People, Planets and the Sun: Surya Puja in Tamil Nadu, South India

Author: J. McKim Malville and R. N. Swaminathan
Abstract: This paper analyses architectural alignments and reports the results of interviews with priests and lay persons at those temples in the Tanjore district of Tamil Nadu in which sunlight of the rising or setting sun enters the sanctum, primarily near equinox. The event, known as Surya puja, occurs most frequently in Shaivite temples and is most often understood to be a case of the sun worshipping Lord Shiva. At some temples it is believed the sun suffers from leprosy, which may be associated with an outbreak of sunspots in the late 11th century. Many of today’s Surya puja rituals have strong astrological dimensions, which have probably grown in intensity since the temples were built.
Publication: Cosmos and Culture
Issue: Vol 2 No 1
Dated: Spring/Summer 1998
Pages: 3 – 15

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