Significance of Ratha Saptami
Ratha Saptami is a sacred day dedicated to the worship of Lord Surya, the Sun God. Ratha Saptami is an auspicious occasion that is regarded as the day when Surya Dev began enlightening the worlds with his wisdom. It is also called as Surya Jayanthi, the day of his advent. Ratha means chariot and Saptami is the 7th day or Thithi.
The Sun travels alternatively in both the northern and southern directions for about 6 months each and these periods are known as Uttarayan and Dakshinayan, respectively. Uttarayan is regarded as more sacred of the two, and it is believed that it is on the day of Ratha Saptami that Aruna, his charioteer, turns the chariot of Surya towards north. It is also believed that Surya was born on this day to his sage parents Kashyapa and Adithi and hence, Ratha Saptami is his birthday.
Significance of Surya Worship
Scriptures regard Surya as having been created by Lord Vishnu himself for providing energy and light to the universe so that lives may sprout and flourish there. Such features of Surya are reflected in many of the names he is called in such as Aditya, Bhaskara, Ravi, Diwakara etc. Ancient scriptures, including the Vedas, have sung his praise in many Slokas (sacred chants), and have declared that their chanting can bestow people with various benefits like health, success, prosperity and joy. It is also a proven fact that being exposed to the early morning Sunrays can do a world of good to the body and mind. Surya is hence hailed as ‘Aarogya and Aishwarya Datha’, that is, the one who provides sound health and good wealth.
However, it is the epic Ramayana which speaks the best about the greatness of Surya and his worship. At the time of the great battle with Ravana, Sage Agasthya gives Rama the Adithya Hridaya Sthothra in praise of Surya Dev, and it was by reciting it and worshipping him right in the battlefield that Rama is said to have obtained Surya’s immense energy, so that he could subdue the might of Ravana and win the war comprehensively. It is firmly believed that worshipping Surya and the chanting of this hymn will bestow people with many great blessings.
Rituals of Ratha Saptami
Lord Surya worship is undertaken earnestly on the day of Ratha Saptami, the day that is considered the most auspicious for praying to the powerful divinity. People recite slokas (sacred chants) like Adithya Hridayam, Surya Ashtakam, Surya Shatakam, Aruna Parayanam and the Vedic hymns, in praise of the Sun God. While people do Surya Namaskaram (Sun salutation) early in the morning, many observe fasts and spend the day in prayers.
Benefits of Ratha Saptami
Ratha Saptami worship is believed to bestow one with abundant power, vitality, strength, health, wealth and brightness. It is also advised that Surya worship can be undertaken every day and especially on Sunday, the day dedicated to the Sun, for all-round welfare.