Surya ‘Mahatmya’, ‘Saptami Vrata’: Method and Reward of ‘Ratha Satpami’
It was on ‘Saptami’Tithi that Bhagavan Surya made his initial manifestation to the Universe. His original Appearance inside a Holy Egg continued and from there itself, he grew and hence was called ‘Martaanda’. He was wedded to the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, called Sanjna, and begot Dharma Raja, Vaivasvata and Yamuna Devi. But since Sanjna was unable to bear the heat and dazzle of Surya Deva, created from her shadow a similar substitute, called Chhaya Devi to proxy her and left for Uttarakuru Desha to perform Tapasya in the form of as a horse. Meanwhile, Chhaya Devi gave birth to Shaneswara and Devi Tapati, but aftersome time, Chhaya Devi’s partial attitude to her own children and those of Sanjna came to be noticed; Yama Dharma pointed out to Chhaya Devi about the differential treatment and in course of the argument, Yama raised his right leg’s ankle which was objected to by Chhaya and she gave a curse to Yama that if his feet ankles were placed on Earth they would be eaten by worms! As Dharma Raja complained to Surya Deva, the father assuaged the feelings of his son, who was in fact a specimen of virtue, saying that the ‘shaap’of Sandhya Devi was not to be too harmful since, after all, worms might take away the flesh and blood of his ankle to Bhuloka but feet would be in tact any way. Sandhya was frightened and blurted the truth to Surya Deva that Sanjna materialised her to deputise her and the latter left to her father’s place; Daksha told Surya Deva that Sanjna could not withstand his heat and had been performing Tapasya in the form of a horse at Uttarakuru. Surya requested Vishwakarma to reduce his heat and radiance and after assuming the forms of a horse approached Sanjna and by the mutual contact of the noses of Surya and Sanjana in horse forms were born Ashvini Kumars and Raivata. Since the Episode of Sanjna and Surya occurred on Sapta Tithi of Magha Shukla Paksha as above, the day is considered as most auspicious to signify the union the Couple. Those who perform the Saptami Vrata of Bhagavan Surya by keeping fast on Shashthi, the previous day as well as on that day till the dusk time, perform formal Puja on Saptami, give away a good food with penty of Vegetables to Brahmanas along with Vastras, dakshina and gifts, and break the fast with the food observing silence during the night would be eligible to the fulfillment of desires, victory, and even Kingship. King Kuru observed this Vrata for several years at Kurukshetra on Magha Saptami and attained fulfillment of all desires. Kartika Shukla Saptami, Bhadrapada Panchami /Shashthi, Vaisakha Triteeya, and again on Ashvin Navami are also considered aupicious to observe the Vrata.
Lord Shri Krishna advised his son Samba that there could be no other Deity like Suryanayana since he could be sighted readily on the Sky. He said:
Pratyaksham Devata Suryo Jagatchhaykshu Divakarah,
Tasmaadabhayadhika kaachiddevata naasti shaashvati/
yasmaadidam jagajjaatam layam yaasyati yatracha/
(Bhagavan Suryanarayana is the readily available vision to the eyes in the whole Universe beyond whom could be no other Deity; the entire ‘Jagat’ has emerged and also terminated only by him.) Time measurement is facilitated only by him since the earliest Satya Yuga; he is the unique cause for the Presence of Grahas ( Planets), Nakshatras (Stars), Yogas, Karanaas, Rashis, Aditya, Vasu, Rudra, Vayu, Agni, Ashvani Kumaras, Indra, Prajapati, Dishas, Bhuh, Bhuvah, and Swah. Besides, he is the permanent ‘Saakshi’ (Evidence) of Mountains, Rivers, Samudra, Naga and all other ‘Charaachara’ or Stationary and Mobile Beings; the World wakes up with him and sleeps due to him; Vedas, Shastras and Itihasas are never tired of praising him as Paramatma, Antaratma and such other truisms; he is present every where, he is eternal and he is all-knowing; and he is the only and distinctive refuge-point to every one always. Having said this, Lord Shri Krishna advised his son Samba about the method of regular and daily worship so demolish sins and ‘Vighnas’ (obstacles). Early morning, before Sun rise, one should complete the ablutions, bathing, wearing clean clothes and offering ‘Achamana’or sipping of three spoonful water by reciting Kesavaya Swaha, Narayana Swaha, and Madhvavaya Swaha etc.and offer ‘Arghya’ (water with both the palms) to Suryanarayana by mentally reciting the ‘Sakshaatkara Mantra’ viz. OM KHAKHOL -KHAYA SWAHA; perform Tri-vidha Praanaayaama of Purak, Rechak and Kumbhak or the inhaling, holding and exhaling the four kinds airs viz. Vayavi, Agneyi , Mahendri and Vaaruni for attaining ‘baahyaantara suddhi’or external and internal purity by means of ‘Soshan’, ‘Dahan’, ‘Stambhan’ and ‘Plaavan’ of one’s body. Then, one has to integrate the ‘Sthula’or the physical and ‘Sukshma’ or the miniscule ‘Indriyas’ or limbs. Thereafter one has to perform ‘Anganyasa’ as follows:
OM KHAH SWAHA HRIDAYAYANAMAH, OM KHAM SWAHA SHIRASEY SWAHA, OM ULKAAYA SWAHA SHIKHAANAI VASHATU, OM YAYA SWAHA KAVACHAAYA HUM, OM SWAAM SWAAHA NETRATHRAYAYA AOUSHATU, OM HAAM SWAAHA ASTRAAYA PHAT .
Thereafter, water is sprinkled on all the worship materials and performs the worship by way of all the Services including offerings of flowers, incense material, lighting of oil-soaked cotton vicks and camphor lighting, Naivedya etc. Worship by day is to be done to Surya Deva’s idol and by the night through Agni Deva and facing East in the morning while facing west in the evening and night. At all these times, the worship is to be performed by thinking of an Eight Leaf Lotus with Surya in the center and reciting the mantra Om kakholkhaya Swaha. After the Services of Dhyana (meditation), Awahana (welcome), Naama Puja, Pushparchana, Dhupa, Deepa, Naivedya, Vastra etc. ‘Mudras’ should be displayed viz. Vyoma Mudra, Ravi Mudra, Padma Mudra, Mahaswata Mudra and Astra Mudras.If the worship is carried out in this manner for a year with devotion and sincerity, then no diseases would reach that person anywhere nearby, no shortage of monetary funds would ever be felt, no possibility of disrepute or controversy would occur in life and no limitation of well being and success is faced ever. Lord Shri Krishna further described to son Samba the names of Surya Deva to be worshipped on each Saptami of in months of a year: In Magha month, he is worshipped by the name of ‘Varuna’; in Phalguna month as ‘Surya’, in Chaitra as ‘Vaishakha’; in Vaishakha as ‘Dhata’; in Jeshtha as Indra; in Ashaadha as ‘Ravi’, in Shravana as ‘Nabha’; in Bhadrapada as ‘Yama’, in Ashwin as ‘Parjanya’; in Kartika as ‘Twashta’, in Margasirsha as ‘Mitra’; and in Poushya as ‘Vishnu’. After performing the Saptami Vrata year-long as above, ‘ Ratha Saptami’ is to be executed on Magha Shukla Saptami, marking the seventh day of ‘Uttarayana’ or the northerly movement of Surya Deva in a year. Vernal equinox starting from Capricon or Makara symbolically reverses the direction of Surya’s chariot from his southerly to northerly direction. The Charioteer Aruna is seated facing Surya Deva on the chariot drawn by seven horses representing seven colours the names of the horses being Jaya, Vijaya, Ajaya, Jayanti, Aparajita, Mahajaya, Nanda and Bhadra. Ratha Saptami also marks the birth day of Surya Deva, heralding the commencement of Spring Season celebrated as the season of harvesting and is celebrated as season of joy and auspiciouness all over Bharat. Surya Deva’s chariot has one ‘Chakra’, three ‘Naabhi’or Chakra fixer, five ‘ares’or cutters and eight ‘nemis’ ((nails); the length of the Ratha is of ten thousand yojanas of length and width; Devas, Rishis, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Nagas and Rakshasas travel along on the Chariot on bi-monthly basis of change; Bhagavan Suryanarayana is always mobile day and night taking rounds of Sapta Dwipas. The names of the ‘Saptaashvas’are If the Ratha is at Amaravati of Indra then it happens to be noon, Sunrise time at Samyamnipuri of Lord Yama, midnight at Varuna Deva’s City called Sukha, and at Chandra Deva’s Vibha Nagari the Suryasta / evening. Thus Sun God circumambulates the entire Universe daily.The directions are also determined by the movement of Surya Deva; similarly the degrees from zero to three hundred sixty as Surya moves to twenty, thirty, forty and so on till ninety by mid-day; Surya Deva’s movement also decides the positiong of the Navagrahas (Planets); he decides the rotation of ‘Rutus’or Seasons of Vasantha, Greeshma, Varsha, Sharad, Hemanta, and Sishira. Surya Deva’s colours also are tranformed according to the Seasons, viz. Kapila Varna in Vasanta, furnaced gold in Greeshma, Sweta or white in Varsha / rainy season, Pandu Varna in Sharad Ritu, copper colour in Hemanta Ritu and Rakta Varna (blood red) in Sishira Ritu. [Incidentally there are seven notes of Music-Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da and Ni; there are Seven Chakras in a human body viz.Mulaadhara, Swaadhishtana, Manipuraka, Anahata,Vishuddhi, Aagna, and Sahasrara; seven kinds of Sahitya, viz. Kaavya, Nataka, Alamkara, Purana, Itihaasa, Shastra and Smritis; and Seven Chhandas viz. Jayanti, Jagati, Usnik,Trishthup, Anushthup, Pankti and Bhubhruti].
Surya Deva’s ‘Ratha Yatra and ‘Indrotsava’ are propitious to the whole Universe and where ever these are celebrated there would not be any famine, natural calamities, fear of robberies or political upheavals.On Margaseersha Shukla Saptami, if one takes a devotional bath and after Surya Puja offers ‘Naivedya’ of cooked rice with ghee and jaggery, the person concerned would be destined to reach Brahmaloka.
‘Nadi Snaanas’: On Poushya Shukla Saptami, holy bathings along with Veda Mantras in favour of Surya Deva, preferably coinciding Surya ‘Abhishekas’, would assume considerable significance at Prayaga, Pushkara, Kurukshetra, Naimisha, Pruthudak (Pehva), Shona, Gokarna, Brahmaavarta, Kushhavarta, Bilvaka, Neelaparvat, Gangaadwar, Kaalapriya, Mitravan, Chakra Tirtha, Rama Tirtha, Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, Sindhu, Chandrabhaaga, Narmada, Vipaasha (Vyasanadi), Taapi, Shiva, Vetravati, Godavari, Payohni (Mandakini), Krishna, Venya, Shatadru (Satlej), Pushkarini, Kaushiki (Kosi) and Sarayu. The holy baths accompanied by worship of Sun God with devotion would certainly yield memorable results.After the baths in the Rivers and Abhishkas to Suryanarana ‘Pratima’, the Idols of Surya as well as those of Sanjna and Chhaya are transferred to a Chariot drawn by seven horses as also Aruna, the Ratha Sarathi , and with decorate the interior of the chariot with figurines of Tri Murthis of Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara, Dikpalakas and so on; the Ratha should be accompanied by Seven Brahmanas, signifying Sapta Rishis reciting Veda Mantras, as also Gandharvas denoting singers and dancers and taken around a Temple / main roads of the Vllages/ Town ships etc. The Organisers, participants, Brahmanas and all who witness the Ratha Yatra would be blessed as their mere presence at the Event removes property, enhances health, great opportunities of Life and attainment of Suryaloka.