The history of Sun worship
From Sanjaya Jena in Chandrabhaga
People in lakhs gather in sea beach at Chandrabhaga close to Konark, the citadel of Sun God worship in the country. They take bath here and worship the Sun God which is said to be the cure for various skin diseases including leprosy. Organiser took stock of this years? mad rush of more than two lakh people to take bath in the renovated bathing space and scanned through the legend and peoples? faith in the worship Sun God and their unflinching faith.
After spending the whole night on the sandy banks of Chandrabhaga, lakhs of men and women thronged the bathing ghat for bath and prayer to the Sun God at the crack of the dawn. Those hailing from nearby areas kept arriving during the night.
Although the annual Chandrabhaga mela, observed on the Magha Saptami day, is linked to religion in this part of the world, what really makes people from far flung areas to reach the place was the understanding of the beneficial effects of sun worship, the most ancient faith in India.
Studies point out that in India, all the sun worship centres have some water bodies associated with them. The sun temples in Egypt are also located on the banks of river Nile. In fact, there seems to be a strong correlation between sun worship and the cure for skin diseases in general and leprosy in particular.
The Sun temples in Egypt are also located on the banks of river Nile. In fact, there seems to be a strong correlation between Sun worship and the cure for skin diseases in general and leprosy in particular.
Legends connect the very establishment of sun temples in various places with the cure of leprosy, according to elderly locals present in the mela.
Legend has it that, it was Samba, the son of Krishna, who built the great sun temple at Sambapura (modern Multan in Pakistan), on being cured of leprosy after he had propitiated the sun god for 12 years in Mitravan on the bank of river Chandrabhaga. The same Samba legend is associated with the sun temple at Konark as well. As in the case of Multan, another Chandrabhaga river is found in the vicinity of Konark sun temple with the same sanctity and significance attached to it, says Balakrishnan.
Konark Sun temple'sassociation with leprosy cure is not merely legend-based, but functional as well. There is an institution called Abdhut mut at Konark. The mut, it is learnt, was famous for leprosy cure and related rituals. Even now, on Magha Saptami day, when gods are taken in a procession to river Chandrabhaga, a person in the guise of a leprosy patient walks along in the company of others.
The same Samba legend is associated with the Sun temple at Konark as well. As in the case of Multan, another Chandrabhaga river is found in the vicinity of Konark Sun temple with the same sanctity and significance attached to it.
Many people who gathered at the Mela strongly believed in the sun-cure theory. ?My wife and I have come here to pray the Sun God seeking cure from skin diseases that I am suffering since a long time. Taking medicine has not been of any help,? said Prabhakar Behera from Ganjam district.
It is said that the faith in sun cure seems to be based on science radiation from the Sun represents a blending of infrared, luminous and ultraviolet radiation and there is a relatively higher amount of ultraviolet radiation in sky shine (diffused radiation) than direct sunshine, argues Balakrishnan.
?The ocean, sandy beach and snow furnish a diffuse and at times, a very powerful form of sunlight which was therapeutically valuable. The reflection of ultraviolet rays from the surface of water is twice as great as that from a field of grass, but only one-fourth as much as from freshly-fallen snow. This explains the wisdom behind the Indian custom of facing the rising sun to offer prayers, immediately after taking a bath and mostly while standing in water,? said a medical student, Suresh Chandra, also present in the mela.
Apart from the mentions about the healing power of the Sun in the Vedas and worship of the Sun by the Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans and Greeks who thought of it as the source of life and health, experts say that the credit for associating Sun with leprosy should be shared with ancient Indians.
Apart from the mentions about the healing power of the Sun in the Vedas and worship of the Sun by the Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans and Greeks who thought of it as source of life and health, experts say that the credit for associating Sun with leprosy should be shared with ancient Indians.
In ancient Greece, music and medicine were the themes woven into the concept of sun worship. At Konark too, dance and music are the dominant themes. While the ritual bath in Chandrabhaga and the sea nearby is related to cure skin diseases, the stylistic postures of the dancers and musicians have been graphically depicted in the sculptures of Konark. Although the Sun temple at Konark was no longer a living shrine with rituals and worshipping of the Sun God, the tradition of Sun worship lives on.
?As heliotherapy is gradually gaining popularity in different parts of the world, it is time radiation levels at various locations which were well-known for sun shrines are scientifically documented and the ancient wisdom of Sun cure revived,? experts have started demanding.