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Get rid of sins, observe Ratha saptami
The Ratha saptami viratham falls on February 3 this year. Also known as Surya Jayanthi, it signifies the day when Sun turns from southeast to northeast, in his seven-horse chariot, heralding the arrival of the spring season.
Sun is the centre of our universe, worshipped from time immemorial; which is why you will see him positioned always in the middle, even in navagraha temples. According to one version, the sun is said to be 14,96,00,000 km from the earth, but He sends His rays in 8.3 minutes to earth.
Since all life forms depend upon Him, the Ratha saptami day is also celebrated as Arogya (health) Jayanthi, and worshipping Him is said to energise mind, body and spirit.
In yoga sastram , surya namaskar is a highly celebrated one. It is considered to be very important for physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being. Observing Ratha saptami will confer manifold benefits.
What you should do on Ratha saptami:
It is recommended that both men and women use seven erukkai elai leaves during their morning bath. One leaf should be placed on the head, one each on each eye, one each on each shoulder and one each on each foot and pray to Sun God. The ideal hour to have such a bath on February 3 is between 5. 26 am and 7.10 am.
Ratha saptami speciality:
It is also called the grain effect. Since Sun is the lord of all agrarian communities, wheat is offered to Surya in whatever form one is comfortable with. Many use pounded wheat to prepare wheat payasam, while some prefer to make wheat upma. One can prepare any wheat-based dish of their liking and offer to Surya.
Benefits of erukkai elai:
It is said that the leaf absorbs all the energy when the sun turns its direction on this day, and availing of such energy would benefit one. There is another reason for erukkai elai’s exalted status. In Mahabharata, Bhishma, lying on the bed of arrows awaits the arrival of uttarayanam to breathe his last and ascend to heaven, However, when uttarayanam arrives, he realises he is unable to leave his mortal body. Perturbed, he asks sage Vyasa why he is unable to attain relief from this world when he had not indulged in sinful acts. Vyasa responds saying, “You may not have committed sinful acts. However, when sinful acts occurred right before you, you kept quiet. You saw the disrobing of Dhraupadi with your own eyes, you heard her cries for help, your mind knew the deed was wrong, and yet you refrained from doing anything. Only Surya can help you now.”
Legend has it that Bhishma beseeched Surya, who is said to have recommended the placing of seven erukkai leaves in order to negate such errors of omission. Since erukkai elai was placed on Bhishma and he attained moksha, all those who use the leaves symbolically get rid of their sins and stand to gain entry into heaven.
The seven leaves signify seven sins, namely, sinning with word; body; mind; sins in current birth; in previous birth; sins committed knowingly; and sins committed unknowingly. When one bathes with erukkai elai on Ratha saptami, all these seven sins get washed away, and one begins life with a clean slate.
In Tirupati, Ratha saptami is celebrated as Brahmotsavam in a single day, and is a spectacular event. All these events and jayanthis are merely to remind us to walk the path of dharma and live life free of sins.
— The writer lectures on spirituality and devotion