AHMEDABAD: When one talks about sun worship in Gujarat, the first name that comes to mind is the majestic Solanki-era temple at Modhera, known as one of the best examples ofGujarati architecture. However, few know that the state has over 100 sun temples scattered from Koteshwar in Sabarkantha to Rander near Surat having history and mythology interspersed?
A retired industrialist and a photographer traced the tradition of sun worship out of sheercuriosity and come out with a book titled ‘Ugta Rehjo Bhan’, which has been published by state archaeology department. Navinchandra Parekh and Dahyabhai Patel worked for over a decade where they encompassed history, stories related to the place and current situation.
The book says sun worship is as old as the Indian civilization. However, the tradition of worship in an idol form came in the third century BC. Sun worship took its roots from third to the 13th century across the subcontinent including Gujarat after which the trend waned. Places such as Vadnagar, Muli, Than, Delmal, Kotyark and Gop were thriving centers of sun worship and many of these have idols preserved for centuries.
“There have been two traditions of sun worship found in the state. While the idols of Mag Brahmins have Iranian influence (completed with boots and headgear), in Kshatriya tradition, the sun is generally worshipped with his family – wives Usha and Pratyusha and son Revanta. We also have an age-old tradition of worshipping Ranna or Randal, considered as wife of Surya, as the goddess of fertility,” said Patel.
The book says invasions have robbed the temples of their glory and even history in some instances. “Take for example Kotyark temple near Mahudi where a combined form of Vishnu and Surya is worshipped. It used to have a water tank like Modhera but the Kshatrap-period temple has retained only its original sanctum sanctorum,” said Parekh.
The book especially mentions sun worship in Kathi community around Surendranagar. “Taking an oath of the Sun was the biggest vow a warrior can take. One can find sun motifs almost everywhere in their lives – decoration, state insignia, arms and communication. A letter by rebel Jogidas Khuman to Bhavnagar Maharaja preserved in Devsar Surya Mandir shows him sign below motif of Sun, the final authority,” added Parekh.