Ratha Saptami is an important Hindu festival associated with Lord Surya (Sun God). Lord Surya riding a chariot driven by seven horses is worshipped on this day. Ratha means chariot. Sapthami is a thithi in a lunar month falling on the 7 the day of both sukla and Krishna paksha. At the time of division of constellations each day or thithi is attributed to one deity/God. In the process Sapthami thithi was allotted to Sun God and hence it is his favourite day.
Ratha Saptami is observed on the seventh day of the bright fortnight in the Hindu month (January – February). It is considered to be the most important saptami in a year. It is believed that in the Mahabharata, Bhishamacharya chose this day to leave his body and attain ‘moksha.’ It is also said that the earth’s inclination towards the sun is steepest on the Ratha Saptami day.
Rituals on this Ratha Sapthami
On this day, you may take special bath with seven Arka leaves by keeping one on the head, two on the shoulders, two on the knees and two on the feet. Arka is commonly called as Erukku in Tamil and Calotrope (bowstring hemp) in English. During the bath following sloka is to be chanted:
Yadhyajanma kritham papam maya sapthasu janmasu!
Thanme rogancha sokancha makari hanthu sapthami!!!
Yetatjanmakritham papam yachha janmanthararjitham
Mano vakkayajam yachha gnathagnathancha yathpunaha!!!
Ithi sapthavidham papam snaname saptha sapthake!
Sapthavyadhi samayuktham hara makari sapthami!!
You can even take bath in sacred rivers. It is believed that a bath on this day by using Arka leaves one will get rid of your sins coming from previous seven births.
Those who do not have parents should also offer Thila Tarpana to their fore fathers (Dwadasa Pitru) on this day. Hindu religion considers Sun as an important God to be worshipped. Several Vedic verses on Sun are incorporated into the Nitya Vidhi (mandatory daily routine) like sandhya vandana, Surya namaskara, Gayathri japa, Surya arghya.
Sun is called as Namaskara Priya. He blesses the devotees who offer him a simple namaskara with all sincerity and devotion. That is how the Surya Namaskara a yogic prakriya related to Sun has become very popular.
Sun worship is prevailing and being followed since time immemorial. Some of the useful prayers related to Sun are Suryaastakam, AadityaHridayam, Gayathri, Surya Sahasranama, etc. Generally Sun worship will be very effective if it is done within one hour from Sun rise. Worship of this devatha on Sunday is supposed to bring in manifold benefits to the worshippers.
Phala Sruthi of Sun related sthothras says that Sun worship is Navagraha Peeda Pariharam,
bestows progeny for the childless, helps in coming out of poverty, cures illness and gets rid of health problems haunting for the past seven births. Like Lord Sri Mann Narayana is the giver of Moksha, Sun God is said to be giver of Health.
In a summary:
Significance of Ratha Sapthami:
- It is considered as birth day of Lord Surya.
- By worshipping Lord Surya on this day, you can get rid of all type of sins, free from illness and bestow with good health, longevity and success.
What to do on Ratha Sapthami:
- Take bath (if possible with Erukku leaves) before sunrise (approximately 1 and half hours before sunrise).
- Offer Arghyadan at the time of sunrise by offering water slowly from a small kalasham in namaskaram mudra by facing Lord Surya in standing position. This to be done 12 times by chanting 12 different names of lord surya. 12 Names of Lord Surya:
Om Mitraya Namaha
Om Ravaye Namaha
Om Suryaya Namaha
Om Bhanave Namaha
Om Khagaya Namaha
Om Pushne Namaha
Om Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha
Om Marichaye Namaha
Om Adityaya Namaha
Om Savitre Namaha
Om Arkaya Namaha
Om Bhaskaraya Namaha
- Then, light up ghee lamp and worship lord surya with red flower, karpuram and sambrani/dhoop.
- Chanting Gayathri Mantra, Surya Sahasranaam, Adityaridayam and/or suryashtakam is very auspicious on this day.