What is Ratha Saptami and why is it celebrated?

Ratha Saptami or Rathasapthami (Sanskrit: रथसप्तमी or Magha Saptami) is a Hindu festival that falls on the seventh day (Saptami) in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month Magha.This year it falls on 31st of January/ 1st of Feb, 2020 based on where you live.

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The Sun God Surya turns his Ratha (Chariot) drawn by seven horses (representing seven colours) towards the northern hemisphere, in a north-easterly direction on this day. It also marks the birth of Surya and hence celebrated as Surya Jayanti (the Sun-god’s birthday).

God Vishnu in his form as Surya (the Sun-God) is usually worshipped on this day

Spiritual Significance of Ratha Saptami

Lord Surya is seen riding a chariot pulled by 7 horses. Ratha is nothing but our mind, and the horses are nothing but thoughts. We have all noticed how our thoughts pull our mind in various directions. Ratha Saptami is all about having pure and righteous thoughts (horses) that pulls the mind (chariot) towards divinity. Surya (Sun) is currently on his uttarayan transit which is the path towards divinity and this is the time when he gains momentum towards the divine. 

Ratha Saptami Rituals

It is said that taking a ritualistic bath on this day before Sunrise during Brahma Muhurta (1.5 one hours before sunrise) can help eliminate illness in our lives. It can cleanse us from any sins or wrong doings we may have committed knowingly or unknowingly, not just from this lifetime but from all our lifetimes put together!

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  • Wake up before Brahma Muhurta.
  • Before you put your foot down chant the Bhumi Devi mantra 3 times. समुद्रवसने देवि पर्वतस्तनमण्डले । विष्णुपत्नि नमस्तुभ्यं पादस्पर्शं क्षमस्वमे ॥ 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). – Translation Credit – GreenMesg
  • While begining your shower chant this mantra – गङ्गे च यमुने चैव गोदावरि सरस्वति । नर्मदे सिन्धु कावेरि जलेऽस्मिन् संनिधिं कुरु ॥ Gangge Ca Yamune Cai[a-E]va Godaavari Sarasvati | Narmade Sindhu Kaaveri Jale-[A]smin Sannidhim Kuru ||
  • While taking shower please continue to chant the following mantra – “Sapta Sapta Maha Sapta | Sapta Dweepa Vasundhara | Sapta Arka Parna Madaya | Saptamyam Snanam Achareth ||” Note – If you have access to Arka leaves, then you can place 7 leaves on your head while you take your bath.
  • Meditate and chant your morning prayers.
  • Just during exact sunrise time listen to or chant the Aditya Hrudayam and perform Arghya to the Sun God. See below on how to perform Arghya.
  • Perform Sun Salutations
  • Meditate on the Suryashtakam chant.
  • Donate money to people who need it and to people with whom you do not have any connections. It has to be someone who you do not know and who may not repay you in any form. Good deeds done today gives multifold results.

How to perform Arghya to the Sun God

  1. Take a copper vessel filled with water.
  2. Add some red-colored flowers inside the water.
  3. Stretch your hands with the copper vessel and gaze directly at the Sun.
  4. Let the water flow out of the vessel and gaze at the sun through the flowing water.
  5. Do it slowly and empty the water from the copper vessel.
  6. While performing this arghya you can chant the Aditya Hrudayam stotram or simply chant – “Aum Suryaya Namah” or “Aum Ghrini Surya Aditya”.

The 12 Dwaadasa Adityas

Kasyapa the father of Surya bowed before the Supreme God, saying, “Bhagavan, our son is the precious gift of your grace to Aditi and me. Bless him with a name of your choosing.”

 Lord Vishnu said, “Kasyapa, my gift belongs not only to you and your wife, but to all animate and inanimate creation. Your son is the incarnation of Surya, the foremost of the Navagrahas. He will rule the planets as he moves through the twelve signs of the zodiac. Your son, Surya, will move through these dozen signs of the zodiac over a period of twelve months, or one human year. He will reside for one month in every sign, or raasi. In each raasi, he will be known by a different name – these twelve names will be collectively called the Dwaadasa Aadityas.” 

Visnu pronounced the first name as Dhaata, followed by Aryama, Mitra and Sakra. Brahma continued Varuna, Amsumanta, Bhaga, Vivasvan. Lord Shiva continued Pusha, Savitru, Twashta, Vishnu. – Navagraha Purana

Navagraha Mantra for Surya by Veda Vyasa

Japaakusuma Sankaasam kaasyapeyam mahaadyutim Tamorim sarva paapaghnam pranatosmi Divaakaram!

 I offer my salutations to Divaakara (Surya), who shines like the japa flower, who is the son of Kasyapa, who is resplendent, who is the enemy of darkness, and who is the destroyer of all sins.