facing mankind, facing everyone, so that they can see the sunlight.
He is the eye with which, O Purifying Varuna, you look upon the busy one among men.
You cross heaven and the vast realm of space, O Sun, measuring days by nights, looking upon the generations.
Seven bay mares carry you in the chariot, O Sun God with hair of flame, gazing from afar.
The Sun has yoked the seven splendid daughters of the chariot; he goes with them, who yoke themselves.
We have come up out of darkness, seeing the higher light around us, going to the Sun, the god among gods, the highest light.
As you rise today, O Sun, you who are honored as a friend, climbing to the highest sky, make me free of heartache and yellow pallor.
Let us place my yellow pallor among parrots and thrushes, or let us place my yellow pallor among other yellow birds in yellow trees.
This Aditya has risen with all his dominating force, hurling my hateful enemy down into my hands.
Let me not fall into my enemy's hands!
This hymn is a mixture of verses about Surya and verses spoken to Surya. By its reference to the rising of the Sun we might guess that it was meant to be recited at sunrise. The "busy one among men" is probably a reference the religious person busy praying and offering sacrifice to the gods. The yellow pallor is probably a reference to jaundice, and thus the verses dealing with yellow are invoking the healing powers of the Sun.

The hymn tells of Surya's chariot being drawn across the sky by seven bay mares. Seven seems to be an important number in many religions. Seven may be significant because there are seven visible celestial bodies that wander across the sky, the Sun, Moon, and the five planets visible to the naked eye, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Because they are all wanders we can call them planets, even though today we normally do not think of the Sun and Moon as planets. "Planets" is a word which comes from the Greek "planet" which means "wander." As is found in the Greco-Roman Calendar the days of the week in the modern Hindu calendar are named for the seven visible planets, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and they are ordered exactly as they are in the Greco-Roman Calendar, a vestige of the ordering by ancient Babylonians. Before the Gupta period (about 300 A.D.) the Hindu calendar was a lunar calendar.

Chariots were developed before 3000 B.C. and offered a warrior a stable platform from which to shot arrows and cast spears at his enemies. The horse, which was domesticated probably a 1000 years earlier in the western steppes was also of great importance to the people who wrote the Rig Veda because the horse-riding warrior was able to easily maneuver around his foot-soldier enemy. It is not surprizing that the people who wrote the Rig Veda recognized of the more powerful gods, Surya, as having two of their most powerful weapons of war, the horse and chariot.
Today there are a great number of temples in India devoted to Surya.

From here, for the rest: Surya, the Sun God
In Hindu mythology, Surya represents the Sun god. Surya is depicted as a red man with three eyes and four arms, riding in a chariot drawn by seven mares. Surya holds water lilies with two of his hands. With his third hand he encourages his worshipers whom he blesses with his fourth hand. In India, Surya is believed to be a benevolent deity capable of healing sick people. Even today, people place the symbol of the Sun over shops because they think it would bring good fortune.

When Surya married Sanjna, his wife could not bear the intense light and heat. Therefore, she fled into a forest where she transformed herself into a mare to prevent Surya from recognizing her. But Surya soon discovered Sanjna's refuge. He went to the same forest disguised as a horse. Sanjna gave birth to several children, and eventually reunited with her husband.

However, the heat and the light of Surya were so intolerable that Sanjna was always exhausted doing her domestic duties. Finally, Sanjna's father decided to help her and trimmed Surya's body reducing his brightness by an eighth. Thus, Sanjna could more easily live close to her husband.
From: Surya
In Vedas, Surya and Vishnu have often substituted each other. In Rigveda, even Aruna is only one of his names. The artist, in this wall hanging, seems to share Vedic angle in his iconography of the sun-god. His image of the sun-god has on his head an essentially Vaishnava crown studded with rubies characteristic of both, Vishnu and Surya. On his forehead he has a Vaishnava 'tilaka' and on breast a Vaishnava garland. Needless to say, his attributes, the lotus and mace are essentially Vaishnava. He is wearing large 'Kundalas' on his ears. The Mahabharata is the earliest text to conceive sun-god wearing such 'Kundalas'. His four armed image also corresponds with Vaishnava iconography. His other jewels also correspond to those of Vaishnu.

The iconography of the sun-god has its own symbolism. Seven horses are suggestive of seven days of a week, an astronomical division of time acknowledged universally and beyond time. The verbal meaning of the term Aruna is red, which always precedes the arrival of the sun. Aruna also has a legend. It is said the son of sage Kashyapa Aruna had a huge body capable of hiding the sun behind it. Once, annoyed by Rahu for swallowing him, the sun-god decided to burn all by his heat. It parched unbearably. Ultimately gods rushed to Brahma for rescuing them from Surya's wrath. Brahma commanded Aruna to take charge of the chariot of Surya, which he did and thus covered the sun behind his huge form. It is yet the same. Instead of the sun, the eye is capable of seeing only sun's brilliance, the Aruna, sun's forerunner.

From here, also see the painting: Surya, The Sun-God

Other Sites:
Planetary Deities - Surya Sun God
Surya Sun Hindu God, Surya Statue Sun Hindu God
Hymns to Surya from the Rig-Veda - Book I
Surya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Surya: Sun God
Surya the Sun | Gandharv Ashram
Abodes of Surya
Legends related to Surya
Surya - Iconography - Beliefs
Sun worship in India
The Konark Sun temple
Surya Namaskar - Salute to the sun
Surya Namaskara - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Indian Divinity: Surya
Surya Namaskaras
Surya Yantra
Shri Surya Deva - The Sun
Vedism - Surya in Rig-Veda

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