Surya (Samskrit : सूर्यः) occupies a prominent position in bharatiya samskrti as 'Pratyaksha Daiva' since Vedic times. Vedic wisdom of human consciousness was 'to see light'. For life to be complete and viewed beautifully the primary requirement is to dispel darkness. In the philosophical sense this 'seeing light' is said to be 'attaining knowledge', that which dispels the ignorance of Self and realization of Paramatma.
Surya gives light to all the other grahas (planets). According to Puranic Encyclopedia, Surya has an area of 50 crore yojanas and its distance from the earth is 22 crore yojanas. In the external world, the trees, plants and birds, every living being depends on Light.
परिचयः || Introduction
Since Vedic times, Surya who is considered as the visible 'lamp of the solar system' is worshiped as 'pratyaksha daiva (Visible God)'. All life forms depend on Surya, his rays, and the heat, for virtually everything. Most importantly the earthly Kala (time) year, month, week, seasons, rains; all time factors depend upon on light and Surya. Needless to say that without Surya there is no life on Earth.
Surya appears in Rigveda as Mitra along with Varuna mostly in Vedic literature as against Surya or the Bhaskara in more recent post vedic texts. Following are the different aspects associated with Surya across the various texts.
- सन्ध्यावन्दनम् || Sandhyavandana : All the Veda prescribed activities start with Surya for example, performance of Sandhyavandam.
- बुद्धिप्रचोदकः || Buddhi Prachodaka The Gayathri mantra is essentially a prayer for internal awakening of wisdom of the mind. All beings aspire that our intelligence may lead us to right path. Thus Surya as Savitru is worshiped to stimulate the mind.
- कर्मप्रवृत्तकः || Karma Pravrittaka : He inspires all the living beings into performing their duties an activities of daily life.
- आरोग्यप्रदाता || Arogya Pradata : 'Aarogyam bhaskaraadichhet' as given in the texts imparts great significance to Surya as the bestower of health to mankind.
- आदित्यस्वरूपः || Dwadasha Adityas : The dvadasha (12) Adityas (sons of Aditi or the Devamata) are different forms of Surya having different roles and personifications of natural phenomena.
- नवग्रहाधिपतिः || Navagraha Adhipati : Surya receives a prominent position among devatas and he is the first among the Navagrahas. Ravi or Surya is the adhipati (leader) of the navagrahas and is associated with the precious stone 'ruby'.
- पञ्चलोकपालकः || Panchaloka Palaka : Ganapati, Surya, Vishnu, Durga/Devi, and Shiva form the panchalokapalakas who are the deities worshiped in the altars of householders according to some prominent traditions (panchayatana puja) of Sanatana Dharma.
- पुराणपुरुषः || Purana Purusha : Innumerable instances of Surya are seen in Puranas (Bhavisya Purana was told by Surya to Manu), Ramayana (Mulapurusha of Ikshwaku dynasty, Father of Sugriva, Guru of Hanuman) and Mahabharata (as the father of Karna, Bestower of Akshayapatra to Yudhisthira). सू्र्योपनिषद् ||Suryopanishad a minor Upanishad in the name of Surya.
- Vajasaneya Shaka : He was worshiped and pleased by Yagnavalkya, to whom he gave the Yajurveda knowledge thus Vajasaneya (Shukla) Shaka of Yajurveda came into existence.
- सूर्यलोकः || Surya Loka : He offers shelter to about 60,0000 Valakhilyas who surround and meditate upon the Surya Paramatma, in Surya mandala or Loka. According to Nirukta (7.5) : सूर्यः द्युस्थानः । Surya's location is Dyus.
- ज्योतिष्यांशाः|| Jyotisha aspects : The Brhdaranyaka, Chandogya and Kausitaki Upanishads expound the Atmatattva of Surya and path for the realization of the soul. Surya is the Atmakaraka according to Jyotishashastra and represents the power of sight, right eye and illnesses associated with it. Surya Siddhatanta, is an authoritative text on astronomy and calculations of time prescribed in the field of Jyotisha (Vedanga) of the Vedic period.
- वातावरणांशाः || Climatic aspects : सूर्यरश्मयः ||Surya rashmi characteristic seven rays of the Suryarashmi (sun rays) play an important role in sustaining life forms.(Kurma Purana, Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 43) Brahmanda Purana, Matsya and Vayu Purana give deep insights about the role of Surya in causing days and nights, seasons, solistices and equinoxes, the heat energy, water cycle and rainfall, thus maintaining life on earth and regulating the heavenly bodies.
Amarakosha defines the following about Surya in व्योमादिवर्ग (Prathama kanda Slokas 29 - 32, Page No 29 of Reference )
सूरसुर्यार्यमादित्यद्वादशात्मदिवाकराः । भास्कराहस्करब्रध्नप्रभाकरदिवाकराः || (Amara 1. व्योमा. 29)
भास्वद्विस्वत्सप्ताश्वहरिदश्वोष्णरश्मयः । विकर्तनार्कमार्तण्डमिहिरारुणपूषणः || (Amara 1. व्योमा. 30)
द्युमणिस्तरणिर्मित्रस्चित्रभानुर्विरोचनः । विभावसुर्ग्रहपतिस्त्विषांपतिरहर्पतिः || (Amara 1. व्योमा. 31)
भानुर्हंसः सहस्रांशुस्तपनः सविता रविः । माठरः पिङ्लो दण्डश्चण्डांशोः पारिपार्श्विकाः || (Amara 1. व्योमा. 32)
sūrasuryāryamādityadvādaśātmadivākarāḥ । bhāskarāhaskarabradhnaprabhākaradivākarāḥ || (Amara 1. vyomā. 29)
bhāsvadvisvatsaptāśvaharidaśvoṣṇaraśmayaḥ । vikartanārkamārtaṇḍamihirāruṇapūṣaṇaḥ || (Amara 1. vyomā. 30)
dyumaṇistaraṇirmitrascitrabhānurvirocanaḥ । vibhāvasurgrahapatistviṣāṁpatiraharpatiḥ || (Amara 1. vyomā. 31)
bhānurhaṁsaḥ sahasrāṁśustapanaḥ savitā raviḥ । māṭharaḥ piṅlo daṇḍaścaṇḍāṁśoḥ pāripārśvikāḥ || (Amara 1. vyomā. 32)
Synonyms for Surya include Soora, Surya, Yama, Aditya, Dwadashatma, Divakara, Bhaskara, Ahaskara, Martanda, Aruna, Pushana, Tarani, Mitra, Chitrabhanu, Tapana and many others as given above. Niruka by Yaskacharya describes Surya as
स्वीर्यतेः वा । सुवतेः वा । सूर्यः सर्तेः वा । (Nirukta 12.14) svīryateḥ vā । suvateḥ vā । sūryaḥ sarteḥ vā ।
Meaning : Surya is One who travels, one who creates and one who inspires. Rigveda Samhita gives the following attributes of Surya
चित्रं देवानामुदगादनीकं चक्षुर्मित्रस्य वरुणस्याग्नेः । आप्रा द्यावापृथिवी अन्तरिक्षं सूर्य आत्मा जगतस्तस्थुषश्च ॥१॥ (Rig Veda 1.115.1)
citraṁ devānāmudagādanīkaṁ cakṣurmitrasya varuṇasyāgneḥ । āprā dyāvāpr̥thivī antarikṣaṁ sūrya ātmā jagatastasthuṣaśca ॥1॥
Meaning : Surya is the 'atma' (soul) of all inanimate things and animate beings of the universe. The shine of Surya is the lustre (तेजस्) of the strength of all devatas put together. Rising sun represents the extraordinary 'eye' of devatas like Mitra, Varuna and Agni and spreads across the Dyurloka, Prithviloka and Antariksha filling the universe with his efflugence. Taitriya Aranyaka explains
योऽसौ तपन्नुदेति । स सर्वेषां भूतानां प्राणानादायोदेति ।..... असौ योऽस्तमेति । स सर्वेषां भूतानां प्राणा-नादायास्तमेतिं । .....(Tait. Aran. 1.14.14)
yo'sau tapannudeti । sa sarveṣāṁ bhūtānāṁ prāṇānādāyodeti ।..... asau yo'stameti । sa sarveṣāṁ bhūtānāṁ prāṇā-nādāyāstametiṁ ।
Meaning : When surya rises, all beings (who are asleep and mentally detached from the world during the night time), become revitalized. When surya (planetary aspect) sets, even though the world is exists, it is like dead.
सूर्यदेवतास्वरुपम् || Surya Devata Swaroopa
Birth and Family
According to Puranic Encyclopedia, Surya descended from Mahavishnu, in the following order:
Vishnu - Brahma - Marichi - Kashyapa - Surya
It is said that the Surya was born to Kasyapa by his wife Aditi. Several sons were born to Kashyapa by Aditi, the daughter of Daksa. They are known by the names Adityas, Vasus, Rudras and so on. Of these, Adityas (son of Aditi) are twelve in number. There is a difference of opinion as to who these Dvadasa Adityas (12 Adityas) are. Very often these names are used as synonyms of Surya.
सूर्यस्य पत्नी संज्ञाभूत्तनया विश्वकर्मणः । मनुर्यमो यमी चैव तदूपत्यानि वै मुने ।। २ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.2)
संज्ञयमित्यथार्कश्व छायायामात्मजत्रयम । शनैश्वरं मनुञ्चन्यं तपतीञ्चप्यजीजनत् ।। ४ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.4)
ततो विवस्वानाख्याते तयैवारण्यसंस्थिताम् । समाधिदृष्टया ददृशे तामश्वां तपसि स्विताम ।। ६ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.6)
वाजिरूपधरः सोऽथ तस्यां देवावथाश्विनौ । जनयामास रेवन्तं रेतसोऽन्ते च भास्करः ।। ७ ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.7)
sūryasya patnī saṁjñābhūttanayā viśvakarmaṇaḥ । manuryamo yamī caiva tadūpatyāni vai mune ।। 2 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.2)
saṁjñayamityathārkaśva chāyāyāmātmajatrayama । śanaiśvaraṁ manuñcanyaṁ tapatīñcapyajījanat ।। 4 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.4)
tato vivasvānākhyāte tayaivāraṇyasaṁsthitām । samādhidr̥ṣṭayā dadr̥śe tāmaśvāṁ tapasi svitāma ।। 6 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.6)
vājirūpadharaḥ so'tha tasyāṁ devāvathāśvinau । janayāmāsa revantaṁ retaso'nte ca bhāskaraḥ ।। 7 ।। (Vish. Pura. 3.2.7)
Surya has two wives Samjna, (the daughter of Viswakarma), and Chaya. Samjna begot three children by Surya : वैवस्वतमनु ॥ Vaivasvata Manu, Yama and Yami. By Chaya, three children were born : सावर्णिमनु ॥ Savarni Manu, Sanaischara and Tapati.
Once, Samjna unable to bear the brightness or the effulgence of Surya created Chaya, (her look alike) out of her shadow and engaged her to take her place to look after Surya and her children. She then left for the forests to do penance.
Surya took Chaya to be his wife Samjna and got three children of her : Sanaiscara, Manu and Tapati. Chaya not being the real mother of Yama was angry with him and cursed him. Noticing the unmotherly behaviour, Surya and Yama understand that she was not Samjna. Knowing from Chaya about her identity, Surya found out that Samjna was practising austerities taking the form of a mare. Then Surya went to her disguised as a horse and with her co-operation produced three children of which the first two came to be known as Aswini Kumaras. The third son was called Revanta. Then Surya took Samjna to his place and Visvakarma reduced the effulgence of Surya to a bearable level.
Vaivasvata Manu became the Manu of the present seventh Manvantara. Yama became the Dharmadevata, incharge of maintaining the lives of people. Yami became the sacred river Yamuna. Savarni Manu will be the adhipati or ruler of eight Manvantara. Sani became one of the navagrahas. Tapati was blessed to be the sacred river Narmada. Aswinikumaras became the Vaidyas or physicians.The celebrated Kuru king (ancestor of Kauravas) was the son of Tapati with संवरणः || Samvarana of Chandravamsa.
Besides them Surya had another daughter named Savitri also (Bhav. Pura. Chap 47). On other occasions other sons such as Sugriva, Kalindi and Karna were born of Surya.
रविः || Illumination
अवति त्रीनिमाँल्लोकान् यस्मात्सूर्यः परिभ्रमन् ।। अविधातुः प्रकाशाख्यो ह्यवनात्स रविः स्मृतः ।। २१.४ ।। (Brahmanda. Pura. 1.21.4)
avati trīnimām̐llokān yasmātsūryaḥ paribhraman ।। avidhātuḥ prakāśākhyo hyavanātsa raviḥ smr̥taḥ ।। 21.4 ।।
Meaning : The root अव Av means illumination and protection. Revolving all round, the sun illuminates and protects the three worlds. Hence, on account of illumination and protection he is remembered as रविः Ravi.
कर्मप्रेरकः || Karma Preraka
Rigveda Samhita explains
तत् सूर्यस्य देवत्वं तन्महित्वं मध्या कर्तोर्विततं सं जभार | यदेदयुक्त हरितः सधस्थादाद्रात्री वासस्तनुते सिमस्मै || (Rig Samhita 1.115.4)
tat sūryasya devatvaṁ tanmahitvaṁ madhyā kartorvitataṁ saṁ jabhāra | yadedayukta haritaḥ sadhasthādādrātrī vāsastanute simasmai ||
Meaning: The greatness of Surya and His mastership spreads over and everything is revealed through his rays, whose setting hides all His greatness and thus putting to rest all the activities of the living entities. The rising Surya springs all beings into action and life again.
बुद्धिप्रचोदकः || Buddhi Prachodaka
As given in Rigveda, the Gayatri mantra is as follows:
तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि । धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥१०॥ (Rig. Veda. 3.62.10)
tatsaviturvareṇyaṁ bhargo devasya dhīmahi । dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt ॥10॥
However, the ritualistic procedure, recitation with intonation or svara and deities to worship along with the chanting of Gayatri mantra is given in Taittriya Aranyaka.
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः । तत्स॑वि॒तुर्वरेण्यं॒ भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑धीमहि । धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥ (Tait. Aran. 2.11)
oṁ bhūrbhuvaḥ svaḥ । tatsペvi̱turvareṇyaṁ̱ bhargo̍ de̱vasy𰶭hīmahi । dhiyo̱ yo naḥ̍ pracoyā̍t ॥
The Gayatri mantra, addressed to deity Savitru, a form of Surya is recited with high reverence by men who have undergone the sacred thread ceremony, as a part of the Upanayana since ancient times in Bharatavarsha. First given by Visvamitra maharshi, this mantra is in Gayatri chandas, praising Gayatri (a form of Saraswati). Sandhyavandanam is performed thrice a day as a part of the nityakarma and Gayatri mantra japam is an important aspect during that time. It addresses the Surya as "one who illuminates my Mind and activates my Buddhi". And it also says that Surya is the one who gives us inspiration for wisdom.
आरोग्यप्रदाता || Arogya Pradata
आरोग्यं भास्करादिच्छेद्धनमिच्छेद्धुताशनात् । ईश्वराज्ज्ञानमिच्छेच्च मोक्षमिच्छेज्जनार्दनात् ।। ६८.४१ ।। (Mats. Pura. 68.41)
ārogyaṁ bhāskarādiccheddhanamiccheddhutāśanāt । īśvarājjñānamicchecca mokṣamicchejjanārdanāt ।। 68.41 ।।
Meaning : Health ought to be sought from Bhaskara (sun), wealth from Hutashana (Agni), Jnana (knowledge) from Ishvara and Moksha (liberation) from Janardhana (Vishnu).
Worshiping Surya for health is an ancient practice prescribed in astrological texts. Surya is a great healing power, obviously because of the healing quality of his rays. In the Rig veda, he is worshipped for the removal of jaundice and for good eyesight. (Rig Veda. 1.50.12 and 10.37.7). Atharvana veda fully expands on the healing properties of Surya and he is prayed for a cure of yellowness of skin, teeth, eyes as well as for different heart ailments. (Atha. Veda. 1.22 and 7.107 and 9.8 and 9.22).
आत्मास्वरूपः || Atma Swaroopa
सूर्यः आत्मा जङ्गमस्य च स्थावरस्य च । । १२.१६ । (Nirukta 12.16) sūryaḥ ātmā jaṅgamasya ca sthāvarasya ca । । 12.16 ।
Meaning : Surya is the Atma or inner self of the animate and inanimate creation.
Surya represents transcendental knowledge and also only because of him the great karma or the great action becomes inspired. He represents that Light or Jnana which is beyond the external sun, called as 'paranjyothi' as a personification of Knowledge of the Brahman.
वेदस्वरूपः || Veda Swaroopa
Surya is associated with Vedas and his 'Bhagavat tatva' is explicitly given as -
ऋग्भिः पूर्वाह्णे दिवि देव ईयते । यजुर्वेदे तिष्ठति । मध्ये अह्नः । सामवेदेनास्तमये महीयते । वेदैरशून्यस्त्रिभिरेति सूर्यः । (Tait. Brah. 22.214.171.124)
r̥gbhiḥ pūrvāhṇe divi deva īyate । yajurvede tiṣṭhati । madhye ahnaḥ । sāmavedenāstamaye mahīyate । vedairaśūnyastribhireti sūryaḥ ।
Meaning : Surya when rises in eastern direction is associated with Rig veda, at peak is associated with Yajur Veda and while setting he is associated with Sama Veda.
Surya though unseen in the physical plane traverses the path of the Vedas or along the Vedic path. He symbolizes the Vedas which are hence called: asunya. Symbolically, His connection to the Vedas and Veda Jnana is intertwined and expressed beautifully by the path traversed by Him in the form of jnana surya.
In the morning the Rgveda praises the Sun. At noon the Yajurveda praises the Sun and in the evening the Samans such as Brhad Rathantara and so on. The complete power of Visnu is the three Vedas Rig, Yajus and Sama. The power in the form of the three Vedas blazes in the form of the Sun. That power destroys all the sins in the world. Visnu stays in the sun in the form of Rig, Yajus and Sama for the Sustenance and protection of the world. As said before, the three Vedas are the parasakti, or the feminine supreme power of Visnu. She is the three Vedas themselves. Every month she stays inside that particular Aditya of the month.
Thus this Vaisnavite power which is having the attribute of purity (Sattva) and Vedas, pervades mainly the sun though it remains on the seven groups also. Being the seat of this power, the Sun blazes with his rays and destroys the darkness in all the worlds. Such a Sun is praised by the hermits. The Gandharvas sing in front of the Sun. The celestial maids dance before him. The giants guard him, the serpents prepare his chariot, the Yaksas hold the bridle and the Balakhilyas stand around him. Visnu who is having the figure of the Sun pervaded by the power of the Vedas, never rises or sets. The seven groups are separate from that Visnu. As the figures of those who approach, are reflected in a mirror fixed on a post, that power of Visnu, without separating itself from that chariot, pervades them who come every month in turn. (Visnu Purana, Amsa 2, Chapter 11 ).
Surya in Vedic Literature
In ancient times, Surya was worshiped under multiple names and forms in the vedic tradition. Surya's worship was an integral part of Nature worship. Savitru, Pusha, Bhaga, Vivasvat, Mitra and Vishnu are a few important forms of Surya, each personifying to a greater or lesser extent the different attributes of sun (chapters 2 and 3 in Reference ).
- Surya represents primarily the red round orb of sun, described in Rigveda as moving in a chariot drawn by horses. His healing powers are primarily due to the qualities of the rays.
- Savitr represents the सविता सर्वस्य प्रसविता । stimulator of everything (Nirukta 10.31) Connected intimately with yajnas, he stimulates thoughts (Rig. Veda. 1.22.7 and 3.62.10) and represents wisdom and intelligence (Rig. Veda. 3.62.12 and 5.81.1-2 and 2.38.10). The famous Savitru mantra or Gayatri mantra is chanted to stimulate the mind.
- Pusan signifies benevolent power of Surya. He is connected with the prosperity of cattle (Rig. Veda. 6.54.5 and 6.53.9), guardian of pathways and roads. (Rig. Veda. 6.53.1) (Tait. Samh. 126.96.36.199)
- Mitra represent the beneficent aspect of Surya and he is closely associated with Varuna. Taittriya Samhita directly refers to Mitra as the deity of the day and Varuna as the deity of night. (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206).
- Vishnu is the personification of swift moving sun. He traverses the three divisions - universe, earth and heaven in three strides. He is the principal deity for the Vaishnavas.
- Vivasvan originally represented the rising sun and protect one from Yama. According to legend (Rig. Veda 1.164) he marries Saranyu, the daughter of Tvastra.
सूर्यस्य अयनम् || Surya's Path
Many Puranas vividly describe the relationship between Surya, the planetary bodies, constellations and kalachakra or cycles of time namely, Brahmanda Purana, Kurma Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Vayupurana, Matsya Purana and Garuda purana.
Surya exists within the universe and is called Martanda as he is said to have originated from the dead (mrta) egg (anda). Surya divides the sky, heaven, hell, the earth, east, west, north, south etc. from one another.
The rotation and revolutions of the planetary systems, Dhruva (son of Uttanapada) mandala (the constellation of Polaris), formation of clouds, precipitation as rains, vishuvats (equinoxes and solisticies), ayanas (uttarayana, daksinayana), winds and movements, and finally division of time are well described in Brahmandapurana (Purvabhaga, Adhyayas 20 to 24).
जलपरिवर्त्तनक्रमम् || Water Cycle
ध्रुवेणाधिष्टितश्चैव सूर्योऽपो गृह्य वर्षति ।। तदेष दीप्त किरणः स कालग्निर्दिवाकरः ।। २२.१२ ।।
परिवर्त्तक्रमाद्विप्रा भाभिरालोकयन् दिशः ।। सूर्यः किरणजालेन वायुयुक्तेन सर्वशः ।। २२.१३ ।।
जगतो जलमादत्ते कृत्स्नस्य द्विजसत्तमाः ।। आदित्यपीतं सकलं सोमः संक्रमते जलम् ।। २२.१४ ।।
dhruveṇādhiṣṭitaścaiva sūryo'po gr̥hya varṣati ।। tadeṣa dīpta kiraṇaḥ sa kālagnirdivākaraḥ ।। 22.12 ।।
parivarttakramādviprā bhābhirālokayan diśaḥ ।। sūryaḥ kiraṇajālena vāyuyuktena sarvaśaḥ ।। 22.13 ।।
jagato jalamādatte kr̥tsnasya dvijasattamāḥ ।। ādityapītaṁ sakalaṁ somaḥ saṁkramate jalam ।। 22.14 ।।
Meaning : Presided over by Dhruva, Surya (sun) takes up water and showers it. This sun whose rays are ablaze, is the fire of the destruction of the universe. In the course of his revolution, Oh Brahmanas, he illuminates the दिशः quarters. With the mass of his rays and accompanied by the wind, the sun takes away the water of the entire world, Oh Brahmanas. The moon transmits the entire water drunk by the sun.  The importance of Surya rashmi or sun's rays and their role in nourishing the planets is portrayed in this Purana.
ह्रियन्हरिस्तैर्हरिभिस्तुरंगमैर्हरत्यथापः किरणैर्हरिद्भिः ।। विसर्गकाले विसृजंश्च ताः पुनर्बिभर्त्ति शश्वत्सविता चराचरम् ।। २३.४२ ।।
hriyanharistairharibhisturaṁgamairharatyathāpaḥ kiraṇairharidbhiḥ ।। visargakāle visr̥jaṁśca tāḥ punarbibhartti śaśvatsavitā carācaram ।। 23.42 ।।
Meaning: Surya is led by green horses. At that time, he removes (evaporates) water by means of his green rays. By discharging and releasing water, he sustains the animate and inanimate beings.
सप्तरश्मयः || Seven Rays
Kurma Purana beautifully describes the names of the seven rays of Surya and their functions. Surya's rays are सर्वलोकप्रदीपकाः || illuminators of the worlds and of them सप्त रश्मयो ग्रहयोनयः || seven rays are the sources of planets.
सुषुम्नो हरिकेशश्च विश्वकर्मा तथैव च । विश्वश्रवाः पुनश्चान्यः संयद्वसुरतः परः ।। ४३.३ (Kurm. Pura. Purv. 43.3)
अर्वावसुरिति ख्यातः स्वरकः सप्त कीर्तिताः । सुषुम्नः सूर्यरश्मिस्तु पुष्णाति शिशिरद्युतिम् ।। ४३.४ (Kurm. Pura. Purv. 43.4)
suṣumno harikeśaśca viśvakarmā tathaiva ca । viśvaśravāḥ punaścānyaḥ saṁyadvasurataḥ paraḥ ।। 43.3 (Kurm. Pura. Purv. 43.3)
arvāvasuriti khyātaḥ svarakaḥ sapta kīrtitāḥ । suṣumnaḥ sūryaraśmistu puṣṇāti śiśiradyutim ।। 43.4 (Kurm. Pura. Purv. 43.4)
Meaning : Sushumna, Harikesa, Visvakarma, Visvasravas, Samyadvasu, Arvavasu, and Svaraka are the glorified seven rays (of Surya).
The seven rays and their functions are listed below as given in Kurmapurana.
- सुषुम्ना || Sushumna : Light of the cool-lustured (Moon)
- हरिकेशः || Harikesa : Nourisher of the lustre of the stars.
- विश्वकर्मा || Visvakarma : Nourishes Budha (Mercury).
- विश्वश्रवाः || Visvasravas : Nourishes Sukra (Venus).
- संयद्वसु || Samyadvasu : Nourishes Lohitam (Mars).
- अर्वावसु || Arvavasu : Nourishes Brihaspati (Jupiter).
- स्वरकः || Svaraka : Nurtures Sanaischara (Saturn).
सूर्यरथः || Surya's Chariot
Kurma Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyayas 41 to 43) describe the heavenly bodies, worlds, Surya, his chariot, seven rays, the functions of the 12 Adityas and Dhruva. Further the description of the seven worlds is also given.
According to Kurma Purana, the chariot of Surya is 9000 Yojanas long.
Brahmapurana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 22) also gives a complete description of Surya's chariot.
संस्थितेनैकचक्रेण पंचारेण त्रिनाभिना ।। हिरण्मयेन भगवांस्तथैव हरिदर्वणा ।। २२.६१ ।। 
saṁsthitenaikacakreṇa paṁcāreṇa trinābhinā ।। hiraṇmayena bhagavāṁstathaiva haridarvaṇā ।। 22.61 ।।
Meaning : Surya's proceeds by means of a golden chariot that has a single wheel with five spokes and three nabhis and a single rim with six phases. Its horses are green. The whole chariot, embellished with gold, shines brightly.
स तस्य ब्रह्मणा सृष्टो रथो ह्यर्थवशेन तु ।। असंगः कांचनो दिव्यो युक्तः पवनगैर्हयैः ।। २२.६४ ।।
sa tasya brahmaṇā sr̥ṣṭo ratho hyarthavaśena tu ।। asaṁgaḥ kāṁcano divyo yuktaḥ pavanagairhayaiḥ ।। 22.64 ।।
Meaning : His chariot is divine and golden. It is drawn with horses swift as the wind. It has no impediments anywhere. It was for a specific purpose that it was created by Brahma.
It is by this means that Surya traverses the skies. The Vedic meters in the form of seven horses draw the chariot by the left. The wheel is fixed to the Axis and the axis is laid on Dhruva. The extremities of the harness and the axis of the chariot that move in circles in the sky are caught hold of by Dhruva. Both the rein-chords whirl on the axis and they follow Dhruva who too revolves. During Uttarayana the rein-chords become reduced (in lenght) as they move in circles while during Dakshinayana they increase in size.
आवृत्ता वालखिल्यैस्ते भ्रमंते रात्र्यहानि तु ।। वचोभिरग्र्यैर्ग्रथितैः स्तूयमानो महर्षिभिः ।। २३.४९ ।। (Brhm. Pura. Purva. 23.49)
āvr̥ttā vālakhilyaiste bhramaṁte rātryahāni tu ।। vacobhiragryairgrathitaiḥ stūyamāno maharṣibhiḥ ।। 23.49 ।।
Meaning : Surrounded by Valakhilyas, they wander both at night and day. Surya is praised by words of highest order composed by great rishis themselves.( Brahmanda Purana, Page 305 of Reference ).
वालखिल्या नयन्त्यस्तं परिवार्योदयाद् रविम् ।४२.२० (Kurm. Pura. Purva. 42.20) vālakhilyā nayantyastaṁ parivāryodayād ravim ।42.20
Meaning : The Valakhilyas (thum-sized rishis) surround the rising sun and go along with him till setting time.(Kurma Purana, Page 329 of Reference )
Kurmapurana's Adhyaya 42, describes the Devatas, Rishis, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Yakshas, Serpents and Rakshasas who accompany Surya in his chariot at different times. Their function is as follows
एते तपन्ति वर्षन्ति भान्ति वान्ति सृजन्ति च । भूतानामशुभं कर्म व्यपोहन्तीह कीर्त्तिताः ।। ४२.२१
एते सहैव सूर्येण भ्रमन्ति दिवि भानुगाः । विमाने च स्थितो नित्यं कामगे वातरंहसि ।। ४२.२२
ete tapanti varṣanti bhānti vānti sr̥janti ca । bhūtānāmaśubhaṁ karma vyapohantīha kīrttitāḥ ।। 42.21
ete sahaiva sūryeṇa bhramanti divi bhānugāḥ । vimāne ca sthito nityaṁ kāmage vātaraṁhasi ।। 42.22
Meaning: They are glorified as those who give heat, showers of rain, shine, blow, create and anihilate the inauspicious activities of the living beings. These followers of Surya accompany him as he revolves in heavens. They are seated in his aerial chariot that has the velocity of wind and that can go wherever according to wish. Brahmapurana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 23) further describes the concept of Surya's chariot.
सरथोऽधिष्ठितो देवैरादित्यैर्मुनिभिस्तथा ।। गंधर्वैरप्सरोभिश्च ग्रामणीसर्पराक्षसैः ।। २३.१ ।।
saratho'dhiṣṭhito devairādityairmunibhistathā ।। gaṁdharvairapsarobhiśca grāmaṇīsarparākṣasaiḥ ।। 23.1 ।।
The chariot is occupied and presided over by the Devatas (Adityas), Rishis, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Gramanis, Serpents and Rakshasas. This sublime concept of the chariot is based on the Yajurveda (15.15.19).
- Devatas, Rishis and Gandharvas represent light and immortality - the actinic portion of the solar spectra.
- Serpents, Gramanis and Rakshasas signify heat or death or the thermal field of the solar spectra.
- This heptad signifies the mutual difference in the different "wavelengths" of the seven colours. This may be called as the Puranic VIBGYOR.
The following table summarizes the Devatas, Rishis, Gandharvas, Yakshas, Apsaras, Serpents, and Rakshasas who adorn Surya's chariot each during a period of two months. The information is compiled in line with Kurma Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 42) and Brahmanda Purana (Purvabhaga, Adhyaya 23).
|Madhu and Madhava (Chaitra and Vaisakha)||Sukra and Suchi (Jyesta and Ashada)||Nabhas and Nabhasya (Sravana and Bhadrapada)||Isu and Orja (Asvina and Kartika)||Sahas and Sahasya (Margasira and Pausha)||Tapas and Tapasya (Magha and Phalguna)|
|Devatas or Adityas||Dhatru and Aryaman||Mitra and Varuna||Sakra and Vivasvin||Parjanya and Pusa||Arhasha (Amshu) and Bhaga||Tvastr and Vishnu|
|Rishis||Pulastya and Pulaha Prajapati||Atri and Vasishta||Angirasa and Bhrugu||Bharadhvaja and Gautama||Kashyapa and Kratu||Jamadagni and Visvamitra|
|Gandharvas||Narada and Tumburu||Haha and Huhu||Vishvavasu and Ugrasena||Pravasu and Suruchi||Chitrasena and Urnayu||Dhrtarastra and Suryavarchas|
|Yakshas||Rathakrit and Rathaujas||Subahu and Rathachitra||Rathasvana and Varuna||Senajit and Susena||Tarkshya and Aristanemi||Krtajit and Satyajit|
|Apsaras||Susthala and Punjikasthala||Sahajanya and Menaka||Pramlocha and Anumlocha||Visvachi and Ghritachi||Urvasi and Purvachitti||Tilottama and Rambha|
|Serpents||Vasuki and Kankanila||Takshaka and Sarvapungava||Elapatra and Sankhapala||Airavata and Dhananjaya||Mahapadma and Karkotaka||Kambala and Asvatara|
|Rakshasas||Heti and Praheti||Paurusheya and Vadha||Sarpa and Vyaghra||Apas and Vata||Vidyutsphurja and Satayu||Brahmopeta and Yajnopeta|
Puranic Encyclopedia gives a different version of Surya's chariot as follows:
The wheel represents a year and the twelve spokes stand for the twelve months of the year. The chariot has three nabhis representing the three caturmasyas, and six bands representing the six seasons. The height of the chariot is 36 lakhs yojanas and it has a width of 8 yojanas inside. Arunadeva is his charioteer, and the seven chandas are the horses. The seven chandas are, Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristubh, Anustubh and Pankti. Night is called Usa and day Vyusti and the time in between is Sandhya (Page 296 of Reference).
विषुवत् || Vishuva (Equinox)
Brahmandapurana defines Vishuva or Equinox as follows
सूर्येण विषुवं विद्या त्कालं सोमेन लक्षयेत् ।। समा रात्रिरहश्चैव यदा तद्विषुवं भवेत् ।। २१.१४८ ।। (Brhm. Pura. Purv. 21.148)
sūryeṇa viṣuvaṁ vidyā tkālaṁ somena lakṣayet ।। samā rātrirahaścaiva yadā tadviṣuvaṁ bhavet ।। 21.148 ।।
Meaning : One should understand the Vishuvat (equinox) through the position of Surya and calculate time through Chandra (moon). When the day and night are of equal duration, it shall be Vishuvat.
सूर्यग्रहणम् || Solar Eclipse
Eclipses of Surya and Chandra are attributed to Rahu and Ketu, who according to Puranas, at the time of Samudra mathana try to consume Amruta that is obtained by churning of the milky ocean.
According to the Purana, eclipse is the phenomenon of Rahu and Ketu swallowing Surya and Chandra as and when opportunity presents itself for it. But, since the throat of Rahu is severed from the body, Surya and Candra thus swallowed get out through the throat. (Bhagavata Astama Skanda).
देवलिङ्गप्रतिच्छन्नः स्वर्भानुर्देवसंसदि । प्रविष्टः सोममपिबत् चन्द्रार्काभ्यां च सूचितः ॥ २४ ॥ (Bhag. Pura. 8.9.24)
devaliṅgapraticchannaḥ svarbhānurdevasaṁsadi । praviṣṭaḥ somamapibat candrārkābhyāṁ ca sūcitaḥ ॥ 24 ॥
Meaning : Disguising himself in the garb of celestials, Rahu entered stealthily in the row of gods (between Surya and Chandra) and drank Amruta, but was indicated (exposed with gestures) by Arka (Surya) and Chandra.
Just as Rahu was drinking Amruta, Sri Hari swiftly severed his head with sudarshana chakra, by which Rahu's head attained immortality and the headless trunk fell down dead. Rahu cherishing his enmity, assails Surya and Chandra on the full moon (Pournami) day and new moon (Amavasya) days.
Verses and Meanings
Surya is prominent as Mitra and Savitru in many Rig veda mantras as follows : 1.50. 1 to 13, 1.115. 1 to 6, 1.164.46 among many others. The following is the famous Rig veda soura suktam of 10th mandala is recited by many people across India.
नमो मित्रस्य वरुणस्य चक्षसे महो देवाय तद रतंसपर्यत | दूरेद्र्शे देवजाताय केतवे दिवस पुत्रायसूर्याय शंसत || 1 ||
सा मा सत्योक्तिः परि पातु विश्वतो दयावा च यत्रततनन्नहानि च | विश्वमन्यन नि विशते यदेजतिविश्वाहापो विश्वाहोदेति सूर्यः || 2 ||
न ते अदेवः परदिवो नि वासते यदेतशेभिः पतरैरथर्यसि | पराचीनमन्यदनु वर्तते रज उदन्येनज्योतिषा यासि सूर्य || 3 ||
येन सूर्य जयोतिषा बाधसे तमो जगच्च विश्वमुदियर्षिभानुना | तेनास्मद विश्वामनिरामनाहुतिमपामीवामप दुष्वप्न्यं सुव || 4 ||
विश्वस्य हि परेषितो रक्षसि वरतमहेळयन्नुच्चरसिस्वधा अनु | यदद्य तवा सूर्योपब्रवामहै तं नो देवानु मंसीरत करतुम || 5 ||
तं नो दयावाप्र्थिवी तन न आप इन्द्रः शर्ण्वन्तु मरुतोहवं वचः | मा शूने भूम सूर्यस्य सन्द्र्शिभद्रं जीवन्तो जरणामशीमहि || 6 ||
विश्वाहा तवा सुमनसः सुचक्षसः परजावन्तो अनमीवानागसः | उद्यन्तं तवा मित्रमहो दिवे-दिवे जयोग जीवाःप्रति पश्येम सूर्य || 7 ||
महि जयोतिर्बिभ्रतं तवा विचक्षण भास्वन्तं चक्षुषे चक्षुषे मयः | आरोहन्तं बर्हतः पाजसस परि वयंजीवाः परति पश्येम सूर्य || 8 ||
यस्य ते विश्वा भुवनानि केतुना पर चेरते नि च विशन्तेक्तुभिः | अनागास्त्वेन हरिकेश सूर्याह्नाह्ना नोवस्यसा-वस्यसोदिहि || 9 ||
शं नो भव चक्षसा शं नो अह्ना शं भानुना शंहिमा शं घर्णेन | यथा शमध्वञ्छमसद दुरोणेतत सूर्य दरविणं धेहि चित्रम || 10 ||
अस्माकं देवा उभयाय जन्मने शर्म यछत दविपदेचतुष्पदे | अदत पिबदूर्जयमानमाशितं तदस्मेशं योररपो दधातन || 11 ||
यद वो देवाश्चक्र्म जिह्वया गुरु मनसो वा परयुतीदेवहेळनम | अरावा यो नो अभि दुछुनायते तस्मिन तदेनोवसवो नि धेतन || 12 || (Rig Veda 10.37.1 to 12)
namo mitrasya varuṇasya cakṣase maho devāya tada rataṁsaparyata | dūredrśe devajātāya ketave divasa putrāyasūryāya śaṁsata || 1 ||
sā mā satyoktiḥ pari pātu viśvato dayāvā ca yatratatanannahāni ca | viśvamanyana ni viśate yadejativiśvāhāpo viśvāhodeti sūryaḥ || 2 ||
na te adevaḥ paradivo ni vāsate yadetaśebhiḥ patarairatharyasi | parācīnamanyadanu vartate raja udanyenajyotiṣā yāsi sūrya || 3 ||
yena sūrya jayotiṣā bādhase tamo jagacca viśvamudiyarṣibhānunā | tenāsmada viśvāmanirāmanāhutimapāmīvāmapa duṣvapnyaṁ suva || 4 ||
viśvasya hi pareṣito rakṣasi varatamaheḻayannuccarasisvadhā anu | yadadya tavā sūryopabravāmahai taṁ no devānu maṁsīrata karatuma || 5 ||
taṁ no dayāvāprthivī tana na āpa indraḥ śarṇvantu marutohavaṁ vacaḥ | mā śūne bhūma sūryasya sandrśibhadraṁ jīvanto jaraṇāmaśīmahi || 6 ||
viśvāhā tavā sumanasaḥ sucakṣasaḥ parajāvanto anamīvānāgasaḥ | udyantaṁ tavā mitramaho dive-dive jayoga jīvāḥprati paśyema sūrya || 7 ||
mahi jayotirbibhrataṁ tavā vicakṣaṇa bhāsvantaṁ cakṣuṣe cakṣuṣe mayaḥ | ārohantaṁ barhataḥ pājasasa pari vayaṁjīvāḥ parati paśyema sūrya || 8 ||
yasya te viśvā bhuvanāni ketunā para cerate ni ca viśantektubhiḥ | anāgāstvena harikeśa sūryāhnāhnā novasyasā-vasyasodihi || 9 ||
śaṁ no bhava cakṣasā śaṁ no ahnā śaṁ bhānunā śaṁhimā śaṁ gharṇena | yathā śamadhvañchamasada duroṇetata sūrya daraviṇaṁ dhehi citrama || 10 ||
asmākaṁ devā ubhayāya janmane śarma yachata davipadecatuṣpade | adata pibadūrjayamānamāśitaṁ tadasmeśaṁ yorarapo dadhātana || 11 ||
yada vo devāścakrma jihvayā guru manaso vā parayutīdevaheḻanama | arāvā yo no abhi duchunāyate tasmina tadenovasavo ni dhetana || 12 || (Rig Veda 10.37.1 to 12)
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- Tagare, Ganesh Vasudeo. (1981) The Kurma Purana, Part 1 Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
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- Brahmanda Purana (Purvabhaga Adhyaya 21)
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