In Roman times, Sunday was the first day of the week–an important day named after the Sun god. Helios or Hyperion was the Greco-Roman Sun god who later merged with Greek god Apollo, the youthful, energetic, beautiful god who shot arrows that got rid of the darkness. When the Roman Empire became Christian, the day of the sun became Dominica, the Day of the Lord, the day when–according to Christians–God rested after creating the world in six days.
Unlike the months of the year, weekdays have no astronomical correlations. It is an arbitrary division of time, believed to have its origin in Babylon from where it spread eastwards to India and thence to China and westwards through Rome to around the Mediterranean. Just as Romans attributed the first day of the week to the sun, so did Indians who called it Ravivaar. Why was the first day of the week associated with the sun, no one knows. It is one of those mysteries of history that remain unresolved. The earliest reference to Sunday in India comes from texts dated after 400 CE, and it is believed to have come from sun worshippers like the Huns, Parthians and Scythians who entered India around the time of the Gupta kings.
Surya is an important god in Hinduism. He is the chief graha or celestial body around which revolve all the astrological grahas. He is the Supreme Father whose chariot is made up of 12 wheels, each wheels corresponding to the seasons, and which is pulled by seven horses. They say that while six horses are seen, the seventh horse is unseen. It is the mysterious horse of intuitive wisdom whose presence is felt but which remains invisible. Surya’s charioteer is Aruni, the god who is incomplete, of ambiguous gender, because his mother, in her impatience, broke the egg before he was fully ready to be hatched. Aruni shoots arrows that pierce the night sky, which is why dawn is so blood red.
Just as Romans attributed the first day of the week to the sun, so did Indians who called it Ravivaar.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.