RATHA SAPTAMI

Ratha Saptami is the day to worship Surya, the Sun God, who infuses life into creation. This auspicious day brings wealth, long life and prosperity.

Words: Madhuri. Y

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Ratha Saptami, the festival of Surya, the Sun god, is also known as Achala Saptami or Magha Saptami. As the name indicates, Ratha Saptami marks the seventh day following the Sun’s northerly movement (Uttarayana) of vernal equinox starting from Capricorn (Makara).

It is represented in the form of the Sun God Surya turning his Ratha (Chariot) drawn by seven horses, with Aruna as the charioteer, in a north-easterly direction. Symbolic significance of the ratha and the seven horses represents seven colours of the rainbow.

The seven horses also said to represent seven days of the week starting Sunday, the day of Sun god Surya.

With the day signifying Surya’s birth was recognised in ancient times that the Sun played a critical role ensuring our health, hence the day is also known as Arogya Saptami.

Ratha Saptami marks arrival of spring and beginning of harvest season. Temperatures rise as spring is in offing.
Ratha Saptami is auspicious for good deeds such as giving alms or helping others. Worshipping Surya and fasting is believed to get rid a person of seven types of sins committed by way of thought, word or deed.

Celebrating Ratha Saptami

Devotees fast on evening of the sixth day. On seventh, that is, on Saptami, a lamp made of gold, silver, copper or clay is lit.

After taking the name of Surya, the lamp is left to float in a lake, river or sea. Devotees take bath and with water cupped in palm or a small vessel is offered as argyam to the Sun god.

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Ratha Saptami is auspicious for good deeds such as giving alms or helping others. Worshipping Surya and fasting is believed to get rid a person of seven types of sins committed by way of thought, word or deed.

A LIST OF SOME FAMOUS SUN TEMPLES IN INDIA

The Bhramanya Dev Temple
Unao Mp
Sun Temple
At Surya Prahar Assam
Suryanar Temple
Kumbakonam Tamilnadu
Suryanarayan Temple
Arsavilli Andhra Pradesh
The Dakshinaarka Temple
Gaya
Konark Sun Temple
Orissa
Modhera Sun Temple
Gujarat

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This involves pouring the water slowly while chanting mantras. Sun worship is performed within an hour from sunrise. Devotees take a bath during the time of arunoday, that is, the dawn before sunrise.

This period is for four ghatis, about one and a half hours, since each ghati is of 24 minutes. Taking bath at this time of the day is said to keep a person healthy.

Rangoli of a chariot drawn by seven horses adds beauty to the festival.

Chariot and horses are made from beans which are strung together with small sticks, most often match sticks. Traditionally, cow dung cakes were used to cook the offering. The stove is placed towards the east in sun light.

Milk is boiled in a bronze vessel and rice is added to it. The milk boils over and the cooked rice is placed in seven pairs of bean leaves and offered to the Sun god. It is believed that heat from the cooked rice makes the chemicals from the leaves seep into the rice, making it healthy.

A lamp is lit with pure ghee and camphor. Fruits and red flowers are offered during worship while chanting the Aditya Hridaya mantra, Gayathri mantra, Surya Ashtakam and Surya Sahasranama.

MYTHOLOGY

Once the King of Kambhoj, Yashovarma’s son became ill and the king asked the learned men for the cause of the illness.

They told him that his son’s miserliness in his previous birth resulted in the sickness. They also told him that he had performed the ritual of the Ratha Saptami and hence was born as the king’s son.

On their advice, the prince performed the Ratha Saptami worship. The worship rid him of his sins and thereafter he became healthy.

Combining symbolism with reality, it is understood that the Sun, being the bedrock of Creation, is endowed with the power of granting health which is the source of all wealth and happiness thanks to its energy and light.

CELEBRATIONS IN TEMPLES

The Sun god is a form of Lord Vishnu. Hence, Ratha Saptami is celebrated in Tirumala, Srirangam, Srirangapatnam, Mangalore and Melukote. On the day, Brahmotsavam is held in Tirumala with Lord Malayappa Swamy taken in procession along with his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi.

SUN AND SYMBOLISM

Surya’s chariot drawn by seven horses represents seven colours of the rainbow that comprises the light ray. It also refers to seven days of the week which begins with ravi vaar or Sunday, the day of Surya.

The horses are named – Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha, Pankti – after the seven meters of Sanskrit chandas or prosody.

The Wheel represents the year and is said to be part of the chariot called universe and with horses as the chandas. Aruna, the charioteer, means dawn and heralds the Sun’s entry. The six seasons make up six spokes of the wheel and 12 wheels of chariot − six to each wheel − signify 12 signs of zodiac and the full wheel comprising 360 degrees make up a year.

The Sun is a lord of Leo, that is, Simha raasi and it takes the Sun a month to transit from one zodiac sign to next. It enters the next raasi about 15th of the English calendar month. The Sun is also one of the nine planets that mark Hindu astrology.