Shri Surya Dev is the source of life, light and all energy in the cosmos. There is no alternate to the life-giving rays of the Surya Dev. He is the most powerful and majestic visible Devata. Surya Dev has also played role of Master-Guru for many Devatas, number of Seers and Devotees. There are large number of kings and rulers around the world, who represent Solar Dynasty.
Surya (Devanagari: सूर्य Sūrya, "the Supreme Light"; is the chief solar deity in Hinduism, one of the Adityas, son of Kasyapa and one of his wives, Aditi; of Indra; or of Dyaus Pitar (depending by the version). The term Surya also refers to the Sun, in general. Surya has hair and arms of gold. He is said to drive through the heaven in his triumphal chariot harnessed by seven horses or one horse with seven heads, which represent the seven colours of the rainbow or the seven chakras. He presides over Sunday.
In Hindu religious literature, Surya is notably mentioned as the visible form of God that one can see every day. Furthermore, Shaivites and Vaishnavas often regard Surya as an aspect of Shiva and Vishnu, respectively. For example, the sun is called Surya Narayana by Vaishnavas. In Shaivite theology, Surya is said to be one of eight forms of Shiva, named the Astamurti.
His other names include Vishnu, Vivasvān (Sanskrit root: Vivasvat, विवस्वत्) Ravi (lit. "the Fire Bird"), Aditya (lit. the son of Aditi), Pusha (the best Purifier), Divakar (the maker of the day), Savita (the vivifier), Arka अर्क (the ray), Mitra (friend), Bhanu (light), Bhaskar (maker of Light), and Grahapati (the Lord of Grahas).
Surya is worshiped in various forms throughout India. One of the most important epithet (form) of 'Surya' is 'Arka'. The "Arka" form is worshiped mostly in North India and Eastern parts of India. The temples dedicated to 'Arka' form of Surya are Konarka Temple in Orissa, Uttararka and Lolarka in Uttar Pradesh, Balarka in Rajasthan. There was an old sun-temple in (Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh) named Balarka Surya Mandir, built by King Tilokchand Arkawanshi in early 10th Century AD. The temple was destroyed in the 14th Century AD during Turkish invasions.
'Mitra' form of Surya
'Surya' is also known as 'Mitra' (meaning friend) for his life nourishing properties. Mitra form of 'Surya' had been worshiped mostly in Gujarat, where a clan of Suryawanshi kings was known as Mitrawanshi kshatriyas, also known by its distorted name Maitrakas (मैत्रक)
Shri Surya Sahasranam-1000 names describe 1000 qualities of Bhaskara. Each name of Surya Dev refers to a quality of consciousness. Listening Sahasranam enlivens these qualities of Surya in the consciousness of the listener and at the same time, these qualities are charged in the environment.
Shri Surya Ashtottar Shatnamavali has 108 names of Surya. These names are few of the most important qualities, which may be chanted while offering water-`Argh` to Shri Surya. Shri Suryamandalashtakam is a Siddha stotra of Shri Surya and awakens inner light. By chanting Shri Surya Sahasranam and stotras, Devotees enjoy fullness of energy, brilliance, inner light, perfect health and longevity. Their life shines like golden hue with the grace of Surya.
Sunday is the day of Shri Surya. It is recommended to listen to Sahasranam and other stotras of Surya Dev on Sunday.
Surya namaskara, or the "Sun salutation"
A well-known Hindu mode of worship of the devotional movements of Surya is done at the rising of the Sun, known as Sūrya namaskāra (sun salutation). Ten yogic postures are assumed in successive flowing movements to complete one namaskar. Twelve sacred Hindu mantras uttered and for each mantra one complete namaskar is done. Ancient practice is to do 108 namaskaras a day. It is considered most auspicious by Hindus to do this.
The 12 mantras for surya namaskara:
- ॐ मित्राय नमः aum mitrāya namah
- ॐ रवये नमः aum ravayé namah
- ॐ सूर्याय नमः aum sūryāya namah
- ॐ भानवे नमः aum bhānavé namah
- ॐ खगय नमः aum khagāya namah
- ॐ पुष्णे नमः aum pushné namah
- ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः aum hiranyagarbhāya namah
- ॐ मारिचाये नमः aum mārichāyé namah
- ॐ आदित्याय नमः aum ādityāya namah
- ॐ सावित्रे नमः aum sāvitré namah
- ॐ अर्काय नमः aum ārkāya namah
- ॐ भास्कराय नमः aum bhāskarāya namah
आ कृष्णेन् रजसा वर्तमानो निवेशयन्न अमृतं मर्त्यं च ।हिरण्ययेन सविता रथेना देवो याति भुवनानि पश्यन ॥
Throughout the dusky firmament advancing, laying to rest the immortal and the mortal,Borne in his golden chariot he cometh, Savitar, God who looks on every creature.
The Gayatri Mantra is also associated with Surya. Another hymn associated with Surya is the Aditya Hridayam, recited by the great sage Agastya to Rama on the warfield before the fight with Ravana.
Religious role and relationships
Vivasvat (Surya) had three queens; Saranyu (also called Saraniya, Saranya, Sanjna, or Sangya), Ragyi, and Prabha. Saranyu was the mother of Vaivasvata Manu or Sraddhadeva Manu (the seventh, i.e. present Manu) and the twins Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yami. She also bore him the twins known as the Ashvins, divine horsemen and physicians to the Devas. Saranyu, being unable to bear the extreme radiance of Surya, created a superficial entity from her shadow called Chhaya and instructed her to act as Surya's wife in her absence. Chhaya mothered two sons - Savarni Manu (the eighth, i.e. next Manu) and Shani (the planet Saturn), and two daughters - Tapti and Vishti. He also has a son, Revanta, or Raivata, by Ragyi.
Interestingly, Surya's two sons Shani and Yama are responsible for the judgment of human life. Shani gives us the results of one's deeds through one's life through appropriate punishments and rewards while Yama grants the results of one's deeds after death.
In Ramayana, Surya is described as father of the King Sugriva, who helped Rama and Lakshmana in defeating the demon king Ravana. He also trains Hanuman as his guru. The Suryavanshi / Suryavansha dynasty of kings, Rama being one of them, also claims descent from Surya.
In the Mahabharata, Princess Kunti receives instruction for a mantra from the sage Durvasa; by reciting which, she would be able to summon any god and bear a child by him. Incredulous of the power of this mantra, Kunti unwittingly tests it on Surya, but when Surya appears, she gets scared and requests him to go back. However, Surya has an obligation to fulfil the mantra before returning. Surya magically causes Kunti to bear the child immediately whilst retaining her virginity so that she, as an unmarried princess, need not face any embarrassment or be subjected to questions from society. Kunti feels compelled to abandon the child, Karna, who grows up to become one of the central characters in the great battle of Kurukshetra.
Surya is not mentioned as one of the Adityas in the first book of the epic Mahabarata, but may be regarded as the compound of the twelve solar deities mentioned there, to be understood in connection to the Jyotisha vedic astrology: Dhatri, Mitra, Aryaman, Sakra, Varuna, Amsa, Vaga, Vivaswat, Usha, Savitri, Tvashtri, Vishnu.
In Mahabharata, Surya is referred to as father of Karna, as he begot the latter on Kunti when she was virgin. With his grace and in order that Kunti is not spoken of badly in the world, Kunti could retain virginhood even after delivering a child.