What is Ratha Saptami?
Ratha Saptami is a very holy and auspicious festival celebrated by Hindus in India. This festival is observed in the month of ‘Magha’ in the Hindu calendar (mid of January to mid of February). As this day is believed to mark the birth of Lord Surya or the Sun God, it is also called ‘Surya Jayanti’. The date of the festival may vary each year, based on the different phases of the Moon.
‘Ratha’ means chariot, and ‘Saptami’ means 7th. In symbolic terms, the festival celebrates the Sun God turning his Ratha or chariot (that is drawn by seven horses, which represent the seven colors or the seven days of the week towards the northern hemisphere, and in a north-easterly direction. This festival is celebrated two days after Saraswati Pooja or Vasant Panchami that heralds the start of the Spring season.
According to legend, long ago, a king who had no children prayed for an heir to his kingdom and was blessed with a son. But his happiness was short-lived as the son developed a serious illness. A sage told him to observe the Ratha Saptami Pooja, and when he did so, his son was cured, and he went on to become the king after his father died and ruled the kingdom well.
Many Hindus perform a Pooja on this day. Let us see how to celebrate Ratha Saptami and what to do on Ratha Saptami.
Items needed for the Ratha Saptami Pooja
• Idol or painting of the Sun God.
• Leaves and fragrant flowers used for regular pooja.
• Green bananas.
• Uncooked rice.
• Some common fruits.
• Sesame seeds
• Betel nuts
• Betel leaves
• Turmeric powder
• Sugar (jaggery)
• Mango leaves
Rituals of Ratha Saptami Pooja
Clean the house well, and arrange the mango leaves in the important places early in the morning or the evening before the pooja day. Once this is done, start the Ratha Saptami Pooja by lighting a lamp and praying to Ganesha. You can also worship your family deities (kula devatas) at this time. Keep the flowers and the uncooked rice mixed with turmeric near the Ganesha idol. Begin the Pooja for Surya by smearing the Ratha with kumkum and turmeric. After this, place the jaggery, flowers, uncooked rice, lentils, and turmeric mixed uncooked rice on the Ratha. Offer betel leaves, betel nuts, milk, fruits, banana, and coconut to Surya. You can also perform a simple Pooja by chanting the Gayatri mantra and offering some flowers. Next, perform the Arati. Following this, chant the Surya Mantra or Aditya Hridayam Mantra, and do meditation.
Some people observe a vrat or fast on this day, as they believe that this will bestow health and success. One can observe the fast for the whole day, or from sunrise to sun set. Devotees also follow a ritual of bathing on Ratha Saptami with Gaint milkweed, called Erukku locally.
Mantras to be chanted on Ratha Saptami day
There are two mantras to be chanted on this day. One should be chanted when taking a bath, and the other when offering the water to the Sun.
Snana Sankalpa Mantra
YadyajjanmakRutam paapam mayaa saptasu janmasu |
tanmE rOgam cha shOkam cha maakarI hantu saptamI |
EtajjanmakRutam paapam jachcha janmaantaraarjitam |
manOvaakkaayajam yachcha jnaataaj Jnaatam cha yatpuna: |
iti saptavidham paapam snaanaanmE sapta saptakE |
saptavyaadhisamaayuktam hara maakari saptami |
Soorya Arghya Mantra:
SaptasaptivahaprIta saptalOkapradIpana |
saptamI sahitO dEva gRuhaaNaarGyam divaakara |