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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ratha Saptami

Ratha Saptami 

Saptami Tithi is dedicated to Lord Surya. Shukla Paksha Saptami in Magha month is known as Ratha Saptami or Magha Saptami. It is believed that Lord Surya Dev started enlightening the whole world on Ratha Saptami day which was considered as birth day of God Surya. Hence this day is also known as Surya Jayanti. 

Ratha Saptami is highly auspicious day and it is considered as auspicious as Surya Grahan for Dan-Punya activities. By worshipping Lord Surya and observing fast on this day one can get rid of all type of sins. It is believed that seven types of sins done, knowingly, unknowingly, by words, by body, by mind, in current birth and in previous births are purged by worshipping Lord Surya on this day. 

On Ratha Saptami one should take bath during Arunodaya. Ratha Saptami Snan is one of the important rituals and is suggested during Arunodaya only. Arunodaya period prevails for four Ghatis (approx. one and half hour for Indian locations if we consider one Ghati duration as 24 minutes) before sunrise. Taking bath before sunrise during Arunodaya keeps one healthy and free from all types of ailments and diseases. Because of this belief Ratha Saptami is also known as Arogya Saptami. Taking bath in water body like river, canal is preferred over taking bath at home. lists Arunodaya period and sunrise time for most cities across the globe. 

After taking bath one should worship Lord Surya during sunrise by offering Ardhyadan (अर्ध्यदान) to Him. Ardhyadan is performed by slowly offering water to Lord Surya from small Kalash with folded hand in Namaskar Mudra while facing Lord Sun in standing position. After this one should light Deepak of pure Ghee and worship Sun God with Kapoor, Dhup, and red flowers. By doing morning Snan, Dan-Punya and Ardhyadan to Suryadev one is bestowed with long life, good health and prosperity. 

This day is also known as Achala Saptami. Ratha Saptami literally means the seventh day of the chariot. Here the chariot refers to the chariot of the Sun God which he rides to cross over to the North. Ratha Saptami takes place on the seventh day of the lunar cycle after the New Moon of the tamil month of Thai (mid Jan- mid Feb). Whereas the first day of the month of Thai signifies the passage of the Sun from one direction to the other (South to North), the seventh day, Ratha Saptami is more a lunar reference, which is mainly mythologic, to the mounting of Surya (Sun god) on to his chariot to undertake his northern journey.

In Tiruvannamalai, on Ratha Saptami day, a Tirthavaari (sacred bath of the gods) is celebrated in Kalasapakkam (a village about 20 kms to the north of Tiruvannamalai) in the river Cheyaru. Early in the morning, after an abhishekam, the deities of Lord Annamalaiyar and his consort Apeethakuchambal are borne to the village and placed on their favorite mount, the Bull (Rishaba vahanam). After a ritual of worship the gods are carried to the banks of the river, Cheyaru. Here awaits a fine reception for them, for the ensemble of the village gods are there to welcome and honour their Lord and Lady. After this, the Astra deva or the Trident weapon of Shiva is taken ceremoniously to the river by the priest and bathed ritualistically in the waters. The same ritual is repeated all along the banks of the river accompanied by the crowd of villagers and hailed with loud cries of devotion. Then all the deities are made to dance in wild frenzy by the palanquin bearers who jerk and jiggle the deities borne on their shoulders. This scene ,watched from a distance over the sea of heads of devotees is quite impressive.

The principal part of the festival ends with this ceremony. However, Lord Annamalaiyar seizes the occasion to make a tour of the village also part of his kingdom and grant his darshan to the village devotees who are so dear to his heart. And on this gracious note, he bids goodbye and mounts on his chariot for the return procession back to Tiruvannamalai and the big temple…

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