‘Rathasapthami’ is celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai on the seventh day from Amavasya. It signifies the energetic journey of the Sun in the northern hemisphere as he has moved to the house of Saturn, Capricorn from Dhanush. It showcases energy and activity, warm days and spring season after the bitter cold of the winter days.
Rathasapthami 2018 date is January 24, Wednesday.
Rathasapthami is considered as the birth day of the Sun and thus is celebrated as Surya Jayanthi in many places of India. It is also the time Bhishma breathed his last. Lord Vishnu is also worshipped on this day. Ratha means the chariot, (the chariot of the Sun) and Sapthami is the thithi that falls on the seventh day in Shukla Paksha after Amavasya.
People take a holy bath in the morning and recite prayers and slokas like Surya Astothram, Adithya Hridhayam, Suryashtakam.They offer milk as neivedhyam to the Sun.
People keep 7 arga (erruku) leaves with akshadhai (rice mixed with turmeric) while taking bath. They keep one arga leaf on the head, two on shoulders, two on hands and two more on legs. Those who do not have husbands and fathers keep til and rice with arga leaves. They chant the following sloka.
Sapta Sapti Priye Devi Sapta Loka Pradeepike;
Sapta janmaarjitam paapam hara saptami satvaram
Etatjanma krutam paapam krutam sapta sujanmasoo
Naumi saptami Devitwaam sapta lokaika Maataram
Saptaarga patra snaane mama paapam Vyopahayae
People recite this sloka while bathing and pray to the Sun to relieve them of their sins committed during their seven births.
Arghyam is offered to the Sun with the following mantra
Saptasaptivaha! preetah! saptaloka pradeepana,
Saptameesahito deva! gruhaanaarghyam divaakara! ''
Erruku reflects the energy of the Sun and keeping it on our body will increase our energy. It is called ‘arka’ in Sanskrit, which is synonymous with the name of Sun God. Erruku is as sacred to the Sun as tulsi is to Lord Vishnu.
Aditi was the wife of the Rishi Kashyap. One day, when she was pregnant, she was serving food to her husband. At that time, a brahmin knocked at her door and requested her for food. Since she was serving food to her husband, she was not able to attend to the request of the brahmin at once. It took some time for her to take food to the brahmin. The man got angry and cursed her that she would deliver a dead child.
Aditi was very sad and she told her husband what had happened. Kashyap rishi consoled her and blessed her that she would deliver a son who would shine brightly forever and would be immortal also. Consequently, Lord Surya was born on the Sapthami in the Shukla Paksha of the Tamil month Thai.So, it is considered as the birthday of Lord Surya.
Sapthami denotes the number seven. The thithi ‘sapthami’ signifies the energy of the Sun with his chariot drawn by seven horses. Seven also denotes the seven days of a week and a week starts with Sunday. It is also said that seven denotes seven colours of the rainbow. There are 12 wheels in the chariot that shows the 12 zodiac signs and also 12 months in a year.
Bhishma waited for 48 days on the arrow bed for the arrival of Uttarayana kalam and breathed his last on the Ashtami which was the next day to Rathasapthami. He waited for the transit of the Sun from Dhanush to Makara rasi. People perform tarpan to Bhishma on Rathasapthami to pay homage to such a great soul.
Veda Vyasa visited Bhishma on his deathbed and advised him to cover his body with arga leaves to get relieved of his sins. Bhishma did the same and got his soul purified. People follow the same tradition of keeping arga leaves on their body to get rid of their sins on Rathasapthami.
There was a story narrated by Kamboj’s king Yashovarma about a king who had no heir for a long time. After lots of prayers, he was blessed with a son. But, the son was terminally ill and as per the advice of a saint, the son performed Rathasapthami Pooja to get rid of his sins and got cured of his illness.
By praying to the Sun God on Rathasapthami, one is able to get rid of his sins done in seven births and gets energised for the ongoing life activities.