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Vedic and Puranic features of Sun God: A Comparative Study [Vedic Mythological innovations during the Puranic Phase]

Prof.Shashi Tiwari
Sanskrit Department, University of Delhi; General Secretary, WAVES India, New Delhi WAVES Tenth International Conference July 13-15, 2012 Center for Indic Studies, UMass Dartmouth

The distinction between Vedic and Puranic Mythology can be judged on the basis of Study of SUN GOD

The study is to find out the original nature of the deity, and its development in the religious life of ancient India.

Importance of Sun God

Creator of day and night Source of light and heat Producer of food and vegetation Due to respect towards Him Sun-worship prevailed in ancient cultures:Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Iranian, Mexican and Indian & Indus Valley civilization

Vedic Sun God

Sun and its various forms: Surya, Savitr, Pusan, Bhaga, Mitra, Varuna, Visnu, Aryaman, Vivasvat, Amsa, and Aditya These names are basically the epithets which denote his functions, attributes and qualities.

In the Rgveda five solar deities Number extended in Post-Rgvedic texts.

Solar Deities in Rig-Veda

1. Surya represents the visible luminous orb, connected with light, heat and movement. 2. Savitr as stimulator denotes inspiring power of Sun. 3. Visnu represents movement, wide-stepping and motion of Sun. 4. Pusan is recognized as nourishing power of Sun who bestows prosperity. 5. Mitra invoked mostly with Varuna and is giver of happiness. The Rgveda talks about seven Adityas (RV 10.72.9) and adds Martanda as the eighth Aditya (RV10.72.8).

Sun -god in Vedic texts

Nirukta =greatest of heaven Diva Brahmanas and Sutras = grant blessings to performers Isopanisad= symbol of Brahman Vedic conception of Surya > several dimensions> culture, mythology, ritual, philosophy

Puranic Approach
Great god Surya remained constantly on the same position from vedas to Puranas Features of Surya are altered, developed, and glorified by the authors of Puranas DUE TO Broader approach towards Vedic symbolism Unique style of narration Main subject matter of Puranas -5 sargashca..

Puranic Literature on Surya

Puranas - a very vast literature Written between 2nd- 3rd century AD to 13th14th century AD. Some of early and some of later period. five major cults for the worship of Visnu, Siva, Sakti, Surya, and Ganesa. Some independent Puranas were written on these deities .

Facades of Puranic Sun-worship

1. Description of Suryas physical form, chariot, movement etc. - Visnu Purana. , Markandeya Purana 2 .Assimilation of twelve Adityas with twelve months 3.Methods - enchanting (japa), offering water (arghya), evening prayer (Sandhyopasana), Vrata, Tirtha and Bhakti,temples (mandira), idols (pratima),

Puranic Surya References

The Samba, Bhavisya, Varaha, Skanda, etc. are later Puranas Samba Upapurana, famous text of Sun-cultSamba, son of Sri Krsna, for the cure of his skin disease. Bhavisyottara Purana talks about the Saura vrata of Martandeya Purana, Aditaya Purana , Upapurana referred by Allbaruni. The lost solar Puranas- Suryapurana and Sauryapurana( Hazra 1963: 491).

Puranic Surya Srotas

-Stavaraja of Brahmapurana -Astottarasatanamastotra of Brahmapurana -Suryamahamantra of Padmapurana -Cintamadistotra of Padmapurana -Suryanamastotra of Bhavisyapurana -Suryakavaca of Brahmavaivartapurana -Jayadityastaka of Skandapurana -Suryastottarasatanamastotra of Brhaddharmapurana -Adityahrdayastotra of Bhavisyottarapurana -Suryadvadasanamastota of Bhavisyottarapurana Number of legends about family, light, form, associates

Family of Vedic Sun-god

Small in the Rgveda: Dyaus father, Aditi mother, Vayu and Agni brothers ,Usa wife/ female consort Perhaps seven colours of rays as seven sons Vivasvan, the sun, has Saranyu as wife Solar deity Pusan is married to Surya Nirukta mentions Surya as wife of Surya Surya Suryasya patni ( Nirukta 12.7.2)

Family of Puranic Sun-god

Family extended Kasyapa father( Kasyapeya). ; Aditi prays Sun to be her son -story of Brahmanda Purana( Aditya) Two wives- Sanjna( Saranyu, Suranu, and Usa) and Chaya

Nine children - Manu, Yama, Yami, Savarni, Sanaiscara, Tapati, Asvinau( two Asvin-s), and Revanta-- Bhavisya Purana 1.79.63; Samba Purana 11.51-52 ; The names of the children and their mothers differ. Eighteen associates (Anucara) Visvakarma as father- in- law in Bhavisya Purana

Physical Form of Sun-god -1

Association with the luminary never being lost sight
1. Relation with Eye- Eye of Mitra and Varuna- RV Puranas- Sahsara-Netra and Trinetra for being all-seeing

2. Colour- Savitr Hiranmaya .of his golden colour Puranas- illustrate six colours of Surya [brown (kapila) in spring, golden( kancana) in summer, white(sweta) in rainy season, yellow(pandu) in autumn, copper(tamra) in Hemanta and red (lohita) in winter]

Physical Form of Sun-god -2

3.PlanetPlanet form not described in the Vedas, but in Puranas 4. Association with flowersLotus- Padma in day -blossom and kumuda in night -wither/ fade indicated in some Puranas.( Skt. poetry)

Rays of Sun-god
Surya shines for world, god and men (RV 1.50.5 , 7.63.1) His rays throw off the darkness as a skin into the waters (RV 4.13.4) Seven horses of Surya may be seven rays or seven colours of the ray: Saptacakram sapta vahantyasvah / RV 1.164.2, 3; AV 20.47.20 Puranas: 1000 rays: Sahasrakiranadyuti, Sahasransu, Sahasrarasmi, Sahasrabhanu etc. Several times thousand rays are divided too.

Light and Heat of Sun- god

Bright form of Surya Deva praised in the Rgveda and Puranas In Rgvedanot a maleficent, but a beneficent power Puranas (descriptions/ legends) talk of unbearable heat. The paring of the luster/ body done by Visvakarma. Even then, He remains most glittery / bright.

Chariot (Ratha) of Sun-god

Rgveda - Suryas chariot has single wheel; Savitrs chariot of golden colour. Puranas - more emphasis on the wheel of chariot. Whole year (samvatsara) as wheel (Surya-chakra). Twelve groups of seven members for twelve months - Devata, Muni, Gandharva, Apsara, Gramani, Sarpa and Raksasa . Seven members sit on the ratha in every month, with one Aditya (radiant sun ).

Horses and Charioteer of Sun-god

Rgveda- Car drawn by one steed called etasa By indefinite number of steeds/ seven horses called haritah Seven colours of rays (symbolism). Puranas - Saptasva, Saptasapti, and Saptasvahana. Named as Jaya, Vijaya, Jitaprana, Jitasrama, Manojava and Jitakrodha. No clear declaration of any charioteer in Vedas. Puranas: twelve Gramini (drivers) Aruna as a charioteer (sarathi) of Surya- Samba Pu. 53.3

Food of Sun-god
The imagination or association of certain belongings is very natural in the personification of any deity. Suryas properties are less talked about. Savitr god is described loving his food of purodasa ; Pusan likes his distinctive food of karambha. Puranas are silent about food.

Armament and Seat of Sun-god

In Rgveda-Savitr wears golden shield (kavaca) and In Yajurveda - golden armament, (abhri) . Pusan uses arrow (ankusa), wheel (chakra) and sharp weapon (kosa) Puranas illustrate weapons of Surya exhaustively. He carries sankha, cakra, padma and sakti in his four hands Flower of lotus (kamala) is his seat in Puranas, ( not in Vedas)

Destroyer of Diseases - Skin

In the Puranas admired for long life/ good health. - Samba, son of Krsna, worshipped Surya for leprosy ( Samba P.). Built a Sun-temple at river Candrabhaga, and brought Maga Brahmanas from Sakadvipa to act as priests. Legend repeated in many Puranas -Treatment of leprosy of King Nanda- Skanda Purana -Wings of Garuda were reborn -Bhavisya Purana -Poet Mayurs Suryasataka to get cured from leprosy

Destroyer of Diseases -Heart and Eyes

-For the treatment of heart problem (Hridrogam) & Jaundice (Harimanam) Devotee requests to transfer the yellowness on the body of the parrots, to the starlings or to the Haridrava: Sukesu me harimanam ropanakasu dadhmasi /(RV 1.50.12 ) -For the cure of Gandamala, Ramayani, and Asutika ( AV). - Aksyupanisad and Caksusopanisad for diseases of eyes. This aspect developed on medical and scientific background.

Divine Form of Sun-god

-Many attributes assigned to Surya in Rgveda : Most visible, brilliant, helpful, cause of rain etc. -In Puranas his Godly form is depicted: Beautiful face and body, well decorated with ornaments and earrings of crocodile shape, having illustrious crown , and seating on the lotus seat. In the Gupta period and afterwards Sun-temples were erected, and Sun-images were carved with associates, and belongings. -Matsya Purana describes iconographical features of the Sungod.

Dvadasatma Surya
Surya stotras of the Puranas describe Suryas twelve forms- Dvadasatma. Aditya-names are not always the same in the Puranas. The twelve names given in Brahma and Bhavisya Puranas are - Indra, Visnu, Dhata, Bhaga, Parjanya, Pusan, Mitra, Varuna, Tvasta, Aryaman, Vivasvan, and Amsumana . They are twelve forms of Sun-god responsible for the twelve months. RV describes seven or eight Adityas only.

Sarvatma Surya
In the Surya stotras Surya is extensively described the Supreme Being -Sarvatma. Rgveda acclaims Surya as Atman of all moveable and immovable world Surya atma jagatastasthusasca Isonanisad states that the entrance of Brahman is hidden by the golden orb of sun: Puranas spread out this idea and call Him vedamaya, devamaya, yajnamaya, sarvamaya, and Visvatma. The Samba Purana identifies. Surya with Brahma, Visnu and Mahesa Purana brings out clearly the concept of the Sun-god as the Supreme deity.

Conclusion- I
Surya the great god of Vedic tradition reaches on the highest peak of divinity, and is identified with Supreme Reality during Puranic phase. His personification was enlarged without disturbing the spirit of original Vedic concepts. Devi Bhagavata Purana describes that some persons who know the Vedas worshipped the Sun everyday in the morning, midday and in the evening with various hymns. This shows that among the Sauras, a section continued worshipping Him in the old Vedic way through symbol of Sun, not by images.

Conclusion -II
Surya, is later realized as a Supreme god who can bring about all wellbeing and can grant absolute immortality. Later developed philosophical, mythological and scientific views were added in the character of Puranic Surya Deva. Thank You