Sun is the most worshiped of the gods in almost every ancient religion.
In the Vedas, the ancient Holy scriptures of the Hindus, the Sun occupied a very
important place.The sun was one of the forms of AGNIDEVA, the god of fire.
Ancient Bengal was inhabited by different tribes & races of Non-Aryan people of Negrito, Proto-Australoid & Indo-Mongoloid origin. They had their own traditions of worshiping the sun-god. The Aryan invasion later changed these to some extent, but the traditional sun-worshiping is still practiced in Bengal, especially in the rural areas in various forms. It is interesting to see these forms of the sun-god & the methods of sun worshiping that are still practiced in present day Bengal.
Different names of the sun-god in Bengal includes DHARMARAJ, ITOO, RAAL-DURGAA, REVANTA, MAAGHMANDAL, SOORJAAI etc.
1) DHARMARAAJ: The most important of the various forms of the sun-god in Bengal is DHARMARAAJ or DHARMATHAAKUR, though several local variations of these names are there. In this name the sun-god is worshiped mainly by the lower cast people. Actually they worship the sun as the Supreme God. Various powers are attributed to DHARMARAAJ , most importantly the power to heal Leprosy ( it is highly significant that Leprosy is endemic in certain parts of the present day West Bengal), Arthritis & Infertility, & the power to end draught by bringing in the rains. Another interesting thing is the tradition of presenting the god with clay models of horses (mainly) & elephants.
2) ITOO: Mostly worshiped by women, more specifically by unmarried maidens, ITOO is worshiped in the Sundays of the Bengali month of AGRAHAYAN(mid November to mid December).The style of worship reminds the tradition of some sort of fertility cult. The worshipers hope to get good matches (husbands) through the blessings of ITOO.
3) SOORJAAI: Exclusively worshiped by women in the Bengali month of MAGHA(mid January to mid February). This worshiping is also known as SOORJABRATA.
4) REVANTA : Once very popular among the rural people, this form of the sun-god is almost unknown now. The sun-god was worshiped in the form of a hunter on horse back (probably) by the hunter population of ancient Bengal.
5) MAAGHMANDAL : Worshiped in the Bengali month of MAGHA, exclusively by unmarried maidens in rural areas with a hope to get good husbands.
6) RAAL-DURGAA : RAAL means red, so the name RAAL-DURGA literary means the Red Durgaa. It is interesting to note that DURGAA is the FEMALE form of the Supreme Power or SHAKTI. So, in this form the sun is worshiped as a goddess! Probably the gender of the worshipers (exclusively FEMALES) has something to do in this.
One interesting point to note is that the sun is worshiped mainly by the women, & during the winter . Why? The answer is not clear. May be the original social idea was to give the womenfolk a chance to get some warm sunrays in the cold winter days!
ASIS K CHATTERJEE'S BLOG- http://asiskchat.blog.co.uk/