The Brahmanical text Bhavishya Purana gives an account of the origin of the cult, the sun-god and his associates, the mode of worship, the solar priests and the solar festivals. Similar account can also be gleaned from the Shamba, Varaha and some other Puranas.
Surya is an Aditya, i.e. the son of Aditi (wife of Kashyapa). The names, numbers and genealogy of the sun-god are varied in the Brahmanical texts.
He is considered a healer of diseases. His devotees invoke him to drive away sickness and evil dreams. Worship of the Sun-god as an important festival is not being observed these days, however in some parts of the countryside in India and Nepal, the Hindu ladies still observe a vrata (religious observance) of Magha-Mandala for years together before their marriage. It is observed by girls since their early childhood. It generally begins when they are as young as 3 or 4 years of age. The vrata has to be continued for five years in succession and is performed every year in winter throughout the month of Magha. The girls rise before the sun appears on the horizon and repair to the ghat (bank) of the nearest tank. They sit by the edge of the water with flowers in their hands and chant hymns in vernacular under the guidance of an elderly girl or lady. Further, on the inner court-yard of the house, a shallow circle is dug on the ground with a smaller circle to indicate the sun to the east, and a semi-circle for the moon to the west. After the chants are finished the girls return home and complete the day's observance by the chant of a short hymn, sung while sitting on the edge of the circle. A new circle has to be added each year and each has to be coloured differently by different tinted powders. When the five circles are at last completed, the final observance of eating certain forms of sweetmeat by the girl while setting on the edge of the circles, is performed. The residue of sweetmeats is thrown over her head to be scrambled for by the other girls present. Thus the five years observance comes to a close. It is said that the vrata might have been designed as a discipline in defiance of the cold weather which is at its height in Magha.
Icono-plastically, the images of the sun-god have been represented in different materials, sizes, shapes, postures and gestures. The Puranic and other relevant Brahmanical texts provide information pertaining to the features of an image of the sun-god. Here he has been shown standing on a lotus base against an aureole which is attached to the prabhamandala (halo). The stylized floral motifs have been gracefully depicted on the inner edge of the aureole, followed by flame shaped designs running along the outer edge. The halo is also decorated with floral designs and dotted strips at the edge of rim. He is wearing a dhoti, covering the lower portion of the body up to the knee. A second piece of cloth is hung in his front. The girdle which holds his cloth tight round the waist is ornamented and is further decorated with artistic hangings. Two daggers are attached to the girdle on the either side. The legs of the god are left unfinished which look as if covered by leggings or boots, but they are not so in reality. The upper portion of the legs are incised with artistic designs in the shape of upper fringes of foot-wears. It is said that the feet of the Sun-god were left unfinished by Vishvakarma, so, in the matter of the worship of the sun-god, no one anywhere fashions his feet. If it is done, it is said to lead to leprosy. Moreover, he is adorned with a cylindrical shaped crown which has a sun motif at the front. He is also wearing a necklace, earrings, sacred thread, armlets and bracelets. He has a slight sharp nose and smiling face. There is a Vaishnavite type of mark on the forehead. He is holding two full-blown lotus flowers in his hands by their stalks. Both the flowers have been shown a little above his shoulders. The image, pedestal, aureole and halo are all cast in one piece.
R.C. Majumdar, The History and culture of the Indian People, Bombay
R.C. Majumdar (ed.), The Classical Age, Bombay, 1954
D.C. Bhattacharyya, Iconology of Composite Images, Delhi, 1980