Ratha Sapthami is a Hindu festival dedicated to Sri Surya Narayana. Also known as Magha Sapthami or Maha Sapthami is highly auspicious Sun centric day for Dan-punya activities, observe fasting & mouna vratha. Devotees who worship Lord Surya and observe fast on this day can get rid of all types of sins. The seven types of sin which is done knowingly, unknowingly, by words, by body, by mind, in current birth and in previous birth are washed away. Kushmanda Dana is prescribed on this occasion.
Also celebrated as Surya Jayanthi since it marks the birth of Surya. He is born to divine couple Aditi and sage Kashyapa. As per Hindu calendar, 7th day of sukla and Krishna paksha is Sapthami and its presiding deity is Surya. On this day, northern movement of the Sun towards the northern hemisphere takes place, after its transit into Makara Raasi on Makara Sankramana Day.
Traditionally, Ratha Sapthami is depicted as the day Sun God riding over a chariot driven by charioteer Aruna having seven horses. Seven horses are named Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristup, Anustup and Pankti. It represents seven colours of light (VIBGYOR – Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red); also represent seven days in the week starting from Sunday. Sunday is the day dedicated to Sun God.
The charioteer Aruna is the brother of Garuda. He is the red sky of dawn or during sunrise that nourishes all living beings on earth. He was born handicapped (without legs) to Vinata and Rishi Kashyapa. Though disabled, rose to position as the charioteer of Surya Narayana.
It is said that, chariot of Sun has only one wheel known as Samvatsara, that represents the Kaalachakra. The Entire Kaalachakra or wheel of time is established on the wheel of the sun-god’s chariot.
According to age old tradition, one should take bath before sunrise (Arunodaya kaala) with Arka leaves. The Arka leaves are very special to Surya Deva. Seven Arka leaves are taken into consideration, one should take bath by keeping one on the head, two on the shoulders, two on the knees and two on the feet. As soon as the bath is over Arghya should be given to Sun God. It helps one attain the state of moksha and rid of his/her sins committed in seven previous births.
Devotees also offer Thila tharpana to forefathers as a part of Shannavathi (Vaivaswatha Manvaadi) under Pithru Yagna. In South India, people draw rangoli of chariot driven with seven horses in front of their house.
Sun blesses those devotees who offer him a simple namaskara with all humility and devotion, hence called Namaskara Priya. Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation a yogic prakriya is considered the mother of all yoga postures.