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Mysore, Melkote witness Ratha Sapthami processions

Mysore, the erstwhile royal city, and Melkote, the famous pilgrim centre in Mandya district, witnessed colourful 'Ratha Sapthami' processions on February 8.

The Ratha Sapthami was celebrated in the traditional manner with processions of 'Surya Mandala' and 'Chandra Mandala', Sun God and Moon God. Chariots with the Sun and the Moon 'Mandalas' or symbols decorated colourfully, went round the spacious Palace Ground in the morning. A large number of devotees, after taking a bath after placing a leaf of 'Ekka' (Calotropis Gigantea) on their head, visited the Palace Ground and witnessed the processions. Around the Main Palace, there are about half-a-dozen important temples, which arrange the car festival.

Though the auspicious celebration in Mysore has lost much of its glitter, the observation of the day was more colourful at Melkote, famous holy town of Sri Vaishnavites. The decorated 'Surya Mandala' was carried in a procession through the main streets of the town, starting from the famous Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, along with cultural troupes of dancers and musicians..

'Ratha Sapthami', or the sacred car festival on the seventh day in the month of Magha in the Hindu calendar generally falls in the months of January-February. On that day, the Sun is worshipped, as he is the ruler of all planets and it is he who disburses energy. The worship of the Sun on this auspicious day is favourable for all human beings and also favourbaly influences all the planets. Though there are not many temples dedicated exclusively to Sun God, still the Surya Mandala, or the sign where resides the Sun God, sending out his seven brilliant rays, is taken out in procession on this day. Generally, almost all the important temples will have the 'Navagraha' enclosures, wherein the idols of all the nine planets, including the Sun, are worshipped. Energy is the life-giver and it can also destroy, as the powerful energy coming out of the Mother Earth did in case of Gujarat. Light is also symbol of knowledge. Light is knowledge and the Sun is the source of that powerful light.

Therefore, it is no surprise that from the earliest days man has been worshipping Sun God. The worship of Sun on the Ratha Sapthami signifies this benevolent spread of energy and light from the Sun God.

Indians have held various kinds of trees as sacred throughout ages. Some of these holy trees are forbidden to be cut. They have to drop out of decay. It is also known that leaves of a variety of trees and plants have medicinal values. The use of 'Ekka' leaves on this auspicious day signifies that meaning, man's reverence to nature. During this bright fortnight, the 'Ekka' leaves retain their medicinal value. Hence, bathing with it is beneficial. With that faith and belief, people keep the leaves on their head and take a bath, before proceeding to worship the Sun God.

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