Sun is a majestic heavenly body that has always caught the imagination of man. Known in many names such as Surya, Aditya, Bhaskara, Ravi, etc., it remains an extremely bright entity of nature and a massive ball of fire. Though it is only the earth and the other planets of the solar family that keeps traveling around the Sun in their orbits, it is the Sun which appears to be transiting the sky from East to West daily, giving rise in the process to days and nights. The ancient system of Vedic astrology considers Sun as the king of planets, who represents aspects like courage, determination, authority, power, and influence. It is believed that Surya worship can bestow people with a host of benefits like sound health, sharp eye-sight, mental strength, fearlessness, good intellect, purity of heart, confidence, leadership skills, problem-solving abilities, attraction, positive thinking, and eloquence.
Legends are replete with instances of people resorting to Surya worship and coming out of various problems affecting them.
Mythology regards Yama, the much-dreaded God of death as the son of Surya, and he is said to have done penance and worshipped Surya for getting more strength and power. The idol of Sun believed to have been installed by Yama is called ‘Yamadithya,’ that is, the Sun-God established by the lord of death, and can be worshipped in the holy town of Varanasi.
Another high profile devotee of Surya was Sambha, the son of Lord Krishna. As per legends he incurred the displeasure of his father, received his curse and hence had to suffer from the feared disease of leprosy. However, moved by his terrible suffering, Krishna himself counseled him to do Surya worship for getting relieved of the ailment. Sambha prayed to Sun God with devotion and by his grace, got cured of the illness in due course. The idol of Lord Surya said to have been worshipped by Sambha is also present in Kasi as ‘Sambhadithya.’ It is also said that Sambha made an offering of the delicacy ‘Pongal’ to Surya and the day that he got relieved of the curse is celebrated as Pongal festival.
The great epic Mahabharata also speaks highly about Surya worship. When the 5 Pandava brothers and their wife Draupadi were forced to go on exile to the forest, Draupadi prayed to the Sun God and got from him a divine vessel which could provide them unlimited food. It was only with the help of this Akshaya vessel that they all could survive during the difficult times in the forest and also feed the sages and the needy who came to them, during that time. This Surya Dev is known as DraupatiAdithya, and he can also be worshipped in Varanasi.