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Invoking the Sun God
http://www.newstodaynet.com/pongal/pn1.htm

Thai Pongal, traditionally called Thamizhar Thirunal is basically worship of the Sun God which has spread to the length and breadth of the world, of course in different names.

        Seers of Truth have composed many hymns worshipping Sun God as He is the source of sustenance for all living beings on earth and without the grace of Sun nothing can flourish and no one can imagine a life in the absence of Sun. And the human race which has been drawn its sustenance through the grace of Sun, naturally thanks Him for showering his mercy.

Adi Sankara categorised the worship of Gods and Goddesses into six major categories Souram, Saktham, Saivam, Ganapathyam, Vaishnavam and Goumaram. 

Souram is the worship of Sun God. He is seen as the Light of Wisdom as well as source of livelihood for all creatures. That is why Tamils described Sun God as kankanda deivam (God who could be seen with one's naked eyes). Even now, one could see the elders in rural areas worship the Sun as their first duty.

        Gayathri or Sandya Vandanam which has to be done thrice a day, is nothing but offering obeisance to Sun God. And on Pongal day, i.e., the first day of the month Thai, people offer Pongal to Lord Suryanarayanan (Sun God).

        The worship of Sun God has been in the vogue in other parts of the world also from time immemorial.

        In countries like Greece, England, Iran, Egypt, Afghanisthan, Japan, Burma, Cambodia, Java and Sumathra people worship the Sun God through various methods Worship of Sun God has an important place in the marriage rituals of Greeks and their mythological stories resemble that of the ones in the India. Like the Greeks, Mexicans also give at most importance to the Sun worship and Japanese kings take pride in calling themselves as the inheritors of Surya Vamsam (Sun Race). In Astrology, Sun God is connected with the health of the individual particularly for good vision, Hindus worship Him. 

     Another aspect of Sun God is courage. Sage Agasthya taught Lord Rama the Aditya Hridayam, the hymn to Lord Surya (Sun) when he felt fatigued during the battle with Ravana. And by reciting it thrice, Lord Rama rejuvenated himself and won the battle. In the Hindu system of worship, offering to the deities assumes an important place and it is called naivedyam. And the offering is nothing but thanking the Almighty, for providing the food for sustenance. 

Sastras prescribe specific flowers and food items as offerings for each God and Goddesses. Among the offerings, 'pongal' is considered as sacred by one and all. Worshippers of Goddess Sakthi, Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu offer a varieties of cooked rice.

        A Vedic prayer offered to Sun God goes ...

        Asatho ma sat gamaya (Lead us from Falsehood to Truth)

        Thamaso ma jyothir gamaya (Lead us from Darkness to Enlightenment)

        Mruthyor ma amrutham gamaya (Lead us from Ephemerality to Eternity)

        Let us all pray for a prosperous 2003 with a bumper harvest of crop. 


 

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