One phenomena most of us don’t give much thought is the rotation of the Earth (Gaea, Terra, Bhoomi Devi, whatever), which causes day and night.
However, the ancient people gave quite a lot of thought to it. Many deities represented the sun and the moon. Some famous sun deities are:
Surya, the Indian sun god, is the head of the Navagraha (or the nine ‘houses’, which influence all lives on Earth, consisting of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the North Node and the South Node).
Resplendent in his chariot, driven by Aruna, the lame son of Diti, he rides immediately behind the goddess Ushas.
Surya’s chariot is incredibly fascinating. It has seven horses (representing the seven rays); Jaya, Vijaya, Ajaya, Jayanti, Aparajita, Mahajaya, Nanda and Bhadra. For more details, click here.
Surya had three wives; Saranyu, Ragyi and Prabha. Sometimes, Chaya, the superficial entity created by Saranyu from her shadow (to escape Surya’s intolerable heat), is also counted. The great archer Karna is the son of Surya by Kunti. Surya is worshiped at the Sun Temple in Konark, Orissa.
Ra, the Egyptian god of the Sun, has three forms; Khepri, the morning sun; Atum, the noon sun; and Khnum, the evening sun. All three forms merged together to form Ra. By some, Ra is believed to be the creator. His children are Tefnut, Bast, Sekhmet, Hathor, Serquet and Khonsu.
The wily goddess Isis tricked Ra by making him reveal his secret name. This brought Ra totally under her control. However, before her husband Osiris could assume rule, Set killed him. Ra was succeeded by their son Horus, the falcon-headed god.
Sol, or Sunna, is the Norse goddess of the Sun. Not much is known about her, except that along with her sister Sinthgunt, and Friia and her sister Volla, along with Wodan, could sing charms which cured horses.
Helios is the Greek god of the sun. Often confused with Apollo, Helios is the son of Hyperion. However, Homer classifies Apollo as a different god, the god of archery and music, with a silver bow and NO solar features. I am taking Homer as reference here.
Helios’s sisters, Selene and Eos, are the goddesses of the Moon and Dawn respectively. Helios is also known as Helios Panoptes (Helios, the all-seeing).
He was truly all-seeing. He saw Aphrodite and Ares together and saw Odysseus’ men eat his cattle, and wrecked his ship. Well, you can’t hide anything from the Sun…
Sol Invictus(Sol, the Unconquerable) is the Roman god of the sun. Sometimes taken as Apollo, Sol’s sister, Luna, is the Roman Moon goddess.
As mentioned before, there seems to be a connection between Sunna, the Norse goddess (whose other name is Sol). Not to mention Apollo, who doesn’t seem to know whether should he be a Sun god or not. Hesiod says he is, but Homer says he isn’t. What confusion.