Lord Surya Narayana is a representation of the Personality of Godhead Shri Vishnu in the material world. The Sun is the father of this material universe because he controls time and provides sustenance. Wherever there is either not enough Sun or too much of his energy—either way the Universe can be destroyed. For this reason Surya is constantly moving. If he were to stop even for a second he could burn to a crisp that place over which he hovers. On the other hand, if he were to move too fast then the world would freeze. In this way the Sun stands as the ultimate epitome of discipline, never deviating from his course. Vivasvan, the deity of the Sun, is the ultimate king and an inspiration to all other righteous kings. For this reason the kings have been called Raja.
Srila Prabhupada: Formerly the kings (rajas) were great saintly persons. They were not ordinary people engaged in drinking and dancing. They were all rishis (sages), up to the time of Maharaja Pariksit. They were trained in such a way that they were not ordinary men but were called naradeva. Naradeva refers to Bhagavan in the form of a human being. The king was worshipped because he was a rajarishi, both a king and a sage. Shri Krishna says that if the king knows the purpose of life, he can rule well. (Purport to Teachings of Lord Kapila, the Son of Devahuti: TLK Vs 3)
A person who never deviates from his discipline needs raja guna to keep him active. A true king is influenced by raja guna. Pure or uncontaminated rajastic quality is rarely seen in the material world, especially in Kali Yuga which is predominated by ignorance. Rajoguna is the mode of material Nature involved in creation. New projects require the destruction of obstacles. The Sun god is the epitome of a king who embodies the qualities of pure raja guna. It is not easy to find the exalted qualities of raja guna. In Kali Yuga the qualities represented by the Sun are totally absent. This is seen in the natural environment as well. The weather is either predominantly cold or extremely hot. In every activity discipline and regulation are absent, qualities which come under the jurisdiction of the swiftly-moving Sun.
Srila Prabhupada: The universe is by nature dense darkness, and therefore the total creation is called tamas, or darkness. The night is the real feature of the universe, for then one cannot see anything, including oneself. The Lord, out of His causeless mercy, first desired to see Himself and all the creation as well, and thus the Sun became manifested, the power of vision for all living entities became possible, and the objects of vision were also manifested. This means that the whole phenomenal world became visible after the creation of the Sun. (Purport to SB 2.10.21)
Surya regulates time by moving at different speeds and directions. His movement to the south or the north of Manasottara Mountain creates the seasons on Earth and the days and nights for the demigods. The night and the day for the earthly plane are created by his horizontal movement in a fixed circle.
From the Bhagavat: In the midst of that region of outer space [antariksha] is the most opulent Sun, the king of all the planets that emanate heat, such as the moon. By the influence of its radiation, the Sun heats the universe and maintains its proper order. He also gives light to help all living entities see. While passing toward the north, toward the south or through the equator, in accordance with the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he is said to move slowly, swiftly or moderately. According to his movements in rising above, going beneath or passing through the equator—and correspondingly coming in touch with various signs of the zodiac, headed by Makara [Capricorn]—days and nights are short, long or equal to one another. (SB 5.21.3)
“The Sun god is the epitome of a king who embodies the qualities of pure raja guna. It is not easy to find the exalted qualities of raja guna. In Kali Yuga the qualities represented by the Sun are totally absent. This is seen in the natural environment as well. The weather is either predominantly cold or extremely hot. In every activity discipline and regulation are absent, qualities which come under the jurisdiction of the swiftly-moving Sun.”
The Sun god rides in golden chariot which is 28,800,000 miles long and 7,200,000 miles wide. His charioteer is Arunadeva who yokes seven horses of rainbow colours. Sixty thousand thumb-sized saintly entities called Valikhilyas precede the chariot of the Sun and are constantly glorify his activities. Just as a king needs encouragement in his activities and for this reason is glorified, so all residents of the universe should also offer their prayers to Surya. Especially on the island of Plakshadvipa the inhabitants are dedicated to worshipping the Sun-god. They are privileged to always see the Sun directly overhead.
From the Bhagavat: The inhabitants of Plakshadvipa live for one thousand years. They are beautiful like the demigods, and they also beget children like the demigods. By completely performing the ritualistic ceremonies mentioned in the Vedas and by worshipping the Supreme Personality of Godhead as represented by the Sun-god, they attain the Sun, which is a heavenly planet. (SB 5.20.3-4)
In relatively modern times, the Egyptians fought many wars until the emperors of the New Kingdom finally established Ra (from Ravi) or Syrya (from Surya) as the main deity of the Egyptians. Syrya has been worshiped throughout the world and some of his more popular names are Apolon, Svarog, Helios, Mihr and Sol. In the Mayan culture he has been worshiped under the name of Kinich Ahau.
These civilizations mostly lacked the profound knowledge to directly worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna. However, they did possess enough wisdom based upon their observation to understand the importance of the Sun. In this way they recognized his unique quality of reflecting the will of the Supreme Lord and lived by the pulse of Nature. Such qualities of simple living and high thinking are lacking in the modern world. Contemporary society is influenced by a demonic mentality which is blind to the Supreme Lord and His representatives, the demigods. Therefore, demons live in the underworld where the Sun does not shine. For this reason they are also called daityas, or ‘contrary to Aditya,’ a name signifying the lineage of the Sun god. The demons use artificial light emanating from the hoods of the gigantic serpents living in Pataloka.
From the Bhagavata: Beneath Rasatala is another planetary system, known as Patala or Nagaloka, where there are many demoniac serpents, the masters of Nagaloka, such as Shankha, Kulika, Mahashankha, Shveta, Dhananjaya, Dhritarashtra, Shankhacuda, Kambala, Ashvatara and Devadatta. The chief among them is Vasuki. They are all extremely angry, and they have many, many hoods—some snakes five hoods, some seven, some ten, others a hundred and others a thousand. These hoods are bedecked with valuable gems, and the light emanating from the gems illuminates the entire planetary system of bila-svarga. (SB 5.24.31)
The passage of time seems to have stopped in the subterranean heavenly planets and the demons enjoy a false sense of longevity. Even so, they fear the Sudarshan chakra of the Supreme Lord.
Srila Prabhupada: Time is compared here to a big wheel which has 360 joints, six rims in the shape of seasons, and numberless leaves in the shape of moments. It rotates on the eternal existence, Brahman. (Purport to SB 3.21.18)
Thus Sudarshan Chakra is also represented by the Sun in the material world. The movement of the Sun reflects the movement of Sudarshan. Sudarshan means ‘beautiful to behold’ and all living entities similarly feel joy seeing the beauty of the Sun. Rahu cannot stay for more than 48 minutes in front of the Sun because he fears the scorching power of the Sudarshan chakra. Rahu lacks the capacity to move at the speed of the Sun and, like a coward, he waits for the Sun to reach his position. At that time Rahu tries to swallow the Sun. He us ultimately unsuccessful because the movements of the Sun are directly controlled by none other than Lord Shri Krishna.
Srila Prabhupada: The phenomenon that occurs when Rahu blocks the light of the Sun or Moon is called an eclipse. The attempt of the scientists of this earth to go to the Moon is as demoniac as Rahu’s attack. Of course, their attempts will be failures because no one can enter the Moon or Sun so easily. Like the attack of Rahu, such attempts will certainly be failures. (Purport to SB 5.24.3)
Sun is the center of the Universe just like the heart is center of the human body. Just like the heart the Sun is the center of life and a residence of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna in the form of Paramatma. Both the Sun and the heart are constantly working. When they stop life is also gone. At the end of the universe the Sun is destroyed along all other demigods and living entities.
Srila Prabhupada: Not this Kali-yuga, but at the end of the universal life there will be a great fire all over the universe. That is called samvartaka. And everything will be ablaze. This fire will take place on account of the heat increase of the Sun. It is said that the present temperature of the Sun will be increased twelve times, so naturally there will be fire. As we know, sometimes there is forest fire. Similarly, the fire will take place, and everything will be burned into ashes. (Lecture on SB 1.7.30-31 given in Vrindavana on September 26, 1976)
Until the final destruction the living entities can see the Supreme Lord in the form of time just by looking at the disc of the Sun. Someone who desires to meditate on the Sun should chant the Gayatri Mantra. By chanting one develops the capacity to see Shri Narayana directly in the globe of the Sun.
Srila Prabhupada: There are twelve Adityas, of which Krishna is the principal. And among all the luminaries twinkling in the sky, the Sun is the chief, and in the Brahma-saṁhitā the Sun is accepted as the glowing effulgence of the Supreme Lord and is considered to be one of His eyes. Marichi is the controlling deity of the heavenly spaces. (Purport to Bg 10.21)
From the pages of Bhagavad Gita (4.1) we learn that knowledge of the self was first instructed to Vivasvan. In astrology the Sun is the default atmakaraka or “significator or the soul and of self-realization.” When he is well positioned in a horoscope, the Sun stimulates knowledge of the self. These are the 12 deities of the Sun in relation to the 12 zodiacal signs.
Srila Prabhupada: The Sun-god has expanded himself in twelve divisions, and thus he controls the six seasonal changes and causes winter, summer, rain and so on. Yogis and karmis following the varnashrama institution, who practice hatha or ashtanga-yoga or who perform agnihotra sacrifices, worship Surya Narayana for their own benefit. The demigod Surya is always in touch with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana. Residing in outer space, which is in the middle of the universe, between Bhuloka and Bhuvarloka, the Sun rotates through the time circle of the zodiac, represented by twelve rashis, or signs, and assumes different names according to the sign he is in. (SB 5.22 Summary)
In each of the 12 signs the Sun appears differently and assumes different names according to his activities and mood:
- In Aries the Sun is called Mitra or friend. In this sign the Sun is bright, majestic and exalted, but easy to look at. He does not harm the eyes.
- In the sign of Taurus the Sun god is called Ravi or the one who gives abundance and joy. Then the Sun has a crystal spark to his shine.
- In Gemini the Sun is called Surya because he looks his best. It appears as though the Sun globe shines and the light emits a melody compared to the sound coming from countless chandeliers.
- In the sign of Cancer the Sun’s name is Bhanu or divine. During this month we most often see the rays of the Sun through the clouds coming down to earth and most beautiful sunsets are generated.
- In the sign of Leo the Sun is called Khaga. He appears as though countless rays are coming from his head. During the rule of this sign the Sun cannot be ignored. His presence is felt everywhere.
- In Virgo the Sun is called Pushna or golden because he exhibits shine similar to a precious metal or a ripened fruit.
- During the rule of Libra the Sun is shining like the egg from which the whole universe originated. Thus he is named is Hiranyagarbha. We cannot see the features of the Sun during this time. He can be seen like a blotched light spot in the sky without an exact definition. It is very harmful to look at the Sun during this time (when he is debilitated). It can cause blindness.
- In the sign of Scorpio the Sun is called Maricha or overwhelming. During this time the Sun appears to be red. He is happy to be in his friendly sign ruled by Mars.
- In the sign of Sagittarius the Sun is called Aditya or boundless. The Sunshine is very valuable during these days, the shortest of the year. During this time the Sun is called with the name of his mother because he stays close to his maternal home.
- In Capricorn the Sun god is called Savitra or stimulator. During this time the cycle of life starts anew. This is the name of the Sun god that is invoked in the Gayatri Mantra. The Sun gains his full power at Makara Sankranti (when the Sun enters Uttarayana on or around 14 Jan.), and can even be seen shining as two Suns in the sky.
- While travelling in the sign of Aquarius the Sun is called Arka or lightning. Here the Sun behaves like an older brother. A tinge of dark orange can be seen on the disk of the Sun in addition to his distinctive arch movement during this time.
- In Pisces the Sun is called Bhashkara or glittering. Dew is seen mostly formed at early morning and after ‘sun rain’ during this time of the year. The shine of the Sun is transferred to the earth through the shine of water. This is the time of mystical metamorphosis.
The Sun (along with the Moon) never goes retrograde. This demonstrates how time cannot be returned and how valuable each moment is. By observing the disk of the Sun during the 12 months of the year we can understand the qualities of the people born under each of the respective twelve signs. Moreover, we can understand the qualities of the Personality of Godhead Lord Narayana as reflected in the qualities of the Sun. By observing the cycles created by the Sun through his circular motions, it becomes clear that time is cyclic and not linear. Cyclic time calls for repetition, for discipline and ultimately for following a sadhana that can lead us to liberation from this material world. By chanting the Surya Gayatri Mantras at three specific times of the day at sunrise, at noon (or Abhijit Muhurta when the Sun is exactly between sunset and sunrise) and at sunset, we can perfect our sadhana.
The consecutive Gayatri Mantras that we Gaudiya Vaishnavas repeat for Sri Guru, Sri Gauranga and Sri Krishna, cannot be chanted without the invocation of Surya Gayatri. Gayatri means “passed through the body of a cow.” Gayatri is the wife of Brahma, the creator of the universe. Thus Gayatri is the mantra of purification for the entire universe. The appropriate times for chanting this mantra—the tri-sandhyas—are set by the movements of the Sun, the ultimate force for purification within the material world.
yach-cakshur esha savita sakala-grahanam
raja samasta-sura-murtir ashesha-tejah
yasyajnaya bhramati sambhrita-kala-chakro
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami
The Sun who is the king of all the planets, full of infinite effulgence, the image of the good soul, is as the eye of this world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in pursuance of Whose order the Sun performs his journey mounting the wheel of time. (Shri Brahma-saṁhitā 5.52)