In praise of the Sun’s power and His glory
The Sun has been central to all our Vedic lore. He is right in the middle of the five elements, tejas— the source of all light and illumination. The vedas and the upanishads are full of paeans to His power and His glory. So are the puranas. Smriti, sruti and purana, all the three genres of the holy and devout scriptures, accord the Sun the highest pedestal for His unique power. We mortals consider Him karmasakshi, witness to all action, and the first thing a devout believer in arsha dharma does is offer oblation to him.
One of the most inspiringly beautiful and devoutly thoughtful of the songs of praise offered to the Sun is found in the war canto in the Holy Ramayana. In the fierce battle that ensues, fall Indrajit, the formidable son of Ravana. Several heroes on the demon’s side are killed. Seeing King Ravana swoon, his charioteer turns the chariot back and saves the king. Though being cross at first with the charioteer for turning back without his permission, Ravana presents him with a bracelet as a token of his appreciation.
At this juncture Rama appears to be lost in deep thought as to how to tackle his arch- enemy. Noticing this, Sage Agastya, who is among the myriad angels ranged in the sky witnessing the scene of battle from above, manifests himself before Rama in a bid to give him the moral support he thought the hero needs and gives him Adityahridayastotra to facilitate his slaying the enemy.
In a sort of prologue the sage extols the efficacy of praying to the Sun to propitiate Him to win his blessings and help to kill the demon king. This song of praise is said to be as secret as it is sacred. It is ancient and everlasting. The invocation helps one win all his enemies and secures peace and prosperity all around. The sage urges the hero to worship the Sun for He it is who gives radiance to all the worlds. Both jnaana and jneya: knowledge and the goal of knowledge become manifest through the Sun who being the Lord of all the positions as listed in the codes of yoga, illumines the fourteen worlds. Having spoken thus, the sage goes further to explain as to how the stotra, the song of highest praise, offered to Sun has acquired and come to be so beneficial and efficacious.
Sun is inherent in all and so He is called the innermost of even the devas. Since He illumines all He is called the effulgence-filled. Since He lights up by shedding the radiance of His rays He is called the one with the intention of illumination, rasmibhavana. He it is who is the savior of the demons and the angels and their worlds. Sun is the gold-filled male principle, hiranyagarbha, who manifests to the accomplished yogis as the four-faced Lord of Creation, Brahma. Since He is Vishnu, the sustainer of creation, He is the ruler of the worlds. Since He is the one to bless all.
He is the manifestation of Siva principle too. He is prajapati too, since He the lord of all His subjects. He is Kuber, the Lord of Wealth in all forms. He, again, it is who is the form and the obvious manifestation of Time, who would bring in destruction too.
He is Soma too, who would squirt ambrosia of life on all living beings. He is the presiding deity of Manus, the makers of all codes of laws and discipline. He is also the provider of water, Rain.
Besides all these, Sun is the father principle too, being the seed-provider. He is the manifestation of the eight vasus and also the ‘I’ of the divine since He is the one sought to be approximated to by yogi's, the sadhakas and the aspirants. By sending His rays He cures all ailments and as such He is Aswinidevatas as well endowing all beings with comfort and happiness. He is the referent to the maruts. He inheres in the manus; He is vayu blowing life force into all beings. He is agni in the form of garhapatyagni. He is also praja as well as the creator of the six seasons.
Thus explains Sage Agastya the form, shape and powers of Sun before blessing Sri Rama giving him the invocatory incantation or the mantra to win Surya’s blessings. On being thus inspired by the holy sage, Sri Rama, the Supreme Divine in human incarnation seeks the blessings of Sun. The incantatory hymn is a paean of praise to propitiate the sun god. A devout repetition of the hymn yields diverse blessings, including the one of success in overpowering enemies of all kinds as detailed by the sage towards the end of the hymn.
“O Aditya! You are the one who could devour the whole worlds of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. You are Savita since you are the Creator. You are Surya for you sustain and inspire people to go about their work. You are referent to the word khaga since You are the all-pervading brilliance in the sky. You are poosha, the one who sustains. You have the two sides or halves: both praxis, action and gnosis, knowledge, together the means of luxurious living as well as salvation. Everything shines after You alone. You are the creator of the universe, the brahmanda, inhering gold at the centre. By being the dispeller of ignorance, You are the cause and content of all wisdom, jnana.
“You are the one with a gloriously enchanting mount like the holy hawk, Garuda. You are the effulgent thousand-rayed. Sapta, the horse, draws your chariot the wheels of which remove all impediments to wisdom. You are one giving auspiciousness, peace and happiness to all. You are referred to as dwashta for you are capable of diminishing and destroying even the elements. You are Martand for it is You who blesses the whole universe with awareness, chaitanya. You are both in and out of the entire universe.
“You inhere the comprehensive life force which is the cause of all creation. You are the one who makes everything shine. Everyone praises you as Rain. In You Rudra and the Fire of Time are manifest. You are the very first to take an incarnation. You it is who gives warmth to the ocean of joy driving away all cold.
“You are the cause and the creator of the firmament driving away the ignorance of devotees. All the Vedas have their message and meaning in you. You are the Lord who gives fruit of all action. You slumber in the ocean. In the Southern aayana you travel fast from the Vindhyas. Your movement depends on the sushumna naadi.
“It is owing to you that the radiance pervades the world. Your form is an effulgent orb. You set all beings about their business working the pingala naadi. You are the poet par excellence, being the omniscient creator having sublime radiance. Your red radiance keeps beings happy. You are the cause of creation.
“The planets and the stars You inhere. The whole universe finds existence in You and because of You. You are the radiance in all light manifesting in twelve ways in the twelve months of the year. Salutations to You!
“O Lord Surya! Salutations to You who live on the Eastern Mount and the Western Mount too. I offer my salutations to You, the presiding deity of the Day and the ruler of the forces of light and lord of the liberated souls.
“You are the victor and the one who bestows victory over sin and suffering. You are the one who gives joy and wellbeing. Salutations to You who ride a chariot drawn by horses with bright manes!
“Salutations to You the sovereign exercising the senses and becoming the destroyer at the time of annihilation. You are the referent to the holy syllable OM! Salutations to You who is omnipotent making the lotuses of hearts to bloom!
“Salutations to You, who shine even to the Creator as the lord. Sustainer and the Destroyer. You are the deity renowned as Sun; the incarnation of Jnaana , the radiance of the soul. You are the Destroyer too at the time of annihilation. Your form is one of fierceness. You destroy attachment and hate which are the root of all grief engendered by ignorance. Salutations to You!
“O, Lord of Light! It is only because of You that both darkness and cold are destroyed. You are the one routing out all enemies internal and external. Your power is endless: You are the one who would punish those who forget the good done unto them: You are the one with the shape and form of bliss. You are the presiding deity of the forces of radiance. Salutations to You!
“O Lord! You are the one with the shape of gold, form of fire, capable of every act, dispeller of darkness, the effulgent and witness of all worlds. Salutations to You!
“O Lord! You are the creator of all elements, Lord of all the worlds and the destroyer too. You cause the decay of everything. You cause everything to be scorched. You are the Rain-giver too!
“You are the one who keeps ever awake when all the senses withdraw from action and slumber. All the elements inhere in You. You are fire: You bestow on all sages and seers and rewards of effulgent living and salvation for sticking fast to the fire within and without.
“All the Vedas posit You. All rituals and all offerings related thereto, all the fruits thereof and all the procedures therefore, the priests, the sacred faggots, the ghee and the sacrificial beasts are all provided by You alone, the omnipotent.”
After thus giving Rama the hymn itself, Sage Agastya details the fruits and good results flowing from the chanting of the hymn to Aditya.
Said he: “O Rama! The one who chants and repeats this would never get entangled in dire dangers and fearsome situations. Repeat this incantation thrice and pay adoration to the Lord, the deity of deities that Aditya is. Victory in the battle would be yours. This very moment go ahead to slay Ravan,” and then departed.
Sri Rama having committed the hymn to memory, all his fears and apprehensions vanished. Pure in body and mind he took up his invincible bow to kill his enemy. Well prepared to fight against the enemy with cheerfulness, he made a vow to kill him then and there. At that juncture, Aditya arrived amidst the angels ranged in the firmament to witness the battle, ordained the end of Ravana and urged Rama joyously: “Ramabhadra, hasten now to kill Ravana!”
For us mortals, a devout repetition of the hymn yields diverse fruits including success in overpowering all enemies of all kinds.