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Goddess of Clouds and Dusk
Sanjna Surya Chhaya.jpg
Surya with consorts Sanjna and Chhaya
Other namesSaranyu, Saranyu, Surenu, Sandhya, Sanjana, Suvarchala, Randal, Sauri
Sanskrit transliterationSamjñā
Personal information
SiblingsTrisiras (twin brother)
Chhaya (reflection)
ChildrenYama, Yami, Ashvins, Shraddhadeva Manu and Revanta

Sanjna or Samjna (Sanskrit: संज्ञा, IAST: Samjñā), also known as Saranyu (Sanskrit: सरन्यू, IAST: Saraṇyū) and Sandhya (Sanskrit: सन्ध्या), is a Hindu goddess and the chief wife of Surya, the Sun god. She is one of the earliest goddesses in the pantheon and is found in the Rigveda. Saranyu also appears in later texts including the Harivamsa and the Markandeya Purana. The most prominent legend of Saranyu is about her temporary abandonment of Surya and creation of Chhaya. In most texts, Saranyu is the mother of the death god Yama, the river-goddess Yami, the current Manu, the divine twin physicians Ashvins and the god Revanta.

Etymology and epithets

Saraṇyū is the female form of the adjective saraṇyú, meaning "quick, fleet, nimble", used for rivers and wind in the Rigveda (compare also Sarayu).[1] Saranyu has been described as "the swift-speeding storm cloud".[2] In the later text named Harivamsa (5th century C.E.), Saranyu is known as Sanjna or Samjna , which means 'image', 'sign' or 'name'. In the Puranas, Samjna is known by many other names including Sandhya, Sanjana and Suvarchala.[3][4]

Textual sources and family

Statues of Surya and his two consorts — Samjna and Chhaya

The earliest evidence of Sanjna is found in the Rigveda (c. 1200-1000 BCE), where she is referred to as Saranyu, and described to be the daughter of deity Tvastar (who is known as Vishwakarma in later texts) and she has a twin brother named Trisiras.[1] Her husband is mentioned as Vivasvan, which is interpreted as a synonym of Surya. With him, she has six children. After some centuries, the same story is recited in Yaksha's Nirukta (c. 500 BCE). Some centuries after Yaksha, the text of Bṛhaddevatā also narrates the same story with additional details of Ashvin's birth.[3] The epic Harivamsa (c. 5th century CE) mentions her as Sanjna and later in the Puranas like the Markandeya Purana, the Matsya Purana and the Kurma, Sanjna is referred to as Vishwakarma's daughter and her shadow is called Chhaya.[5] However in Bhagavata Purana, Chhaya is her biological sister.[6] Most sources indicate that the children of Surya by Saranyu are:

Some texts present a different list of her children. As per Kurma Purana and Bhagavata Purana, Sanjna has only three children — Shraddhadeva Manu, Yama and Yamuna (Yami).[4][6]


Birth of Ashwinikumar, a folio from the Harivamsa

According to many texts, the craftsman deity Vishwakarma, also known as Tvastar, has two children Samjna and Trisiras. After Saranyu grows into a beautiful maiden, he arranges his daughter's Svayamvara, a custom in which a lady chooses her husband from the group of eligible suitors. Samjna marries Surya (alias Vivasvan), the sun god.[1][9]

Samjna is unsatisfied with her marital life. The Harivamsa states that power and heat of Surya has made him unpleasant looking to her, while according to the Markandeya Purana, Samjna's behaviour changes as she is unable to bear the heat of Surya's splendor or heat.[10] Her behaviour angers Surya and he curses her next born children. After the birth of Yama and Yami, she is unable to tolerate more and decides to abandon her husband. Before leaving, she creates a similar looking woman from her shadow (Chhaya) and asks her to take care of the children. However, in Vedic accounts, the lady is a similar looking woman named Savarna. According to Harivamsa and Markandeya Purana, Samjna reaches her father's abode but is asked by him to return. Helpless, she assumes the form of a mare and roams in the forest of Kuru. In the Vishnu Purana, a similar legend is recited by the sage Parashara but Samjna leaves Surya to gain control over his heat by performing tapas in the forest.[11]

Meanwhile, Surya, unaware of the replacement, impregnates the look alike. After their birth, she becomes partial to her children. Yama later abuses and threatens her with his leg in the Harivamsa, while the Markandeya Purana tells that he kicks her. All texts mention that Chhaya casts a curse on him. In some versions, she curses Yama's leg to get infected with worms or fall apart or both. Surya gets to know that she was not Yama's mother due to the harsh punishment which a mother can't think of. This behaviour of a mother to her child makes Surya suspicious and after confronting Chhaya, she discloses the whole incident.

Distressed, Surya goes to his father in law, and asks him to cure his splendor. Vishwakarma then reduces Surya's glory, making him pleasant. Surya then locates Samjna, who was in the form of a mare, and after finding her, he assumes the form of a stallion and engage in love making with her in the form of a stallion. Samjna delivers twins Ashvins through her nose. Surya shows his normal form to her. Sanjana is pleased to see her husband's beauty and returns to her abode with her new-born twins.[3] Unlike the previous version of Harivamsa, Markandeya Purana states that Surya asks his father in law to reduce his heat after the birth of Ashvins.[3] Some texts also add Revant, the divine master of horses, as the son of Sanjana.[8]

In many Puranas, Vishvakarma uses Surya's heat to create many celestial weapons.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kinsley 1986, p. 16.
  2. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Erinyes" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 745.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Doniger, Wendy (1998). "Saranyu/Samjna". In John Stratton Hawley, Donna Marie Wulff (ed.). Devī: goddesses of India. Motilal Banarsidas. pp. 154–7. ISBN 81-208-1491-6.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Daniélou, Alain (December 1991). The Myths and Gods of India: The Classic Work on Hindu Polytheism from the Princeton Bollingen Series. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 978-0-89281-354-4.
  5. Pattanaik, Devdutt (September 2000). The Goddess in India: The Five Faces of the Eternal Feminine. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 978-0-89281-807-5.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Prabhupada. "Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam: Chapter 13: Description of Future Manus". The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2010.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Puranic Encyclopedia: a comprehensive dictionary with special reference to the epic and Puranic literature, Vettam Mani, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1975, p. Samjñā
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Singh, Nagendra Kumar (1997), "Revanta in Puranic Literature and Art", Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, vol. 44, Anmol Publications, pp. 2605–19, ISBN 81-7488-168-9
  9. Wendy 1984, p. 154.
  10. Wendy 1988, p. 158 (for Harivamsa).
  11. Wilson, Horace Hayman (1866). "II". The Vishńu Puráńa: a system of Hindu mythology and tradition. Vol. 8. London: Trubner & Co. pp. 20–23.


External links

Template:Hindu Culture and Epics