Ratha Saptami is a Hindu festival to honor the Sun God or Surya Dev. Legend says that on this day, Surya embarks on his journey to the northern hemisphere, riding his chariot pulled by seven white horses. The day falls on Shukla Paksha (waxing lunar fortnight) in the month of Magha (Feb-Mar). So it is also called Magha Saptami.

According to mythology, Surya enlightened the world on Ratha Saptami, meaning the world became filled with light on this day. So it is believed to be the birthday of the Sun God or Surya Jayanti.

Ratha Saptami 2023 is on January 28.

Significance of Ratha Saptami

Many ancient cultures worshipped solar deities. The Sun has the status of a deity because it is the source of life. For this reason, it occupies a central position among the Navagrahas (nine planets) in Vedic astrology. It is the king of the planets. Science has also proved that the Sun is the center of all the planets, and all of them orbit around it. The Rishis or sages of ancient India were aware of this truth thousands of years ago. Even the Scriptures mention it. The Vedas have described the characteristics of the Sun and the other Grahas in detail. We can identify them easily in the “Navagraha Mantra”. The characteristics are similar to the findings of NASA scientists, too.

Ratha Saptami Legends

Surya Dev was the son of Sage Kashyapa and his wife, Aditi. His birthday is called Ratha Saptami or Surya Jayanti.

Ratha Saptami is observed to honor Surya. It is believed to confer many benefits. The story goes that the ruler of the Kamboj empire, King Yashovarma, had no children. He was worried as there was no heir to succeed him to the throne. Finally, after many years of prayers and worship, a son was born. But the king’s joy was short-lived as the boy had a terminal illness. Seeing the king’s distress, a saint advised him to tell the young prince to perform Ratha Saptami Pooja for the Sun God. This, he assured the king, would free his son from his past sins. So, the prince performed the Pooja and was cured. After the king died, he became the ruler and proved to be a good king.

Ratha Saptami Rituals

  • On the morning of Ratha Saptami, arise early at 4 am and bathe before sunrise.
  • Offer abolitions to Surya.
  • Draw a rangoli of the Sun God on his chariot with his 7 horses in front of the house.
  • Married women should take a bath by placing 7 erukkam leaves on their body. Place a pinch of turmeric and raw rice on top of the leaf. One leaf should be kept on the head, two on the shoulders, two on the knees, and two on the feet while having the bath.
  • Men should take bath with only the erukkam leaves and rice.
  • Perform Arghyadaan (offering water to the Sun God).
  • Perform the Ratha Saptami Pooja by lighting a lamp, incense sticks, camphor tablets, etc. Offer red flowers to Surya.
  • Chant the Gayatri Mantra when doing the Pooja.
  • Perform Suryanamaskar (12 postures).
  • Offer Chakkarai Pongal and Vadas as Neivedyam, along with coconuts, betel leaves, bananas, and other fruits.

Importance of Worshipping Surya

Surya is often called “Aarogya and Aishwarya Datha” (One who provides good health and wealth). People worship him early in the morning when the first rays emerge. Exposure to the early morning sunrays boosts one’s energy and purifies the mind and body. A lot of people perform Suryanamaskaras or Sun salutations, a Yogasana comprising 12 postures of prostrating before Surya in the morning. This is very good for health and starting the day on an energetic note. Being exposed to the early morning sun has many benefits, says science. It helps the body to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for immunity.

Stotras and Mantras for Surya

The Vedas have many sacred hymns or Stotras dedicated to the Sun God. They include Aditya Hridayam, Surya Ashtakam, Surya Shathakam, Gayatri Mantra, etc. Reciting them is believed to bestow good health, wealth, and success. The Taittareeya Aaranyakam has Aruna Prashna, which is a powerful chant associated with the Sun God. In the Ramayana, Sage Agasthya advised Rama to worship the Sun God to help him win the war against Ravana. Sage Agasthya taught Rama the Aditya Hridayam before he left to wage war.

Benefits of Observing Ratha Saptami

  • It frees you of your sins.
  • It helps to purify ourselves.
  • It protects one from negative energies.
  • It can give you a long life.
  • It can bestow good health.
  • It can bestow success, name, fame, and leadership qualities.
  • It can boost confidence, energy, and vitality.
  • It can bestow male progeny.
  • It can help one get a radiant personality.