Festival of Hindus
Ratha Saptami is a hindu festival
that comes on the seventh day of the bright half of the Magh month.
The Sun is worshipped on this day. The sun is imagined to be a
chariot drawn by seven horses, which represent the seven colours of
the rainbow. The charioteer, Arun, has his feet deformed. Arun means
the dawn. On this day some people go to take bath in the river
before dawn carrying a lamp on their head. Then in the courtyard in
front of the house the sun is worshipped. A picture of the chariot
and the seven horses is drawn on the ground. On the four sides 'rangoli'
is made (designs made with powders) and in the centre cow dung is
burnt. Then on the stove milk is boiled in earthen vessels while
facing the sun. When the milk boils it is believed it reaches the
sun. Then an offering of 'khir' made of wheat is shown to the Sun.
In the 'sup' (basket for sifting corn) twelve heaps of grain are
offered to the sun, the number corresponding to the twelve
constellations through which the sun goes. Grain is offered to the
brahmins. Some people show their respect to the sun by bowing twelve
times every day to the sun, repeating every time one of the twelve
names of the sun. These twelve names are: Mitra, Ravi, Surya, Ahanu,
Khag, Pushan, Hirnyagarbha, Marichi, Aditya, Savita, Arka, and
Bhaskar. On this day a new season begins, the sun sitting on his
chariot sets out on his journey.
In the country of Kamboj there was a king named Yashovarma. He was a
religious minded ruler, arid happiness prevailed in his kingdom. But
the king had become old and had no children. He prayed to God to
give him a son. Finally God heard his prayer and the king got a son.
But the son was very sickly. All remedies were tried but the boy
would not be cured.
One day a Muni named Vinit came to the palace. He was a very learned
Muni and knew the three times ('tricalgnani'), which means that he
knew the past, the present, and the future. So the king asked the
Muni when his son would get alright. Muni Vinit remained with his
eyes closed for a while. Then he said to the king, 'Your son is sick
because in his previous life he was very rich, but never gave any
alms and used his wealth for himself only.'
King Yashovarma asked, 'If he was a sinner, how is it that he was
born the son of a king?'
Muni Vinit replied, Yes, he was a sinner in his previous life. But
once with his eyes he saw the 'puja' (worship) of Rath Saptami. With
this he acquired the merit needed to be born of a royal family.
So, will not his sickness disappear by a similar act of merit? King
Yashovarma eagerly asked.
Yes, make him observe the vow of Rath Saptami and his sickness will
Then Mimi Vinit gave the king information about Rath Saptami and by
the merit of this vow the King's son was liberated from his disease.
The Gayatri Mantra
From ancient times men have attributed divinity to the sun. For the
munj (thread) ceremony the boy is made to stand facing the sun, and
the priest makes the following prayer, Oh Sun, this is your student.
Protect him, and give him a long life. After the munj ceremony every
day in the evening the Gayatri mantra must be recited. This mantra
is given great importance:
God is the mover of this world. The shining brilliance of God is the
most exalted and the most difficult to describe. This brilliance is
liked by everybody. We meditate upon such brilliance. We bring it to
our mind. May this God, who is the sun, inspire our intellect and
our devotional medita-tion and may the recitation of this gayatri
illumine our intellect.