He is Surya’s Charioteer. He is also called Anoora. Aruna is also the personification of the reddish glow of Surya which radiance has spiritual powers. As the charioteer, Aruna has the glory of preceding Surya in the skies. The dawn, particularly its redness is personified as the charioteer of the Sun. It is the male equivalent of Usas. Aruṇa is sometimes considered a part of Surya, as he is the vision and driving force behind its path through the sky. In some stories, Aruṇa drives the chariot of Surya, while in others, he is a manifestation of Surya, serving as a sign of the coming of the Sun God. Aruna also symbolizes the coming of day.
Vinata, the daughter of Daksha, is married to Kashyapa. Vinata obtained a boon from Kashyapa that she would have two offsprings of tremendous power surpassing the thousand serpent sons of her sister, Kadru. Kadru is also the daughter of Daksha. Kashyapa ferlilised both his wives. Kadri had a thousand eggs, Vinata had just two. After 5000 years Kadri’s pot broke up and she had a 1000 Naga sons. Once, her sons had displeased her by refusing to do her bidding, so she cursed them to die by ordeal of fire. According to the Puranas, there is a counter-measure for all curses except those uttered by one’s own mother.
Janmejaya was the son of Parikshit, who came to the throne at a young age due to his father's untimely demise. When he came of age, and came to know that his father was killed by the king of serpents Takasha, he decided to perform a sacrifice to kill all the serpents in the world. The sacrifice was only partially successful, as most of the snakes were exterminated. Due to Vyasa’s last minute intervention, the sacrifice was incomplete. Takshaka and a few Nagas escaped his fate and continued the line of Nagas.
Now, back to our story, Vinata gave birth to two eggs, which did not hatch for a long time. In her impatience, she broke open one of them and found Aruna inside it, but he had an undeveloped lower body. But, due to the premature breaking of the egg, Aruṇa was not as bright as the noon sun as he was promised to be. Aruna was also born without thighs, so he was called ‘Aruru’ without thighs, or without feet. Aruna’s imperfect form has been supposed to be allusive to his partial appearance. He cursed his mother to bondage for her impatience. He then took to the skies and achieved great glory by becoming the charioteer of Surya, the sun.
Aruna is said to be married to Syeni and believed to be the father of Jatayu and Sampati, King of the Vultures. They are powerful characters in the Ramayana also. According to another version, Aruna’s wife Syeni was the daughter of Kashyapa by his wife Tamra and that he had another son by her named Syena.
VALI AND SUGRIVA:
There is a story explaning how Aruna assumed a female form. Silavati, a chaste woman once performed naked tapas to redeem her husband Ugratapas from the consequence of a curse. The object of her asceticism was to prevent the next dawn-Aruna. Owing to the intensity of her tapas, the Sun ceased to rise and this no doubt gave his charioteer Aruna some rest. Aruna then came to know of a programme of a naked dance by the women in Devaloka. Now, this was a women alone dance hall.
Aruna had a special desire to witness the dance and therefore assumed a female form to sit among the Deva women.
Indra, who happened to be there saw Aruna in disguise. This beautiful female form kindled erotic sentiments in Indra and he enjoyed a night with ‘her’ not knowing that he was enjoying maya.A child was also born and before the day dawned, Aruna at the instance of Indra entrusted the child to Ahalyadevi and returned to join duty as charioteer. So in the meanwhile, Aruna had acted as Indra’s wife and called Arunadevi. Aruna was a bit late to report for duty and when questioned by the sun, Aruna had to tell the truth.
Surprise surprise, the Sun too desired to see Arunadevi, which materialised and the too enjoyed her, which also resulted in the birth of a son. This child was also entrsusted to Ahalyadevi. She brought up both the sons with tender love. But Gauama rishi did not like the legitimacy and cursed them to be monkeys. After some time Indra comes to know and searches out the monkeys. He found them. In view of the elder one having a long tail, he called Bali or Vali and the other, being radiant and beautiful, he called Sugriva. As Rksaraja, the monkey king of Kishkinda had no sons, Indra gave both the monkeys in adoption. Indra, as father, blessed Bali to the effect that half of the strength of anybody who attacked Bali would be added to his own natural power.
He emerged from the other egg to become Mahavishnu’s vahana. At birth Agni said to the King "My King, This is Garuda, the son of Kashyapa and Vinata. He is destined to be the King of the birds. His father had granted a boon to his mother that he will surpass all the immortals in his lusture and glory, and that is what you all are being blinded by."
Garuda is the king of all birds. He is the mortal enemy of the serpents, who are his half-brothers. He freed his mother from bondage by obtaining Amrit for the snakes. He however helped Indra trick the serpents, and recover the amrit, before they could drink it. He thus became the friend of Indra, and obtained overlorship of the birds. He obtained a boon from Maha Vishnu that he would be above him, which was accomplished by putting his emblem on the flagstaff of Vishnu's charriot. In return, he agreed to become the Vishnu’s vahana.
There was a bit of cheating that went on when the amrit was distributed. One asura called Rahu set on the Devas side to get served first. So he drank the amrit but this ruse was observed by Surya and Chandra and reported to Vishnu. He used his sudharshana chakra to behead Rahu. But since Rahu had consumed the amrit he was alive. The head became Rahu and the torso became Ketu. They became part of the Navagrahas. Since Surya and Chandra betrayed Rahu, they both swallow Surya and Chandra, resulting in the eclipses.
Surya soon grew exceedingly angry with the other immortals, for they had suffered him to undergo this indignity. He thought that no one came to his aid and decided to destroy all creation with his great heat. Surya then started multiplying his radiance, and the generated heat threatened to burn the world. The Devas ran to Lord Brahma to save the world. He places Aruna in front of Surya. “He is of large body and has divine radiance. He will become the charioteer of Surya and shield the world from his anger." Since that day, Aruna precedes Surya in the heavens and is worshiped along with the sun.
Generally Arunastambha, Aruna-Pillar is constructed before Sun temples. In the Sun temples, he is shown up to the waist. In the Visnu temples, he is shown on the door sills, holding the reins of a horse.
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Gods, Goddesses, Minor Deities and Sages) Yogi Ananda Saraswathi