The Sun
God of Light, Day and Wisdom
Shri Surya Bhagvan bazaar art, c.1940's.jpg
Surya (c. 1940)
Other namesAdithya, Bhaskara, Divakara
AffiliationDeva, Navagraha, Adityas
Mantra"Om Mitraya Namaha,
 Om Ravaye Namah,
 Om Suryaya Namaha,
 Om Bhanave Namaha,
 Om Punshne Namaha,
 Om Hiranya Garbhaya Namaha,
 Om Marichaye Namaha,
 Om Adityaya Namaha,
 Om Savitre Namaha,
 Om Arkaya Namaha,
 Om Bhaskaraya Namaha
NumberOne (1)
MountChariot drawn by seven horses
Charioteer: Aruṇa[2]
Personal information
ConsortChhaya,saranyu/sandhya and Ratri
ChildrenShraddhadeva Manu, Yama, Yamuna, Shani, Tapati, Bhadra, Karna, Sugriv
Greek equivalentHelios[3]
Roman equivalentApollo / Sol

Surya (ə/;[4] Sanskrit: सूर्य, IAST: ‘'Sūrya’') is a Sanskrit word that means the Sun.[5] Synonyms of Surya in ancient Indian literature include Aditya, Arka, Bhānu, Savitru, Pushana, Ravi, Mārtanda, Mitra and Vivasvāna.[6][7][8]

Surya also connotes the solar deity in Hinduism,[9] particularly in the Saura tradition found in states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha. Surya is one of the five deities considered as equivalent aspects and means to realizing Brahman in the Smarta Tradition.[10] Surya's iconography is often depicted riding a chariot harnessed by horses, often seven in number[2] which represent the seven colour rays of the rainbow.[5][11] In medieval Hinduism, Surya is also an epithet for the major Hindu gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.[9][12] In some ancient texts and arts, Surya is presented syncretically with Indra, Ganesha or others.[6][11] Surya as a deity is also found in the arts and literature of Buddhism and Jainism.[13][14]

Surya is one of the nine heavenly "planets" (Navagraha) in the zodiac system of Hindu astrology. Surya or Ravi is the basis of Ravivara, or Sunday, in the Hindu calendar.[15] Major festivals and pilgrimages in reverence of Surya include Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Ratha Sapthami, Chath puja and Kumbha Mela.[16][17][18]

Texts and history


Surya means Sun in Indic literature. Above: Sunrise in Uttarakhand, India

The oldest surviving Vedic hymns, such as the hymn 1.115 of the Rigveda, mention Sūrya with particular reverence for the "rising sun” and its symbolism as dispeller of darkness, one who empowers knowledge, the good and all life.[5][19] However, the usage is context specific. In some hymns, the word Surya simply means sun as an inanimate object, a stone or a gem in the sky (Rigvedic hymns 5.47, 6.51 and 7.63); while in others it refers to a personified deity.[5][20]

Surya sculpture

The Vedas assert Sun (Surya) to be the creator of the material universe (Prakriti).[21] In the layers of Vedic texts, Surya is one of the several trinities along with either Agni or Varuna and either Vayu or Indra, which are presented as an equivalent icon and aspect of the Hindu metaphysical concept called the Brahman.[22]

In the Brahmanas layer of Vedic literature, Surya appears with Agni (fire god) in the same hymns.[23] Surya is revered for the day, while Agni for its role during the night.[23] The idea evolves, states Kapila Vatsyayan, where Surya is stated to be Agni as the first principle and the seed of the universe.[24] It is in the Brahmanas layer of the Vedas,[25][26] and the Upanishads that Surya is explicitly linked to the power of sight, to visual perception and knowledge. He is then interiorized to be the eye as ancient Hindu sages suggested abandonment of external rituals to gods in favor of internal reflections and meditation of gods within, in one's journey to realize the Atman (soul, self) within, in texts such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Kaushitaki Upanishad and others.[27][28][29]


The Mahabharata epic opens its chapter on Surya that reverentially calls him as the "eye of the universe, soul of all existence, origin of all life, goal of the Samkhyas and Yogis, and symbolism for freedom and spiritual emancipation.[5]

In the Mahabharata, Karna is the son of Surya and unmarried princess Kunti.[5] The epic describes Kunti's trauma as an unmarried mother, then abandonment of Karna, followed by her lifelong grief. Baby Karna is found and adopted by a low caste charioteer but he grows up to become a great warrior and one of the central characters in the great battle of Kurukshetra where he fights his half brothers.[30] He was killed unfairly by his brother and Karna, after fighting against misfortune throughout his life, finally returned back to his father.


Surya in the Buddhist Bodh Gaya relief (right, middle).

Surya is celebrated as a deity in Buddhist artwork, such as the ancient works attributed to Ashoka. He appears in a relief at the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, riding in a chariot pulled by four horses, with Usha and Prattyusha on his sides.[13] Such artwork suggests that the Surya as symbolism for the victory of good over evil is a concept adopted in Buddhism from an earlier Indic tradition.[13]

Greek and Persian influences

Sun is a common deity in ancient and medieval cultures found in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The features and mythologies of Surya share resemblances with Hvare-khshaeta of pre-Islam Persia, and the Helios-Sol deity in the Greek-Roman culture.[19][31][32] Surya is a Vedic deity, states Elgood, but its deity status was strengthened from the contacts between ancient Persia and India during the Kushan era, as well as after the 8th-century when Sun-worshipping Parsees moved to India.[33] Some Greek features were incorporated into Surya iconography in post-Kushan era, around mid 1st millennium, according to Elgood.[33]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Surya
العربية: سوريا (إله)
беларуская: Сур’я
भोजपुरी: सूर्य देव
bosanski: Surja
català: Súrya
čeština: Súrja
Deutsch: Surya
español: Suria (dios)
français: Sūrya
galego: Suria (deus)
ગુજરાતી: સૂર્ય (દેવ)
한국어: 수리야
Bahasa Indonesia: Surya (dewa)
italiano: Sūrya
Basa Jawa: Bathara Surya
ქართული: სურია
latviešu: Sūrja
lietuvių: Sūrja
magyar: Szúrja
മലയാളം: സൂര്യദേവൻ
მარგალური: სურია
Nederlands: Surya
日本語: スーリヤ
norsk: Surya
norsk nynorsk: Surya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਸੂਰਜ (ਦੇਵਤਾ)
پنجابی: سوریا
polski: Surja
português: Surya
русский: Сурья
Simple English: Surya
slovenčina: Súrja
slovenščina: Surja
suomi: Surya
svenska: Surya
татарча/tatarça: Сурья
Türkçe: Surya
українська: Сур'я
اردو: سوریا
中文: 蘇利耶