Rohit Arya_Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Sun card

The Sun

Rohit’s Notes – October 2002

I’m sending you an article and a somewhat unusual depiction of Surya in the chariot with a seven faced horse, rather than seven horses.  If you choose to depict Surya as you have done before, then that would be fine with me too.  If he is shown standing, then he should be clearly depicted as wearing knee length boots and, curious detail, copper gloves!  Don’t ask me why, but that is always the case in the classical sculptures.

I would prefer a depiction of a Sun Chariot moving in outer space and illumining it, rather than the typical pastoral landscape version of most tarot packs.

 

Rohit’s Article:  Surya – the Eye of the World

“Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling!”

Walt Whitman

Worship of the sun is one of mankind’s oldest beliefs, and perhaps in many ways one of the most sensible.  For the sun is the literal source of life.

All energy conversions – whether in plants, animal or in fuel sources – are after all, utilizing the rays of the sun at a few removes.  Life would come to an end without photosynthesis, and what is that but drawing nourishment for the world from the sun?  400 million years from now, we are slated to fall back into the decaying star that our planet burst out of aeons ago, though by then mankind will have to learn to find another source of life, perhaps under other stars.  Till now, the sun is indispensable, and has been instinctively reverenced as such.  The Pueblo Hopi Indians have a daily ritual which they claim nourishes the sun and keeps it, and by implication, the world alive.  Anthropologists have indulgently regarded it as a charming oddity, instead of the intrinsically wise awareness that it manifests.  They know where Life comes from only too well;  they merely focus on a preliminary stage in its unfolding sequence.

 

In India the Sun is still worshipped on a daily basis by at least tens of millions of people, and that would be a conservative estimate.  The chanting of mantras to greet the dawn is one of the really genuine ancient living traditions of the world.

The sun god, called Surya, has risen and fallen in prominence over the centuries, but his worship has not dwindled even though his stature has.  From Vedic times onwards, Surya has always been worshipped.  In the Vedas he is the chief source of light and warmth and wisdom, though he is often co-mingled with Aditya and Savitri in a manner that does not resolve itself until many centuries later.  As mythology developed, the great Vedic gods were declared to be sons of Aditi, wife of Kasyapa, and they were collectively known as the Adityas.  It is a name that is applied almost exclusively to Surya today, and is a very popular name for males.  Savitri has now become an exclusively female name, though in the Vedas it originally meant the invisible, hence spiritual aspect of the sun.  This is analogous to the concept of Helios, the invisible sun in Greek myth.  Others say Savitri is the sun at full blaze and Surya the sun which rises and sets.  Clearly, this interpretation has fallen out of favour.

(Jane comments:  I am reminded of the Osiris Isis cycle/relationship in elder Egypt.  The cultures have their distinct stories, but arise from humanity’s common root:  the worship of the Risen.)

 

The most sacred mantra in all Hinduism, the GAYATRI, is addressed to the Sun, Vivifier, “the One who enlightens and stimulates the Understanding.”

There is no great body of myth as such, associated with the sun.  It is almost as if Surya is such a visible and even hotly tangible presence, that there is no need to nourish the imagination with word pictures and long tales.  The Vedic Hymns are full of descriptions of his appearance, but they are more enthusiastic exclamations at the brilliant beauty of the sun, than anything else.  It is as though they were not blinded but drunk on light, bedazzled with illumination.

“The All seeing Eye, revealed by his beams  gleaming like brilliant flames, to nation after nation,  with speed beyond mortal understanding, O Savitr,  you create the light, and with it you illumine  the entire universe.”

 

The sun is golden haired, golden limbed and, interesting touch, golden tongued.  His eyes are golden orbs through which he regards the world and gives him his name – Loka-chakshuh, the Eye of the World.  If these names sound like titles from a Robert Jordan fantasy epic, that cannot be helped.  The mythical imagination always runs in predictable grooves, no matter if it is 2000BC or 2000AD.

 

Surya rides across the sky in a golden chariot drawn by seven white horses, personifications of the days of the week.  The solar chariot is the oldest hypothesis to explain the apparent movement of the sun across the sky.  The wheels of his chariot naturally have twelve spokes for the obvious reasons.  His charioteer is an interesting personage called Aruna.  This worthy is translucent, and is an undifferentiated mass of flesh under the waist;  sitting down on the job is about all he can do, but that is perfect for his task.

When the dawn breaks, personified as a beautiful woman called Ushas (see Sacred India Tarot Archive, the Creation of the Star) Surya is supposed to give chase to her.   His light shines through the translucent body of Aruna and that is why we have the Red Sun, Rohita, visible in the morning.

The rays of the sun are described as the many arms of Surya reaching out to bless every corner of the universe and infusing the realms of the gods with energy

In later mythology, Surya is demoted somewhat.  He is now a still powerful god, but less than the Trinity.  This by the way, was not reflected in popular belief.  The cult of Surya grew steadily until it had rivaled any of the gods, and it reached a magnificent peak between the ninth and thirteenth centuries.  The most beautiful temples in India were built for his worship, a roll call of spectacular workmanship – the jewel like wonder at Modhera, the awesome Konark, the totally ruined temple of Martand, the little one at Osian and perhaps many more lost forever to iconoclastic fervour.

It is as though the creative energies of India had a high in northern India with Sun temples, and then sank in exhaustion.  Strangely enough, the Suryavanshi Rajput warrior clans of Rajasthan, claiming descent from the sun, never built a single temple for him.  They worshipped other gods, even though they were very proud of such noble descent.  Go figure

Iconographic representation of Surya too, reached pretty high standards.  Three eyes, four hands holding water lilies, supposed to be the flower that longs for the dawn, are standard.  The sun is supposed to rise from, indeed be born of, the cosmic waters;  so the lilies are convenient symbolic shorthand.  He is the only Indian god known to be always wearing knee length boots and in some cases distinct metal (copper) gloves.  The boots are an invariable rule in his sculpture as is the atibhanga posture, the immobile erect stance of perfection, the god who is the cosmic pillar and support of the universe.

It is therefore an appalling development that somewhere from the 14th century onwards, a superstition developed that to make Surya ikons, is to invite the curse of leprosy!  In such ways do traditions turn upon themselves when they become decrepit.  Surya was actually once the LORD OF HEALING, a function the Solar gods, the Ashwinis, took over from him, and he ended up feared, as a bringer of disease.  There are no more active temples of Surya left either, except as an adjunct to some more popular deity.

 

One of the widely diffused later myths, seemingly crafted to explain his decline while the other gods rose in favour, has Surya married to Sanjana, daughter of the Cosmic craftsman Vishvakarma.  The marriage is very happy, but Sanjana cannot bear her husband when he shines in full glory.  One day she makes the mistake of closing her eyes and averting her head from this intolerable illumination and the normally gentle Surya almost becomes a supernova.

 

He curses his wife to bear the god of death, Yama, for having averted her gaze from the giver of life, and for being variable and inconstant in her opinions, to bear a twin girl Yamuna, a river that never maintains its limits – constantly shifting itself.   Fortunately they already have a brilliant son, Manu, who is to become the proto-Adam of the next cycle of creation; and he helps them to reconcile later.  Sanjana is too hurt by his behaviour to easily reconcile, so she leaves her husband in possession of her Shadow, a simulacrum called Chaaya, while she goes to the forest to perform penance and bring Surya’s blaze down. She hides in the form of a Solar Mare.  When Surya finds out, he joins her as a stallion or Ashwa.  The results of this equestrian wooing are supposed to be the Ashwini Kumara, from Ashwa or horse.

(This is a later attempt to bring all the solar gods into one coherent narrative, but the Ashwinis were independent gods in the Vedas.  See our article on them, later in this series.)

 

Vishvakarma decides to help his daughter, and puts Surya on his great lathe and cuts away an eighth of his effulgence.  This fiery power was redistributed among the other gods, primarily as weapons.  Vishnu got a discus, Siva his trident, Skanda his spear, and so on.  The shifting power structures amongst the gods, and their collectively assimilating the Surya cult, are clearly visible here.  Also notable is the remarkable symbolism of death being the son of the giver of life.  No sooner does life come into being, than death has marked it down.

 

The fiery power was distributed to other gods as weapons

In later myths, Surya sinks even further into insignificance.  In the Ramayana he is the father of Sugriva, the Monkey prince, and can do nothing to prevent his persecution at the hands of his brother.  In the Mahabharatha he is the father of the tragic figure Karna, and again can do nothing to ease the harsh destiny of his son.  It’s a long way down for the god described in the Vedas as the Great All-Knowing Lord.

The many names of Surya somehow still pulsate with power when the panegyrics to the other gods fade into staleness.

He is Dinakara, Day-maker;  Vivasat the Radiant One;  Karma-shakshi, witness of the deeds of men;  Mihira, He who waters the earth (by drawing up moisture so that clouds may form);  Savitri the Nourisher of gods and men;  and best of all, Savitr, the Impeller towards the good Light.

One cannot help feeling that somehow India lost more than beautiful temples when his worship collapsed;  an entire subculture of great vitality and creative energy went with it.  It was, by the evidence available till now, about the only faith in India that did not go emotionally overboard or assimilate so many bizarre aspects of behaviour and belief that make modern sensibilities squeamish.  The Light was sufficient unto itself, and there was no evil thereof.

It is a belief that would be reiterated in another time and place by an artist from another culture.  Many centuries later, as England’s great painter, Turner, lay dying after a lifetime of painting the light, he stated his life’s discovery and faith in four words:

“The sun is God.”

 

Jane Adams

My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space. http://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

 

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

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