Ratha Saptami, is observed on the seventh day of the Shukla Paksha of the month of Magha. In Tamil Nadu it falls on the Thai or the Masi month. The Ratha Saptami, is an extremely auspicious day according to the Hindu calendar.
According to ancient beliefs Lord Surya Dev started enlightening the world on this day of the Ratha Saptami. This is also the day which is considered to be the day when the Lord SuryaDev was born to the sage Kashyapa and his wife Adithi.
Importance of Surya Dev in the Hindu sects and in science –
Surya or Sun is considered to be an extremely important God, because as in science too, he is the source of life and light. As sun is in the center of nine planets, so is the Surya God placed in the center of the Nava Grahas or the nine planets. Surya is called the Graharaj as he is in the center of the nine planets. Riding in a chariot pulled by seven white horses, his movements are what time is constituted of. Surya is also known by several other names such as, Martandya, Aditya, Arka, Divakar etc.
Importance of Ratha Saptami –
Ratha Saptami is considered to be as important a day as the Surya Grahan, where the Dan Punya activities are highlighted. As it is the Saptami Tithi, it is believed that seven types of sins perpetrated, either by word, deed, mind or current birth can be completely purged by worshipping Surya Dev onb this day. Many people worship Surya as he is considered to be the Arogya and Aishwarya Data, or the giver of health and wealth.
Ritual Bathing on Ratha Saptami –
The ritual bath during Ratha Saptami should be done during Arunodaya. It is believed that taking the ritual bath before the sunrise during Arunodaya helps one remain healthy and free from all types of ailments. This is the reason Ratha Saptami is also known as Arogya Saptami. On this day washing hair with giant milk weeds leaves or Erukku plants is believed to be auspicious as these plants have therapeutic and curative value.
The Ratha Saptami Puja-
As with all pujas, the Ratha Saptami puja too starts with prayers offered to Lord Ganesha. After the ritual bath, Lord Surya should be worshipped by doing Arghyadan. Arghyadan is performed by offering small quantities of water to the Lord Surya while standing on one leg in a namaskar, or folded hand mudra. The puja commences with the anointing of the ratha or the chariot and the suryadeva idol with turmeric and kumkum. Betel leaves, betel nuts, jiggery, milk, coconut and yellow bananas are offered as prasads. The prayers and chantings done in the Ratha Saptami are – Surya Sahasranama, Aditya Hridayam, Gayatri Mantra and other prayers like the Surya Ashtakam.
As epics go, Sage Agastya had advised Lord Rama to invoke the Surya dev in his bid to win the war against Ravana. He gave Lord Rama the Aditya Hridayam Upadesha to energize him and make him capable to win the battle against the demonic Ravana.
Thus on the Ratha Saptami, if one does dan-punya, morning ritual snan and arghya dan, one is bestowed with a long life good health and prosperity.