People have worshipped the Sun since ancient times. Before humans mastered knowledge of how the Universe works, people formed various assumptions based on their observations of natural phenomena. This was how astronomy, astrology, natural sciences, etc., developed over the years.
The ancient humans realized that the Sun played an important role in their lives on earth. Without sunlight, nothing could grow. It was the source of light, warmth, and life itself. Hence, the ancients deified the Sun and began to worship it.
In India, too, Sun worship is common. In Hinduism, the Sun is revered as Surya Dev or Sun God. He is portrayed riding a chariot harnessed by 7 horses, which represent the 7 colors of the rainbow or the 7 days of the week. He rules the zodiac sign, Simha or Leo, in Vedic astrology, and there are many festivals that are dedicated to him. They include Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Ratha Saptami, Chath Pooja, Kumbh Mela, etc.
Ratha Saptami or Magha Saptami is a festival that is celebrated every year on the 7th day (Saptami) in Shukla Paksha (waxing lunar phase) of Magha month (Feb-Mar).
Devotees believe that on this day, Surya Dev turns his Ratha (chariot) towards the northern hemisphere in a north-easterly direction. It also marks the birth of Surya, so it is called Surya Jayanti.
Hindus worship Vishnu as Surya on this day.
Significance of Ratha Saptami
Surya rides a chariot that is pulled by 7 horses. The chariot or Ratha represents the mind, and the horses symbolize our thoughts. It is a fact that thoughts tug the mind in different directions. Ratha Saptami marks the Sun’s northward movement or Uttarayana Punyakalam. This is the dawn time of the gods and hence, a very auspicious period that lasts 6 months.
Ratha Saptami marks the change of season from winter to spring and the start of the harvesting season. Indian farmers regard it as the beginning of the New Year. The festival is observed both at home and in temples dedicated to Surya in India.
Surya was born to Sage Kashyapa and his wife, Aditi. The day he was born is Surya Jayanti. King Yashovarma was the ruler of the Kamboj empire. He was childless, and this caused him great sorrow. After offering prayers to God, he had a son. But the boy had a fatal illness. One day, a saint advised the king that his son could be free of his past sins by performing the Ratha Saptami Pooja. When the king’s son performed the Pooja, his illness vanished, and he went on to succeed his father and rule the kingdom well. On the day after Ratha Saptami, Bhishma in the Mahabharata epic breathed his last.
Ratha Saptami Rituals
Taking a ritual bath on this day during Brahma Muhurtha (around 4 am) supposedly eliminates illness. Supposedly, it also cleanses our sins committed knowingly or unknowingly during all our lifetimes.
Before putting your foot down, chant the Bhumi Devi Mantra thrice. Samudra-Vasane Devi Parvata-Stana-Mannddale | Vissnnu-Patni Namas-Tubhyam Paada-Sparsham Kssamasva-Me ||
Meaning – (Oh Mother Earth) O Devi, You Who have the Ocean as Your Garments, and Mountains as Your Bosom, O Consort of Lord Vishnu, Salutations to You; Please Forgive my Touch of the Feet (on Earth, which is Your Holy Body).
When you begin bathing, chant this Mantra – Gangge Ca Yamune Cai[a-E]va Godaavari Sarasvati | Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri Jale-[A]smin Sannidhim Kuru ||
While taking a bath, chant this Mantra – “Sapta Sapta Maha Sapta | Sapta Dweepa Vasundhara | Sapta Arka Parna Madaya | Saptamyam Snanam Achareth ||” (Also, place 7 Arka leaves on your head when bathing.
Meditate and recite morning prayers.
At the exact moment of sunrise, listen to or chant Aditya Hrudayam Stotram and perform Arghya to Surya Dev.
How to perform Arghya
- Perform Sun Salutations
- Meditate on the Suryashtakam chant.
- Donate money to the needy, especially to those who are not known to you and who cannot repay you. Good deeds done today will return manifold.
- Chant your personalized Surya Mantra. This will be based on the position of the Sun in your birth chart.
Take a copper vessel and fill it with water.
Put some red-colored flowers in the water.
Stretch your hands while holding the copper vessel and gaze at the Sun directly.
As the water flows out of the vessel, gaze at the sun through the flowing water.
Empty the water from the copper vessel. This should be done slowly.
While performing Arghya, chant the Aditya Hrudayam Stotram or chant – “Aum Suryaya Namah” or “Aum Ghrini Surya Aditya”.
- Ratha Saptami 2023 is on January 28.