The Gunung Padang Megalithic Structure built on a small extinct volcano which is likely to be Mt. Suryavān (The Mount of the Sun) described in an ancient Hindu text of Vālmīki Rāmāyana, offers the best location for the origin of Sun-worship. In Part 3 of this series, the description of this region as being part of Shāka Dwīpa was given. Four classes of people namely Magā, Maśakā, Mānasā and Mandagā were living in the vast region of Shāka Dwīpa. Of them, the Magā, the Brahmins were credited with having evolved Sun worship known as ‘Saura’ in Hindu texts.
Sun worship started by the Magā Brahmins of Shāka Dwīpa
The beginnings of the Magā Brahmins are given in story form in the Bhaviṣya Purāna. The story is much like how the sages used to give the secrets of the past in weird ways, which however can be solved by deciphering the etymology of the names. (Check HERE for a sample story containing a clever secret on a pre-historic migration route).
Once there lived a rishi (sage) by name Sujihva. Jihva in Sujihva means tongue or speech. So, Sujihva means good-tongued or having good-speech. This is a reference to one who has command over his tongue or who speaks well. Sujihva also refers to fire or God of fire.
He had a daughter, Nikshubha. She was matchless in form and was very beautiful. Here comes a twist in the story. This daughter was thrown into fire by the orders of her father Sujihva! This must make us understand that this is not a story about mortals but about some events in nature.
Nikshepa in Sanskrit means casting away, throwing away, abandoning or drying. To know what this is about let us continue with the story. While she was being thrown into fire, the Sun, the God of Gods got fascinated by her and wanted to marry her. So, he entered the fire in which she was thrown, and became the son of the fire. Upon this, the girl started jumping over the fire. The result was the birth of a child called ‘Jarashabda’. However, the son of the god of fire was infuriated by her action and accused her of jumping over him when the Sun had not yet risen. Due to this, their son Jarashabda would not be honoured as his son.
Distressed by this, the girl started meditating on the Sun that the child (Jarashabda) in her womb was his (Sun’s) and therefore the Sun must make him worthy of honour. The Sun taking his form as fire granted that the progeny of this son should start worshiping him and preached the method of worship. They should worship with flowers, incense and guggul (benzoin resin) smoke for three times a day – when the Sun was half-risen, at mid-day and at afternoon. Incense and guggul must be offered to the Sun with invocation for 5 times a day.
Those who were thus born of the son of Sun came to be known as Magā. The letter / sound ‘ma’ signifies the Sun. Those who meditated on ‘ma’ came to be called as Magā. There are two versions on how they looked. They had matted hair and grew beard. There is another version in the same text that they shaved their head and kept a tuft of hair.
Decoding the description so far, casting away of the girl Nikshubha in the fire and her jumping on the fire when the sun entered conveys that a dull or dying fire was kept alive by throwing wood or sticks. The entry of the sun refers to the time period when solar heat started getting felt in the southern hemisphere. This happened 14,000 years ago. When the environment was getting warmer, it was possible to get dry wood or sticks for making or keeping fire, which however were not sufficient going by the next input about the birth of the son, Jarashabda.
Etymologically, Jarashabda refers to old noise, perhaps the cracking noise when half dried wood is thrown into the fire. The story also says that the Sun, though found entering the fire had not yet risen! So, the resultant fire (son of the Sun) made from the wood was lacklustre. This refers to the time of Younger Dryas 12,000 years ago when the sun appeared devoid of heat due to a comet-hit.
This event is encapsulated in the above story and also in the well-known story of Mārtaṇḍa given in other Purāna-s of the Vedic society (brief note here). Check the video:
The Vedic society retains the memory of 8 Suns so far. Aditi was the Goddess who had borne these 8 Suns. (Aditi = boundlessness, immensity, creative power, perfection). The present Sun is the 8th. The description of the Suns begins from the 6th Sun named as ‘Vivasvat’ (= brightness, brilliance). Sometime after it was born, it lost its sheen. In that state, it was regarded as the 7th Sun. It was there in the sky but remained as though it was still-born. It was known as Mārtaṇḍa (not dead – na mṛta – but remained in the anda, i.e., womb). After sometime, it regained its brightness and became the 8th Sun – the sun of the current times (Holocene).
Two Manu-s emerged during the time of the 7th Sun. One of them moved to India and his progeny is known as Mānava-s (another name for Indians). There is no information on the other Manu who was born to Chāya (=shadow). But they continue to live in this world and are going to people the next Manvantara (epoch). They resemble the other Manu and hence they are Sāvarna (= same type)
This Manu seems to have given rise to Shāka Dwīpa Magā Brahmins and other people of Shāka Dwīpa!
To express the above description in simple terms, there came a time of return of the Sun after a long period of chillness. But soon after that the climate turned colder when the sun was seen in the sky but was not hot enough (Mārtaṇḍa). This description matches with the period of Younger Dryas. After some time, the cold days got over and the Sun started becoming hotter. We continue to experience this Sun (Holocene). Two different genetic traits formed in the period of Younger Dryas of which one type moved to India and another stayed in Shāka Dwīpa.
This story seems to be repeated in the Shāka Dwīpa story of the Bhaviṣya Purāna. In the place of Aditi, there is Nikshubha. The sun entering the fire where she was thrown, seems to indicate the period of increasing solar heat that was reaped by mankind to kindle fire. That signifies the onset of first solar radiation after the Ice age. But that phase didn’t last long as it is clearly stated that the Sun had not risen. This is same as what was experienced during Younger Dryas. The people who kept praying for the Sun to emerge with its brilliance came to be known as ‘Magā’ Brahmins.
As per this story, these people were the first to have framed a proper way of meditating on the Sun seeking his brightness. From them was born the Saura (Sun) worship.
Gunung Padang, the location of Sun worship?
Rāmāyana’s description of Mt. Suryavān dedicated to the Sun must have been near the equator. By the name of it, Mt. Suryavān seems to be where the Saura worship started. The twin peaks (Mt. Pushpitaka) in the same location offering ideal frame of observation of the sun, the moon and the moving sky (as stated in the Vālmīki Rāmāyana), point to the Gunung Padang Megalithic structure as Mt. Suryavān.
The Saura worship also enshrines a dip in water. Facing North and East, the worshiper (Magā Brahmin) must wash his hands and feet up to the knees. He should devoutly come out of water, for, there is Sun, fire and Goddess Saraswati in the water, says Bhaviṣya Purāna. Perhaps this refers to the day time heat of the sun trapped in water at night and the worshiper feeling the warmth in the water before he started the next morning’s worship of the Sun. Saraswati stands for speech and also represents overflow (of water). According to researchers there was a river running to the north of Gunung Padang.
The GPM structure was in the direction of Northwest – South East with the South east end on a higher plane. There is an arch like appearance on the east side of the GPM according to researchers. This perfectly fits with the worship method of taking a dip in the river in the north and climbing the structure from the east.
The worshiper must enter the House of God and place lotus flowers on the head of Sun. He must worship with sandal water, red-chalk powder, incense and guggul. So, there was an image of the Sun worshiped by the Magā Brahmins. What was it like?
In all likelihood, it could have been in the shape of the Sun – i.e., spherical!
That should have been the initial conception of the image of the Sun when Sun worship was started. The discovery of a rolling spherical stone found at a depth of 10 meters in the 5th terrace at South East could in all probability be the image of the Sun God worshiped at GPM.
‘Rolling Stone’ at GPM
It is a free rotating stone ball encased in a triangular stone structure. It could not be taken out easily. A close-up view of the Rolling Stone brings out familiarity with 2 such appearances seen in India. Similar free rolling stone balls are found in the temple architecture of Tamilnadu. For instance, the following figure shows a perfectly spherical stone ball rolling inside the mouth of a mythical animal, Yāḷi.
Rolling Stone in Yāḷi’s mouth in Thirukkurungudi temple (Tamilnadu)
The ball can be seen from the hole on each side of the cheek and from the open mouth. The mouth is hollow inside. One can insert one’s hand through the mouth and catch hold of the ball and rotate it. It perfectly fits with the hole on the cheek but can never come out. The sculptor had skilfully chiselled within the enclosure. The expertise had existed 1000 years ago in India and many thousands of years ago in Java as seen from the GPM Rolling Stone. The contact between Javanese and Tamil lands of India must have made the exchange of technology possible.
Another similar looking architecture is found in the Kamakhya Temple of Assam, India.
Known as one of the first Adhi Shakti Pīṭha-s (seat of Shakti), it is said to be a burning body part of Sati Devi (wife of Shiva) that had fallen over there. Written about this in Part 1 as a probable fragment of the comet of Younger Dryas. The comparison stops with the physical appearance, but conceptually, Kāmakhya comes under Shākta (Goddess) worship and the GPM rolling stone is fit to come under Saura (Sun) worship. Both originated in South East Asia and almost around the same time because Shakti worship was started by Skanda who lived during Younger Dryas in that region.
Originally the spherical image of the Sun must have been worshiped at GPM (Mt. Suryavān). With time, any vestige of worship of that image might have gone. Since the location continued to be in use with fresh structures around 11,600 years ago (according Hancock) when Skanda lived, Shākta worship might have happened in the same site. Triangular base is the unique feature of Shākta worship as one can such images in the Shakti temples of India.
The Sun is identified with Lord Shiva and hence the use of the site for Shakti (wife of Shiva) worship could have happened as a natural corollary. Close to GMP is Tugu Gede site, where a 4-metre high menhir is found, which resembles Shiva Linga.
Shiva Linga- like structure at Tugu Gede
From the cultural remains in this place, this is found to have existed from pre-historic times. Even today people worship this after every harvest. The presence of many pre-historic menhirs that resemble Shiva linga in other locations around the region, point out to the simultaneous existence of Sun, Shiva and Shakti worship (associated with or initiated by Skanda) right from the time of Younger Dryas.
In fact, Shiva was the deity of Shāka Dwīpa according to the Mahābhārata version. The breaking-up of the comet of Younger Dryas was supposed to have been done by Skanda by the weapon given to him by Shakti, his mother. These three (worship of Sun, Shiva and Shakti) are part of Shanmata (6 methods of worship) of the Vedic society, by which we understand that these worship methods shifted to India sometime during or after Younger Dryas. This was facilitated by Skanda perhaps, who had his abode in South East India too (in Tiruchendur).
Other Sun worshippers in South East Asia
Apart from Maga Brahmins, a very short statured Vālakhilya-s were also found mentioned in Vedic texts as Sun worshippers. They too had their origins in South east Asia. They were likely to be the descendants of Hobbits of Indonesia (details here). Later on, they moved to the Himalayan region.
They greeted the Sun at the time of sun-rise at Mt. Udayagiri and meditated on the Sun. Valmiki Ramayana refers to Mt. Udayagiri (Mountain of Sunrise), as the global gateway for sunrise, situated at 90 degrees east of India. The Vishnu Purana locates this mountain in Shāka Dwīpa. This mountain is likely to be Mount Uluigalau of Fiji Islands (derivation HERE)
The movement of the Sun is compared with three steps of Lord Vishnu with the first step at Mt. Udayagiri in the east, the second step at Jambhu Dwīpa (India) and the third step at Mt. Asta Giri (Likely to be Atlas Mountains - derivation here) which is close to the Greenwich Meridian. As per this concept of the Vedic society, the Greenwich Meridian formed the western limit while the Prime Meridian had run across India and the eastern Meridian at Fiji Islands.
The global sunrise location at South East has an interesting parallel with the South East alignment of the GPM. Was it devised deliberately to face the South East direction? The global sun-rise at Mt. Udayagiri (in South East) and the sun-worship by Vālakhilya-s having appeared in Vālmīki Ramayana, there is a clear case for pre-historic beginnings to the recognition of Mt. Udayagiri as the global east for sun-rise. The only difference is that the Vālakhilya-s associated the movement of the Sun with Vishnu while the Magā Brahmins focused on the Sun for worship.
There is yet another location near Mt. Udayagiri in the South East part of the globe where Sun worship was done right from the beginning of Holocene. I am referring to more than 400 Tumuli found throughout the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia close to Fiji.
Tumuli of Isle of Pines used for Sun worship in pre-historic times?
The numerous tumuli found in the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia in the South Pacific are different from the tumuli in other parts of the world in that they are not burial mounds. No graves are found under the tumuli of Isle of Pines. Each tumulus contains a vertical cement block of unknown mixture with a circular shaft running through the center.
New Caledonia and Fiji
Tumulus in New Caledonia
Distribution of tumuli in the Isle of Pines
These mysterious tumuli found so close to the global East (near Mt. Udayagiri) seem be the early locations of meditation on the Sun, going by the etymology of Samvarana who meditated on the Sun.
Samvarana in Sanskrit means mound or closure or concealment or covering. The story of king Samvarana who meditated on the Sun to marry his daughter Tapati is given in three chapters of the Mahabharata. In the story of birth of two Manu-s to Vivasvān, the Sun, described earlier, Tapati was the daughter of the Sun born to Chāya – at a time the Sun light was dull (Younger Dryas). Tapati is the name of a river in Central India flowing on the south side of River Narmada. Etymologically it refers to birth from heat. This probably indicates origin from a frozen source which on getting heated by the growing solar radiation gave birth to the river Tapati at the end of Younger Dryas. The story of her marriage with Samvarana is not of a human relationship but of an event of the past given in story form.
By the name Samvarana, it is understood that this person concealed himself in an enclosure or a mound to meditate on the Sun, Vivasvān that was slowly growing in brilliance. At the end of the meditation, he married a woman of the Tapati region and started procreating. Kuru, the ancestor of the Pāndava-s of the Mahābhārata had come in his lineage.
In the story it is said that Samvarana sat upon a mountain and worshiped the Sun with joined palms and upturned face. This reminds us of the tumulus at the Isle of Pines that resemble artificially created mountains. They seem to be the locations of sun-worship. Cement blocks were made with a hole in the middle through which sun light passes through. Barring the hole, the rest of the structure seemed to have been covered with earth so that whoever is sitting inside would experience the streak of sunlight in a dark environment.
The cement-block in the middle of the Tumulus in the Isle of Pines
The outer and inner view of the middle opening through which sunlight passes.
The nature of the cement embedded with turtle shells make me wonder if the method of cement making of the olden times given in Brihat Samhita was somewhat similar to that. The details of cement-making in archaic times are given in chapter 57 from p.501 onwards in this link.
[The olden methods of breaking rocks can be read in the same book in Chapter 54 from verse 112 onwards (page 480) in this link.]
There is an oral tradition that these mounds are meant for torture, though there is no sign of torture found. But if we apply the meditation method of Samvarana, the one who confined himself within the mound, that set-up must have put him into terrible torture. Once the meditation got over, the worshiper had come out of the mound. It is also very much likely that those early worshipers (like Vālakhilya-s) had shifted to India and Samvarana could have been one from them.
After Samvarana there was no evidence of similar worship of the Sun in India. However, Saura (Sun) worship gained popularity with the migration of Magā Brahmins of Shāka Dwīpa 5000 years ago.
(To be continued in Part 5)