It is customary to perform Panchaayatana puja daily among Hindu homes. It is a daily worship of the five deities viz., Ganesha, Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu and Surya (The Sun). Surya occupies a special status among these five deities because He is the only Pratyaksha Devata i.e. He is the only one Deity who is visible to the naked eye not based on any Anumanam (inference) or any other means of knowledge like Sabda etc.
The objective of another prescribed daily ritual, Sandhyaavandanam, is the worship of Surya during the Morning, the Mid Day and the Dusk. The Gayatri mantra recited during this ritual is the most sacred invocation to the Sun God praying for a Good Day similar to the modern “Good Day to You” type.
Worship of the Sun God or Suryopasana is as ancient as Hinduism itself having its origin from Vedic times. Hence numerous hymns addressed to Him are found in all the four Vedas - e.g. Saura Sukta of the Rg Veda, Aruna Prashna of the Taittiriiya Aranyaka, Surya Namaskara mantras, Surya Upanishad of Atharva Veda etc. These hymns describe the celestial body as the source of energy and sustainer of all life on the planet earth.
They portray the Sun as the store house of inexhaustible power and radiance. The Sun god is also referred to as Aditya. The origin of the worship of the Sun in India is thus several centuries old.
Suurya is usually equated with Brahman as "asaavaadityo brahma", meaning the Sun is the icon of Brahman.
Rig Veda says "Surya Atma Jagatastasthushashcha" meaning the Sun God is the Soul of all beings, moving and non-moving.
References to the Sun worship are also found in the Puranas. The famous Aditya Hridayam is a part of the Yuddha Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana wherein Sage Agastya initiates Rama into Sun worship to bolster up His spirits while facing Ravana in the battlefield. We find references to Surya in the Mahabharata also.
Mayura, who lived in the court of Harshavardhana composed the Surya Satakam in praise of Surya and is believed to have been cured of blindness.
One of the famous Vedic Hymns in praise of the Sun God is Surya Upanishad which finds place in the Atharva Veda. It is reproduced below in its transliterated form from the original Sanskrit together with its free English translation.
aum bhadram karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah
sthirairangaistushhtuvaansastanuubhirvyashema devahitam yadaayuh
svasti na indro vriddhashravaah svasti nah puushhaa vishvavedaah
svasti nastaarkshyo arishhtanemih svasti no brihaspatirdadhaatu
aum shaantih shaantih shaantih
Om! O Devas, may we hear with our ears what is auspicious; May we see with our eyes what is auspicious, O ye worthy of worship! May we enjoy the term of life allotted by the Devas, Praising them with our body and limbs steady! May the glorious Indra bless us! May the all-knowing Sun bless us! May Garuda, the thunderbolt for evil, bless us! May Brihaspati grant us well-being!
Om! Peace, Peace, Peace!