ॐ आदित्याय विदमहे दिवाकराय धीमहि तन्नो सूर्यः प्रचोदयत।
Om Adityaya Vidmahe
Tanno Surya Prachodayat
In a culture that reveres, celebrates and worship every aspect of creation, Ratha Saptami is an important day. It is observed on the Saptami Tithi (Seventh Day) of Shukla Paksha (Waxing phase of the moon) in the month of Magha (11th month of the Hindu Calendar). It is also called Magha Saptami, Surya Jayanti, Achala Saptami, Arogya Saptami and so on and is dedicated to worship of the Sun – it is believed that Chariot of the Sun is closest to the earth on this day.
Bhagwan Surya is considered the Pratyaksha Devata – Visible God. He is Apauresheya (which means not of Human) and was born to Rishi Kashyapa and Aditi on this day and hence the day also is often called Surya Jayanti.
It is on this day that Bhagwan Surya changes direction His Chariot to North-easterly direction and provides life giving and sustaining energy to all creations. He also nourishes and ensures good health. His charioteer is half Brother Aruna and there are interesting aspects to the Chariot itself. It is drawn by 7 horses. According to various beliefs Seven Horses represents Seven Adharmic acts (loosely translated as Sins) or Seven Colors of Rainbow (or components of white Light as modern science discovers much later) or Seven Days of the Week (Vasaras) The Chariot has 12 Wheels to represent Twelve signs of Zodiac or 12 months. Worship of Bhagwan Surya thus ensures mastery or control over all these aspects and help us lead a happy, contented or in other words, Dharmic life. It is on this day that there is a symbolic transition of season (currently 7th day of Shishira) towards Vasanta Ritu which starts on the day of Ugadi.
Being central to all the Life forces required for creation He is depicted as the central figure among the Navagrahas which also goes on to prove that our ancient Rishis were well aware that all planets revolve around the Sun and also that the number of planets are Nine (though in Hindu belief system, two of them, Rahu and Ketu are Shadow planets )
How is the day Observed
Devotees wake up before sunrise and finish their ablutions and have a ritualistic bath with Arka Leaves (see picture) placed on 7 parts of our body along with Akshate (Rice and Turmeric). 1 leaf on the head, 2 on the shoulders, 2 on the knees and 2 on the feet. In some families, the practice is for Men to bathe without Turmeric (only Arka leaves and Rice). It is also significant to know that Arka also means Sun Rays.
After ritualistic bath, it is time for Arghya pradhana to Sun. Offering water from the Kalasha facing the Sun chanting the following mantra
Namah Suryaya Shantaya Sarvaroga Nivaarine
Ayu rarogya maisvairyam dehi devah jagatpate
I bow to you Bhagwan Surya, the ruler of the Universe, the one whose energy that is curative, Bless us with long life, good health and prosperity
After offering Arghya, light a lamp and agarbati (incense sticks), offer flowers (red colored one), and perform Karpoor (Camphor) Arathi.
Other Gayatris and mantras for Surya
Om Bhaskaray Vidmahe
Tanno Surya Prachodayat
Om Bhagwan Surya I meditate upon you, The one who showers the Universe with light and remove darkness and Seek your eternal blessings
Om Sapt Turagay Vidhmahe
Sahasra Kirnay Dheemahi
Tanno Ravi Prachodyat
I meditate upon you, The one who rides a Seven Horsed Chariot, the one who blesses the earth with thousands of rays and seek your eternal blessings
After the above prayers, we perform Sun Salutations or now popular Surya Namaskar. It is interesting to note that Surya Namaskar is also 12 postured asanas performed in smooth transition and performed under early morning rays of the sun, which is proven to have great benefits to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being of humans.
The ritual ends with Chanting Shri Suryashtakam (This is from Samba Puranam and recited by Samba, son of Lord Sri Krishna and Jambavati and as name indicates, it consists of 8 paragraphs of texts). Sharing link to a You Tube link available at the time of writing this with Kannada Lyrics
MAY BHAGWAN SURYA DESTROY ALL PLANETARY DOSHAS, MAY THE CHILDLESS BE BLESSED WITH HEALTHY PROGENY AND POOR BE BLESSED WITH ABUNDANT WEALTH
RATHA SAPTAMI GREETINGS TO ALL