|Om Hraam Hreem Hraum Sah Suryay Namah||
|Om Aadityay Vidmahe Martanday Dheemahi, Tanoh Suryaah Prachodayat ||
Ratha Saptami literally translates to – ‘Seventh day of the Chariot’. Here the chariot is that of Lord Surya. Ratha Saptami is a festival dedicated to the Sun God, which falls on the seventh day of the bright half of the moon in the month of Magha as per a Hindu calendar. This day marks the seventh day of the Sun’s movement in Capricorn moving north, which began on the day of Uttarayana. The day is also celebrated as Surya Jayanti as it marks the birthday of Lord Surya.
As per a legend, Yashovarma, the King of Kamboj Empire, did not have a son or any heir who could rule after him. After years of praying and performing religious rituals, he was finally blessed with a son. However, unfortunately the son was diagnosed terminally ill. It was Sage Kashyap who advised the king that his son should perform the Ratha Saptami Puja to get rid of the ill-effects of his past sins and get better. Once the king’s son performed the puja as directed, he not only recovered from his terminal illness, but was able to rule his kingdom hale and hearty for the rest of his life.
Symbolically, the Ratha Saptami is represented by Lord Surya riding a chariot drawn by seven horses. It is run by Aruna – the charioteer, which continues to go in the north east direction as it moves north. The chariot has 12 wheels which are symbolic of 12 astrological signs, each of 30 degrees and the seven horses represent each day of the week The 12 wheels form a full year which is also known as Samvatsara. At the beginning the Sun is in its own house Leo. He keeps moving to another sign each month, thereby covering all 12 signs in a year and has astrological effect on the natives accordingly. The movement of the sun also indicates the change in the temperatures across Indian continent. This is an auspicious event for the farmer as it indicates harvest and also beginning of the sowing for another great season.
Across India, the festival is celebrated with great vivacity in temples and local communities. All Surya temples across India observe this with great zest. The temples are decorated to mark ‘Surya Jayanti’ and in some of the temples, special pujas are offered with Yagna and Havan. Colorful Rangolis depicted Lord Surya riding the chariot is also made on temple grounds. Cow dung is burnt in the centre, over which milk is placed in an earthen pot to boil as a symbolic offering to Lord Surya. Few of the famous and noted Surya temples are The Konark Temple in Orissa, Surya temple in Modhera- Gujarat and the one in Arasavalli – Andhra Pradesh. Temples in South India like Tirumala, Srirangam and Melukote also carry out religious observance.
Huge processions are also carried out in places like Mysore and Melukote. There is a ritual to bathe and cleanse your body using Ekka leaves in South India. This ritualistic bath involves placing seven Ekka leaves on your body parts – head, shoulders on each side, each of the knees and one on each feet, and chant Surya Mantra while bathing.
It is considered very auspicious to offer puja to Lord Surya on the day of Ratha Saptami. The puja must be offered within one hour of sunrise.
• A Person offering praying should have a purification bath with Ekka leaves and chanting mantras before commencing the puja.
• Dressed in fresh clothes, preferably white, the person offers Argyam by holding water in his hands to Lord Surya, again chanting Surya Mantra
• Offer a small puja at home. Apply kumkum on forehead of Lord Surya’s idol and offer Akshata. Offer him white flowers.
• Offer milk, fruit, prasadam and other bhog to him.
This year, Ratha Saptami falls on 14th Feb 2016. The Muhurat for purification bath is between 5-7 am. And the time of sunrise is 7 am, post which the puja can be performed.
Praying Lord Surya on Ratha Saptami is said to cleanse your mind, help you overcome difficulties and also make you victorious over enemies.