The Navagrahas

Nine Seizers of Human Destiny

            Propitiation of the nine major influences on human fate is considered to have a modifying effect on one’s destined karmas. For example, a pleased Saniswara could result in a broken leg as opposed to an amputation. Of these nine influences two are luminaries (Surya, Chandra), two are eclipses (Rahu, Ketu), and five are planets (Sukra, Mangala, Brhaspati, Budha, Saniswara). Their layout, following one Tamil tradition, is as follows:

BUDDHA SUKRA CHANDRA
(Mercury) (Venus) (Moon)
BRHASPATI SURYA MANGALA
(Jupiter) (Sun) (Mars)
KETU                    SANISWAR RAHU
(Solar Eclipse) (Saturn) (Lunar Eclipse)

           

SURYA (SUN)

Salutations Oh Lord in the form of Surya, the Lord of beautiful Chaya

Oh illuminator of all infinite causes and effects in the world,

The Lord of Simha rasi,

One whose effulgent luster has been praised by those of the highest esteem,

The bestower of benefits such as good health,

Friend to the day-lotus, a friend to all,

The most resplendent one, the thousand rayed, the father of Karna,

The fire swallowing dreadful sins, whose brilliance has delighted Guruguha (Murugan/Katikeya),

One who is praised by the learned,

The auspicious day jewel, crest-jewel to Chandra and other planets,

Worshipped by the energetic, the witness to all actions,

One who has the chariot driven by seven divine horses.

One whose principle nature is embedded in the eight-syllabled hymn of praise,

Who is of golden hue, of the nature of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva,

And who confers material benefits and spiritual emancipation.

                                    Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

           

The solar orb has been a primary object of reverence for as long as mankind has been revering anything. In this brief discussion we are confining ourselves to the anthropomorphic form of the sun worshipped in India as Surya. The various characteristics of the sun have given rise to a myriad of names. One hundred and eight names are mentioned in the Mahabharata including: Adideva, Aja, Bhaskara, Grahapati, Heli, Kala, Sanatana, Tejas and Yogin. Markandeya Purana states that Surya manifests from the causal sound vibration Om (sound precedes light). Specifically, Surya becomes twelve different forms known as the twelve Adityas due to his differing natures depending on the time of year. Their names are as follows: Bhanu (March/April), Tapana (April/May), Indra (May/June), Ravi (June/July), Gabhasti (July/August), Yama (August/September), Hiranyaretas (September/October), Divarka (October/November), Mitra (November/December), Vineu (January/February), Varuna (January/February), and Surya (February/March).

            In some lines of tantric practice, Surya is regarded as the visible manifestation of the Atman. According to the Surya Tattva Vistara:

            ‘The All pervader, seated on a luminous throne, travels across the whole world constituted of the three gunas. The karmans, composed of sattva, rajas and tamas, he holds tight with his reins. The reins are the mind (manas), the driver of the chariot is illumination/discrimination (prajna) Aruna, who has a head, an upper part, but is bereft of feet. The adept Yogin worships Surya as the Celestial Void (Nabhahsunya), the Great Void (Mahasunya), the Self-Luminous Void (Taijasa Sunya).’

            The rising sun is equated with Brahma, the mid-day sun with Shiva and the setting sun with Vishnu. Surya has many composite forms: Hara-Surya stresses His identification with Siva, Surya-Narayana with Vishnu and both with the addition of Brahma in the rare form Hara Hari Hiranyagarbha. This extraordinary combination of the principal trinity with Surya can be seen at Khajaraho’s Vishvanatha and Duladeva temples on the western façade. Too bad the orgies going on around him have received so much more attention from academics and art historians! Today in popular poster prints, the sectarian mark of Vishnu, the Sri Vasta, is usually placed on Surya’s brow. Surya is given as one of the thousand names of Vishnu in the Vishnu Sahasranam. In order to temper his brilliant burning luster, Surya requested Brahma to cut off some of His powerful rays. Brahma called on Vishvakarma, the celestial architect, who cut off a portion and from them manufactured Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra, the great staff of Yama and the trident of Shiva. Other weapons used by the Divinities were also formed.

            The progeny of Surya is fascinating. When seen as a horizontal grouping, the nine planets are often preceded by Ganesa, which places him adjacent to the sun. In Nepal, Ganesa is considered to be a child of Surya – born of His brilliant rays. Could one conclude this to be the source of Ganesa’s flaming vermillion colour? Another of Surya’s sons, also one of the Navagrahas, is Saniswara, who in some tales is responsible for the beheading of Ganesa. Enjoyers of Freudian speculation, dig in! Other offspring include the River Goddess Tapati and the once much revered, Revanta. In modern times, Revanta has slipped into deep obscurity as a member of the Hindu pantheon. Since he is the divine monarch of horses and ruler of the forest spirits, modernity has eclipsed his role. Revanta’s iconography is similar to that of Vishnu’s Kalki avatar, with the exception of Revanta being surrounded by a hunting party. He is depicted as a warrior with raised sword on a white steed.

            There is a solar lineage, the Surya vamsha, perhaps the most well-known member of that family being the avatar Rama. The lineage is traced back to Ikshvaku, the founder of the dynasty, himself the son of Surya and Shraddha. In recent times Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, the greatly revered Shankacharya of Kanchipuram Kamakoti Peeth, who died in 1989, stated that Yogi Ramsuratkumar (1918-2001) of Tiruvanamallai belonged to the illustrious Surya vamsha. Indeed, he is reported to have spent many hours daily contemplating the solar orb.

            Surya’s chariot warrants discussion. The sun is known as the eye of the world and as such his chariot has one wheel. This wheel’s single revolution is counted as the passing of one year. Esoterically, the sun’s yearly journey is equated to the rising of the kundalini through the various charkas. The chariot is pulled by seven green or multi-colored horses representing the seven Vedic metres – Gayatri, Brhati, Usnik, Jagati, Tristubh, Anustubh and Parikti. The horses are sometimes referred to as being yoked to Surya’s chariot by Nagas (snake divinities). A seven-headed horse pulling the solar vehicle is also referred to as Uchchaihsravas. Driving the chariot, in many icons, is Aruna, the brother of Garuda. He has no legs, the writer does not know why. Other riders include Dandi and Pingala. Dandi is a portly figure holding a pen and inkpot, engaged in the recording of time. Pingala is shown with a rod, for the measurement of time is fathomed in earlier technologies by the length of shadow cast. Goddesses of dawn, Usha, and twilight, Pratyusha, are depicted shooting arrows of light from their drawn bows.

            There are several important Surya temples in India. When sages enquire of Brahma in the Brahma Purana where the best places on earth are for the attainment of dharma, kama, artha and moksha, His response included Konadity (Konark) in Orissa. The Konark Surya temples’ architectural splendor is well known. It is one enormous stone chariot (ratha). It has 24 ten-feet high wheels. They illustrate the twelve months of the year by day and night or the twenty-four hours of day. Furthermore, the wheels act as giant sundials with eight major spokes and eight minor ones. The wheels have carvings on the major spokes depicting activities, ritualistic and ordinary, appropriate to the time of day recorded. Although the central shrine is no longer accessible, the Konark temple is still an active site of Navagraha worship.

Other historical sites of Surya worship with extraordinary solar temples are Gujarat’s Modhera and Rajasthan’s Osian. In Bangalore, the Gavi Gangadhareswara temple has several tall pillars surmounted by huge stone solar discs. Here sage Guatama is said to have worshipped Shiva. Andhra Pradesh has the active Arasvalli temple, the deity here Suryanarayanaswami is thought by devotees to have been installed by Indra. In Tamil Nadu, the main center of worship is Suryanayinar Koil, one kilometer from Aduthurai. The temple legend states that the sage Kalava Munivar knew he was due karmically to suffer from leprosy and so worshipped the Navagrahas. Unused to the attention, they happily absolved him of the disease. This infuriated Brahma as it was the Grahas’ duty to aspect people only on the basis of their negative and positive acts and not grant boons. He banished the Grahas to earth and let them take on the karmic fruit of leprosy. Realising the gravity of the situation, the Grahas begged Brahma for leniency. He told them to worship Shiva and Uma. This pleased Shiva and He absolved the Navagrahas and since that time, the place of their tapas has been a focal point of planetary worship. All the nine Grahas are enshrined in this temple, with Surya as the central icon. A unique feature of the shrine is that Brhaspati (Jupiter) is placed in front of Surya and, according to local tradition, is said to be helpfully controlling the sun’s burning rays.

The special day for propitiating Surya is Sunday. His gemstone is ruby, his symbol a red or gold circle and his metal copper. Flower offerings should be red or sunflowers and food offerings red saffron, plantains and their leaves, wheat (wheat pongal is recommended). Any South Indian cookbook will have a recipe for pongal which you could adapt.

In the painting Surya holds aloft in His upper hands two large sentamarai (red lotus blooms). His lower right hand is in Abhaya hasta – the posture of protection and reassurance. He wears saffron colored cloth. In North Indian tradition, Surya is shown dressed in a vest of chain link armour with knee length boots, sometimes He is gloved. A pleased Surya improves one’s relationship with male authority figures, especially one’s father, and grants positive personal authority. In some systems He is considered malevolent, in others, benefic.

CHANDRA (MOON)

Mind, worship Chandra, pure and pleasing, who is like the hearts of all good men.

Worship Him always, the Lord of the stars, praised by the guardian deities of Indra and others,

Who moistens the Earth, the one with sixteen digits, and rich in nectar.

Worship Him, the ornament on Lord Shiva’s crest, the cool rayed, the four armed, the parasol of Madana, the night maker, the eye of Lord Venkatesa, mentally created by Virat, the inflictor of suffering, the friend of the night lotus, and the face of Lord Subramanya who became the teacher of the creator.

Worship Him who bears the mark of the hare, who was first cursed and later favoured by Brhaspati, with his white body shining bright in autumn, the wearer of armlets, bracelets, necklace and crown, enemy of the day-lotus and courteous lover of Rohini.

                                    Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

            The moon, Chandra, is propitiated on Mondays. His gemstone is pearl, his symbol a white square, and his metal silver or bronze. Flower offerings should be white and food offerings include curds and white rice with ghee and sugar. His vahana (vehicle) is the deer or alternatively a chariot of ten white horses pulling him across the night sky. In his upper hands he holds aloft two alli (white water lilies), his remaining hands, in abhaya (upward pointing) and varada (downward pointing) hasta (mudra or hand posture). Chandra is intimately connected with Soma, the ambrosial nectar of immortality. Chandra is the storer and the spreader of ambrosia. The gods quaff Soma from the vessel of the moon regularly draining its reserves, hence the waxing and waning cycles. Krishna and Radha share their most intimate dalliance intoxicated under the cool lunar rays. Chandra is the attendant of Manmatha (the god of love) who churns the mind and fills it with desire. Manmatha in turn is absorbed into the tantric form of Krishna (Madana Gopala). Rama also has lunar features, his cooling influence and beautiful face reflected in his name Ramachandra, Rama the moon. Lord Shiva, of course, wears the moon in his matted dreadlocks and has a peaceful form known as Chandrasekharamurti (wearer of the moon). In the painting Chandra appears wearing pearl-white cloth, before an ocean of soma.

Chandra has twenty seven wives, corresponding to the twenty-seven naksatras – the stars which govern the lunar mansions of the zodiac. These are the daughters of the great sage Daksha who cursed Chandra for favoring Rohini over his other daughters.

He is considered feminine and benefic and a partial incarnation of Lord Shiva by Saivites. In Tamil Nadu, his main center of worship is at Kayilayanathur Thirukoil in Thingalur near Kumbakonam. Here, the saint, Thirunavukkarasar, resurrected a child killed by snakebite by the singing of a hymn to Shiva. A pleased Chandra improves one’s relationships with women, particularly one’s mother, and grants healthy emotional sensitivity.

MANGALA or CHEVVAI (MARS)

 

I take refuge again in Angaraka,

the divine Mandara tree (celestial coral tree) to the humble dependent devotees,

The presiding deity of Tuesday, and the son of Earth

Who is the Lord of the cherished houses of Mesa and Vrischika (Aries and Scorpio) with red limbs, who wears the red dress and is the bearer of the sword and trident.

The auspicious one, with beautiful neck, with lovely feet, bestower of auspiciousness,

riding on the Goat, and whose higher aspis is in Makara rasi (Capricorn).

Who is worshipped by gods and demons, one with the face beaming and smiling,

Bestower of landed wealth and brotherhood, with red eyes, protector of the afflicted,

Worshipped in the holy Vaidheeswaran temple,

and favored by the hosts of the Gods and Guruguha.

Who is the friend of Surya, Chandra, and Brhaspati shining with his good wife,

and his hands on his knees, having four arms, and who is quite extraordinary.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

            Mangala is referred to as Angaraka in Muttuswami Dikshitars’s song meaning glowing like hot coal. He is youthful, robust and strikingly handsome. Padama purana states that He is the nature of a strike of lightning. ‘He has tormented the demons, the devourers of corpses and the enemies of gods and men, plants, beasts and birds according to his position at their birth.’ Mangala is born from a drop of sweat from the forehead of Shiva. Initially, the drop becomes the exceedingly ferocious Veerabhadra who is given the task of destroying Sage Daksha’s sacrificial ritual (he hadn’t invited Shiva so Daksha’s daughter Sati, the wife of Siva, immolated herself in shame). Task completed, Veerabhadra is transformed by Shiva into the mighty planet Mars.

            Mangala in South India is seen as being either identical to or a portion of Murugan (Kartikeya), the second son of Shiva.

            Mangala is propitiated on Tuesdays. His gemstone is coral, and He is compared to the celestial coral tree, Mandara. His symbol is a red, downward-pointing triangle, and his metal copper or brass. Flower offerings should be red and food offerings cooked red lentils or rice mixed with toor dhal powder. His vahana is the goat, ram or ‘Annam’ bird.

In the painting he appears dressed in red cloth by his temple, with hills and mountains (sacred to Murugan and site of his army camps) in the background. In his upper right hand Mangala holds the Shaktivel, a weapon consisting of three connected squares signifying the three gunas, three inner fires and three Vedas. The Shaktivel is also the principle weapon of Murugan and is often worshipped independently by his devotees. Saint Arunagirinatha has composed a splendid composition on the weapon, ‘Vel Vaguppu’, expounding its glories. In Mangala’s upper left hand is held the Sula or trident with similar triadic meanings. The lower left hand holds the Gadai (mace). Whilst being the Lord of beauty with His muscular body described as a flame of yoga, Mangala is also paradoxically considered the god of war and therefore malefic. Indeed, Mars was the god of the Roman armies.

In Tamil Nadu, his main center of worship is Vaidheeswaran Koil near Sirkazhi. It is a beautiful temple where Murugan is worshipped as Mangala. When pleased, Mangala grants sibling harmony, courage, valor, purpose, and protects one from violence.

BUDHA (MERCURY)

I always seek shelter in Budha who is worshipped by the Gods,

who is the son of Chandra and Tara.

Who is revered by the learned, and who brings joy to Brahmins,

Who is the bestower of the sweet art of poetry,

the one of Splendorous wealth, whose form gives delight to Guruguha,

Who is the enemy of Kuja, the wearer of a gem studded crown, necklace, armlets and bracelets,

Lord of the houses of Mithuna and Kuja (Gemini and Virgo),

with book in hand and who is asexual.

Who is honored by His attendants, is devoid of all evil,

benefits the devotees of Shiva and is always joyous.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

            Budha is propitiated on Wednesdays. His gemstone is emerald, symbol an arrow, and metal brass or gold. Flower offerings should be white, lush green leaves or Bermuda grass; food offerings green grams (mung beans) and green pumpkin. Budha’s vahana is the lion or horse. He wears green cloth and holds Kadgam (sword), Kedaya (shield) and Gadai (mace). Parrots shown in the green canopy above him associate Budha with quick-wittedness, learning and wisdom. Budha is the illegitimate son of Chandra and Tara, the wife of Brhaspati. He is considered benefic or malefic depending on which planets he is in conjunction with. In Tamil Nadu, Budha’s main shrine is in Thiruvenkadu. Budha’s shrine is locatede under a banyan tree. At this shrine, Brahma is said to have received knowledge of all the arts. Of this temple, Saint Sambandar sang, ‘He who has been washed by the waters of my Lord of Thiruvankadu whose inseparable half is mother Uma is saved from all harmful sins.’

A pleased Budha grants sharp intelligence and an ability to skillfully assimilate knowledge.

BRHASPATI or GURU (Jupiter)

Oh Omnipresent one, Oh Lord of great strength, Lord of speech,

Lord of lovely Dhanus and Mina (Sagittarius and Pisces),

whose form is adored by Indra and the other Gods,

and who is the great intellectual honored by divinities like Madhava.

Oh most esteemed teacher of the Gods, wielder of the vajra, of auspicious markings,

teacher of the three worlds, one who is not affected by old age and the like, unexcitable,

father of Kaca, the divine wish fulfilling tree for those who take refuge in Him,

who is a delight to Shiva and Guruguha, and the bestower of offspring,

kin to the distressed, the manifester of the four phases of speech, an ocean of compassion.

Who is devoid of all illness, the author of Smriti, uncontrolled, the Lord of the Universe,

the untarnished one, who delights in the worlds and is the bestower of vigor.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

Guru is propitiated on Thursday. His gemstone is topaz or yellow sapphire, symbol a golden rectangle, and metal gold. Flower offerings should be white jasmine or any yellow flower and food offerings yellow rice with curds or chickpeas with yellow raisins. Guru has an elephant for his vahana. In the painting he is shown wearing a yellow cloth standing in front of a shining golden city of which he is the ruler. Guru is the teacher of the Devas and an expert of the Vedas.

His upper right hand holds a Mala, upper left the Kamandalu (water pot) and lower right a stick. The lower left hand is in Varada hasta. In Tamil Nadu Guru is seen as identical to Lord Shiva when He is in Dhakshinamurthi form (seated silently teaching Rishis) and there are several important shrines to him. A famed temple where Guru is worshipped as Dhakshinamurthi is at Thiruvalangadu (popularly known as Alangudi), near Tanjore. The street to the temple is lined with stalls selling yellow flower garlands and yellow cloths. A beautiful, very busy, small shrine to Dhaskshinamurti can be seen next to the Ramana Maharshi ashram in Tiruvanamallai. A pleased Guru grants optimism, wealth, honour and a vast spiritual perspective. He is considered the greatest of the benefics.

SUKRA (VENUS)

Preceptor of Suran, Vanan and Asuras

Progeny of Brighu Rishi, lord of the clouds,

giver of gold praised by the Celestials.

Bhagavan who gives life to the dead

Sukrachari, I praise Your floral feet.

                        Traditional Tamil prayer

            Sukra is propitiated on Fridays. His gemstone is diamond, symbol a six-pointed star, and metal silver. Flower offerings should be white and fragrant and food offerings beans or white rice with coarse sugar crystals. White sandalwood and camphor can be burnt. In the painting he wears a brilliant white cloth and sits on his hawk vahana inside his temple compound. He can also be depicted in a chariot driven by eight white horses or, according to one North Indian tradition, riding a mole! The sacred and highly fragrant Nag Champa tree (mesua ferrea) with its unusual ‘fried egg’ blooms, flowers above Sukra, with highly-scented gardenias and lilies beneath. In his upper right hand he holds a diamond Mala, upper left a Kamandalu. The lower right is in Vyakhyana hasta (or chin mudra) expressing insight, and the lower left holds a Yoga Danda (meditation staff).

Sukra is often described as being one-eyed, resulting from Lord Vishnu, in the form of the dwarf Vamena, poking him in the eye with a straw. Sukra was attempting to obstruct the flow of water from the water pot of the Asura king, Bali, which would have sealed the promise of Bali to offer Vamana as much land as he could cover in three steps. Sukra turned himself into a bee and blocked the spout. After having remedied that situation, Vamana reveals himself to be none other than Lord Vishnu and in three steps traverses all the known worlds. Iconographically, however, Sukra is shown as two-eyed.

He is considered benefic despite being the Guru of the Asuras who he constantly brings back to life after their various battles with the Devas using the Sanjeevni Mantra. In Tamil Nadu, Sukra’s main center of worship is in Kanjanur, near Thiru-kadikaval. The deity is, in fact, Agniswarar worshipped as Sukra, an occasional practice in India. A pleased Sukra helps temper an overly lustful nature, and grants marital harmony and an affectionate and pleasing disposition.

SANISWARA (SATURN)

I always meditate upon the slow moving Shani, the son of Surya and the courageous one.

Who causes fear in people plunged in the ocean of wordly existence, and is the harbinger of calamitous events.

Who grants uniquely auspicious rewards for devotees favoured by Shiva’s benign glances.

Who with a body of dark luster like collyrium, brother of Yama, riding on his vehicle the crow, decorated with blue dress and a blue flower garland, with ornaments embedded with blue stones, who is worshipped by Malini and delights Guruguha.

Lord of the two houses of Makara and Kumbha (Capricorn and Aquarius),

with special liking for the lamp lit with sesame oil and for rice with sesame seeds,

an ocean of nectar and fearless.

Whose knee was disfigured by the staff of the Lord of Death,

like Kamadhenu (wish-fulfilling cow) yielding all desires,

the fire capable of splitting the time wheel,

and one conceived of as the son of the Goddess Chaya.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

            Such is Saniswara’s power, that when He first opened his eyes at birth, Surya (his father) went into eclipse. Saniswara is propitiated on Saturdays, his gemstone is blue sapphire, his symbol a drawn bow and metal iron. Flower offerings should be violets, pansies, or other dark blue or purple flowers. Food offerings include black sesame seeds, urad dhal and Robert Svoboda mentions wheat chappatis or tortillas with mustard oil and salt. It is also recommended that one burn sesame oil lamps. His vahana is the crow, raven or vulture. Also, any wholly black animal is sacred to Saniswara. He wears a black cloth and holds in his upper right hand an Ambu (arrow), upper left a Vil (bow), lower right a Kathi (dagger) and lower left is in Varada hasta. His black body is emaciated; he is narrow-chested. In this version, his right leg is lame, his brother Yama, the Lord of death, having injured it in a fight - hence, Saturn’s slow, limping movement.

In the painting, Saniswara is depicted in a rocky, barren landscape scattered with dead trees (sacred to Saturn); ominous storm clouds rush in overhead. His gaze is downward and his bulging, furious eyes inspire terror, awe and dread. One should contemplate the feet of Saniswara rather than focusing on his eyes, as is the usual case in Darshan. (This practice is useful for all the malefics.) In Tamil Nadu, Saniswara’s main shrine is located in Thirunallaru, near Karaikkal. The deity of Saniswara worshipped here is two-armed, the right in Vyakhyana hasta, the left in Kati hasta (hand placed on hip). He is standing with a golden crow behind him. The entrance to the temple has plenty of severe appearing beggars with all kinds of leg ailments, who are dressed in black, physically invoking the image of Lord Saniswara. At this temple, King Nala was relieved of Shani’s oppressive grip after having experienced prolonged torture in the form of losing his kingdom (Nidatha Nadu), being exiled to a forest, losing his wife and children, being bitten by a snake whose poison deformed Nala’s enchanting looks, etc. Nala persevered through all these difficulties, pleasing Shani who restored everything to him in time. King Vikramaditya went through a similar ordeal at Shani’s behest with the additional detail of having his hands and legs severed. No one is spared Saniswarar’s baleful glance. Kings Nala and Vikramaditya’s response in the midst of this bleak, karmic storm is instructive of the attitude helpful to us when under Shani’s grip.

Recently, in the south of Delhi, 16 kms. from the Qutub Minar, an impressive twenty-one feet high black stone statue of Saniswarar was installed. The village of Shingnapur in Maherashtra has a large black stone block that is worshipped as Saturn, the village is noted for the absence of doors, apparently at the request of the Deity Himself.

The Martandabhairava tantra equates Lord Shiva, in the form of Mahakala (great time), with Shani as the dissolver of the universe and time itself. At the birth of Krishna, Yashoda forbade Saniswarar from having the Lord’s darshan, as she feared his dread-inspiring presence would frighten the baby. All the other Gods and Devas were present and having been thus rejected, Shani became depressed and upset. He went to the forest and prayed to Krishna tearfully over his despised condition, for he was only dispensing the karmas that each of us earn. Krishna heard and praising Shani’s just nature, gave Him the darshan He desired. This place is known as Kokilavan, six kms. from Kosi, in the Mathura region of Utar Pradesh. Krishna granted the boon that anyone who prays to Saturn at this temple will be freed from their troubles. Worship of Hanuman on Saturdays is also a traditional modifier of Saturnian ills.

The great oppressor, when pleased, grants longevity and protection from the extreme effects of our karmas - poverty, disease, starvation, and physical and psychological torture.

RAHU (ASCENDING NODE – LUNAR ECLIPSE)

I am constantly reminded of Rahu who seizes Surya and Chandra, and is deformed.

Who is both God and demon, who removes all ills, and dispels danger from poisonous creatures like serpents.

Who does good to those who worship him seated in his grain-sieve and bears the spear.

Who with a dreadful face, harsh, directing his compassionate side-glance

when worshipped with the Kayana mantra, with four hands and carrying the sword and shield.

Who is attired in blue cloth and dress made of leather,

who wears ornaments made of Gomedaka gems,

the friend of Shani and Shukra, and who delights Guruguha.

                                    Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

            Rahu is also propitiated on Saturdays. His gemstone is agate, his symbol the winnowing basket (in common with Dhumavati, the Goddess of misery, senility and misfortune), and his metal lead. Food offerings are milk, mustard, black beans, and in North Indian tradition, mutton. Dr. Svoboda states that food and flower offerings can be the same as for Saniswara, however, the wheat chappatis should be made with sugar and fried in ghee. Also, lamps made of half limes filled with ghee can be lit. It is stated that no one should touch any item offered to Rahu, or help in any way (i.e., sending a partner to shop for the fruits), or Rahu will retaliate. This is highly undesirable. In the painting he is shown seated upon a blue lion. A goat, or chariot pulled by eight black horses, are also traditional. Rahu has the lower body of a snake and an ugly lion-like face. Sometimes he is depicted as a snake with a human head or as a giant head with gaping mouth devouring the sun and moon. His upper right hand holds Kadgam, upper left Kedaya, and lower right the Sula. His lower left hand is in Varada hasta. He is depicted within a forest; dark overgrown places and caves are sacred to Rahu. In Tamil Nadu, the main shrine is in the Naganathaswamy temple at Thirunageswaram, close to Kumbakonam. Here silver snakes are offered to Rahu. The skin a snake shed on the statue of Rahu is preserved and serpents are depicted in relief work across the deity’s platform. Rahu is clearly malefic, but when pleased grants wisdom and freedom from or modification of mental instability.

KETU (DESCENDING NODE, SOLAR ECLIPSE)

 

I worship Ketu, the great demon who is foremost of the shadow planets.

Who wears a peculiar crown and auspicious dress.

Who is happy in his part human-like body and is friendly in the group of Navagrahas.

Who is adored by the Ketum-Krinvan mantra,

who is exceedingly wrathful, a descendent of Jaimini,

who savours his grain, and has his flag with the cut out triangle,

whose distinction lies in his discernment of good and bad,

who causes eclipses and moves in a counterclockwise direction.

                                    Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s (1775-1835 AD) Navagrah Kirthana

 

            Ketu is propitiated on Tuesdays and/or Saturdays. His gemstone is turquoise, symbol the flag, and metal lead. Food offerings are multi-colored rice, flower offerings red alli (red lily). His vahana is the vulture or a red chariot with eight green horses. His head is that of either one or five snakes and his body that of an asura.

In South India, Ketu is described as grey or variegated in skin color. He can also be depicted as a red snake. His cloth is orange or variegated. Ketu is two-armed, the right in Abhaya hasta, the left holding a Gadai. Rahu, Ketu and Saniswara are described as Sudras, so can be depicted without the Brahmanical cord.

Ketu governs whether a person will attain spiritual liberation in any given lifetime. In Tamil Nadu, his main shrine is in Keezhaperumpallam, near Tanjore. The temple’s association with snakes is two-fold for as well as being sacred to Ketu, it is said that after the Asuras failed to obtain the nectar of immortality, using the serpent Vasuki as the churning rope of the milk ocean, they became furious. They ripped poor Vasuki into pieces and cast her remains hither and thither over a bamboo forest. Slowly, Vasuki regrew and learnt that during the churning of the ocean, Lord Shiva had absorbed Vasuki’s poison. Contrite at having troubled Shiva, Vasuki engaged in tapas and prayed to Shiva for forgiveness. Shiva was pleased and offered Vasuki a boon and the serpent requested that Shiva remain in the bamboo forest to be worshipped by the grief-striken. This form of Shiva is known as Naganathaswamy.

A pleased Ketu grants spiritual development and tempers violent, angry natures.

TEXTS CONSULTED

Ayyar, S.R.S., 1996, Grandeur of Thiruppugazh – The hallowed hymns of Arunagirinatha,

Mumbai, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Dallapiccola, A.L., 2002, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend, London, Thames & Hudson.

Donaldson, T., 2002, Tantra and Shakta Art of Orissa, New Delhi, D.K. Printworld.

Gopalakrishnan, S., 2001, Alangudi Sri Guru Baghawan, Nagapattinam, Kumari Pathippakam.

Gopalakrishnan, S., 2001, The History of Holy Place Thirunallaru, Nagapattinam, Kumari

Pathippakam.

Meena, V., Temples of South India, Kanniyakumari, Hari Kumari Arts.

Sharma, B.N., 1975, Iconography of Revanta, Delhi, Abhinav Publications.

Sharma, V.J., Remedies for Navagraha Dhoshas, Chennai, Vijay Publications.

Svoboda, R., 1997, The Greatness of Saturn, Tulsa, USA, Sadhana Publications.

Untracht, O., 1997, Traditional Jewelry of India, N.Y., Harry N. Abrams.

Unknown author, Navagraha Temple Suriyanarkoil devotional pamphlet.

Vijay 2002, Temples of Navagrahas, Chennai, Vijay publications.

Information from website www.medieval.org/music/world/carnatic/lyrics/navagraha.html.

Information from website www.brihaspati.net/other_planets.htm

 

 Nava Graha Print  |  22 inches x 18 inches  |  $250