"Om aa krishnen rajasa vartamaano niveshyannamritam
Hiranyayena savita rathena devo yati bhuvnaani
The above is the Vedic mantra or hymn, found in the Rig Veda.
This is in praise of Surya, the Sun God in Hindu
Surya Deva, also known as Suraya or Phra Athit, is the main
solar deity in Hinduism
. He is also commonly referred to as
The main deity of the Navagrahas or the Nine Planets of Hindu
Astrology as well, he is also considered as one of the
Navagrahas. Surya is often portrayed as riding a chariot
driven by 7 horses or alternatively, by 1 horse with 7 heads.
These 7 horses represent the colors of the rainbow and the 7
chakras in the subtle human body as well. Surya is sometimes
shown with 2 hands, holding one lotus in each and sometimes
with 4 hands, holding a lotus, Sankha (conch), Chakra (discus)
and Gada (mace).
Surya Devata in Hinduism is considered to be an eye of the
Virata Purusha, or the Vishwarupa (Universal Form) of Lord Sri
himself. Incidentally, Surya is worshipped by people
saints and even asuras or demons. Certain groups of Rakshasas,
called the Yatudhanas, were staunch followers of the Sun God.
Surya Devata is regarded as the Supreme Being among the
followers of the Saura sect, which has now become very small
and is almost endangered. The Sauras worship him as one of the
five major forms of God.
One can find many temples, all over India, dedicated to the
worship of Surya. He is worshipped in the early hours of dawn,
especially on Hindu festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Ratha
Saptami, Chhath and Samba Dashami.
Most Common Forms of Surya
Surya is worshipped in many forms. But two of the most common
forms of the deity are Arka and Mitra.
- Surya in the form of Arka is worshipped mostly
in North and Eastern India. The very grand and elaborate
Konark Temple in Orissa, the Uttararka and Lolarka in
Uttar Pradesh, the Balarka temple in Rajasthan and the Sun
Temple at Modhera, Gujarat, are all dedicated to his form
of Arka. Yet another temple, the Balarka Surya Mandir
built in Uttar Pradesh in the 10th Century, was destroyed
in the 14th Century, during the Turkish invasion.
- The other most common form of Surya, namely, Mitra,
is found mostly in Gujarat. "Mitra" literally means
Different Names of Surya
Lord Surya is hailed by 108 names. The commonest among them
are Aditya, Adideva, Angaraka, Arka, Bhaga, Brahma,
Dhanwantari, Dharmadhwaja, Dhatri, Dhumaketu, Indra, Jaya,
Maitreya, Prabhakara, Ravi, Rudra, Savitri, Soma, Teja,
Vaisravana, Vanhi, Varun and Vishnu
Surya: Family and Relationships
Surya, or Vivasvata, had 3 queens, namely, Sharanya (also
called Saraniya, Saranyu, Sanjana or Sangya), Ragyi and
Prabha. Sharanya was the mother
of Vaivasvata Manu (or
Satyavrata, the present Manu) and the twins Yama (the God of
Death) and his sister Yami. Later, she also gave birth to the
Ashvin twins, who were the divine horsemen and physicians to
Being unable to bear the extreme radiance emitted by Surya,
Sharanya created a superficial shadow of herself, called
Chhaya. She asked her to act as Surya's wife. In due course of
time, Chhaya gave birth to 2 sons, namely, Savarni Manu and
Shani (Planet Saturn) and 2 daughters, namely, Tapti and
Vishti. Surya's other wife, Ragyi, gave birth to their son,
Revanta or Raivata.
Incidentally, Surya Deva's sons, Shani and Yama, are the
judges of human life and karma. While Shani Deva bestows
positive or negative results for one's deeds committed during
one's lifetime, Yama Deva grants these results after one's
In the Ramayana
, Surya is said to be the father of
King Sugriva. Sugriva was the one who helped Rama defeat the
terrible demon king, Ravana. He imparts training to Hanuman
help him lead the Vanara Sena or the Army of Monkeys.
Interestingly, Lord Rama himself is a descendant of Surya – he
is a Suryavanshi, that is, hailing from the dynasty of the
Surya bears great significance in the Mahabharata
well. According to this epic, Kunti receives the diksha for a
mantra from the short-tempered sage, Durvasa. She was given
the boon that whenever she chanted this mantra, she would be
able to summon a Deva and also bear a child by him. Without
realizing its seriousness, Kunti tested the mantra, summoning
Surya. As Surya was forced to fulfill the obligation of the
mantra, she miraculously begot a child from him, while
actually retaining her virginity. Not able to bear the thought
of becoming an unwed mother, princess Kunti was compelled to
abandon her son, Karna, who later grew up to be one of the
greatest ever warriors and a central character in the battle
Incidentally, the first book of the Mahabharata does not
mention Surya as one of the Adityas. However, he may be
regarded as the joint strength of all the 12 solar deities,
namely, Dhatri, Mitra, Aryaman, Sakra, Varuna, Amsa, Vaga,
Vivaswat, Usha, Savitri, Tvashtri, Vishnu.
In Other Cultures
The Sun God enjoys great importance in Greek and Egyptian
mythology. Surya's Greek counterpart is Helios and the
Egyptian Sun God is Ra.
In Zoroastrianism, which is based on the worship of Fire, the
Sun is described as the "Eye of Ahura Mazda". This bears
resemblance to Hinduism, which considers Surya to be one eye
of Sri Maha Vishnu.
In Vedic Astrology
In Vedic astrology, Surya is regarded as slightly volatile,
due to his nature
of being too radiant and emitting too much
heat. The Sun thus represents the soul, vitality, courage,
willpower, authority, royalty and so on. His position is
exalted in Mesha or Aries and takes a backward position in
Tula or Libra. In Hindu horoscopes, the best location for
Surya is considered to be right overhead, on the 10th house
and on the 1st, 5th and 9th houses.
Surya is the Lord of Krittika, Uttara Phalguni and Uttara
Ashadha. He is often associated with reds, coppers and
metallic colors and his gemstone is ruby.
Surya Blesses Bala Hanuman
Surya Deva is known to be strong, powerful and invincible.
However, he too was once subdued by Hanuman, the greatest
devotee and also the humble sevak (servant) of Lord Rama. He
had an interesting episode with Surya during his childhood. A
rather playful and mischievous monkey in his baalyaavastha
(childhood), Hanuman leapt up to the skies and started chasing
Surya, mistaking him to be a ripe mango! He kept pursuing the
Sun, wanting to eat what he thought was the delicious fruit.
Later, when he realized that Surya was the all-knowing
teacher, Hanuman raised his body and positioned himself to
orbit around the Sun, also requesting him to accept him as a
disciple. Surya refused, saying that he could never be in one
place, as he had to constantly traverse around the world. An
undeterred Hanuman continued to pursue Surya and kept pleading
persistently. Surya then agreed and passed on his knowledge to
In this way, Surya emerged as a Karma Saakshi, the Eternal
Witness of all deeds. The former also gave Hanuman 2 siddhis,
namely, laghima and garima, which enabled him to take the
smallest form and the largest form, respectively, at
Sun Temples in India
One can find several temples in India, dedicated to the
worship of Surya. Here is a list of the major temples:
Konark Sun Temple, Orissa
The Konark Sun Temple is the most famous in India. Built in
the 13th Century, it is also known as the Black
Pagoda. It is
located in Konark, Odisha and was supposedly built by King
Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga
temple is built in the shape of a huge chariot with
elaborately carved stone wheels, walls and pillars. A UNESCO
World Heritage Site; also considered to be one of the Seven
Wonders of India; this temple is now partially in ruins.
The name "Konark" is derived from the roots, "Kona" (corner)
and "Arka". The structure was originally built at the mouth of
the river Chandrabhaga, but now, the river has notably
receded. Strictly adhering to the Kalinga style of
architecture, this temple was built with Khondalite rocks and
faced the east in such a way that the first rays of the sun
could strike the main entrance. The Konark temple is well
known for its intricate and erotic sculptures of maithunas.
Two smaller temples have been found nearby. One of them is the
Mayadevi Temple, who is supposedly one of Surya's wives. The
other one is a Vaishnava temple, comprising sculptures of
Balarama, Varaha and Trivikrama. But neither of the temples
has a main idol.
According to legend, Samba, the son of Krishna, suffered from
leprosy. The sage Kataka asked him to worship Surya to cure
his disease. Samba undertook penance for 12 years near the
shores of Chandrabhaga and then built Konark and other temples
Multan Sun Temple
This temple is also known as the Aditya Sun Temple and is
located in modern Punjab, Pakistan. The original Multan Sun
Temple is said to have been built by Samba. This temple is
supposed to have been visited by Hsuen Tsang in 641 AD. The
temple, rich in its opulence, gold and gems, became a great
source of revenue for the Muslim invaders, post their
invasion. He plundered and looted its wealth, sparing only the
idol, which was made of wood. Before the invasion, this idol
had been covered with gems and gold, with two red rubies for
The city of Multan probably got its name from the Sanskrit
word, "Mulasthana", which is the location of this temple.
However, the exact location of the original Multan temple is
presently under debate.
Biranchinarayan Temple, Buguda
Also known as the abode of Biranchinarayana or the Wooden
Konark, this temple is situated in the Buguda town in Orissa.
It was built immediately after the Konark temple, by King
Bhanjadeva in 1790. The main deity in this temple is Biranchi
Narayana, whose idol was recovered from the ruins of Maltigad.
The idol shows a chariot driven by seven horses with only one
wheel on the left; also with Arjuna as the charioteer.
Made of wood, this temple faces west and is built in such a
way that the setting sun's last rays fall on Surya's feet.
Sun Temple, Modhera
The Sun temple in Modhera, Gujarat, was created in 1026 AD by
King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty. This impressive stone
temple is located along the banks of the river Pushpavati,
about a 100 kms from Ahmedabad. Though prayers are no more
conducted in this temple, it still retains its earlier
grandeur. At present, it is under the supervision of the
Archaeological Survey of India.
According to the Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, the regions
surrounding Modhera was known as Dharmaranya. On the advice of
Sage Vasishtha, Lord Rama had come to this place to purify
himself after killing Ravana. He stayed in a place called
Modherak and performed a yagna there, after which he set up a
village named Sitapur, which eventually came to be known as
Though the Solanki dynasty lost its power during the Turkish
invasion, it regained its glory in the later years. The
Solankis were considered to be Gurjars or descendants of
Surya. They helped bring back the region's lost glory.
The temple is so built that the first rays of the sun fell on
the idol of Surya, at the time equinoxes. Now, the temple is
partially in ruins. However, a dance festival is annually
held, in order to keep the ancient culture and tradition
alive. Renowned artists travel from all over the globe to
perform at this wonderful location.
Martand Sun Temple
Situated near Anantnag in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this
Sun temple is now in ruins. It was built in the Aryan style in
the 8th Century and is now one of the most important
archaeological sites in India. Built by King Lalitaditya
Muktapida, it is said that the foundation of the temple was
built around 370-500 AD.
Now, the Martand temple appears in the list of India's
centrally protected monuments.
The Suryanar Temple is situated in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu.
This temple was built even before the Konark temple, by
Kulottunga Choladeva. comprising a 50-foot Gopuram or tower,
there is an idol of the Surya with his chariot and horses,
right at the entrance. The central sanctum sanctorum is
dedicated to Surya, with shrines of the other planets situated
all around it. This Navagraha temple is considered to be
extremely powerful and attracts a large number of devotees
every year, especially during festival times. Earlier, this
temple was also known as Kulottungachola-Marttandalaya.
Many festivals are dedicated to Lord Surya. The major
festivals are as follows:
- Makar Sankranti is the most popular, also the
most widely celebrated festival, dedicated to Surya Deva.
Referred to as Pongal by Tamil people residing all over
the world, this event is to show gratitude to the Deva for
bestowing a good harvest. Here, the first grain is
dedicated to him.
- Chhath is yet another Hindu festival celebrated
in Surya's name. Said to have been started by Karna, the
son of Surya, it is held in Bihar, Jharkhand and certain
regions in Uttar Pradesh, Nepal and even Mauritius.
- Samba Dashami is a Surya-related festival
celebrated in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. This is
held in honor of Samba, the son of Krishna.
Ratha Saptami is another major Hindu festival
dedicated to Surya. This falls on the seventh day of the
bright half of the Hindu month of Magha. This day is also
celebrated as Surya Jayanti, as it is believed that Lord
Vishnu incarnated as Surya on this day. Rathasaptami
starts with the purification bath, followed by an
elaborate pooja and other rituals, seeking the benevolence
and grace of Lord Surya. At the Tirumala temple in Andhra
Pradesh, the presiding deity, Lord Balaji (Venkateshwara)
is mounted on seven Vahanas (vehicles), one after another,
in the prescribed order. The Lord is mounted on the
Suryaprabha Vahana, Hanmad Vahana, Garuda Vahana,
Peddasesha Vahana, Kalpavruksha Vahana, Sarvabhupahala
Vahana and finally, the Chandraprabha Vahana. This is
referred to as the Okka roju Brahmostavam, or a single day
celebration, wherein the devotee gets the darshan of the
Lord being carried by his different vahanas. The Lord,
along with his consorts, Sridevi and Bhudevi, are taken on
a procession on the Thiru mada streets around the temple.
Elaborate prayers are offered to Surya on this day,
including the Adityahridayam, Gayathri Suryashtakam, Surya
Sahasranamam and so on. Many Hindu temples conduct a
ceremonial procession of Surya at this time. In South
India, rangolis are drawn on the ground with colored
powder, often depicting a chariot driven by 7 horses.
Surya Namaskara or the "Sun Salutation"
Many devout Hindus regularly perform the Surya Namaskara,
literally meaning, "Sun salutation". This mode of worship is
essentially made up of 11 asanas or yogic postures, which are
assumed in successive movements, along with breath control, to
form a flowing series of one complete namaskara. 12 mantras
are chanted for each of these namaskaras. The Surya Namaskara
is not only considered auspicious, but is also very beneficial
for all-round health and wellness, both physical and mental.
Suryopasana or Sun Worship
Many Hindus perform regular Suryopasana, that is, offering
worship to the Sun God. The period from April 12th to 23rd is
considered most auspicious for the worship of Surya. Surya is
believed to be the giver of intelligence, confidence, good
health, courage, strength, leadership qualities, independence,
fame, success, power and much more. While an ill-placed
position of the Sun in a person's horoscope could indicate low
self-esteem, lack of confidence, ill health and dependency; an
overly strong placement of the Sun could also trigger many
negative qualities in the person concerned.
After having a bath early morning, the seeker has to offer jal
or water to Surya, looking in his direction, paying
salutations to the Lord. Surya is regarded as a manifestation
of the Brahman and so he is often referred to as Surya
One can chant the Vedic mantra of Surya, which is mentioned
right at the very beginning of this article.
The puranic mantra of Surya is as follows:
"Japa Kusuma Sankasham Kashyapeyam Mahadyuthim
Thamognam Sarvapapagnam Pranathosmi Divakaram"
- Surya's Beeja mantra is "Om hran hrin hron sah
- The mantra, "Om ghrini suryay nama:", is
commonly used as well.
Adityahridayam is a sloka or hymn in praise of Aditya, the Sun
God. It was originally recited by Sage Agastya to Rama on the
battlefield, before the latter went to fight the demon king,
Ravana. Belonging to the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana, this
hymn starts at the beginning of the Rama-Ravana duel. Rama was
exhausted after a long day's fight with the army of Lanka and
so, Agasya taught him the mantra in order to gain the courage
and strength to face the enemy. The hymn was later compiled by
The Adityahridayam comprises a total of 30 slokas, which
contain the whole episode of Agastya telling Rama about the
greatness of Lord Surya; relating the benefits of reciting the
hymn; the sloka itself; and how the Lord pervades the
Consciousness and is actually one with the jeevatma.
The word "Aditya" in Sanskrit refers to something "that comes
from Aditi". In other words, it refers to "the offspring of
Aditi". Aditya also means the Sun.
In the Rigveda
According to the Rigveda, the Adityas are the 7 sons of Aditi.
These celestial beings are Varuna, Mitra (or Surya), Aryaman,
Bhaga, Amsa, Dhatri and Indra. Aditi had an eighth Aditya as
well, called Martanda, who she rejected and disowned.
The Yajurveda records the existence of 8 Adityas, the last one
being, Vivasvan. Some believe that this entity was actually
Martanda, who was revived and then became Vivasvan.
The Rigveda describes the Adityas as akin to pure streams of
water, free from all guile, falsehood and negativity. They
have also been attributed as being completely Dharmic or
righteous. They are benevolent divine beings, who protect all
beings and also guard the world of the spirits.
In Other Texts
- The Brahmanas, which are commentaries on the 4
Vedas, list the existence of 12 Adityas, as Amsa, Aryaman,
Bhaga, Daksha, Dhatri, Indra, Mitra, Ravi, Savitr, Arka
(or Surya), Varuna and Yama.
- The Linga Purana too talks about 12 Adityas,
namely, Vishnu, Indra, Dhata, Bhaga, Twashta, Amshuman,
Varuna, Mitra, Vivasvan, Pusha, Savitr and Aryaman.
- In the Chandogya-Upanishad, Aditya is another
name of Vishnu, in his fifth avatara as Vamana, the Dwarf.
Interestingly, Vamana's mother, according to this Purana,
- One other list from the Vishnu Purana names 12
Adityas, as Amsa, Aryaman, Bhaga, Dhuti, Mitra, Pusan,
Sakra, Savitr, Tvastr, Varuna, Vishnu and Vivasvat.