Vedic influence on the Sun-worship in the Puranas

by Goswami Mitali | 2018 | 68,171 words

This page relates ‘Puranic Religion and Its Link to the Vedic Tradition’ of the study on the Vedic influence of Sun-worship in the Puranas, conducted by Goswami Mitali in 2018. The tradition of observing Agnihotra sacrifice and the Sandhya, etc., is frequently observed among the Hindus. Another important innovation of the Sun-worship in the Puranas is the installation of the images of the Sun in the temples.—This section belongs to the series “General Characteristics of the Puranic Religion and its Link with the Vedic Tradition”.

The Vedas and the Purāṇas are closely related to each other. The Purāṇas regard the Vedas as the source of dharma, and the sacrifices, etc., those ordained by the Śruti, and the Smṛiti are also called the dharma.[1] But, the dharma, that are dealt with in other texts are only the shadow of it.[2] In earlier period, the Purāṇas were regarded as inferior, in comparison to the Vedas; but in course of time, the position of the Purāṇas were upgraded, and it became the soul of dharma, while the Śruti and the Smṛti became the eyes of it.[3] The sacredness of the Purāṇas are well established when it is referred to that the reading of the Purāṇas or listening to a recitation of the Purāṇas destroys all types of sin.[4]

The Purāṇic religion is highly influenced by the Vedic tradition. The prevalence of the Vedic sacrifices in the Purāṇic period can be proved with its narration in several Purāṇas.

The Agnipurāṇa mentions that the Ṛc, Yajus and Sāmans are created for the accomplishment of the sacrifices:

ṛco yajuṃsi sāmāni nirmame yajñasiddhaye/[5]

Again, in the Matsyapurāṇa, Śakra says Bali about the gods’ partaking of their shares in the sacrifices on the authority of the Vedas.[6] The Purāṇas glorify the sacrifices too much that the Vena’s destruction at the hands of his subjects is shown as the result of the evil-deed, done by Vena, with banning of sacrificial performances in the kingdom.[7]

The Purāṇas treat the Vedas as authoritative and enjoin the employment of many Vedic mantras in many rites. For example, following the Vedic tradition, the Purāṇas prescribe homa oblation towards the nine planets with the employment of nine Vedic mantras.[8]

Again, the homa is prescribed when inauspicious birds or animals cry near the house or enter into it:

mṛgapakṣivikāreṣu kuryāddhomaṃ sadakṣiṇam/[9]

Five Brāhmaṇas should be engaged in a japa[10] for muttering devāḥ kapota, etc.[11] The whole procedure of establishment of images of gods or the liṅga involve several Vedic mantras.[12] In the purification of the image, four Vedic mantras are employed.[13] Again, two mantras[14] are applied at the time of placing of a jar, full of water, near the head of the bed on which the image is to be placed. The Agnipurāṇa, in the procedure of building a temple, prescribes the recital of different Vedic mantras.[15] Along with the Vedic mantras, the Paurāṇika mantras are also applied in religious rites. The Viśvedevaḥ are invited to come to the śrāddha with the employment of the Ṛkmantra that is interpreted by Griffith as O Viśvedevaḥ, come hitherward, hear my invocation, seat yourselves upon this sacred grass.[16] Along with the mantra, the Paurāṇikamantra, āgacchantu mahābhāgā is also applied.[17] The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa prescribes one hundred and eighty-four Paurāṇika verses along with the Vedic mantras in the procedure of coronation.[18]

The doctrine of the bhakti perhaps originates following the Vedic tradition, about the loving faith in god. In a Ṛgvedic passage, the devotee worships the god with the words ‘In perfect unison, all yearning hymns of mine that find the light of heaven have sung forth Indra’s praise; as wives embrace their lords, the comely bridegrooms, so they compass Maghavan about that he may help.’[19]

Again, the sakhyabhakti is observed when under the purview of friendship, the deity, to fulfil the longing of Horse, himself becomes a horse:

dūṇāśaṃ sakhyaṃ tava gaurasi vīra gavyate/ aśvo aśvāyate bhava//[20]

The Vedic texts were familiar with the word vrata, but it was not niyama in the Vedas like the Purāṇas. Niyama means the observance of the strict restrictive rules. The Agnipurāṇa states the vrata or vow as the restrictive rule enjoined by the Śastras.[21] The vratas are always associated with the homa and pūjā. The method of homa, etc., that is performed along with the vratas are similar to the Vedic sacrifices. The Kalyāṇinīvrata,[22] Ādityaśayanavrata,[23] etc., possess most of the elements from the Vedas.

Right from the time of the Vedas, a tradition of dāna is maintained in religious circumstances. References are found of extracting the highest amount of the priestly fees from their clients by the Vedic priests.[24] The act of making gifts was looked upon as religious in the Vedas but the Vedic texts were not familiar with the great variety of gifts like that of the Purāṇas. the Dānastutis of the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā and others mention only of the simple gifts of the land, gold, silver, cows, horses, houses, clothes, food, drink, etc.[25] But, in the Purāṇas, such simple form of gifts were transformed into the gifts of artificial cows made of paddy, raw sugar (guḍa), seasamum, etc. Again, the glorification of the gift of anna as the śreṣṭhadāna in the Purāṇic age is indeed the continuation of the Vedic tradition of making the gift of anna. The Vedas praise the gift of food and mentions it as the highest offering.[26]

The Purāṇas discuss almost all the topics those are discussed in the Vedas. Besides the sacrifices, japa, homa, dāna, vratas, etc., they contain the discussions on ahiṃsa, [27] pūrtadharma,[28] etc., which, in origin the repetition of the Vedic tradition. The pūrtadharma involves in it works of public utility, charity, social service and the relief of the poor and the distressed. In the Vedas, the word iṣṭāpūrta occurs.[29] In the Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, the terms iṣṭa[30] and pūrta[31] occur separately; of which iṣṭa means sacrifice and pūrta directs the works such as digging a well or tank, etc. The Purāṇas also deal with such topics following the Vedic order.

In the Mārkaṇḍeyaprāṇa, the very characteristics of iṣṭāpūrta is cited as,

agnihotraṃ tapaḥ satyaṃ vedānāṃ caiva sādhanaṃ/
ātithyaṃ vaiśvadevaṃ ca iṣṭamityabhidhīyate//
vāpīkūpataḍāgāni devatāyatanāni ca/

Here, in this verse, both the iṣṭa and pūrta are distinguished—maintaining the sacred fires, tapas, truthfulness, study of the Veda, hospitality and Vaiśvadeva are called iṣṭa and digging of wells and tanks, and building of temples, distribution of food to the needy people are pūrtas.

In the Purāṇas, instead of the sacrifices, emphasis is laid on the greatness of pilgrimages, sacred bath, etc. According to the Purāṇas, the sacrificial rites with inanimate things, i.e. fuel-sticks, flowers and Kuśa-grass always produce inanimate results.[33] The Padmapurāṇa contains a verse that extols the greatness of pilgrimage and sacred bath by saying that merely going to the Gaṅgā or by taking a sacred bath in the Phalgu river, one secures the merit of performance of Aśvamedha.[34] Besides this, the pilgrimage, vratas, etc. are prescribed as because they are advantageous for the poor.[35]

Footnotes and references:


Kūrmapurāṇa, 1.12.251,252


Ibid., 1.16.115-117; Devī Bhāgavatapurāṇa,7.39.16


Ibid., 11.1.21-23


cf., sarvapāpaharaṃ puṇyaṃ pavitraṃ ca yaśasvi ca/ brahmā dadau śāstramidaṃ purāṇaṃ


Agni P., 17.13


cf., yajñabhāgabhujo devā vedaprāmāṇyatoʹsuraḥ/ Matsyapurāṇa,246.14


Matsyapurāṇa, 93


Ibid., 237.13


cf., devāḥ kapota iti vā japtavyāḥ pañcabhirdvijaiḥ/ Ibid.


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 10.165.1-5


Matsyapurāṇa, 265


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 7.49.1,2,3; 10.9.1


Vājasaneyisaṃhitā, 12.35; Taittirīyasaṃhitā,4.2.32


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 10.9.1-3, 10;10.9.4; Vājasaneyisaṃhitā, 4.36 and so on


Griffith on Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 2.41.13


cf., āgacchantu mahābhāgā viśvadevāḥ mahābalāḥ/ ye yatra vihitāḥ śrāddhe sāvadhānā bhavantu te//




Griffith on Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 10.43.1


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 6.45.26


Agni P., 175.2


Matsyapurāṇa, 69


Ibid., 55.18


Vide, Hazra, R.C., Op. cit., p.247


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 4.15.7; 5.30.15;5.36.6; 6.45.31;6.47.23,24;


annaṃ śritāni bhūtāni annaṃ prāṇamiti śrutiḥ/ tasmādannaṃ pradātavyamannaṃ hi paramaṃ haviḥ/


Liṅgapurāṇa,8.8,9; Matsyapurāṇa, 52.8-11, Vāmanapurāṇa, 14.1,2,


Agni P., 209.2.3


Ṛgvedasaṃhitā, 10.11.2


Ibid., 6.16.18; 8.46.21


cf., avidyāntargatairyajñakarmabhirna prayojanam/ mama hiṃsātmakairasti nigamoktairacetanaiḥ// samitpuṣpakuśaprāyaiḥ sādhanairyadyacetanaiḥ/ kriyate tattathā bhāvi kāryaṃ kāraṇavannṛṇām/ Ibid.,,60


Padma P., 1.38.2


Matsyapurāṇa, 99.17,18; 112.12-15

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