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Rig Veda Book 10 Verse 72 mentions a curious story about Surya's birth:

7 When, O ye Gods, like Yatis, ye caused all existing things to grow, Then ye brought Sūrya forward who was lying hidden in the sea.

8 Eight are the Sons of Aditi who from her body sprang to life. With seven she went to meet the Gods she cast Martanda far away.

9 So with her Seven Sons Aditi went forth to meet the earlier age. She brought Martanda thitherward to spring to life and die again.

The meaning of Mart-anda literally is 'dead foetus' so some scholars believe Surya was born dead and later revived. I want to know is this story of Surya being born dead and revived later given in any scripture?

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Is this story of Surya being born dead and revived later given in any scripture?

Yes , apart from Brahma Purana , we find the brief mentioning of Aditya or Sun God being born dead and revived later in Satapatha Brahmana - Kanda 3 - Adhyaya - 1 - Brahmana 3 . .But here instead it's said that Martanda was born unformed or immature than dead .

It's said in Satapatha Brahmana that Aditi gave birth to eight sons . But Only seven were called as Gods. And with those seven but casting off the Martanda , she went to gods. And why she casted him off. Because she gave him birth while he was half formed . He was just lump of matter as the size of man at his birth .

But Aditi said he is born from me and he should not to be lost , lets give him some shape. And she fashioned him like man . Some flesh was cut off from Martanda and became Elephant.

Below is excerpts from Satapatha Brahmana .

  1. Some then offer a rice-pap to the Ādityas. This is referred to (in the passage, Rig-veda X, 72, 8), 'There are eight sons of Aditi who were born from her body; with seven she went to the gods, but Mārtāṇḍa she cast off.'

  2. Now Aditi had eight sons. But those that are called 'the gods, sons of Aditi,' were only seven, for the eighth, Mārtāṇḍa, she brought forth unformed: it was a mere lump of bodily matter, as broad as it was high. Some, however, say that he was of the size of a man.

  3. The gods, sons of Aditi, then spake, 'That which was born after us must not be lost: come, let us fashion it.' They accordingly fashioned it as this man is fashioned. The flesh which was cut off him, and thrown down in a lump, became the elephant: hence they say that one must not accept an elephant (as a gift), since the elephant has sprung from man. Now he whom they thus fashioned was Vivasvat, the Āditya (or the sun); and of him (came) these creatures.


Also we can find below shlokas why he is called " Martanda " in Srimad Bhagavata Purana. Skanda 5 - Chapter 20 - verses 43-44. Where its said that Aditya Or Surya entered into dull egg of Universe at creation So he is called Martanda.

अण्डमध्यगतः सूर्यो द्यावाभूम्योर्यदन्तरम् ।
सूर्याण्डगोलयोर्मध्ये कोट्यः स्युः पञ्चविंशतिः ॥ SB 5.20.43

aṇḍa-madhya-gataḥ sūryo dyāv-ābhūmyor yad antaram
sūryāṇḍa-golayor madhye koṭyaḥ syuḥ pañca-viḿśatiḥ

The sun is situated [vertically] in the middle of the universe, in the area between Bhurloka and Bhuvarloka, which is called antariksa, outer space. The distance between the sun and the circumference of the universe is twenty-five koṭi yojanas [two billion miles].


मृतेऽण्ड एष एतस्मिन् यदभूत्ततो मार्तण्ड इति व्यपदेशः ।
हिरण्यगर्भ इति यद्धिरण्याण्डसमुद्भवः ॥SB 5.20.44

mṛte 'ṇḍa eṣa etasmin yad abhūt tato mārtaṇḍa iti vyapadeśaḥ;
hiraṇyagarbha iti yad dhiraṇyāṇḍa-samudbhavaḥ

The sun-god is also known as Vairaja, the total material body for all living entities. Because he entered this dull egg of the universe at the time of creation, he is also called Martanda. He is also known as Hiranyagarbha because he received his material body from Hiranyagarbha [Lord Brahma].


Here is another translation of above Shlokas.

43 The sun is located in the middle position of the great Egg of the universe which is at the center of the space between the earth and the valut of the Sky . The distance between the sun and the circumference of the universe is twenty five cores yojanas.

44 As the sun was in this inanimate egg of the universe , he got epithet "Martanda"

  • Great this adds another perspective to the story. It seems the RV verses I quoted and Shatapatha Brahmana are talking about the same story. Love the part about the elephants! – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal May 17 '18 at 7:01
  • @Dr. VineetAggarwal - Yes , thanks as usual. Yes the story is same. :-) – SwiftPushkar May 17 '18 at 11:17
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Yes, this story is mentioned in the Puranas.

Prajapati made Devas, the sons of Aditi the partakers of the share in the sacrifice but Daityas and Danavas harassed Devas due to their enmity. They won the three worlds from Devas. Devas didn't get their rightful share of sacrifices and struck with hunger.

Aditi was afflicted. She felt distress seeing her sons deprived of sacrifices. She eulogizes sun god. Sun god was satisfied with the prayer and grants her a boon of her choice. She asks him to be born in her womb as her son and ask for destruction of enemies. Sun god says (Excerpt from Chapter 30)

  1. “With the thousandth part of mine I shall be born in your womb. Efficient that I am, I shall, ere long, kill the enemies of your sons and become delighted”.

  2. Having spoken thus, lord Sun vanished thereafter. Having secured everything the had desired she ceased from her activities in pursuit of penance.

In order to fulfil her desire, Lord has entered the womb of Aditi through one of his thousand rays Sushumna.She performed many holy rites with concentration and purity. Thereupon

  1. “I shall conceive this divine foetus with great purity” that she performed those holy rites. Thereupon Kayapa spoke to her, with words full of wrath.

35-37. “Why do you destroy the Egg of the foetus by observing a perpetual fast ?‘ Provoked by his query she spoke furiously to him—” See the foetus for yourself. It ii not killed. He will certainly cause a death-blow to the enemies”. Infuriated by the utterance of her husband she uttered these words and discharged the terrible foetus that was dazzling with splendour. On seeing that the foetus had the refulgence of the rising sun, Kayapa bowed and eulogized respectfully in words of high order.

  1. Addressing Kahyapa the excellent sage arid his wife from the firmament an unembodied voice as grave and majestic as the rumbling sound of the cloud uttered thus :

The Voice said:

  1. O sage, since this foetus of Aditi was pronounced slain by you, this son of yours will come to be called Martanda.

41-42. He will slay Asuras, the enemies who took away shares from sacrifices.

The etymology of Martanda means born of Mrita Anda means born of dead foetus.

This is the version in the Brahma Purana

Brahmanda Purana has a slightly different version where sun god was in the womb of Aditi. In the earlier days when Prajapati was desirous of creation, he brought splendour of the three worlds and put it in an egg. Using his yogic power, he put it in the womb of Aditi. The child was inside the egg. He was increasing his lustre day by day. The deities couldn't bear the brilliance of the foetus. They plead to Prajapati (could be Kashyapa since it is said he put in the heart of Aditi. They refer to Prajapati as Brāhmaṇa) to save them. Prajapati took out the foetus and revived it later. When it was taken out of the belly, it resembled a dead lump.

279-283. It increased excessively. The Devas became devoid of splendour on coming to know that the foetus had been evolved wholly out of their own brilliance which had been taken away. They became afraid and said to Prajãpati—”How shall this be to us, (What will become of us) ? O lord, the strength and brilliance of this (foetus) evolved by you is excessive. How can we exist? 0 perpetual one surely we shall be finished. There is no doubt that all living beings here, both mobile and immobile will become burnt before long. O excellent Brāhmaṇa, consider over this (point), withdraw the strength and splendour deposited within the egg so that it will be conducive to our welfare. The renown and potentiality of the splendour burns all round rapidly.

284-288. After reflection, the lord Prajāpati pulled it off. He infused strength in the egg. Then (he child was within the egg. They say that what was the infused strength is the egg The brilliance is considered to be the child. When it was taken out of the belly it resembled a dead lump. Thereupon, Prajāpati examined it, and split the egg into two. Placing the two pieces (side by side), lie saw in one of them the foetus overwhelmed by weakness. It was however full of brilliance. At once he lifted it up and placed it in the lap of Aditi. He said—”He has the state of being born of Aditi. Since he was born dead (Mṛta) as an egg (aṇḍa) Savitṛ (the sun) is called Märtanda by the learned men.

Chapter 7, Upodhgāta Parva, Madhyabhāga, Brahmāṇḍa Purana.

Then Lord Brahma increased the brilliance in the dead child. This breaking of one egg resulted in two egg shells.

  1. Prapitāmaha (the great grandfather, Brahmā) created more brilliance in it. It is considered that what were the two egg-shells, had got very great power (i.e. the strength of the egg-shells was great).

  2. The lord placed them separately in her navel and gave them to Irvāti. With a wish for procreation, he stuffed them into her belly.

  • Great answer thanks. Yes I had also come across the story of him being born dead as the Vedas say and later being revived but cant find it anywhere. BTW this would mean that there is another Sun god besides Surya! – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal May 16 '18 at 12:55
  • Great story! @Dr. Vineet But how does that imply a second Surya? – Surya May 16 '18 at 14:21
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    @Surya that makes them very different indeed as Vishnu and Krishna are separate entities too. The point to be noted is that this Aditya is the ruler of our own Sun whereas the other Surya was already existing so may actually be the ruler of some other Sun (possibly the one in Swargaloka)! – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal May 18 '18 at 4:38
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    @Dr. Vineet But is the Swargaloka solar system an actual thing? I thought it was something you added creatively in Vishwamitra. Can't it be like our own Sun incarnated as Vivasvan and resumed his duty as the sun – Surya May 18 '18 at 7:25
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    Yes its not mentioned clearly anywhere and I created it for my work based on the descriptions of various Lokas in the scriptures. In fact even if you see the depictions of Lokas they are thousands of yojans away from earth so can not be dependent on our Sun. Alternatively, the different Lokas of various gods can be mapped on the Milky Way as well and their locations are far apart so have to be dependent on different solar systems. In fact this mention of two different Sun gods kind of gives me the first supporting evidence for the same ;) – Dr. Vineet Aggarwal May 18 '18 at 9:00
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Another version of story is mentioned in Mahabharata CCCXLIII.

According to that Budha cursed Aditi that her egg (anda) would be dead. Aditi was carrying Surya that time.

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In the hymn RV.10.72 Rishi gives a brief history of the god 'MArtand' whose temples were constructed in many places, one of the most famous is now in ruins in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is considered as temple of Sun god,but this hymn declare him as one of the eight sons of our ancestral mother Aditi, who went out side (parA)and way back he sustained the mortals of his homeland. The literal translation of the hymn follows -

  1. Gods belonging to Vaya* said joyfully. People were governed by sacred songs(uktheshu shasya mAneshu) as seen in later ages.

  2. From the sperms of the masters of cognition(brahmanasyapati retA), good craftsmen(kar Mar) came forth. From the earlier age of gods which was age of asat(falsehood), the sat(truth) was born.

  3. From the earlier age of gods sat was born out of asat, then AshA* was articulated, then extended verses also.

4.From the extented verses of 'Yagna' of earth, AshA was born or took a firm shape. DakshA(enlightened men) of Aditi was born, besides Diti's Daksha.

  1. Daksha and energetic daughters were born of Aditi, there gods were articulated with cultivated immortal relationships.

  2. Here, gods were situated at deep waters of Ad ( a place name ), well cultured. Here they danced like Yati* with strong drinks.

  3. Here gods as well as Yati flourished and expanded all over the world. Here in the caves near the deep waters ( of Ad) they knew about Sun (suryam jabhar tan).

  4. Eight sons of Aditi gave birth to offsprings also (jAtAs tanvas pari). Gods went along the seven. MArtand went away( parA MArtandma syat or in modern grammer sense - MArtandma parAsyat).

  5. With the seven, sons of Diti went along or used to live together in earlier ages. For common mortal men ( prajAye mritvey), MArtandma way back became sustainer (tvat punar MArtandma bharat).

*Vaya = Vaya, Maya etc are groups of people mentioned in Rig Veda in several places.

*AshA = for many people this term stands as a name of ancient god, even in Persian scripture 'Avesta' it is mentioned as a name of god, but in internal analysis of Rig Veda 'Ash' means food.

*Yati = Yati, YAt, YAtu etc all denotes common people in the age of deva, without mentioning any affiliation to a group.

Note - the words of the hymn are translated with the help of sanskrit dictionary at www.spokensanskrit.org and internal analysis of Rig Veda itself.

As far as etymology of MArtand is concerned, we should not impose present day meaning to a Rig Vedic term, because a lot of words have changed meaning over a period of time. In Rig Veda 'mar','mAr','martyA', etc all stands for mortal man and the egg like form is of Sun in the sky which is the cause of birth of all living being including human mortals. That's why MArtand means Sun. So this son of Aditi got the epithet of MArtand. In the answer given by Swift Pushkar above, Satpath Brahmana confirms one thing that MArtanda went away as it notes finally after the far fetched story of 'flesh lump' and birth of elephant that -'Now,whom they thus fashioned was vivasvat' and in Rig Vedic etymology - vi vas vat means who settled outside.

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