Just as ancient Greek mythology provides historians with dramatic and divine personifications of the planets, Hinduism also reveres ancient divine plays about the nine planets, called Navagraha in Sanskrit, of our solar system. Of all nine, the Sun god, or Surya in Sanskrit, occupies the most important position in Hindu astrology and, as such, is worshiped by Hindus across the globe.
The Supreme Light
Lord Surya is ruler of the Leo Zodiac sign. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, he is commonly depicted as clothed in a tight-fitting coat and high boots, riding a chariot drawn by seven horses or one horse with seven heads.
The London Sri Murugan Temple also states that Surya, giver of health, success, and prosperity, is pleased by worshipers who offer him wheat, red lotus and the madar plant.
Konarak Sun Temple
Konarak, Odisha, located on the northeast coast of India, is home to one of two of the subcontinent's most famous Sun Temples. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the temple was built in the 13th century and modeled to represent Surya's grand chariot, complete with twelve pairs of ornate wheels and pulled by seven powerful horses. The temple also features a sanctum, an assembly hall called a jagamohana, a detached nata-mandira or dance hall, and numerous subsidiary shrines.
Temple at Suryanar Koil
The temple at Suryanar Koil in Tamil Nadu, located on the southeast coast of India, is dedicated to Surya but features shrines dedicated to the other eight planets as well. Its religious importance is communicated via this folk legend:
Once there was a man who, endowed with a rare ability to see the future, realized he would soon die of leprosy. Knowing that the Navagrahas, or nine planets, control every aspect of one's life, he prayed to them for salvation. The Navagrahas granted his wish but the Hindu god Brahma instead cursed the nine planets with leprosy as punishment for tampering with a man's destiny. Apologetically, the Navagrahas made penance to a particular deity according to Brahma's specific directions and were thus saved from leprosy.
The man, for whom the Navagrahas went through all the trouble for, erected the temple at Suryanar Koil as a mark of gratitude where Hindus still gather to worship.
According to "Yoga Journal," the Hindu practice of yoga contains a sequence of asanas, or poses, called Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, that yogis practice traditionally at dawn. Some historians contend that the Surya Namaskar has existed for over 2,500 years while others claim it was conceived in the early 20th century. Either way, Surya Namaskar is a widespread form of Hindu sun worship.
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