It is a well-known fact that Sun worship has been in practice for a long time and it is still being practiced in India also. Worshipping sun was considered a part and parcel of many cultures. Besides India, some of the other countries which practiced sun worship are – Egypt, Rome, Mexico, Peru and Japan etc. It is a well-known fact that the sun is a source of energy for all living beings. It would not have been possible for life to exist without the sun and this is the reason why the Sun is still regarded as a divine being in India. Since, the Sun is considered to be divine, hence it is worshipped by the Hindus. This worship takes the form of a festival and this is called Ratha Saptami.
Do you want to know more about Ratha Saptami? Well, then carry on reading and enhance your knowledge. This day is celebrated on the 7th day (Saptami) of Shukla Paksha of Maagha (months of February – March). On this day, the Sun God turns his chariot, which is drawn by seven horses towards the Northern Hemisphere. In India, the Sun is known as “Surya” and the chariot is called the “Ratha”. This day also marks the birth of “Surya” and hence it is celebrated as “Surya Jayanti” (Surya’s Birthday). It is worthwhile to know that “Ratha Saptami” marks the beginning of the Spring Season as well as the beginning of harvest season also. This festival is celebrated by the Hindus in their homes as well as in temples which are dedicated to the Sun God.
Worshipping Sun God –
“Ratha Saptami” is a festival which is observed in the honor of Sun God. The rituals for Ratha Saptami begin with a sacred bath. During the bath the devotees hold Ekka leaves, also known as Calotropis Gigantea”, on their head and then chant a hymn invoking the Sun God. A puja is then performed whereby the God is offered flowers, fruits and food. The prayers offered to Sun God on this day include – Suryashtakam, Gayatri, Surya Sahasram Namam and Adityahridayam etc. Puja should be conducted within one hour after the sun rises. Celemonial processions, carrying Surya Mandala, (Icon of Sun God) are brought out in places like Mysore and Melkote.
Arka leaves are very important for worshipping Sun God. In Tamil, these leaves are called “Erukku”, while in English it is known as “Bowstring Hemp”. These leaves are also used for worshipping Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman. The shape of the leaves supposedly represents the Sun God’s shoulders and his chariot. When one is taking a ritualistic bath then seven leaves are used. One leaf is placed on the head, two leaves are placed on the shoulders, and two each on knees and feet. In South India, during Ratha Saptami, the women draw a kolam of a chariot and the seven horses with colored powder. Cow dung cakes are burnt at the center of this kolam. Boiled milk is offered to the Sun God. Ratha Saptami is an important festival that is celebrated in various temples in Tirumala, Melukote, Srirangam and Srirangapattana.