Some ten hymns are addressed to Surya. Since the name designates the, orb of the sun as well as the god, Surya is the most concrete of the solar deities, his connexion with the luminary always being present to the mind of the seers. The eye of Surya is several times mentioned; but Surya, himself is also often called the eye of Mitra and Varuna, as well as of Agni and of the gods. He is far-seeing, all-seeing, the spy of the whole world; he beholds all beings, and the good and bad deeds of mortals. He arouses men to perform their activities. He is the soul or guardian of all that moves or is stationary. His car is drawn by one steed called etasá, or by seven swift mares called hárit bays.
The Dawn or Dawns reveal or produce Surya; he shines from the lap of the Dawns; but Dawn is also sometimes Surya's wife. He also bears the metronymic Aditya or Aditeya, son of the goddess Aditi. His father is Dyaus or Heaven. The gods raised him who had been hidden in the ocean, and they placed him in the sky; various individual gods, too, are said to have produced Surya or raised him to heaven.
Surya is in various passages conceived as a bird traversing space; he is a ruddy bird that flies; or he is a flying eagle. He is also called a mottled bull, or a white and brilliant steed brought by Dawn. Occasionally he is, described as an inanimate object: he is a gem of the sky, or a variegated stone set in the midst of heaven. He is a brilliant weapon (áyudha) which Mitra-Varuna conceal with cloud and rain, or their felly (paví), or a brilliant car placed by them in heaven. Surya is also sometimes spoken of as, a wheel (cakrá), though otherwise the wheel of Surya is mentioned. Surya shines for all the world, for men and gods. He dispels the darkness, which he rolls up like a skin, or which his rays throw off like a skin into the waters. He measures the days and prolong life. He drives away sickness, disease, and evil dreams. All creatures depend on him, and the epithet 'all-creating' (visvá-karman) is once applied to him. By his greatness he is the divine priest (asuryà puróhita) of the gods. At his rising he is besought to declare men sinless to Mitra-Varuna and to other gods.
The name Súrya is a derivative of svàr light, and cognate with the Avesta hvare sun, which has swift horses and is the eye of Ahura Mazda
These two deities are the most prominent gods after Indra, Agni, and Soma, being invoked in more than fifty entire hymns and in parts of several others. Though their name (asv-in horseman) is purely Indian, and though they undoubtedly belong to the group of the deities of light, the phenomenon which they represent is uncertain, because in all probability their origin is to be sought in a very early pre-Vedic age.
They are twins and inseparable, though two or three passages suggest that they may at one time have been regarded as distinct. They are young and yet ancient. They are bright, lords of lustre, of golden brilliancy, beautiful, and adorned with lotus-garlands. They are the only gods called golden-pathed (híranya-vartani). They are strong and agile, fleet as thought or as an eagle. They possess profound wisdom and occult power. Their two most distinctive and frequent epithets are dasrá wondrous and násatya true.
They are more closely associated with honey (mádhu) than any of the other gods. They desire honey and are drinkers of it. They have a skin filled with honey; they poured out a hundred jars of honey. They have a honey-goad; and their car is honey-hued and honey-bearing. They give honey to the bee and are compared with bees. They are, however, also fond of Soma, being invited to drink it with Usas and Surya. Their car is sunlike and, together with all its parts, golden. It is threefold and has three wheels. It is swifter than thought, than the twinkling of an eye. It was fashioned by the three divine artificers, the Rbhus. It is drawn by horses, more commonly by birds or winged steeds; sometimes by one or more buffaloes, or by a single asa (rásabha). It passes over the five countries; it moves around the sky; it traverses heaven and earth in one day; it goes round the sun in the distance. Their revolving course (vartís), a term almost exclusively applicable to them, is often mentioned. They come from heaven, air, and earth, or from the ocean; they abide in the sea of heaven, but sometimes their locality is referred to as unknown. The time of their appearance is between dawn and sunrise: when darkness stands among the ruddy cows; Usas awakens them; they follow after her in their car; at its yoking Usas is born. They yoke their car to descend to earth and receive the offerings of worshippers. They come not only in the morning, but also at noon and sunset. They dispel darkness and chase away evil spirits.
The Asvins are children of Heaven; but they are also once said to be the twin sons of Vivasvant and Tvastr's daughter Saranyú (probably the rising Sun and Dawn). Pusan is once said to be their son; and Dawn seems to be meant by their sister. They are often associated with the Sun conceived as a female called either Surya or more commonly the daughter of Surya. They are Surya's two husbands whom she chose and whose car she mounts. Surya's companionship on their car is indeed characteristic. Hence in the wedding hymn (x. 85) the Asvins are invoked to conduct the bride home on their car, and they (with other gods) are besought to bestow fertility on her.
The Asvins are typically succouring divinities. They are the speediest deliverers from distress in general. The various rescues they effect are of a peaceful kind, not deliverance from the dangers of battle. They are characteristically divine physicians, healing diseases with their remedies, restoring sight, curing the sick and the maimed. Several legends are mentioned about those whom they restored to youth, cured of various physical defects, or befriended in other ways. The name oftenest mentioned is that of Bhujyu, whom they saved from the ocean in a ship.
The physical basis of the Asvins has been a puzzle from the time of the earliest interpreters before Yuska, who offered various explanations, while modern scholars also have suggested several theories. The two most probable are that the Asvins represented either the morning twilight, as half light and half dark, or the morning and the evening star. It is probable that the Asvins date from the Indo-European period. The two horsemen, sons of Dyaus, who drive across the heaven with their steeds, and who have a sister, are parallel to the two famous horsemen of Greek mythology, sons of Zeus, brothers of Helena; and to the two Lettic God's sons who come riding on their steeds to woo the daughter of the Sun. In the Lettic myth the morning star comes to look at the daughter of the Sun. As the two Asvins wed the one Surya so the two Lettic God's sons wed the one daughter of the Sun; the latter also (like the Dioskouroi and the Asvins) are rescuers from the ocean, delivering the daughter of the Sun or the Sun himself.
Beside Indra (ii. 12) Varuna is the greatest of the gods of the RV., though the number of the hymns in which he is celebrated alone (apart from Mitra) is small, numbering hardly a dozen.
His face, eye, arms, hands, and feet are mentioned. He moves his arms, walks, drives, sits, eats, and drinks. His eye with which he observes mankind is the sun. He is far-sighted and thousand-eyed. He treads down wiles with shining foot. He sits on the strewn grass at the sacrifice. He wears a golden mantle and puts on a shining robe. His car, which is often mentioned, shines like the sun, and is drawn by well-yoked steeds. Varuna sits in his mansions looking on all deeds. The Fathers behold him in the highest heaven. The spies of Varuna are sometimes referred to: they sit down around him; they observe the two worlds; they stimulate prayer. By the golden-winged messenger of Varuna the sun is meant. Varuna is often called a king, but especially a universal monarch (samráj) The attribute of sovereignty (ksatrá) and the term ásura are predominantly applicable to him. His divine dominion is often alluded to by the word mayá occult power; the epithet mayín crafty is accordingly used chiefly of him.
Varuna is mainly lauded as upholder of physical and moral order. He is a great lord of the laws of nature. He established heaven and earth, and by his law heaven and earth are held apart. He made the golden swing (the sun) to shine in heaven; he has made a wide path for the sun; he placed fire in the waters, the sun in the sky, Soma on the rock. The wind which resounds through the air is Varuna's breath. By his ordinances the moon shining brightly moves at night, and the stars placed up on high are seen at night, but disappear by day. Thus Varuna is lord of light both by day and by night. He is also a regulator of the waters. He caused the rivers to flow; by his occult power they pour swiftly into the ocean without filling it. It is, however, with the aerial waters that he is usually connected. Thus he makes the inverted cask (the cloud) to pour its waters on heaven, earth, and air, and to moisten the ground.
Varuna's ordinances being constantly said to be fixed, he is pre-eminently called dhrtravrata whose laws are established. The gods themselves follow his ordinances. His power is; so great that neither the birds as they fly nor the rivers as they flow can reach the limits of his dominion. He embraces the universe, and the abodes of all beings. He is all-knowing, and his omniscience is typical. He knows the flight of the birds in the sky, the path of the ships in the ocean, the course of the far-travelling wind beholding all the secret things that have been or shall be done, he witnesses men's truth and falsehood. No creature can even wink without his knowledge.
As a moral governor Varuna stands far above any other deity. His wrath is aroused by sin, the infringement of his ordinances, which he severely punishes. The fetters (pásas) with which he binds sinners are often mentioned, and are characteristic of him. On the other hand, Varuna is gracious to the penitent. He removes sin as if untying a rope. He releases even from the sin committed by men's fathers. He spares him who daily transgresses his laws when a suppliant, and is gracious to those who have broken his laws by thoughtlessness. There is in fact no hymn to Varuna in which the prayer for forgiveness of guilt does not occur. Varuna is on a footing of friendship with his worshipper, who communes with him in his celestial abode, and sometimes sees him with the mental eye. The righteous hope to behold in the next world Varuna and Yama, the two kings who reign in bliss.
The original conception of Varuna seems to have been the encompassing sky. It has, however, become obscured, because it dates from an earlier age. For it goes back to the Indo-Iranian period at least, since the Ahura Mazda (the wise spirit) of the Avesta agrees with the Asura Varuna in character, though not in name. It may even be older still; for the name Varuna is perhaps identical with the Greek ouranos sky. In any case, the word appears to be derived from the root vr cover or encompass.
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