In Hinduism, the Surya Devata, the Sun God, is the main solar deity, the giver of light. Surya, one of the 12 Adityas, is the son of Kasyapa and the husband of Chaaya Devi. He is depicted with hair and arms of gold and moves through the heavens in his triumphal golden chariot driven by seven horses. Some versions talk of just one horse with seven heads.
One version says that Lord Surya is a conglomeration of the powers of the Divine Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Surya is the mythological father of many notable sons, including Manu (progenitor of the human race), Yama (Lord of Death), the Ashvins (twin physicians to the gods), Karna (a great warrior of the sacred epic the Mahabharat), and Sugreev (the king of monkeys).
The Sun God represents the soul, willpower, fame, health and vitality, valour, royalty, majesty and authority.
Surya is given a lot of importance in Indian culture as He is a God that can be seen every day. Even Shaivites and Vaishnavites regard him as an apsect of Shiva and Vishnu respectively. Vaishnavites regard Surya Narayana as an aspect of Vishnu, while Shaivites consider him to be Astamurti, one of the eight forms of Shiva.
Surya's other names are Ravi, Pusha, Viswakarma, Vivaswat, Aditya, Arka, Savita, Mitra and Grahapati. Devotees chant the Aditya Hridayam in praise of Surya.
Sun worship is deep rooted in the Vedas and its antiquity also relates to several mythologies of the world such as that of China, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Gayatri Mantra jap – the sacred Vedic chants to Savitr (Sun God) – is recited by the Hindus every day with great reverence.
Sun God, who controls the affairs of the entire universe, especially in regard to heat, light, seasonal changes and so on, is considered to be an expansion of Narayana. He represents the three Vedas—Rig, Yajur and Sama—and therefore he is known as Trayimaya, the form of Lord Narayana.
Sun God who is also called Surya Narayana has expanded himself in twelve divisions, and thus he controls the six seasonal changes and causes winter, summer, rain and so on.
Surya was once ranked along with Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti, and Ganesha, and many temples dedicated to him are found throughout Bharat. These five deities are worshipped by a very important group of Brahmans (priests), the Smartas, but Surya is worshipped as the supreme deity by only a small group, the Saura sect.
One of the most splendid temples dedicated to Surya is the 13th-century Surya Deul (Sun Temple), once called the Black Pagoda, at Konarak, in Odisha.
The Sun as we know it
What the seven horses represent
The number seven has great significance in Indian philosophy. There are seven colours in the rainbow, seven seas, seven notes in music, seven chakras (spiritual centers in the subtle body or sukshma sharira) and seven rishis (sapta rishi).
These seven horses are the seven colors comprising light. These seven colouurs become visible in a rainbow or when light passes through a prism. The seven horses yoked to the Sun God’s chariot are named Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristup, Anustup and Pankti. These names of various Vedic meters designate the seven horses that carry the Sun God’s chariot.
The Sun God's seven horses represent the seven sins and his control over the same indicates the Devata's perfect control over the same. It also represents the way we need to control our base emotions so as to climb further and higher in the spiritual realm of our own lives.