Meaning of Ratha Saptami
Ratha is a Sanskrit word which means Chariot. Saptami means the seventh. Since on the day of Magh Saptami it is believed that the sun god would turn his chariot in the definitive North direction this day is popular by the name of Ratha Saptami.
When is Ratha Saptami ?
Ratha Saptami occurs in the month of Magh as per the lunar calendar. Ratha Saptami occurs on the seventh day of the waxing phase of the moon or on the sukla paksha Saptami of the Magh Month.
Who is worshipped on Ratha Saptami
Sun God is worshipped on the day of Ratha Saptami. It is also believed that Sun god was born on this day to Sage Kashyapa and Aditi. Hence Ratha Saptami is also celebrated as Surya Jayanti.
Worshipping of Sun God
Sun God is being worshipped by Hindus from time immemorial. Sun god is considered as the Visible God or Pratyaksha Devata. The worshipping of Sun god is known as Suryopasana and a lot of significance and importance is attached to suryopasana.
Sun God is the worshipped daily as a part of Nitya Karma which involves Sandhya Vandanam. As a part of Sandhya Vandanam Sun God is worshipped thrice a day and Gayathri Mantram is recited. Even in Gayathri Mantram the presiding deity is Sun God.
People of the olden days even developed a physical form of worshipping Sun God which is known as Surya Namaskara. Surya Namaskara is believed to bring physical and mental strength to the body. Surya namaskara are done while the sun is rising. It is a proven fact that sun rays contain Vitamin D which is very useful to the body.
Sun and Astrology
As per astrology Sun is considered as the king of the Nava grahas (Nine Planets). Even in the Navagraha temple it can be clearly seen that the Sun God is in the center surrounded by the other planets and is a little bit elevated than the others.
The Gothra of Sun God is Kashyapa and his Adhi Devata is Agni. He has two wives by the name of Chaya and Sanjana Devi. His two sons are yama, Saturn or Shani and a daughter river Yamuna.
Friends and Enimies of Sun as per Astrology
Jupiter, Mars and Moon are considered as friends as per astrology, Saturn and Venus are considered as enemies. Mercury is considered as equal or unbiased. Simha Rashi or Leo is the zodiac sign of Sun
Movement of Sun
Sun resides in each sun sign or Zodiac sign for 30 days. The transit of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another is known as Sankramanam. When the sun moves into the Makara Rashi or Capricorn it is considered as Makara Sankranti which would start the Uttaryana Punya Kalam. The movement of sun into the Karkataka Rashi is believed to start the Dakshinayana.
Favorite of Sun God
The favorite day of Sun God is believed to be Sunday and is also known as Ravi Vara, Bhanu Vara or Adithya Vara. Ravi, Bhanu, Adithya are the other names of Sun god. Wheat is the food grain that is related to Sun God. In plants it is the Arka plant(Jilledu) or Ekka plant or the Calatorpis. Gem related to Sun god is Ruby.
Benefits of Worshipping Sun
It is believed that by worshipping Sun one would be physically fit, mentally strong and will have growth spiritually.
Significance of Ratha Saptami
It is believed that after the sun entered the Northern Hemisphere or Uttarayana the Chariot of Sun God is turned to a definitive North on Ratha Saptami by the Charioteer Aruna. The Chariot is drawn by seven white horses which represent the seven colours of the Rainbow. These horses also represent the seven days of the week. There are 12 wheels to the chariot and represent the 12 months of the year.
Sun is the seventh Manu and the present Manvantara is being called by his name as Vaivasva manvantra..
Legends involving Sun God
It is believed that Lord Rama worshipped Sun god by reciting Aditya Hrudayam before killing Ravana.
Karna the warrior of Maha Bharata was born to Kunti Devi due to sun worship.
Yudishtar the elder of the Pandavas got a Akshaya bowl after worshipping Sun god.
Lord Hanuman learnt Nava Vyakarna from Sun God and Sun God is Lord Hanumans Guru.
Sathrajit was given a diamond Semanthaka mani a diamond which would give 8 Kgs of Gold per day by Sun God as a result of worshipping the Sun god.
Bhishma Pitamaha the great warrior of Maha Bharata waited for this day and died on the next day after Ratha Saptami.
Rituals or Traditions on Ratha Saptami
Bathing on Ratha Saptami
It is a common ritual that people would take bath along with Arka leaves or Jilledu leaves. These leaves are placed on seven different parts of the body , one on head, two on shoulders, two on knees and two on feet.
While Bathing the following Sloka is recited
Yadhya janma Kritham papam maya Sapthasu Janmaasu
Thanme rogancha sokancha maa kari hantu sapthami.
Yetat janma Kritham papam yeccha Janmantha Arjitham
Mano Vaakaayajam yeccha gnatha agnathancha yath punaha
Ithi saptha Vidham Papam Snana may Saptha Sapthake
Sapta Vyadhi Sama Yukutam Haram kari Saptami.
Arghyam to Sun God during Ratha Saptami
After bathing Arghyam has to be given to Sun God. The following sloka is recited while giving the Arghyam to Sun God.
Saptha Sapti Vaaha Preetha Sapta Loka Pradeepana
Saptami Sahitho Deva Gruhana Arghyam Diwakara.
Tila Tarpan to fore fathers
Few devotees would give Tila Tarpana to their fore fathers on Ratha Saptami.
Rangoli/Kolam on Ratha Saptami
In South India devotees would draw big rangolis of Chariot on Ratha Saptami.
Preparing Pongal on Ratha Saptami
In South India there is a tradition of preparing chariots from Chikkudu ( a type of beans). Two Chikkudu are taken and are pierced with small sticks at the ends to form the Chariot. Seven such chariots are prepared.
Milk is boiled using Cow dung cakes and the milk is allowed to overflow three times. Devotees would pray to the Sun god as the milk overflows the vessel. Then rice is poured into the milk by all the family members. Then after the rice is cooked jaggery is added. This completes the preparation of the Pongal. This pongal is offered to the sun god and is eaten in the leaves of the Chikkudu plant.
Sthotrams or Solkas to be recited on Ratha Saptami
Aditya Hrudayam, Surya Ashtakam , Surya Sahasra Namam , Surya Setha Namavali and other sun God related slokas are recited.
Famous Sun Temples
The sun temple in Konark (Orissa)
The Sun temple at Arasavelli in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh
Suryanar Koli of Tamil Nadu near Kumbhakonam
Temples in which Ratha Saptami is celebrated
In Tirumala Tirupati a one day Bhramotasavam is performed on the day of Ratha Saptami
Other names of Sun God
Mitra, Ravi,Surya,Bhanu, Khaga,Pushna, Hiranya Garbha,Marica,Aditya, Savitra, Arka and Bhaskara.