Surya – The Solar Deity

Surya is one of the primary Rig Vedic deities, and his following is widespread. As the central Graha in the Navagraha Mandala, or group of nine planets, Surya is present in most Hindu temples. Surya is also the main deity of the Souram sect, which is one of six main denominations of Hinduism.

Surya with consorts

Surya with consorts

In the Navagraha Stotram of Vyasa, Surya is described as follows:

Japaa Kusuma Sankaasham Kaasya Peyam Mahaa Dyuthim |

Tamorim Sarva Paapagnam Pranatosmi Divaakaram ||

I pray to the creator of days, the destroyer of all sins, the enemy of darkness, the greatly lustered, the descendant of Kashyapa, and the one who shines like a red hibiscus.

Surya is also known as Aditya, as he is the son of Aditi and Kashyapa. When Surya married one of his consorts, Samjna, she could not bear his extraordinary radiance. Thus her father, Tvashtr, who was the artisan of the Gods, divided Surya into 12 parts of which Samjna spent one month of the year with each. Thus the 12 Adityas were born and represent a month each.

Surya’s chariot is balanced on a singular wheel, which represents time. Each revolution of the wheel marks the passing of one year. The chariot is driven by Aruna, the red one, and is drawn by seven horses. Each of these horses represents a day of the week as well as a Vedic meter, and is restrained by a rein that represents a season.

Iconographically, Surya is red in complexion, youthful, and golden haired. He faces east with two, four, or eight arms and one or three heads respectively. His three faces represent the three Sandhyas – dawn, noon, and dusk. When Surya is depicted with two hands, he holds two fully blossomed, red lotuses.

There is a close connection between Surya and lotuses. The Lotus is one flower that blooms upon the morning’s first rays of sunlight. Similarly the Hindu concept expounded through the symbolism of Surya is that God is the sun that triggers man, a lotus, to blossom.

~Svasti~

Agni: Hindu God of Fire

“Agni I laud, the high priest, god, minister of sacrifice, the invoker, lavishest of wealth.” Rigveda

Agni: Hindu God of Fire

Agni, Hindu God of Fire, is one of the most renowned Hindu deities within the Rigveda. Fire is a central component of all Vedic rituals.  According to Vedic myth he is second in importance to only his twin brother Indra, Lord of the Heavens, and is distinguished as the supreme director of religious ceremonies serving as a middleman delivering Gods word to man.  Agni is said to be a divine model for all priests, mediating between the Gods and humans.  Priests should aspire to mirror his image in practice and devotion as he projects a patient and dignified reflection.  No Vedic sacrificial ritual is complete without his presence.  Angi is often depicted as having either two or seven hands, two heads, three legs, and seven fiery tongues as he rides atop a ram or fiery chariot.

As oldest son of Brahma, Agni joins with Indra and Surya, the Lord of the Skies, in the first Hindu holy trinity.  He is said to embody ten forms, the first five of which are physical forms, and the last five ritual forms: ordinary fire, lightening, the sun, digestive fire, destructive fire, fire lit by sticks for ceremony, fire for home worship, fire given to initiate students, funeral fire, and fire of the ancestors.  Although mostly seen as religious teacher, Agni is also sometimes feared for his destructive capacities.  He is priest of Hindu Gods and God of priests.  Among certain Vedic hymns, Agni can even be portrayed as that as a Supreme God:

‘Commingling, restless, he ascends the sky, unveiling nights and all that stands or moves, as he the sole God is preeminent in greatness among all these other Gods.’

Agni is one of the only Vedic deities to be so highly regarded still into present day.  All life’s journeys are presided over by Agni and end with Agni as funeral fire marks our eventual end.

Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand

Shiva as Nataraja holds the Hindu God Agni in his left hand

Agni is rarely depicted in sculpture as a stand alone figure.  However, he is included in one of the most recognizable poses in all of Hinduism; Shiva as the Lord of Dance Nataraja.  Shiva holds the a burning flame in the palm of his left hand.  The flame represents the Hindu god Agni.