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Ratha Sapthami is one of the important festivals that are celebrated by Hindus and an auspicious day that is dedicated to Lord Surya. Ratha Sapthami falls on the seventh day of Magha month according to Hindu calendar. As it falls in the month of Magha, Ratha Sapthami is also known as Magha Saptami. It is also known as Surya Jayanthi and Surya Sapthami.
Why do we call Surya Janyanthi as Ratha Sapthami?
Ratha Saptmi is the combination of two words Ratha and Sapthami where "Ratha" means chariot and the word "Saptami" means "the seventh day". It is also believed that Lord Surya started illuminating the whole world on the Saptami Tithi. So this day is considered as "Surya Jayanti". Surya’s Jaytanthi is called Ratha Sapthami because of the following reason.
We cannot see the Sun directly with our naked eyes for a long time. We can feel the Sun by its brightness and rays falling on us. We can see the Sun only during Arunodhaya time (early morning). Arunodhaya time mean that, the time during which the Lord Surya’s chariot and charioteer is visible first. Aruna is the name of the charioteer of Surya. Aruna means "red, ruddy, and tawny". It is believed that, Aruna is the personification of the reddish glow of the rising Sun.
By giving importance to the Ratha sarathi and Ratham, it was named as Ratha Sapthami. We believe that, Lord Surya revolves around the earth on his chariot 365 days. If we are unable to see him here, he might be in another place. So without any break the chariot is used by the Sun for the whole year. So by giving importance to the chariot, the Sapthami on which Surya Bhagvan was born was given the name Ratha Sapthami.
It was believed that there are seven horses to Lord Surya’s chariot. The seven horses are named as Gayatri, Brihati, Ushnih, Jagati, Trishtubha, Anushtubha and Pankti.
Significance of Sun:
We consider Sun as God. Surya is considered as an important god because he is the source of life. People consider lord Surya as the provider of health and wealth. So Sun is worshipped in the early morning which helps to rejuvenate our energy and purify our body and mind. It is proved scientifically that there are many benefits of getting exposed to early morning Sun. So many people do Surya Namaskars in the early morning to get benefits from the early Sun rays.
Hindu mythology and Myths behind Ratha Saptami:
According to Hindu astrology and mythology, Sun is considered as the most important element. Therefore he is placed in the center of the navagrahas. Lord Surya is known for bravery, power, courage, authority and fame. He is also considered as Lord for three nakshtras namely Kritika, Uttara Phalguni and Uttara Ashadha.
Even in the Hindu scripture, it was mentioned that Sun is surrounded by our planets. In Vedas also, the characteristics of the Sun and the planets are clearly mentioned. It is believed that during the day of Ratha Sapthami, Sun moves from the southeast to the northeast. So, on this day, Lord Surya is worshipped for better health and well-being.
On the day of Ratha Sapthami, Lord Surya was born to the couple Kashyapa (sage) and Aditi. So we believe that praying to Lord Surya on this day free us from all our sins.
1. One of the myths that are believed is that, there was a King Called Yashovarma. He had no children for a long time. He worshipped Lord Surya and was blessed with a son. His son used to fall sick frequently. The king was advised by a saint to perform Ratha Sapthami puja to free him from all his past sins. Then the king’s son performed Ratha Sapthami puja and his health was cured.
2. It is believed that Bhisma breathed his last breath after the day of Ratha Sapthami.
3. Another Myth that is believed was Lord Rama worshipped Lord Surya before the battle with Ravana for his victory, listening to the words of some sage.
4. It is also believed that the king Satragit worshipped Lord Surya for the gem Samanthakamani which is given to Lord Krishna and Satyabhama on their marriage.
How to perform puja on Ratha Sapthami?
On the day of Ratha Sapthami, we should wake up early in the morning before Sunrise, bathe and perform puja. Women put rangoli of Sun God with 7 horses in a chariot in front of their homes. Erukkam Leaf is another important aspect of this day. Women will take holy bath by placing 7 erukkam leaves on their body along with a pinch of turmeric and raw rice on top of the leaf. While bathing, one leaf is kept on the head, two on the shoulders, two on the knees and two on the foot and have ritual bath. Men use only erukkam leaves and rice without turmeric for bathing.
In olden days, this ritual bath is taken at the rivers, but now it is performed at home itself during Arunodhaya time. Then Puja to Lord Surya is performed. There are many temples that are built in honor of Lord Surya. People even visit Lords Surya’s temples on this day. If we want to perform puja at home, the requirements of puja on Ratha Sapthami are idol or painting of Lord Surya, flowers, fruits, uncooked rice, sesame seeds, betel leaves, coconut, jaggery, turmeric powder, kumkum, etc. Puja to Lord Surya is performed by offering betel leaves, coconut, jaggery, flowers, fruits, uncooked rice, and sesame seeds. After that we perform arati in the normal way by chanting shlokas. After the puja, we prepare Chakkara Pongal and Vadas for naivedyam along with coconut, betel leaves, banana and fruits.
It is also believed that by observing fast on this day, we can be free from our sins and can eliminate negativity from life. Some people believe that giving alms to the needy on this day will help us attain moksha.
Festivals play a significant role in our day to day lives. We worship different Gods and accordingly there are different festivals that we celebrate to mark the occasion. Festivals provide us with an opportunity to spend quality time with our family, friends and relatives. There are so many rituals attached to the festivals and this makes the entire concept of celebration of festivals even more colorful & exciting.
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