Surya is the main deity of the Navagrahas, also known as the Nine Planets of Hindu Astrology; he is also considered one of the Navagrahas. Surya is frequently depicted riding a chariot drawn by seven horses, or by one horse with seven heads. These seven horses represent the colours of the rainbow as well as the seven chakras in the subtle human body.
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Temples for Surya
Surya is sometimes depicted with two hands, each holding a lotus, and other times with four hands, each holding a lotus, Sankha (conch), Chakra (discus), and Gada (mace).
Surya Devata is considered an eye of the Virata Purusha, or Lord Sri Krishna’s Vishwarupa (Universal Form) in Hinduism. Surya is worshipped by humans, saints, and even asuras or demons. Certain Rakshasa tribes, known as the Yatudhanas, were ardent Sun God worshippers.
Surya Devata is revered as the Supreme Being by followers of the Saura sect, which has shrunk to the point of extinction. He is revered by the Sauras as one of the five major forms of God.
Many temples dedicated to Surya can be found throughout India. He is worshipped in the early hours of the morning, particularly during Hindu festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Ratha Saptami, Chhath and Samba Dashami.
Most Common Forms of Surya
Surya is worshipped in a variety of ways. Arka and Mitra, however, are two of the most common forms of the deity. Surya is mostly worshipped as Arka in North and Eastern India. His form of Arka is honoured by the grand and elaborate Konark Temple in Orissa, the Uttararka and Lolarka temples in Uttar Pradesh, the Balarka temple in Rajasthan, and the Sun Temple in Modhera, Gujarat. Another temple, the Balarka Surya Mandir, built in Uttar Pradesh in the 10th century, was destroyed during the Turkish invasion in the 14th century. Mitra, the other most common form of Surya, is mostly found in Gujarat. “Mitra” literally translates to “friend.”
Names of Surya
Lord Surya is known by 108 different names. Aditya, Adideva, Angaraka, Arka, Bhaga, Brahma, Dhanwantari, Dharmadhwaja, Dhatri, Dhumaketu, Indra, Jaya, Maitreya, Prabhakara, Ravi, Rudra, Savitri, Soma, Teja, Vaisravana, Vanhi, Varun, and Vishnu are the most common.
Family and Relationships
Surya, also known as Vivasvata, had three queens: Sharanya (also known as Saraniya, Saranyu, Sanjana, or Sangya), Ragyi, and Prabha. Sharanya was the mother of Vaivasvata Manu (or Satyavrata, the current Manu), as well as the twins Yama (the God of Death) and Yami. She later gave birth to the Ashvin twins, who were the Devas’ divine horsemen and physicians.
Sharanya created a superficial shadow of herself, Chhaya, in order to cope with Surya’s extreme radiance. She asked her to play the role of Surya’s wife. Chhaya eventually gave birth to two sons, Savarni Manu and Shani (Planet Saturn), as well as two daughters, Tapti and Vishti. Ragyi, Surya’s other wife, gave birth to their son Revanta or Raivata.
Surya Deva’s sons, Shani and Yama, are the judges of human life and karma, respectively. While Shani Deva bestows positive or negative outcomes for actions taken during one’s lifetime, Yama Deva bestows these outcomes after death.
In the Ramayana and the Mahabharata
Surya is said to be King Sugriva’s father in the Ramayana. Sugriva was the one who assisted Rama in defeating Ravana, the terrible demon king. He trains Hanuman to be the leader of the Vanara Sena, or Army of Monkeys. Surya’s descendant, Lord Rama, is a Suryavanshi, meaning he comes from the Suryavanshas’ dynasty.
Surya is also very important in the Mahabharata. Durvasa, the short-tempered sage, gives Kunti the diksha for a mantra, according to the epic. She was granted the boon of being able to summon a Deva and bear a child by him whenever she chanted this mantra. Kunti put the mantra to the test, summoning Surya without realising how serious it was.
Surya was forced to fulfil the mantra’s obligation, and she miraculously begot a child from him while still remaining virgin. Princess Kunti, unable to bear the thought of becoming an unwed mother, was forced to abandon her son, Karna, who grew up to be one of the greatest warriors of all time and a key figure in the battle of Kurukshetra.
Surya, by the way, is not mentioned as one of the Adityas in the first book of the Mahabharata. He may, however, be regarded as the combined strength of all 12 solar deities, namely Dhatri, Mitra, Aryaman, Sakra, Varuna, Amsa, Vaga, Vivaswat, Usha, Savitri, Tvashtri, and Vishnu.
In Other Cultures
The Sun God is revered in Greek and Egyptian mythology. Helios is Surya’s Greek counterpart, and Ra is the Egyptian Sun God.
The Sun is referred to as the “Eye of Ahura Mazda” in Zoroastrianism, which is based on the worship of Fire. This is similar to Hinduism, which regards Surya as one of Sri Maha Vishnu’s eyes.
In Vedic Astrology
Surya is considered slightly volatile in Vedic astrology due to his nature of being overly radiant and emitting excessive heat. Thus, the Sun represents the soul, vitality, courage, willpower, authority, and royalty, among other things. His position is exalted in Mesha or Aries and regresses in Tula or Libra. Surya is best positioned in Hindu horoscopes directly overhead, in the 10th house, and in the 1st, 5th, and 9th houses.
Surya is the Lord of Krittika, Uttara Phalguni, and Uttara Ashadha. He is frequently associated with reds, coppers, and metallic colours, and his gemstone is ruby.
Surya Blesses Bala Hanuman
Surya Deva is known for his strength, power, and invincibility. He, too, was once subdued by Hanuman, Lord Rama’s greatest devotee and humble sevak (servant). During his childhood, he had an interesting incident with Surya. Hanuman, a mischievous and playful monkey in his baalyaavastha (childhood), leapt to the skies and began chasing Surya, mistaking him for a ripe mango! He kept chasing after the Sun, wanting to eat what he thought was the tasty fruit.
When Hanuman realised Surya was the all-knowing teacher, he raised his body and positioned himself in orbit around the Sun, pleading with him to accept him as a disciple. Surya refused, claiming that he could never be in one place because he had to travel all over the world. Hanuman, undeterred, continued to pursue Surya and pleaded with him. Surya agreed and shared his knowledge with Hanuman.
Surya was born as a Karma Saakshi, the Eternal Witness of all deeds. The former also bestowed upon Hanuman two siddhis, laghima and garima, which enabled him to take the smallest and largest forms at will.
Many festivals are held in honour of Lord Surya. The following are the major festivals:
Makar Sankranti is the most well-known and widely observed festival dedicated to Surya Deva. This event, known as Pongal by Tamils all over the world, is held to express gratitude to the Deva for bestowing a bountiful harvest. The first grain is dedicated to him here. Chhath is yet another Hindu festival in Surya’s honour. It is said to have been founded by Karna, Surya’s son, and is celebrated in Bihar, Jharkhand, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, and even Mauritius. Samba Dashami is a Surya-related festival celebrated in Orissa, India’s easternmost state. This is held in honour of Samba, Krishna’s son. Another major Hindu festival dedicated to Surya is Ratha Saptami. This occurs on the seventh day of Magha, the bright half of the Hindu month. This day is also known as Surya Jayanti because it is believed that Lord Vishnu took the form of Surya on this day. Rathasaptami begins with a purification bath, followed by an elaborate pooja and other rituals to seek Lord Surya’s benevolence and grace.
The presiding deity, Lord Balaji (Venkateshwara), is mounted on seven Vahanas (vehicles) in the prescribed order at the Tirumala temple in Andhra Pradesh.Suryaprabha Vahana, Hanmad Vahana, Garuda Vahana, Peddasesha Vahana, Kalpavruksha Vahana, Sarvabhupahala Vahana, and finally Chandraprabha Vahana carry the Lord. This is known as the Okka roju Brahmostavam, or one-day celebration, during which the devotee can see the Lord being carried by his various vahanas. The Lord and his consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi, are led in a procession around the Thiru mada streets.
On this day, elaborate prayers to Surya are offered, including the Adityahridayam, Gayathri Suryashtakam, Surya Sahasranamam, and so on. During this time, many Hindu temples hold a Surya procession. Rangolis are drawn on the ground with coloured powder in South India, often depicting a chariot drawn by seven horses.
Surya Namaskara or the “Sun Salutation”
Many devout Hindus practise the Surya Namaskara, which literally means “Sun Salutation.” This form of worship consists primarily of 11 asanas or yogic postures that are assumed in sequential movements, along with breath control, to form a flowing series of one complete namaskara.
For each of these namaskaras, 12 mantras are chanted. The Surya Namaskara is not only considered auspicious, but it is also very beneficial for overall physical and mental health and wellness.
Suryopasana or Sun Worship
Many Hindus practise Suryopasana, or Sun God worship, on a regular basis. The period from April 12th to April 23rd is considered most auspicious for Surya worship. Surya is thought to bestow intelligence, confidence, good health, courage, strength, leadership qualities, independence, fame, success, power, and other blessings.
While an ill-placed Sun in a person’s horoscope may indicate low self-esteem, lack of confidence, illness, and dependency, an overly strong Sun may also trigger many negative qualities in the person concerned.
After taking a bath in the morning, the seeker must offer jal or water to Surya while looking in his direction and saluting the Lord. Surya is often referred to as Surya Narayana because he is regarded as a manifestation of Brahman.