In many Hindu households in India, there is still a tradition of getting up at sunrise and offering water to the Sun. This is called Sun salutation. The belief is that this ritual, which has been followed faithfully for generations, gives one positive energy and helps to make one’s day better. In Hindu mythology, the Sun is known as the soul of the universe. The brightness of the Sun, it is believed, bestows knowledge and reveals the right path. According to the ancient Hindu scriptures, Sun worship offers many benefits. They also describe specific rituals to worship the Sun. A prevailing belief is that when one offers water regularly to the Sun, it makes one disciplined and helps to maintain the body, mind, and spirit in perfect balance. 

The first ray of the Sun dispels the darkness of the night before and fills us with energy and vigor to tackle the new day. Even doctors encourage people to take a walk early in the morning and enjoy the warmth of the Sun as it helps the body to produce vitamin D which is very essential for health. It is good to worship the Sun daily and particularly on Sundays by chanting “Om Surayayah Namaha” mantra. This can bestow good health, wealth, and all pleasures in life. It is important to wear clean clothes after the morning bath. 

In India, the festival of Ratha Saptami is celebrated to honor the Sun. It is also called Surya Jayanthi or the Sun God’s birthday. Surya is the Indian name for the Sun God. Offering water to the sun is one of the important rituals that are observed as part of Ratha Saptami. On Ratha Saptami, the rituals usually commence with a sacred bath in the morning. The devotee holds, on their head, several Ekka (Calotropis Gigantea) leaves, during the ritual bath and recite a hymn which invokes the blessings of the Lord. They also offer water in their palms to the Sun God while chanting mantras singing his praises. This is called Arghyam or Tarpanam.Then they perform a pooja, offering Naivedhya (food offering), fruits and flowers to the God. Prayers offered to the Sun God on Ratha Saptami include the Gayatri, Suryashtakam, Adityahridayam, and Surya Sahasra namam. The most suitable time for the pooja is soon after the sun rises, preferably within one hour.

How to offer water to the Sun

The first step is to take fresh water in a copper vessel. Put some red flowers, Ashtagandh and Akshat in the water, and chant the mantra, “Om Suryayah Namaha”. While the mantra is being chanted, offer the water to the Sun. Once the holy water has been offered, bend down and touch the ground with your forehead and chant a Surya mantra. 
There is a story in Hindu mythology that explains how the practice of offering water to the Sun arose in the first place. Once, a demon by the name of Mandehas, who was living on an island named Arunam, offered penance to Lord Brahma. Pleased with his penance, Lord Brahma told him to ask for a boon of his choice. Mandehas wanted Brahma to give him the power to fight and conquer Surya (the Sun god). As he was a demon, Mandehas preferred the darkness and hence he did not want the Sun to rise and shine his light on earth. 

Brahma had no choice but to grant his boon. When the Sun did not rise, people living on earth began to face problems. Surya had been captured by Mandehas and so he could not rise. Naturally, it was very difficult to survive without the Sun. Then Brahma had an idea. This was the concept of Arghya or the offering of water to the Sun. He told Brahmins that they should recite the Gayatri Mantra while offering water to Surya. This made the water powerful and it became a potent weapon which overcame the demons who tried to stop the Sun from rising. According to the story, Mandehas kept coming back again and again to prevent the Sun from rising. Hence, we have to keep offering water to the Sun.

Benefits of offering water to the Sun

There are many benefits in offering water to the Sun. It bestows mental and physical strength that can help one overcome all conflicts. It also gives one courage and heroism. Sun worship endows one with learning and scholarship, and makes them intelligent and eloquent. Regular worship of the Sun can remove ego, greed, anger, bad thoughts, and desire from one’s mind.

Why 'Arghya' is offered only in the morning?

The Sun's heat can be unbearable after the early morning hours. Offering water to the Sun soon after sunrise ensures that devotees can worship comfortably. So, morning is believed to be the ideal time for this ritual.

Why is a copper vessel used?

Copper has been around since ancient times. It was used for making things as early as 9000 BCE. It was widely used in the Vedic era. Ayurveda too recommends the storing of water in copper vessels. Sanatan Dharma also holds that copper vessels were used as a Kalasha, a symbol of abundance.

Author's Bio: 

The Birthday of the Sun God, Surya, is a powerful day to revitalize your life force. In Vedic Astrology, Sun is supreme as the King of all planets.