Ratha Saptami or Rathasapthami (Sanskrit: रथसप्तमी or Magha Saptami) is a Hindu festival that falls on the seventh day (Saptami) in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month Maagha. It marks the seventh day following the Sun’s northerly movement (Uttarayana) of vernal equinox starting from Capricorn (Makara). It is symbolically represented in the form of the Sun God Surya turning his Ratha (Chariot) drawn by seven horses (representing seven colours) towards the northern hemisphere, in a north-easterly direction. It also marks the birth of Surya and hence celebrated as Surya Jayanti (the Sun-god’s birthday).
Ratha Saptami is symbolic of the change of season to spring and the start of the harvesting season. For most Indian farmers, it is an auspicious beginning of the New Year. The festival is observed by all Hindus in their houses and in innumerable temples dedicated to Surya, across India.”
We celebrate Rathasapthami to pray to Lord Surya (Sun God) and thank him for helping with the harvest.
- Ekka (Calotropis Gigantea) or Erukku leaves (Common name – Milk weed leaf)
- Haldi, Kumkum
- Paat (or Plank) to draw Ratha with Surya for pooja
- Geru (to draw on the Paat)
- Groceries –
- Toor Dal – little
- Tamarind – small piece
- Gul/Jaggery – small piece
- Dried chilli – 1
- Vegetables –
- Red pumpkin – 1 small piece
- Avarakkai – 1
- Sugarcane – 1 small piece
- Elandapazham/Bora/Jujube – 1
- Sweet potato – 1 small piece
- Flowers for the pooja
- Diva/Lamps for lighting
- On the Paat (Plank) draw the chariot (Rath) using Geru with decoration such as flags on the top, plantain trees on the sides, sun and moon inside and a chain with people pulling the chariot. On the 2 sides draw 2 rectangles with 10 boxes each – this is for filling with pulses and vegetables which represents the shops on the side of the pathway. It is also representative of the harvest.
- In these boxes on one side fill with Haldi, Kumkum, toor Dal, Tamarind, Jaggery, Chilli, Jeera, Pepper.
- On the other side fill with Vegetables like a small piece of Red pumpkin, sugarcane, elandapazham/bora, Sweet potato piece, Avarakkai. Refer to the sample photo below (Note : I will get a better picture next time from my Mom/MIL and change this one. Apart from the drawing (which is flawed) I did not have all the items mentioned above for filling the boxes)
- Make a rangoli outside the house also in a similar fashion.
- Now get the leaves (Errukku leaves) ready for bathing. For men 7 leaves(2 on left shoulder, 2 on right shoulder,3 – head) , For women 7 leaves (4 on left shoulder, 3 on right shoulder)
- Put Haldi, Kumkum and rice on all these. (Important – While going for a bath, remember and remind others to take this along :D). [Note: For men who do Tarpan for their parents, instead of haldi and kumkum, Black Til/Sesame seed should be kept)
- Place these on shoulder and head as mentioned above, and take a bath to wash it down.
- Prepare neivaidya kheer as mentioned in the below section. Traditionally, the kheer is prepared on the terrace or in the open in a charcoal stove and offered to Surya. If that is not possible, you can do the neivaidhya and Pooja from the house itself.
- If possible give Vida/Tamboolam (Beetel leaf, Dakshina, Coconut/Fruit, Supari) to other Sumangalis.
Special Neivaidya – Rathasapthami kheer Recipe
As I mentioned earlier in this post, this kheer is traditionally prepared in the open (under the sun) using a charcoal stove/Cow dung stove. Then it is offered to Surya after the Pooja. However, since this is not easily feasible, I usually prepare this on the gas stove and then do the neivaidhya.
The kheer is extremely tasty as it is prepared by condensing the milk.
- Rice – 4 -5 tbsp
- Milk – 1/2 litre
- Gul/Jaggery ~5tbsp
- Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp
- In a small pressure cooker (or any other thick bottomed vessel), put the rice and milk and let it boil well. As it cooks, make sure you put it on low flame.
- The rice has to cook fully in milk itself – so this take some time. You can close it lightly with the lid and keep checking on whether it is cooked. If required, you can also add more milk.
- Once this is well cooked, add the Jaggery to this and stir well for it to mix. (If you think the Jaggery might have some impurities, you can dissolve it in a little water and filter it using a fine sieve, this can then be used)
- After it is well cooked, add the cardamom powder.
- As always keep all the things required for the Pooja ready in advance
- You can even do the rangoli on the Paat on the previous day
- Once you bring the Erukke leaves, wash them and dry it with a cloth before using it. All this can also be prepared in advance.