Where is the Sun?

Published on 17th July, 2015, in the Economic Times

The first hymn of the Vedas is dedicated to Agni, the fire-god. The most number of Vedic hymns is dedicated to Indra, the rain-god. Yet, the most visible and most dominating god in the celestial sphere remains Surya, the sun-god, addressed by many names in the Vedas: Aditya, Savitur, Martanda, Bhaskara. Today, the old Vedic gods may have been overshadowed by Puranic gods like Shiva and Vishnu and Devi, but Surya continues to be worshipped in morning rituals. Surya was one of the few Vedic gods who had temples dedicated to him, but most of them are now in ruins, such as the sun temples of Konark in Odisha, Modhera in Gujarat, and Martand in Jammu & Kashmir. Still, as any student of astrology knows, Surya reigns supreme in the world of those who seek to know the future.

Stories of Surya are found in the Vedas and the Puranas. He is called the eye of the primal Purusha. He rides a chariot of seven horses and twelve wheels and his charioteer, Aruna, is genderless because he was born prematurely, owing to his mother’s impatience. His wife, Saranya, ran away from him, unable to withstand his glare (virility?) and left Chaya, the shadow, in her place, until Surya voluntarily gave up a part of his glare and made peace with her. He is the father of Manu, the first human, and Yama, the god who presides over the dead. He became the teacher of Yagnavalkya, the rebel sage of the Upanishads, after the latter turned away from the traditional rote learning method proposed by his guru. He is the teacher of Hanuman, who flew before his chariot, withstanding his glare, eager to learn the Vedas. He is associated with horses, the embodiment of wisdom, in Hindu mythology. In folklore, the sunflower adores him and looks at him all day, even though he is indifferent, while night jasmine flower (raat ki rani, or parijata) refuses to bloom when he is the sky, as he rejected her love. It is to him that the yogis dedicated their surya-namaskar.

When we read the history of Surya, we realize how despite his magnificence, he has always been overshadowed by other gods. In the Vedic age, it was Indra. In the Puranic age, it was Vishnu. In astrology, Rahu eclipses him. In Western mythology, the rituals and celebrations associated with the sun are claimed by the God of Christianity, which is why Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, and Christmas, the day when Jesus Christ was born, has been adjusted to align with the Winter solstice, an ancient sun-worshipping festival, and Easter, the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has been adjusted to align with the Spring equinox, yet another pagan sun-festival.

In the Ramayana, Surya’s son Sugriva, is kicked out of his kingdom by his brother Vali, following a misunderstanding. In the Mahabharata, Surya’s son Karna finds that he is an outsider because his mother abandons him at birth and he is raised by charioteers, his talent in archery notwithstanding. In Ramayana, he is helped by Ram, but all glory goes to the humble Hanuman, son of Vayu. In the Mahabharata, Krishna sides with Arjuna, son of Indra, and the only support he gets is from the villains, the Kauravas.

In the corporate world, we find many Suryas: brilliant men and women whose brilliance is obscured, or eclipsed, by other forces. Either they are too ahead of the times, or the market is not ready for them, or the mediocre competition is so strong that they bulldoze over their ideas, or they are surrounded by jealous and mean people who work actively to crush their work, and their self-confidence.

Many new entrepreneurs feel how old money, the old established corporate houses, or entrepreneurs who came up in the previous wave, treat them with disdain and in some cases actively work towards blocking their growth by blocking their investments. No one likes the new kid on the block. The nouveau riche is always looked down upon. Respectability is given only when the successful are able to sustain their wealth, power and status over 2-3 generations, or boom-bust cycles. By this time, they themselves become old money, corrupted, and so actively working against the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Yet, the world depends on Surya. His heat and light is what sustains life on earth. If there was no sun, there would be no existence. Likewise, in the world of business, there will always be rising suns: determined to dazzle the world with their brilliance, clouds and eclipses notwithstanding. Like Karna, they will not give up. They will die fighting, and ensure the bards sing of their songs to inspire future brilliance.