The Vedic scriptures of the Hindu
religion refer to the sun as the store house of inexhaustible power and radiance. Ths sun
god is referred to as Surya or Aditya. The Vedas
are full of hymns describing the celestial body as the source and sustainer of all life on
earth. The origin of the worship of the Sun in India is thus several centuries old.
References to sun worship are found in the puranas.
The Ramayana speaks of Sage Agastya initiating Rama
into sun worship through the Aditya Hridaya Mantra. The astronomer and
astrologer Varahamirhira makes references to the intricacies of
ceremonies connected with the installation of the icon of the Sun. Mayura, who lived in
the court of Harshavardhana (1st millennium CE) composed the Surya
Satakam in praise of Surya and is believed to have been cured of blindness.
It is also said that Iran was once
a center of Solar worship and that some of the Magha
priests of Iran had been brought to India to officiate in ceremonies.
Sun temples in ancient days were known as Aditya
Grihas. The traveller Ktesias mentions a site of sun worship in western India
Sun temples across the subcontinent absorb the
flavor of the region that they belong to. Dakshinaarka
Temple in the Gangetic Plains (considered to be a site for making offerings to ancestors),
Suryanaar Koyil in South India , Arasavilli and Konark on the East Coast of India, Modhera in Gujarat (Western India), Surya Pahar in North Eastern India
and Unao in Central India are some of
the well known sun temples of India.
It should be mentioned here that remains of an
ancient Sun temple are found at Martanda near Srinagar in Kashmir. It is
said to date back to the first century CE. Ruins of a sun temple which
attracted thousands of visitors in the 7th century CE are found in Multan
Several temples dedicated to Shiva, feature a small
shrine for Surya the Sun God. In addition, it is believed that Surya,
the Sun God has offered worship at several of the shrines in Tamilnadu; many of these
shrines have been designed in such a way that the sun's rays illuminate the sanctum (of
Shiva) on certain days of the year. Several of the South Indian Temple Tanks also bear the
name Surya Theertham or Surya Pushkarini.