Importance of Sun
Sun is an extremely powerful heavenly body which is the head of the solar family, of which our earth is also a member. The Sun is a self-luminary body which remains as the source of light and energy to all the planets including mother earth. It is thus regarded as the source of all life and their sustenance on earth. The Sun’s tremendous gravitational pull holds all the planets together in their respective places in space, and makes them revolve in their own individual orbits.
Significance of Ratha Saptami Worship
Legends speak highly about the efficacy of Surya worship and the importance of Ratha Saptami. As per the epic Ramayana, sage Agastya gave Rama the powerful Adhithya Hridaya Stotram (hymn) in praise of Surya (Sun) at the time of the great battle with Ravana. It was by reciting this hymn 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.
According to another story, King Yashovarma was blessed with a son by the grace of Sun God, who however, fell very ill. On the advice of a sage, the young prince performed Ratha Saptami worship, which cleared all the sins of his past lives, so that he could become healthy and strong, and fit to rule the large kingdom. Mahabharata has also highlighted this occasion and said that the great saint warrior Bhishma waited for this sacred day and breathed his last on the next day. It is also believed that Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) done even once a year on the Ratha Saptami day can provide strong health for the whole of the following year.
Rituals of Ratha Saptami
On the holy day of Ratha Saptami, people should take bath early in the morning before Sunrise, preferably in sacred rivers or water bodies, facing east. They should also observe fast on that day. It is believed that this alone can help people get rid of their sins committed in seven previous births and bestow them with robust health. When this is not possible, people can also take bath in their homes, by sitting on a block of wood facing east, keeping seven sacred Arkya leaves on the head and praying to the Sun God.
Water can also be offered to Surya (Sun) from their palms held together. Houses can be decorated with rangolis, depicting the Sun. People can then perform Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) and recite hymns like Adhithya Hridayam. Many also offer prayers to Surya Narayana, who is Vishnu himself in the form of the Sun. Wheat is said to be Surya’s favorite grain and hence, sweet dishes can be prepared with wheat. Sweet Pongal can also be made and offered to him. Donating various things to the poor and the needy on this day and making charity are believed to be very sacred.