Ratha Saptami ie Surya Jayanti is festival of Sun-God ie Surya Narayan,the God of health and the Lord is worshipped for better health and wellbeing of human.Ratha Saptami also marks the birthday of Lord Surya Narayan who was born to sage Kashyapa and his wife Aditi on this day.According to Mahabharata, Bhishma got the salvation (liberation after death) on the day after Surya Jayanthi which is observed as Bhishma Ashtami.
Ratha Saptami marks the gradual increase in temperature across South India and awaits the arrival of spring.This is the start of the harvesting season and most of the Indian farmers consider this as an auspicious beginning of the New Year.Ratha Saptami attracts a large number of devotees.
Ratha Saptami is observed during the month of Magh,on Magh Shukla Saptami and it is one of the biggest hindu festivals.It falls on the second day after Vasant Panchami or Shri Panchami or Madana Panchami. Sun worship has deep root in vedas.
During Ratha Saptami punya snan (holy dips) are performed and women draw rangoli or kolam or muggu in front of their houses to welcome the divine,healthy and pleasant rays of Sun God.The Rangolis are drawn in a chariot shape denoting the seven horses of Surya bhagwan.Arogya Saptami vrat is also observed on this day to get relief from major heath problems and disorders.
God Vishnu in his form as Surya Narayan (the Sun-God) is usually worshipped on this day.On Rathasapthami devotees take a purification bath at home or in a river or sea by holding severa Ekka leaves on their head while bathing and chanting a verse which is supposed to invoke the benevolence of the Lord in all that one indulges in during the rest of the year.
Argyam or (Tharpanam) (water held in the palms) is offered to the Sun God on this day while chanting hymns are performed to the Sun God.It also involves doing a pooja offering to God), and offering of flowers and fruits.Important prayers offered to the Sun god on this occasion are the Gayatri mantr and Surya sahranama. The pooja time should be within one hour after the sunrise.
Ratha Saptami marks the seventh day following the Sun's northerly movement (Uttarayan) of vernal equinox starting from Capricorn (Makara).It represents symbolically in the form of the Surya Narayan turning his Ratha (Chariot) drawn by seven horses,with Aruna as the charioteer.It heads towards the northern hemisphere, in a north-easterly direction.
The ratha and the seven horses reigned to it represents the seven colours of the rainbow.The seven horses represent the seven days of a week starting with Sunday, the day of Sun Narayan.The chariot has 12 wheels, which represents the 12 zodiac signs and constitute a full year,called 'Samvatsara'.The Sun's own house is Leo (Simha) and he moves from one house to the next every month and the total cycle takes 365 days to complete.
Yashovarma a noble king had no heir to rule his kingdom for a long time.He prayed to the Sun God with full devotion and finally he was blessed with a son.Later on,unfortunately his son fell sick and was not recovering.The king was advised by a saint that his son should perform the Ratha Saptami pooja with full devotion to Sura Narayan, to get rid of his past sins.Accordingly the king advised his son.As per the directions of the king-father,the son performed the Rath Saptami pooja with reverance and very soon he was cured completely from the illness and he led a healthy life thereafter.
This festival is celebrated in a big way at Arasavalli Surya Narayana Swami Temple,in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and Surya Narayan or the Sun God is known as Pratyaksha Narayana.Here, devotees take Nija Rupa Darshan of Surya Narayana from 10 o' clock in the morning till 4 o' clock in the evening. Ksheerabhishekam ie bath is offered to Surya Narayan with milk.
The presiding deity of Arasavalli Temple is the 5 feet black idol of Surya Narayan.Surya Narayana has his consorts Padma, Usha and Chaaya consecrated beside him. All these deities are placed on a grand chariot (ratham) driven by seven horses. Dwarapalakas of the temple are Pingala and the Sanaka muni and Sananda muni.
At Tirumala Tirupati Balaji temple, Ratha Saptami festival is a grand event which attracts thousands of devotees.On this day, the presiding deity of Lord Malayappa Swami along with his divine consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi are taken in a big procession on Thiru Mada streets in Tirumala, encircling the holy Shrine of Balaji on seven different vahanams.
The festival is also known as single day Brahmotsavam of Lord Balaji.Thousands of devotees throng the temple to witness the event and chant the Govinda nama during the vahana seva.The Ratha Saptami celebration begins with Suryaprabha vahanam at early morning 5 o' clock and ends with Chandraprabha Vahanamat 9 o' clock in the night.