Surya Murte Namostute

Salutations to the embodiment of the Sun, Lord of the beautiful Goddess Chaya. He who is causative of all deeds, who illuminates the earth and is the Lord of Leo, He is paid homage to by noble people, throbbing with brilliance, famed as giver of boons, such as good health.

SuryaBelated Shankaranti/Pongal greetings to all of you! May all your wishes come to fruition!

Come Pongal, I cannot but think longingly of my mother’s wonderful Chakkarai Pongal (sweet jaggery rice). She was indeed a master of this dish; she had it perfected to a T. Actually I have what I think is her recipe but I can never get it to taste like hers. Too bad! Hmm…Is it only me who thinks of food at the thought of festivals before I think of the spiritual significance of the occasion? Sigh! Will I ever gain spiritual maturity?

As a harvest festival, Pongal acknowledges and celebrates the bounty of nature. Though I do not remember my parents saying special prayers for Surya, the Sun God, it is to Him that we must address our thanks on this occasion. We mustn’t think of the sun as just the star around which our home planet revolves but see it as a symbol of the force which provides all that we need to create and sustain life. The sun illuminates our physical world, God illuminates our metaphysical world. The sun sustains life on earth, God sustains our bodies and souls. The sun is the anchor around which we revolve in the physical world, it is God who plays that role in the metaphysical world. The sun is a wonderful metaphor for God and in worshipping Surya, we pay homage to that aspect of the infinite Brahman which we are reminded of by our own star.

To celebrate the day, I have chosen one of the Navagraha Kiritis by Muthuswami Dikshithar. These 9 Kritis are said to have great curative properties, both for health and the ailments of life. To read more about these Kritis, click here. In this Kriti set to the Raga Saurashtram, the poet-composer pays homage to Surya by naming His many qualities. My attention was grabbed especially by the poet’s reference to Surya as  ‘karma kAranAtmaka’  ‘He who is causative of all deeds’. As I ponder over this, I think that yes, aren’t all physical processes on earth caused and controlled by the sun, directly or indirectly? From the creation of Earth, to the Physics, Chemistry and Biology of whatever happens on Earth, all are irrevocably connected to the sun.  So Surya can be seen as causative of all deeds. There is another reference to Karma  – ‘karma sAkshinE’ ‘Witness to all deeds’ says the poet. God is indeed a witness to all our actions, actions for which we need to give account one day. But invisible as he is, it cannot be only me who finds it easy to ignore His presence and go about my merry (and often wrong) way. The sun as a witness is a better concept, for it always makes its presence felt, even at night by its reflection on the moon. Perhaps thinking of the sun as a physical witness to our deeds will enable us to follow better the right path. For the lyrics and translation, see footnote. If you would like to know more about the raga, click here.

To present this song, I have chosen a rendition by the great Madurai Mani Iyer.  I understand that he was a great believer in the powers of the Navagraha Kritis. He is said to have sung them everyday as part of his daily prayer ritual. After 1950, his concerts would also include the  the song appropriate for the day of the week.  Listen below to his rendition :

For an instrumental version, I have the violin maestro M.S.Gopalakrishnan presenting the song for you :


Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Sanskrit

सूर्यमूर्ते नमोस्तुते सुन्दर छायाधिपते

कार्य कारणात्मक जगत् प्रकाश सिंह राश्याधिपते
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम् )
आर्य विनुत तेजःस्फूर्ते आरोग्यादि फलद कीर्ते

सारस मित्र मित्र भानो सहस्र किरण कर्णसूनो
क्रूर पापहर कृशानो गुरुगुह मोहित/मोदित  स्वभानो
सूरिजनेडित सुदिन मणे सोमादि ग्रह शिखामणे
धीरार्चित कर्म साक्षिणे दिव्यतर सप्ताश्व रथिने
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम् )
सौराष्टार्ण मन्त्रात्मने सौवर्ण स्वरूपात्मने
भारतीश हरि-हरात्मने भुक्ति मुक्ति वितरणात्मने


sUryamUrtE namostutE sundara CHAyAdhipatE

kArya kAranAtmaka jagat prakAsha simha rAshyAdhipatE
Arya vinuta tejahsphoortE ArogyAdi phalada kIrtE

sArasa mitra mitra bhAno sahasra kiraNa karNasUnO
krUra pApahara krshAnO guruguha mOhita/modita svabhAnO
sUrijanEDita sudina maNE sOmadi graha shikhAmaNE
dhIrArchita karma sAkshiNE divyatara saptAshva rathinE
saurAshtArNa mantrAtmanE sauvarNa svarUpAtmanE
bhAratIsha hari harAtmanE bhukti mukti vitaraNAtmane


(I am a bit doubtful about some parts, they are marked in red)

Salutations (namOsutE) to the embodiment of the Sun,  Lord of the beautiful CHAyA (Goddess ‘Shadow’, consort of Surya).

He who is causative (kAraNAtmaka) of all deeds (kArya), who illuminates (prkAsha) the earth (jagat) and is the Lord (adhipatE) of Leo (astrological sign) (simha rAshi), He is paid homage to (vinuta) by noble (or wise) people (Arya), throbbing (sphUrta) with brilliance (tEjas), famed (kIrta) as giver of boons (phalada) such as good health (Arogya).

Friend (mitra) of the moon (sArasa), Lord Surya (mitra and bhAnu are names of sUrya), of many (sahasra) rays (kiraNa), father of Karna (karNasU), the fire (krshAnu) which destroys (hara) cruel (krUra) vices (pApa), the self-luminous (svabhAnu) one who enchants (mOhita) Guruguha (signature of poet), Lord (sUri) of the people (jana), gem (maNi) of an auspicious day (sudina), crest-jewel (shikhAmaNi) of planets and satellites (graha) such as (Adi) the Moon (chandra), worshipped (archita) by the brave (dhIra), witness (sAkshin) to all deeds (karma), carrier (tara) of the celestials (divya), He who has a chariot (ratha) driven by seven (sapta) horses (ashva), essence of the ashtArna or eight-part hymn of Surya (saura=solar)(which one is this referring to?), golden (sauvarna) formed (svaroopa), whose essence (Atman) is Brahma (bhArati Isha=Lord of Saraswati), Vishnu (hari) and Shiva (hara), bestower (vitarana Atman) of both worldly enjoyment (bhukti) and salvation (mukti).



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, M.S.Gopalakrishnan, Madurai Mani Iyer, Muthuswami Dikshithar

13 responses to “Surya Murte Namostute

  1. Reblogged this on IMAGINOPIA and commented:
    Interesting article

  2. Ramesh

    That’s a very interesting take to the interpretation – that the Sun is literally a cause and witness to al that happens in the world. So very true. That’s a very original take on the omnipresence of God. You have already attained “spiritual maturity” dear lady !

    Sometimes its nice to have ragas that do not render themselves to elaborations, for many singers go on and on with what they ostensibly deem as elaboration, but which is to an untrained musical ear, cacophony !

    Didn’t realize Pavamana was in this raga – of course, it is easily the most widely sung raga in concerts – although few in the audience remain to hear it !

    • Hi Ramesh, Oh so you saw some logic in my interpretation? I wondered as I was writing whether I was just waffling or making any sense! And as to spiritual maturity hehehehehe I am so far from it that I can only giggle helplessly 🙂

      If a singer is making a raga elaboration sound like cacophony, its a hint for you to stop listening to them! It also depends on one’s mood…sometimes, I want brisk and to-the-point renditions, at other times I am in the mood to doze over slow elaborations and at others my mind is needle-sharp, listening to every note and absorbing each one of them. Every raga has the possibility of sounding wonderful if the composition-musician-mood of listener combination is right…or so I imagine.
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Chandra Shekhar

    *1 Surya have 2 wives, has a son *Shani-dev from one and *Yumraj-n-*Jamna (river) son-n-daughter from the second … its auspicious when SUN is @ Uttrayan …!
    *2 in Mahabharata, #Bheeshm-Pitahma was waiting for this day to DIE, when He was shot n was laying in the bed of ARROWS (by Arjun) …!!
    *3 thx. #Jyothi for remembering me on this DAY, my best wishes for you,
    your family AND those team members on Twitter …!!!


  4. Ravi

    Enjoyed reading this, Suja. I’m partial to R. Vedavalli’s version.

    Your mention of “Pongal” reminded me of Carl Sagan’s visit to Tamil Nadu as part of his “Cosmos” series. ( He talked about “Pongal” and Hindu religion’s concept of time scale. He further elaborated on this later in this interview: An excerpt:

    ” As far as I know. It is the only ancient religious tradition on the Earth which talks about the right time-scale. We want to get across the concept of the right time-scale, and to show that it is not unnatural. In the West, people have the sense that what is natural is for the universe to be a few thousand years old, and that billions is indwelling, and no one can understand it. The Hindu concept is very clear. Here is a great world culture which has always talked about billions of years.

    Finally, the many billion year time-scale of Hindu cosmology is not the entire history of the universe, but just the day and night of Brahma, and there is the idea of an infinite cycle of births and deaths and an infinite number of universes, each with its own gods.”

    • Hi Ravi, Thank you the link to Carl Sagan’s fascinating video. It is indeed very appropriate for the moment as he does mention Pongal. I have a great respect for the ancients because they did not blindly follow their own ancients, but indeed questioned and reasoned, dreamed of the possible and the impossible and were path-setting. Their ideas of the cosmos always stuck a right note with me, much better than the Big-Bang theory I reckon. Very interesting. I hope my other readers also watch the clip.
      Cheers. Suja

      • Ravi

        Glad you liked the Sagan video, Suja.

        As you watch the world these days, it is not unreasonable to think that we are in “Kali Yuga,” the last of the four epochs (“yuga”) in the age of the universe, as outlined in Hindu scriptures.

        Coming back to music, “Kali Yuga” makes me think of “Kaliyuga Varadan,” a composition by Periyasami Thooran whose kriti “Muruga, Muruga” you covered in one of your blog entries. By the way, let me take this opportunity to complement you for featuring Erode Anantharaman, the young boy who sang “Muruga, Muruga.” KVN and MSS whose renditions of that Kriti are two of the better ones would have been proud of that boy’s performance.

        Stay well,

        – Ravi

  5. Badarinath Murthy

    Why there is no mention of Sandhya in this kriti?
    Could it be because Shanischara was born to Chaya from Surya and became part of Navagrahas later.
    Dr Badarinath

    • Good question, I didn’t even think of that! Thanks to you, I refreshed my memory about the story of Sandhya/Saranyu/Sanjna. These tales have so many versions, don’t they! I always thought Chhaya was the shadow of Surya, but it seems possible that her name indicates she was a shadow to Sandhya/Saranyu/Sanjna as she was a look-alike or perhaps a sister. I cannot take these stories literally so I always look for a meaning behind the legend. But in this case I can really make no sense of why this story is important enough to make an appearance not only in the Rig Veda but in other scriptures and Puranas!

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