[328-09]. Singh, Rana P.B. 2009. Sun Images: Ordering, Cultural Astronomy and Worship; in, his:
 Banaras: Making of India’s Heritage City
. Planet Earth & Cultural Understanding, Series Pub. 3. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne U.K. ISBN: 1-4438-1321-4. 1 Oct. 2009, 29 x 21cm, xvi + 409pp., 60 tables, 123 figures.
< pp. 200-227 >
 
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C
HAPTER
6
S
UN
I
MAGES
:
 
O
RDERING
,
 
C
ULTURAL
A
STRONOMY AND
W
ORSHIP
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Abstract
. Like many ancient cultures, in Hindu tradition too Sun is considered to be the most prominent divinity in the cosmos and has been part of invocation and festivities since the ancient past. While testing the hypothesis that the city plan of Varanasi has developed according to a cosmic order, it is observed that the temples and shrines related to Sun
(Aditya)
are placed in a meaningful spatially manifested pattern corresponding to the cosmic geometry and the movement of sun, the association of cosmic north and Kashi-North, and the celebrating seasonal festivities in a sequential order referring to solstices and equinoxes. Probably, this pattern had grown in pre-Brahmanical tradition, and later on superseded by the Shaiva tradition, however they are still part of active veneration and festivities. The nomenclature and iconographic features of all the fourteen Sun images in Varanasi further indicate the mythological links to belief systems and the inherent scientific meanings that were codified in the mystical tradition and continued as part of religious tradition.
Keywords
: cosmic order, equinox, mythology, sacred geometry, spatial pattern, solstice, sun images, zodiac. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Arise! The breath of life hath come to us, The darkness is gone, the light approacheth! Dawn hath opened a path for the Sun to travel; Now our days will be lengthened.
 
 Rig Veda
, 1.113.16.
1. Introduction
Similar to the East Asian and Egyptian sun goddess, in the Vedic tradition of ancient India, numerous hymns are dedicated to Surya (sun-god), the Sun personified, and Savitur, "the impeller", a feminine solar deity either identified with or associated with Surya. The most famous Gayatri mantra (hymn) is a testimony to this idea. Since ancient past in Indian tradition and religion Devi (goddess) is seen in manifold forms, all representing the creative force in the world, as
 Maya
(illusion, creative force that illumines) and
Prakriti
(nature, base of the womb), the force that galvanizes the divine ground of existence into self-projection as the cosmos (archetypal representation). In this way even the masculine Sun-god has been perceived, conceived, and express as ‘feminine’ divinity. In the earlier tales of the Vedic period, this feminine force that created Sun-god (Surya) is called ‘
Gayatri
’, and all the various Hindu female entities are seen as forming many faces of the same female Divinity. The prayer, composed by the great sage Vishvamitra, refers to the most commonly used sacred verse in
 
Sun Images: Ordering, Cultural Astronomy and Worship 201
honour of Sun god as the “Nature Energy” from the
 Rig Veda
 (3.62.10), called
Gayatri Mantra
:
Om bhur bhuvah, sva tat savitur varenyam, bhargo devasyo dhiyo yo na prachody
t.
“Let us obtain the adorable splendour of the Sun; may the spirit inherent (Gayatri) arouse our minds.”
The
 Rig Veda
 (1.164.24) describes the
Gayatri
 as the sound of life on the Earth and the way to know the cosmic order (
rita
) linking the Earth to the universe (Singh, Rana 2007: 123). According to the
Vishnu Purana
 (3.2), Surya married with the daughter of Vishvakarma, and later with Chhaya (‘shadow’). From the first wife he was having a son, Yama (‘death’). This myth clearly refers that even in folktale the fear of ‘death’, and boon for ‘longevity’ are clearly associated as in case of Chhatha puja of Sun goddess. In an early morning along the Ganga in Varanasi one can see a mass of devotees taking ritual bathing and offering the Ganga water to the rising Sun, accompanied by chanting sacred verses, circling oil lamps of
arati
and bells. The Sun worship has association with the Vedic period. The Sun is known as Aditya, the child of Aditi and Prajapati
(Rig Veda
1.89.16). In early Vedic (mythology the manifestive forms of Adityas were seven corresponding perhaps to seven days of week or seven naked eye planets which circled the geocentric earth
(Rig Veda
9.114.3). However, by the time of the
 Brahmanas
and the
Puranas
(c. 5
th
century CE) the number rose to its canonical value of twelve, associated with the twelve months of the solar year (cf.
Kumarasambhava
2.24). The
Kashi Khanda
of the
Skanda Purana,
KKh (10. 83; 46.45-46), a 13
th
-14
th
 century text, initially gives a list of twelve Adityas in Varanasi, however later chapters, 65 and 84, mention two more Aditya shrines (Sumantva and Karna), thus establishing the total of fourteen Adityas of Varanasi (cf. Singh 1987: 511, 514, also see 1994 c). Of course, at present, in the religious landscape of Varanasi, sun shrines are not so prominent; the puranic literature describes the city as “City of Light”
 – Kashi,
or “City of the Sun” –
 Alarkapuri
(cf.
 Matsya Purana
180.68). Says Eliade (1958: 131) “the process of sacralisation is greatly assisted by the benevolent and in many ways passive nature of this divinity.” According to the
Purusha Sukta
of the
 Rig Veda
(10.90), the Sun was born of the eye of the cosmic giant, Purusha (the primordial man), and, at death, when man’s body and soul become one more part of that cosmic giant, his eye will go back into the sun (Eliade, 1958: 144). The spatial manifestation of this homology is narrated in the KKh (7.66) that says that Lolarka and Keshava are the eyes of the “Kashi-Goddess”. The city is perceived as Goddess whose territory is defined by the two tributaries, viz. the Varana in the north and the Asi in the south, symbolised as the arms of the goddess. Historical evidences refer that during the Gupta period (4-5
th
 century CE) the sun worship was common in north India, and by 12
th
 century it had been established as major part of Hindu rituals (cf. Mishra, 1973: 13). The puranic treatises of this period provide variety of praises to the Sun god in Varanasi, e.g. the
 Matsya
(185.69), the
Kurma
(1.33.17), and the
Vamana
(3.4, 11, and 16). After passage of time, with the changes caused by religious-cultural influences Shiva worship superseded the ritual arena and sun shrines became part or ancillary to the Shiva shrines. In Varanasi since the puranic period the practice of worshipping multiple gods together is accepted as common norm, consisting of Shiva, Parvati (goddess), Vishnu, Ganesha and Surya (Sun). The supremacy of sun worship at Kashi is indicated in the KKh (43.10) by the
 
Chapter Six 202
fact that the Vedic king Divodasa removed all the divinities from Kashi, except his family deity, Surya. Table 6.1. Varanasi: Sun (Surya/ Aditya) Shrines.
No.
Form of Sun-god Location, House No. Latitude, N 0” Longitude, E 0” 1 Lolarka Lolarka Kunda, Bhadaini 25 17.479 83 00.351 2 Vimala Jangambari, Khari Kuwan, D 35 / 273 25 18.441 83 00.272 3 Karna Ram Mandir, Dashash-vamedha, D 17/ 111 25 18.398 83 00.617 4 Vriddha Mir Ghat, way to Dharmakup, D 3 / 15 25 18.570 83 00.759 5 Draupada Near Vishvanatha Temple, CK 35 / 21 25 18.636 83 00.584 6 Ganga Lalita Ghat, upper side, CK 1 / 68 25 18.548 83 00.815 7 Samba Suraj Kunda, east of Kunda, D 51 / 90 25 18.732 83 00.175 8 Yama Sankatha Ghat, on steps, near K 7 / 164 25 18.739 83 00.937 9 Mayukha Mangala Gauri T., in pillar, K 24 / 34 25 18.876 83 01.033 10 Aruna Trilochaneshvara Temple, A 2 / 80 25 19.161 83 01.364 11 Khakhola Kameshvara T., backside, A 2 / 9 25 19.138 83 01.389 12 Keshava Adi Keshava T., Raj Ghat, A 37 / 51 25 19.677 83 02.372 13 Sumantva Hanuman Phatak, A 31 / 91 25 19.622 83 01.203 14 Uttararka Bakaria Kund 25 20.073 83 01.687 Madhyameshvara Maidagin, Dara Nagar, K 53 / 63 25 19.239 83 00.837 (Measurements based on Garmin GPS-75 Receivers; February-March 1994)
Varanasi possessed 14 Adityas (see Fig. 6.1), each of which associated with a shrine or temple. All of these structures were almost razed in late 12
th
 century and the following years of Mughal invasion and occupation of the city (12-18
th
 centuries). However, neither the sun nor the spirit of a devout people vanquished, and the locations of the Adityas remained in the communal memory of the city. Today the 14 Adityas of Varanasi are marked by a variety of typically small and unpretentious features: Sun discs, lotus-form stones, or images of Surya alone on riding his chariot, which set into walls or installed in small shrines or the precincts of temples (see Figs. 6.4 to 6.7). The popular pilgrimage texts describe the sacred journey to these 14 Sun shrines, however the popularity of the journey has waned, and today a number of the sites are facing the problem of encroachment. With detailed field study the location of all the 14 Adityas is marked and mapped. During February-March 1994 two Garmin GPS-75 Receivers were also used to map out the differential Global Positioning System measurements and location were identified (see Table 6.1, also Figs. 6.1 and 6.2). The corresponding locations and historical descriptions throw a fresh light on a new dimension to understand the cosmic order and cityscape of Varanasi. Further, the mapping of the sites of the srcinal Aditya temple refer to a form of “non-destructive archaeoastronomy” which may reveal something of the general nature of city planning as well as the human dimension preserved through the continuing rituals in memory of these shrines and
 
Sun Images: Ordering, Cultural Astronomy and Worship 203
their associated mythologies. In other way this analysis also reflects upon cultural astronomy. But what is considered here as empirical reality does not necessarily have any relevance for other cultures; even if it does, its meaning is likely to be very different. The perception and practices of phenomena related to Sun shrines – their locations and movement of sun, mostly depend upon the meaning and significance that Hindu culture ascribes to its constructed universe. Fig. 6.1. Varanasi: Sun Shrines.
 
Chapter Six 204
Fig. 6.2. Sun Shrines, Varanasi: Spatio-Cosmic Order and Cyclic orientation of Time.
2. Cosmic Order and Cityscape
It has been observed that 10 out of the 14 Adityas lie approximately along the sides of the triangle formed by the Uttararka, Karna and Khakhola. The longest side is formed by the north-south line connecting Karna with the “northern Sun” Uttararka, covering a distance of 3.1km. Each of the two axes in the northern and southern sides
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