The Sun or Surya = सूर्य has traditionally been given a place of high prestige in the Eternal Dharma prayers. Unlike English, Samskrut has 108 names for the Sun. Each of these names reflect the attributes of how the Sages looked at the Sun.
As we discussed in our article Origin of the Concept of Many Gods , the brilliance of the physical Sun was only considered as a Representation or projection of specific attributes or properties of the Supreme Entity. The Sages knew that the Sun they saw was a physical entity completely different from the Nir-Gun & Nir-Aakaar Supreme Entity.
This is fairly clear from the expression “brighter than a thousand suns” found in the Rg-Ved and the Bhagwat Geeta. If the physical Sun is to be considered a God, then the concept of brighter than a thousands suns would not ever make sense.
This is why we argue that when the Sages praised the Sun, they were praising the great illuminating, nourishing and vivifying properties of the Supreme Entity represented in the brilliance and energy of the physical sun. This is why the basic name of this attribute of the Supreme Entity is called Savitr, the illuminator, the vivifier. This is why the Gayatri Mantra, most famous Vedic Mantra, uses the name Savitr rather than any of the other 107 names of the Sun:
ॐ तत सवितूर वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमही धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात
Om Tat Savitr Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat
We meditate on the glorious splendor of the Savitr, May He Illuminate our minds
– Rg Ved, III.62.10
This Mantra signifies the unique nature of the Eternal Dharma and the Universal nature of its approach. Unlike central prayers of many other religions, this Mantra does not ask for any blessings, any physical rewards or even the salvation of the soul. There is nothing demanded of the Supreme Entity in this Mantra except a request to illuminate our minds.
We find it amazing that such greatness of spirit and boldness of thought was present at the beginning of time in the Vedic Sages.
Every child of Indian origin is told of the tradition of Surya Namaskar, the Yogic exercises that are done at dawn. Each Namaskar or Salutation consists of ten Yogic postures assumed in successive flowing movements.
At one time, it was customary to do 108 Namaskars for each of the 108 names of the Sun. Today, it is customary to do 12 Namaskar for the 12 major names. Each Namaskar begins with one salutation. The 12 salutations are:
- ॐ मित्राय नमः Om mitrāya namah – Salutations to Mitra
- ॐ रवये नमः Om ravayé namah – Salutations to Ravi
- ॐ सूर्याय नमः Om sūryāya namah – Salutations to Surya
- ॐ भानवे नमः Om bhānavé namah – Salutations to Bhanu
- ॐ खगय नमः Om khagāya namah – Salutations to Khaga
- ॐ पुष्णे नमः Om pushné namah – Salutations to Pushna
- ॐ हिरण्यगर्भाय नमः Om hiranyagarbhāya namah – Salutations to Hiranya-Garbha
- ॐ मारिचाये नमः Om mārichāyé namah – Salutations to Marich
- ॐ आदित्याय नमः Om ādityāya namah – Salutations to Aditya
- ॐ सावित्रे नमः Om sāvitré namah – Salutations to Savitr
- ॐ अर्काय नमः Om ārkāya namah – Salutations to Arka
- ॐ भास्कराय नमः Om bhāskarāya namah – Salutations to Bhaskar
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