The Sun’s champion began the competition, for the Sun is the brightest of the planets. This pundits leonine mane framed a broad, confident face which shone like Sol himself. Dignity, power, and authority flowed from his steady burning eyes to complement his regal bearing as his authoritarian, modestly-arrogant voice boomed out into the hall: “The Sun is superior among all the planets, and he becomes pleased with whoever reveres him consistently. Among the planets he is God incarnate in solar form. Those who regularly and devotedly remember the Sun lose all their worries, disease, and poverty, for unwavering worship of the Sun destroys all obstructions and fulfills all cherished desires.
“The Sun has sparse, curly hair, an incisive mind, a prominent appearance, a majestic voice, and is not very tall. His eyes are honey-colored and as bright as wine, and his bones are sturdy. He has a Pitta constitution. He is courageous and steady; his complexion is coppery reddish or golden, and his feet are inconspicuous. He wears red flowers and saffron-colored clothes, and carries a red lotus in his hand. His metal is gold or copper, and his gem ruby. In the body he rules the bones.
“Everything originates from the Sun, for he is the soul of all. He is the king of the sky, the ruler of all that falls between the earth and the celestial regions. Lord of the east, the Sun rules both Sunday and the constellation Leo. He is the Cause of the Day, the Terrific Fiery-Rayed One, the Significator of World Bliss. He is called the Shiner, the Enlivener, the Generator, the Life-Giver, the Light-Maker, the Day-Causer, and He Whose Rays Are Piercingly Hot. The Haritas, the Sun’s green horses, are the seven solar rays, which are the seven Vedic meters: Gayatri, Trishtup, Anushtup, Jagati, Pankti, Brihari, and Ushnik. There is no reckoning of time without the Sun, and without time there can be no poetic meters, no seasons, no rhythm in the world.
“The year is the wheel of the Sun’s chariot. That wheel has twelve spokes, which are the twelve months. Each month, your majesty, has its own Deva, Apsaras, Rakshasa, Serpent, Yaksha, Rishi, and Gandharva. As an example, during the month ofJyestha (May- June) the Deva is Mitra, the Apsaras Menaka, the Rakshasa Paurusheya, the Serpent Takshaka, the Yaksha Rathasvana, the Rishi Atri, and the Gandharva is Haha. The Deva, Rishi, Gandharva and Apsaras all belong to the heavenly regions, while the Rakshasa, Serpent and Yaksha all exist on lower levels.
“Each deva is a divine being who occupies the Sun’s mansion during that month and presides over the Sun then. These devas increase the Sun’s superb splendor by means of their own splendor.
The rishis (seers) compose hymns with which to eulogize the Sun. The gandharvas (celestial musicians) and apsarases (celestial dancing damsels) serve the solar deity by means of song and dance, while the yakshas (demigods) and their attendants worship his rays. The serpents carry the Sun, and the rakshasas (protectors) follow him. From sunrise to sunset the Valakhilyas, the sixty thousand thumb- sized rishis, surround the Sun and lead him on. Contact with these rishis, gandharvas, apsarases, and the like modifies the Sun’s brilliance each month according to their own power, penance, and virtues, so each month has its own qualities which cause the Sun, though one, to have twelve different forms, names, characteristics, and personalities.
“The twelve solar devas are the Twelve Adityas, the sons of Aditi. The Supreme Lord begat Brahma, the Creator, who begat the Rishi Marichi, who begat the Rishi Kashyapa. Kashyapa had thirteen wives, of whom one was Aditi, who was one of the sixty daughters of the Patriarch Daksha. The Twelve Adityas are Vivasvan, Aryama, Pushan, Tvashtri, Savitri, Bhaga, Dhata, Vidhata, Varuna, Mitra, Shakra, and Urukrama.
“Vivasvan (‘the Shining One’) had by his-wife Samjna three children: a Progenitor (manu) called Vaivasvata, and the twins Yama and Yami. By Chaya this Vivasvan had three more offspring: the planet Saturn, the Progenitor Savarni, and the goddess Tapari. After Samjna took the form of a mare on Earth, she also bore the Sun the Ashvin twins, those gods who are never untrue. Vaivasvata, who acted as the Progenitor of the Seventh Epoch (manvantara) of this Day of the Creator [kalpa), the Epoch in which we live, had ten sons. Ikshvaku, the oldest of those ten sons, emerged from Vaivasvatas nose when he sneezed; it was Ikshvaku who founded the solar race of human kings. Lord Ramachandra, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who was born- on Earth to save the universe after the demon Ravana had usurped it, was a descendant of Ikshvaku. This solar dynasty ended with Brihadbala, who died in the war of the Mahabharata.”
“How is it that Vivasvan first sired children from one wife, then from a second, and finally from the first again?” his majesty King Vikramaditya asked good-naturedly. “Tell us the whole story.”
“Samjna,” the pundit began, “the wife of Vivasvan, was the daughter of Tvashtri, the celestial architect who is also known as Vishvakarman (‘Master Builder of the Cosmos’). Samjna (‘mutual understanding, agreement’) lived with her dazzling husband for many years, during which time she gave birth to the first three of her children: Vaivasvata, Yama and Yami. When her mate’s intense hear became unbearable for her she created a substitute wife, in her exact form, by awakening her own shadow (chaya). She then proceeded to her fathers house, where she complained to Tvashtri that life with the Sun was impossible due to his scorching rays. When Tvashtri dutifully advised told her to return to her husband she chose instead to become a mare on Earth, and in that equine form began to perform severe penance, subsisting on dry grass alone, that she might come to withstand her husband’s effulgence.
“In the meanwhile Chaya, who was Samjna’s shadow brought to life, bore Vivasvan three children: first Savarni, then Saturn, then Tapati. Though born from a shadow, these children were by no means ephemeral; Savarni is scheduled to become the Progenitor of the Eighth Epoch of this Day of the Creator, Tapati has become a river on Earth, and we shall soon hear of the greatness of the planet Saturn.
“Chaya loved her children more than she loved Samjna’s children, which made Yama angry. One day, fed up with her partiality, he raised his legs as if to kick her. Even though he did not follow through on his kick, Chaya lost her temper, and cursed the boy that his legs would fall from his body.
“In terror Yama ran to his father, crying, ‘Save me! Save me!’ When the boy told the Sun of Chaya’s curse the Sun hurriedly modified it by saying that worms would eat some of the flesh from Yama’s feet, and that these worms would then fall to the earth, thereby fulfilling the curse. After thus saving his son’s legs, and consoling Yama tenderly, Vivasvan began to suspect that the woman he had been living with was not his wife Samjna. Which mother, after all, would curse her own child? He therefore summoned Chaya, and demanded of her sternly, ‘How is it that you do not look on all your children equally?’ When he got no satisfactory response the Sun waxed wroth, and prepared to curse his wife’s shadow. His fiery anger so frightened the shade that she told him everything, and he divorced her on the spot.
“Enraged, Vivasvan went to Tvashtri, who pacified him,. explained Samjna’s plight, and suggested a way out of the predicament. When that glorious orb agreed to the plan, Tvashtri strapped the Sun to his milling machine and ground away part of his intensity. From the portion of the Sun’s splendor thatTvashtri removed that smith forged the discus of Vishnu the Preserver, the trident of Shiva the Destroyer, the aerial car used by Kiibera, the god of wealth, and the spear wielded by Karttikeya, the generalissimo of the gods.
“Now attenuated, Vivasvan went looking for Samjna. When he found her on Earth in mare’s form he took the form of a stallion, and approached her amorously. She turned away from this strange beast, trying to avoid him, since she did not recognize him. But his desire for her was great, and he pursued her, caught her, and discharged his semen into her mouth. She, fearing he was not her husband, evicted that sperm through her nose, and from that potent seed up sprang the Ashvin twins, whom the Vedas hail as the Never- Untrue.
“It is Samjna’s son Yama who takes away the souls of those whose life span is at an end; he is the guardian of the southern direction. Because Yama once became a crow from fear of the demon- king Ravana, all crows are revered as servants of Yama. Nachiketas and Markandeya gained victory over death and became immortal by propitiating Yama. By her devotion Savitri forced Yama to bring her husband Satyavan back from the dead. I bow to this Yama, the lord of death,” concluded the pundit nervously, hoping thereby to keep The ominous death god from his own life for as long as possible.
“I believe,” said the king sagaciously, “that Kama was also a son of the Sun?”
“Yes, your majesty,” replied the Sun’s specialist, appreciatively. “The great warrior Kama (‘ear’), who was the offspring of Lord Sun and the human maiden Kunri, was born wearing a pair of earrings and a bright breastplate. These, which were part of the flesh of his body, made him impervious to all weapons. When Lord Indra, the king of the gods, was worried that Kama might kill his own son Arjuna during the great war of the Mahabharata, Indra appeared before Kama and begged these divine ornaments from him. Kama ripped them from his body and gave them away, ignoring the pain, and heedless of the fact that now he had lost his invulnerability. Because of this unparalleled unselfishness Kama was hailed by Indra as a god among gift-givers.
“Like his son Kama, Lord Sun is himself a great giver. Once, when Arjuna and his brothers had been exiled to the forest, they had only deerskins and bark cloth to wear, and even lacked pots for their drinking water. Then Yuddhisthira, the eldest of the brothers, followed the instruction of his priest, and performed disciplined worship of the Sun. Through his devotions he obtained the Akshayapatra (the ‘never- empty pot,’ or Cornucopia), which fulfilled all his heart’s desires; whatever he asked for, the pot would provide him.
“When he was a student Hanuman, the monkey-god who helped Lord Ramachandra in His fight against Ravana (‘the Howler’), wanted to learn the Vedas and their subsidiary lores. Hanuman first approached Jupiter, the guru of the gods, who was not prepared to teach a monkey who jumped continually from spot to spot. Disappointed, Hanuman went to the Sun, who asked him, ‘I am ever- moving; how shall I teach you?’ Hanuman replied, ‘I will also move ceaselessly, just in front of you.’ And so he was able to learn, thanks to the magnanimity of the Sun.
“It is also thanks to Lord Sun that the Rishi Yajnavalkya obtained the White Yajur Veda. When the great Rishi Veda Vyasa, who divided the Veda into four portions, assigned various students to each part, the Yajus, a text mainly in prose, was imparted to Vaishampayana, who was Yajnavalkya’s guru. On one occasion Vaishampayana, who had been annoyed by certain of Yajnavalkya’s conceited words, said to his disciple, ‘I’ve had enough of you, you guru-belittler. Begone! But before you leave, leave behind whatever you have learned from me.’
“Yajnavalkya then compliantly vomited up all the Yajus Mantras that he had learned and departed. Seeing these Yajus Mantras lying scattered on the ground, the other disciples hastily assumed the form of partridges and greedily ate them up. This unusual feast caused this fetching rescension of the Yajus Mantras to become known as the Taittiriya (‘descended from a partridge’) branch of the Yajur Veda.
“Yajnavalkya now sought to discover Vedic hymns unknown even to his guru, so he worshipped the Sun in the form of Surya Narayana (‘the Sun as Supreme Lord’) and prayed for inspiration. After being propitiated the Lord Surya Narayana appeared to Yajnavalkya in the form of a horse (vaji) and imparted to him Yajus Mantras which were unknown to anyone else. Yajnavalkya then divided that limitless mass of hymns into fifteen rescensions known as Vajasanis (‘derived from the horses mane, obtained from the speedy one’), which form the Vajasaneya branch of the Yajur Veda.
“Affliction to the Sun in the horoscope can lead to many sorts of maladies, your majesty,” the Suns pundit continued, “especially skin ailments like white leprosy’ (vitiligo), while worship of Lord Sun helps to cure all diseases, and makes the skin shine with the brilliance of the Sun. One day the cantankerous Rishi Burvasas visited Shri Krishna at his capital city of Dwaraka. Lord Krishna welcomed him and showed him every sign of hospitality, but Krishna’s son Samba mocked that hot-tempered rishi. Durvasas controlled himself at first, so that he could remain in Krishna’s good books, but the second time that Samba teased him Durvasas cursed the boy to suffer from vitiligo. On hearing of the curse Shri Krishna hurried to beg pardon of the testy sage for His sons offense, and asked for a means of lifting the hex. Durvasas replied, ‘Have the boy follow the Sunday vow and worship the Sun.’ Samba did so, and after he was cured he built a beautiful temple to the Sun in gratitude.
“It is therefore meet to perform the regular, disciplined worship of the omnipotent Lord Surya Narayana. By doing the Gayatri the Brahmanas obtain clear discrimination, and by doing Sun Salutations yogis gain health, strength, and awareness. Those who regularly repeat the sacred Adirya Hridaya hymn conquer all their foes as surely as Lord Ramachandra slew Ravana in battle. Lord Sun’s light and eminence are so great that whoever meditates on Surya Narayana as the soul and the presiding deity of sight of all beings, the one who washes away sins, loses both blindness and ignorance. This is that Sun god to whom I prostrate on arising each morning.”