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What is Ratha Saptami? | Ratha Saptami Meaning | Why is Ratha Saptami Celebrated?

Ratha Saptami

Ratha Saptami is a Vedic festival celebrated in honour of Surya Dev or the Sun God. Lord Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the Universe in the Hindu pantheon, is worshipped in the form of Surya Dev, who is also called Suryanarayan. “Ratha” means chariot and “Saptami” means seventh day. Ratha Saptami festival falls on the seventh day (saptami) of Shukla Paksha (waxing Moon phase), in the Hindu month of Magha (mid-January to mid-February), every year. Rathasaptami is celebrated as Surya Jayanti, the birthday of Lord Surya. Another significance of Ratha Saptami is that Lord Surya's Ratha, or chariot, turns towards the Northern Hemisphere and travels in the north-east direction, and it also heralds the change of season. Surya Dev is depicted in the Puranas riding a Ratha drawn by seven brilliant horses, with Aruna as the charioteer. The Ratha Saptami festival is celebrated throughout India, and devotees worship the Sun God as per Vedic rituals. Rathasapthami is also known as Achala Saptami.

Worshipping Surya Bhagwan has multiple benefits. It empowers us with good health, energy, power, heals diseases and ailments, bestows wisdom, wealth, name, fame, enhances leadership qualities, intellect, protects from negative energies and much more. Worshipping the Sun God with clear intension helps to fulfil wishes.

When is Ratha Saptami? Date and Timing

Ratha Saptami date 2023 – 28th January, Saturday
Saptami Tithi Start time - 09:10 AM on 27 Jan, 2023
Saptami Tithi End time - 08:43 AM on 28 Jan, 2023
Ratha Saptami Snan Muhurat on 28 Jan - 05:32 AM to 07:14 AM

Ratha Saptami Significance

Ratha Saptami Significance

Sun or Surya Dev is the source of life, the nurturer, and is known as the soul of beings. He dispels darkness with His illumination, which symbolizes removal of the darkness of ignorance with the illumination of wisdom. The Sun has been worshipped since ancient times by other civilizations and countries. The Egyptians worshipped Lord Sun as Ra and the Greeks as Helios. Just like Hinduism believes that the Sun is an eye of Lord Vishnu, in Zoroastrianism, the Sun is considered the "Eye of Ahura Mazda", who is the supreme Lord of the Zoroastrians. One of the most popular names of Surya Dev is Ravi. Ravivaar or Sunday is dedicated to Him. Worshipping the Sun God on any day and especially on Sunday is said to be highly meritorious.

Sun is one of the Navgraha (9 planets of Vedic Astrology), and is considered the prime deity/planet. In the Navgraha Mandala or Solar system, planet Sun is in the centre and the other planets revolve around Him, a fact which the wise Sages had discovered in ancient time and which has later been scientifically proven. The position of Sun in your Kundli (Natal chart) is very important. For individuals with weak placement of planet Sun in their Birth chart worshipping the Sun God on Ratha Saptami is highly recommended.

Ratha Saptami festival is especially auspicious in our country as it marks the beginning of the harvest season. So, the farmers in India worship the Sun God to garner His blessings for reaping bountiful crops. On this auspicious day, Surya Dev is fervently worshipped in the different Sun temples across India, like the Konark temple in Odisha, Modhera Sun temple in Gujarat etc.

Other than Sun temples, in other temples, especially in Vaisnavite temples, special puja is performed. Among them the Lord Srinivasa temple at Tirumala or Tirupati Balaji temple has a special Ratha Saptami celebration. The idol of Malayappa Swamy, the presiding deity for ceremonies and processions of the temple is taken in a procession around the roads surrounding the divine temple, on different Vahanas(vehicles) starting with Surya Prabha Vahana, early in the morning. The other vahanas are Shesha vahana, Garuda vahana, Hanuman vahana etc., and the last vahana is Chandra vahana.

It is believed that keeping a fast on Rathasapthami obliterates sins of present and past lives. Surya Dev is known to be the benefactor of good health and vitality. It is said that taking a bath before Sunrise or Arunodaya brings the blessings of good health and helps to heal diseases and ailments, by the grace of Surya Dev. For this reason Ratha Saptami festival is also known as Arogya Saptami.

The image of Lord Surya on His Ratha usually portrays Him gloriously sitting on the throne of the Ratha, with Aruna holding the reigns of the seven horses sitting at a lower level of the chariot. The Sun God has four arms, adorned in gorgeous ornaments, a crown to match His handsome personality. In His upper two arms He holds a Lotus in each, His right lower hand is always raised in Abhaya mudra, denoting His blessings and protection. In His lower left hand He holds the Gada(mace). Both the Lotus and Gada are symbols of Lord Vishnu. On the forehead of the Lord is the Urdhava Pundra (tilak) and He wears a Janeu across His bare body. A red flag is seen fluttering on His chariot. As Surya Dev is a form of Lord Vishnu, He is also sometimes depicted holding the Shankh and Sudarshan Chakra in His upper arms, in images.

Sun with Seven Horses – The seven horses that draw the Ratha of Surya Dev have profound meaning. The seven horses denote the seven rays of the Sun, seven colours of the rainbow, and the seven days of the week, starting from Sunday or Ravivaar. The seven rays are also connected to the seven main chakras of the body. Most importantly, the seven horses of Surya Dev’s Ratha (chariot) represents the mind. Aruna, the charioteer, holds the reins of the seven horses ensuring that everything is nurtured equally. Philosophically, it represents control on one’s own mind and thoughts and to hold the reigns of one’s own mind. There are several symbolic meanings about the Surya Dev with seven horses in the ancient texts of India.

The Ratha of Surya Dev is said to have twelve wheels which symbolize the 12 Zodiac signs and the 12 months in a year.

Legend of Surya Dev / Ratha Saptami History:-

Legend of Surya Dev

The day of Ratha Saptami is considered Surya Jayanti as Surya Dev was born to Rishi Kashyap and His wife Aditi on this day. When Kashyap offered His gratitude to Lord Vishnu for the gift of a son, Lord Vishnu graciously told the holy sage that His son was an incarnation of Surya Dev. Vishnuji informed Rishi Kashyap that His son belonged to everyone and was meant to shine His light on the living and non-living. The Lord also said that sage Kashyap’s son would travel through each of the twelve Zodiac signs, dwelling one month in each of them, to complete an earth-year. Therefore the Sun or Sun God is worshipped on Ratha Saptami to receive His blessings of good health, wealth and to shine in life.

Ratha Saptami Story/ Ratha Saptami Katha

The significance of Ratha Saptami is highlighted by the story of Ratha Saptami. Devotees observe fast/vrat on this day for 24 hours or from sunrise to sunset and have only one satvik meal. The Ratha Saptami Katha is recited or heard during the Rathasapthami day, which show the importance of Ratha Saptami vrat and the significance of worshipping Lord Surya on this day.

Ratha Saptami Story I
Long ago there was a noble King named Yashovarma of Kamboj empire, who did not have a son to inherit his throne. After praying and performing Yajnas, the king’s prayers were heard and he was blessed with a son. But the child had a terminal illness. King Yashovarma and his wife, the Queen were extremely sad and did not know what to do. Once a wise sage came to visit the king and on seeing his dilemma advised that his son should perform the Ratha Saptami Puja, with the sankalpa (intention) of healing his disease. On the following Ratha Saptami, the son of King Yashovarma did exactly as was advised by the holy sage and was miraculously healed of the fatal disease. He grew up to be a good king and excellent ruler and lived a happy life.

Ratha Saptami Story II
Once Durvasa Muni visited Lord Krishna. Shambh, Lord Krishna’s son was physically very powerful and had a fit body. Durvasa Muni was physically frail at that time as He was practicing rigorous penance. The story narrates that Shambh laughed at the weak body of Durvasa Muni which angered the sage immensely and He cursed Shambh to develop leprosy. Durvasa was famous for His anger and curses and His curse manifested. Shambh suffered from leprosy which did not heal with any treatment. Seeing Shambh’s condition, Lord Krishna advised him to worship Surya Dev. The vrat katha specifies that Shambh worshipped the Sun God with sincerity and dedication each day and observed vrat on Rath Saptami. His devotion pleased Surya Dev and Shambh was healed of leprosy.

Ratha Saptami Pooja Vidhanam/ Rathasaptami Pooja

Traditionally on Rathasapthami Surya Dev is worshipped by taking bath in river or canal and offering Arghya to Surya Dev. The Ark plant has special significance in worship of Sun God as per Vedic rituals, as the Arka flower represents Surya Dev. Donating to the needy on Ratha Saptami festival holds prime importance as it liberates devotees from sins and leads to Moksha.
Rathasapthami Pooja Vidhanam(Vidhi):

  • Wake up before sunrise and pray or meditate.
  • Take bath in river/sea/canal before sunrise. Holding Arka plant leaves on the head while taking bath in the water body is considered highly rewarding as it pleases Surya Dev. If this is not possible, then later after taking bath keep the Ark leaves on head and meditate on Surya Dev.
  • At Arunodaya, just at Sunrise, offer Arghya to Surya Dev in a standing posture. Arghya is offering water to Surya Dev along with chanting of Surya Mantras or Ratha Spatami Stotra. Devotees can stand in the water of the river and offer water to Sun God by collecting water in their cupped hands and then letting it flow out from the front of the Namaskar posture of hands. It is important to look directly at the Sun through the water while offering it. The other way is to offer Arghya from a copper pot. Copper metal is associated with Surya Dev.
  • After this, light a Ghee lamp, offer red flower, Kumkum and Turmeric powder, Gud(jaggery), Janeu(sacred thread of Brahmans) along with other Puja samagri, to the Sun God while chanting mantras of Surya Dev.
  • Doing Surya Namaskar ( 11 Yoga postures) on Ratha Saptami has its significance.
  • Bow down to Sun God with devotion and faith and pray from your heart.
  • Donate liberally to the needy with pure intentions.

Ratha Saptami Pooja at Home :-

  • Surya Dev is worshipped regularly in most Hindu homes, every morning by offering water and chanting the Gayatri Mantra or any of the Surya mantras. The blessings of the powerful Sun God is essential in every individual’s life. Ratha Saptami gives us the opportunity to show our gratitude to the nurturing Surya Dev with seven horses. As taking a bath in the river, sea, canal is not possible for most devotees, Ratha Saptami pujan can be done at home. Ratha Saptami rituals at home are different in the various states and regions of India, with the common factor of offering Arghya to Surya Dev. The offerings of fruit or food should be done on a copper plate or bowl.
  • Wake up in the Brahma Muhurta on the day of Rathasaptami and meditate or pray.
  • Take bath before sunrise to be free of ailments and diseases on this day. You can add a few drops of the holy Gangajal to your bucket of water. Place leaves of Arka/ Ekka plant on top your head and hold it with one hand while pouring water on yourself with the other hand. You can chant this mantra while taking bath;
    Gangge Ca Yamune Cai[a-E]va Godaavari Sarasvati |
    Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri Jale-[A]smin Sannidhim Kuru ||
  • After this wear fresh clothes and start the puja by first invoking Lord Ganesh. Recite the Adityahridaya Stotra, Suryasahasranamam or listen to it.
  • At Sunrise offer Arghya to Surya Dev. Fill a copper pot with water and place a red flower in it. Now, face the rising Sun and look directly at it. Hold the pot with your hands clasping it in the Namaskar mudra. Stretch your hand in such a way that when you pour the water from the pot, you can see the Sun through the water. Chant Surya Mantra while performing Arghya.
    Surya Mantras - “Om Suryaye Namah” or “ Om Ghrini Surya Aditya”
  • Doing the Surya Namaskar (11 Yoga postures) on this day is especially beneficial.
  • In front of Surya Dev’s idol or picture in your puja alter, arrange all the required Puja samagri and perform the Puja with devotion. Light a Ghee diya, first worship Lord Ganesh. Then offer Kumkum or Lal Chandan and Turmeric powder to the seven horses of the Surya Ratha, red flower, like Hisbiscus (Jaswanti, Gudhal) and Lotus to the Lord. Akshat mixed with turmeric, Betel nut and leaves, Coconut, Gud(Jaggery), sugar cane, five seasonal fruit, sweets, red cloth, red flag etc. are also offered to Lord Aditya to appease Him. Perform the puja while chanting any of the Surya mantras or Gayatri Mantra.
  • Perform Aarti along with other family members by singing Surya Dev’s hymns.
  • Bow down with gratitude.
  • Donate to the needy with a happy heart.

In the southern states of India Kolam, comprising of the seven colours of rainbow, are drawn at homes on Rathasapthami. Cowdung cake is burnt in the centre of the Kolam design and boiled milk is offered to Surya Dev.

Ratha Saptami Puja Benefits

  • Worshipping Surya Dev on Ratha Saptami by meticulously following the Vedic rituals is meritorious and brings significant benefits on physical, mental and emotional levels.
  • Rathasaptami Pooja heals diseases and ailments, especially skin diseases, eyesight or any problems of the eye. It boosts immunity and blood circulation and grants good health.
  • Ratha Saptami Puja dissolves sins of this life time and past life times. It paves the path to liberating the soul from the cycle of birth and death.
  • Worshipping Surya Dev on Ratha Saptami is said to be favourable for those who desire to have a son.
  • It bestows energy, vitality, power, confidence, and a radiant personality.
  • Surya Dev blesses with wealth, success, name, fame, sharpens intellect, enhances wisdom, will power, leadership qualities. It provides victory in challenges.
  • Ratha Saptami Pujan helps to progress in one’s spiritual journey, brings peace, harmony, protects from negative energies and keeps one charged with hope, joy and positivity.
  • Worshipping Surya Dev blesses with mental clarity, brilliance, reduces tension and anxiety and ensures overall wellbeing of devotees.
  • Performing the Rathasapthami Puja vidhanam properly and chanting the Ratha Saptami Stotram clearly while worshipping Surya Dev helps to manifest desires.

Ratha Saptami Mantra

Surya Beej Mantra is:

।। ॐ ह्रां ह्रीं ह्रौं सः सूर्याय नमः ।।
Om Hraam Hreem Hraum Sahh Suryay Namah
Surya Mantra for good health:

Namah Suryaya Shantaya Sarvaroga Nivaarine,
Ayurarogya Maisvairyam Dehi Devah Jagatpate

ओम नम: सूर्याय शान्ताय सर्वरोग निवारिणे।
आयुररोग्य मैस्वैर्यं देहि देव: जगत्पते।।

Surya Mantras -

Om Suryaye Namah
ॐ सूर्याय नमः।।

Om Ghrini Surya Aditya
ऊँ घृणि: सूर्य आदित्य

Om Japa Kusuma Sankaasham
Kaashya Peyam Mahaa Dyutim |
Tamorim Sarva Papaghnam
Pranathosmi Divakaram ||
ॐ जपाकुसुमसंकाशं काश्यपेयं महाद्युतिम्
तमोरिं सर्वपापघ्नं प्रणतोस्मि दिवाकरम्

Adityahridhayam Mantra :

।। आदित्यहृदयं पुण्यं सर्वशत्रुविनाशनम्
जयावहं जपं नित्यमक्षयं परमं शिवम् ।।
Aditya Hridhaya Punyam Sarva Shatru Vinashanam
Jayaavaham Japenithyam Akshayam Paramam Shivam

The Adityahridaya Stotra is a hymn in praise of the Sun God and comprises of 31 verses. It is said that chanting or repeatedly listening to the Adityahridaya Stotra in the morning on Ratha Saptami can charge you with energy, enthusiasm and will power to accomplish any work you want to complete.

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