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 an issue devoted to
the discovery of the gourmets fascinations it is not surprising
that the sun should figure as the presiding deity. The source of all
energy, the master chef, the sun wishes we live.
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 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.
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
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 suns 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
husbands 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 Vishnus hand, the trident in Lord
Shivas 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
Samjnas 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 Suryas
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.