Ratha Saptami: Worship of the Sun God

The trail of the Babylonian religion can be traced back and forth across the nations of the earth. A proof of this is an exotic rite celebrated in India, called Ratha Saptami. In Shukla Paksha Saptami or on seventh day of the waxing moon during the month of Magha is observed the feast of Ratha Saptami or Surya Jayanti, dedicated to the sun god Surya. This marks the seventh day following the northwards movement of the Sun from Capricorn or makara, called Uttarayana.

Surya is the chief of the navagraha or nine planets and is described and shown seated on a golden chariot drawn to the northern hemisphere, in a northeasterly direction by seven horses, which are of the same colors of the rainbow or the seven chakras. The day that marks the Ratha Saptami is the day in which the tilt of the Earth to the Sun is steeper. The Sun worship is deeply rooted in the various mythologies around the world.

Ratha Saptami is a symbol of change from the winter season to spring and the beginning of the harvest season. For most farmers in India, it is an auspicious beginning of the New Year. On this day the devotees mainly at Tirumala take a bath in a holy river at sunrise, with a lamp or with seven leaves of Erukku, an ayurvedic medicinal plant placed on the head. The hair is washed with a milk extracted from the leaves of Erukku. The women in this day do not use hair oil.

After the cleansing baths the Ratha Saptami kolam is drawn in front of the house or in the room of the pooja and sprinkled with turmeric and kumkum. Uncooked rice, turmeric, sago (sugar), lentils, flowers, are placed at the edge of the Ratha out on a bed of Erukku leaves. Betel leaves, betel nuts, coconuts and yellow bananas, fruit and milk are offered as pooja. In the middle cow dung is burnt, and sweet pongal (rice, jaggery brown sugar, raisins and spices) and Vadai like small meatballs made with a batter of lentils, are offered to Surya and then distributed as prasadam.

They are sung several hymns and mantras including the Gayatri Mantra and the hymn of Surya Ashtakam. Some devotees opt for a complete fast, others with fasting from dawn to dusk.

It is interesting to see the great resemblance of the god Suria to Tammuz, the first sun god and father of solar worship in all religions of the world. We also have Cibeles, a Phrygian goddess who was worshiped from the Neolithic. Ratha Saptami might well be one more version of this grotesque festivities created in the Sinar valley in the early postdiluvian times. Almost in all pagan religions the sun and the serpent is worshipped.