Categories: Hindu God and Goddess

Sanjna: The Chief Consort of Surya Deva

Sanjna, also known as Saranyu, is a prominent Hindu goddess and the chief consort of Surya Deva, the Sun god. She is first mentioned in the ancient Rigveda and later appears in various Hindu scriptures like the Harivamsa and the Puranas. Sanjna is the daughter of Tvashta, a craftsman deity often identified with Vishwakarma, the divine architect. Unable to bear Surya’s intense heat and brilliance, Sanjna temporarily abandoned her husband, seeking respite from his overwhelming radiance.

Sanjna

Sanjna is revered as the mother of several important deities and divine beings. She gave birth to Yama, the god of death, and Yami, the river goddess associated with the Yamuna River. She is also the mother of the current Manu, the progenitor of humanity in the current cosmic age. Additionally, she bore the Ashvins, the divine twin physicians, and Revanta, a god associated with horses and hunters. These offspring highlight her significant role in Hindu mythology and the pantheon of gods.

The Origin of Saranyu

In ancient texts like the Rigveda, Saranyu is depicted as a female embodiment of speed, agility, and nimbleness, often associated with rivers and wind. She’s likened to a swift-speeding storm cloud, symbolizing rapid movement and power. As time progressed, particularly in the Harivamsa from the 5th century C.E., Saranyu took on other names like Sanjna or Samjna, meaning ‘image’, ‘sign’, or ‘name’. This transformation signifies her multifaceted nature and her connection to deeper meanings beyond mere swiftness. In some narratives, she’s also referred to as Sandhya, representing the mystical transition between day and night, further emphasizing her association with twilight and liminality.

Sanjna and Her Family in Scriptures

Sanjna, also known as Saranyu, appears in the Rigveda (circa 1200-1000 BCE). In these ancient texts, she is depicted as the daughter of the deity Tvastar and the twin sister of Trisiras. Sanjna is married to Vivasvan, but she temporarily leaves him and appoints a lookalike named Sadrisha to take care of her children. This tale of Sanjna abandoning her husband is further elaborated in the Yaksha’s Nirukta (around 500 BCE). The Brhaddevata also recounts this story, adding more details about the birth of the Ashvins, the divine twin horsemen.

Sanjna and Chhaya

In the epic Harivamsa (circa 5th century CE), Saranyu is first referred to as Sanjna, and the myth surrounding her is significantly expanded. Puranic texts, such as the Markandeya Purana, Matsya Purana, and Kurma Purana, describe Sanjna as the daughter of Vishwakarma, who is identified with Tvastar. In these stories, her lookalike is named Chhaya, meaning ‘shadow’ or ‘reflection’. However, the Bhagavata Purana presents Chhaya as Sanjna’s biological sister.

Most scriptures agree that Sanjna and Surya (another name for Vivasvan) have six children:

• Shraddhadeva Manu: The ancestor of humanity.
• Yama: The Lord of Death.
• Yami: Also known as the Lady of the Yamuna river.
• The Ashvins: The divine twin physicians.
• Revanta: The master of horses.

However, the Kurma Purana and Bhagavata Purana (Srimad Bhagavatam) mention that Sanjna has only three children: Shraddhadeva Manu, Yama, and Yami (Yamuna).

The Tale of Samjna, Surya, and Their Children

Surya

According to numerous ancient texts, the craftsman deity Vishwakarma, also known as Tvastar, has two children named Samjna and Trisiras. As Samjna matures into a beautiful maiden, her father arranges for her Svayamvara, a traditional ceremony where a woman chooses her husband from a group of eligible suitors. Samjna selects Surya, the sun god, also known as Vivasvan, as her husband.

Samjna, however, is dissatisfied with her married life. The Harivamsa states that Surya’s intense power and heat make him unattractive to her, while the Markandeya Purana explains that she cannot bear Surya’s splendor and heat, which changes her behavior. This behavior angers Surya, leading him to curse their future children. After the birth of their children, Yama and Yami, Samjna can no longer tolerate the situation and decides to leave her husband. Before departing, she creates a woman from her shadow, named Chhaya, to take care of her children. In Vedic accounts, this woman is named Savarna. According to the Harivamsa and Markandeya Purana, Samjna flees to her father’s abode but is asked to return. Feeling helpless, she transforms into a mare and roams the forest of Kuru. In the Vishnu Purana, a similar story is recounted by the sage Parashara, where Samjna leaves Surya to gain control over his heat by performing penance in the forest.

Meanwhile, Surya, unaware of the replacement, impregnates the look-alike Chhaya. Chhaya favors her own children, and when Yama misbehaves, she curses him. In the Harivamsa, Yama threatens Chhaya, while in the Markandeya Purana, he kicks her. Chhaya then curses Yama’s leg, causing it to become infected with worms or fall apart, or both, depending on the version. Surya notices this harsh punishment, which a real mother would not impose on her child, and becomes suspicious. Upon confronting Chhaya, she reveals the entire truth.

Distressed, Surya seeks help from his father-in-law, Vishwakarma, and asks him to reduce his intense heat and splendor. Vishwakarma complies, making Surya more pleasant to behold. Surya then locates Samjna, who is still in the form of a mare. He transforms into a stallion and mates with her. Samjna gives birth to twins, the Ashvins, through her nose. Surya then reveals his true form to her. Pleased with her husband’s new appearance, Samjna returns to her abode with their newborn twins. Unlike the Harivamsa version, the Markandeya Purana states that Surya asks his father-in-law to reduce his heat after the birth of the Ashvins. Some texts also mention that Samjna and Surya have another child, Revant, the divine master of horses.

In many Puranas, it is said that Vishwakarma uses the heat extracted from Surya to create many celestial weapons.

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Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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