himalayas and deodars

 

M O U N T A I N      B L I S S

 

Branching overhead

The great maple

Umbrella

Covers the sky.

 

Marching up the mountain stairs,

Stately Deodar pines ascend

Surrounding me, augustly,

Tall, bottle-green sentinals.

 

The clear air

Stirs a summer dance

Of flashing leaves

And gliding butterflies

Everywhere.

 

This cheeky Magpie,

Longtail trailing phosphorescence

Flits, branch to branch,

Now high, now falling low,

Feasting carnivore.

 

 yellowbilledmagpie2                                                               

With Himalayan impertinence

Perches within reach, defiantly,

Bright yellow beak, unfriendly eye,

My gross intrusion spies.

 

Then suddenly tweaks the tail

Of my slumbering dog,

Become danger to her nest.

 

Cicadas fill the ears

With mountain music,

Their eerie castanets resound

Through the forest’s silence

Where pine-needles flash

And pregnant cones fall,

An infant pine to imbed.

 

Thoughts begin to rest,

Descending in a spiral vortex,

Strangely induced unexpectedly

By this other world here

Of sublime heights.

 

As commanding snows

In a range

Declare divinity,

Raising the spirits

With rare wonder

Of thoughtlessness. 

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 A  R  B  O  R   E  A  L

 

I am a tree

You do not know me

I chose to be

Meditating

for a century.

 

You believe that I don’t

But move I do

imperceptibly.

My thick bark feels

The change in the air

Far better than you,

Knows seasons thoroughly.

 

My arms extend

As I open twig fingers,

A kiss from the sun

Makes me grow a leaf.

 

Then I feed hungrily

Sun’s rich sap,

Carbon in the air,

Earth’s minerals juicy,

Mix and stir

A delicious elixir.

 

Now having fed

On sun and earth and air

I feel fine and fit and ready.

 

Did you know

That in my bark

Resides my heart

In every branch and twig it beats

And that is where

I start my love affair.

 

thO7ANGBTQA touch of sun

Such sensation,

Goosebumps appear

Bulge and split and tear

Into flowers everywhere

Pistils and stamens

Pollen and ovum

My twin gender declare.

 

I sing a song then

Sensual with fragrance

In a language, one

With butterflies and bees,

Love’s chaperons.

 

I feel a thrill

As a bee fills

My flowering heart

With pollen

And I seed fulfilled,

Then send my own pollen

To a pretty tree

With ecstasy.

 

thVPNMHP2MThen having loved

I grow pregnant

With fruit and pods of seed

My infants drop

Into the earth to feed

 

My feet are my roots

Hidden probing shoots

Freeing my personality

Into the air above,

We together, one entity.

 

Now happily

My branching arms

Embrace the sky

Pubescent with leaves

As I grow

Taller thicker denser

From adolescence to maturity.

 

th7NUGL408Now  I invite birds

 On my boughs to nest

Their weary night’s protective rest,

Every creature made

Finds shelter in my shade,

th7KK2FX8PMy limbs are heavy

With fruit soft and sweet

For every being a special treat.

 

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Then in winter

Shedding my leaves,

Ceasing all activity

My essence withdraws

To my slumbering capillaries.

 

Hibernating like a Yogi,

To my woody meditations

I retreat,

My arboreal journey

Now complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

pw_pl_jupiter01

Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit: sanatansociety.com

Jupiter, Brihaspati has an exalted place among the planets. There are references to him even in the Rig Veda, the earliest known Hindu scripture.. In Puranic legends he is the Acharya or spiritual mentor of the demigods, the one to whom all turn for advice in a crisis. Thus he is known as Devguru, Guru of the gods. In the Hindu calendar Thursday is dedicated to him and is therefore called  Guruvar, day of the Guru. It is a day on which all activities associated with Gurus are undertaken . The spiritualism he represents is doctrinaire and ritualistic Brahmanism. He is a philosopher par excellance, representing all sacred scriptures and is the epitome of wisdom. He is therefore regarded as the most benefic and auspicious of planets. His ‘vision’ is like nectar wherever it falls in a horoscope, being inherently benefic. Where the Sun represents the Atma or soul, Jupiter represents the Jiva, the soul incarnated.

He is significator of religiosity, faith and spiritual devotion, morality, behavior, charity, respect for elders, compassion, benevolence and a dispassionate outlook. He is also significator of fortune and fame, wealth and progeny. He also represents a mild and adaptable nature inclined towards reason, adherence to law, honesty, sincerity, common sense and lack of prejudice. This would include clerical, intellectual, academic, judicial and legal establishments and vocations. The part of the body under his influence are the thighs.

A positive presence in the horoscope would indicate that the subject has accumulated favourable Karmas in preceding lives, which are likely to manifest in the present one through fortuitous events and unexpected gains.

Jupiter is visualized as being heavy bodied, stout chested and fair-complexioned. He has a peaceful disposition and modest demeanour and is forgiving by nature. His vehicle is the elephant. He is friendly to the Sun, Moon and Mars, neutral to Saturn and inimical to Mercury ( foster son) and Venus, his counterpart among the Titans ( Asuras) who it will be remembered was supportive of the Moon’s elopement with his wife Tara.

However, being the most benefic of planets does not mean that he will not be responsible for any adverse events in the life of the subject whose horoscope is under consideration. Like all planets, Jupiter too can be well placed or adverse for a chart and when adverse can create major turbulence. Like other planets he too can become a ‘killer’ or Marak. But this does not mean that he has any inherent evil .Planets are mere tools in the divine programme to help one reap the rewards and punishments of ones Karma and the punishments or adversity is not so much judgemental as reformative, facilitating the cleansing of the soul for its evolution from one lifetime experience to another. Thus an adverse Jupiter may be merely a means of teaching lessons through adversity for the subject’s good and be no more than corrective in nature. Like-wise a favourable Jupiter would enhance ones capability in certain areas to enable one to deliver ones full potential in a field, again enabling further progress and evolution of the soul.

Jupiter’s stone is the yellow Sapphire worn in a ring to offset his adverse effects or enhance his favourable presence in a horoscope.

Lord Brihaspati

Lord Brihaspati

 

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Artist : Peiter Weltevrede Credit : sanatansociety.org

Artist : Peiter Weltevrede
Credit : sanatansociety.org

Mercury, product of the Moon’s illicit liaison with Jupiter’s wife, whom he abducted, created turbulence in the celestial realms of the demigods. He is portrayed as one who is somewhat dark of countenance, an attractive but delicate physique and extraordinary beauty. But ambiguity is part of his nature. He is called the ‘heir apparent’ of the planets and a prince among them. He likes to joke, speaks with multiple meanings in parables and riddles and is very adaptable and flexible. According to some descriptions he is neutral and therefore adaptable in nature, others go to the extent of describing him as a neuter, asexual, even a eunuch. But there are also legends that say something more. They add that he is even capable of changing his sex depending on his current inclinations and that in doing so he has begot offspring both as a female and a male. It is therefore not surprising that he is lord of the sign Gemini, Mithun, which denotes twins, a male and a female, a dual nature and therefore free and detached. It’s the kind of dualism one may find in a hermaphrodite. The dualism of the Sign Gemini is also indicative of active and passive principles, good and evil, a union of opposites. He is therefore also fickle minded. His flexible nature also means that he imbibes the qualities and characteristics of other planets he gets associated with in the natal chart. There he mimics them and acquires their attributes. He is like a mirror, truly mercurial.

If the Moon is the impressionable innocent mind, his son Mercury is its discriminating intellect. He is the inspiration of intellectuals, artists, writers, academics and astrologers. He is full of humour and wit and loves the company of the learned and the artistic. He is also associated with traders and businessmen. His influence is particularly suitable for diplomacy, given his capacity to adjust to diverse situations and environments.

He is significator of intelligence, scholarship,education, oratory, communication abilities, verbal and technological, music, mathematics, science and fine arts. He denotes a restless if dynamic nature and is the epitome of logic and analysis. He governs the arms, the auditory organs and the nervous system.

Such is the curious depiction of the planet Mercury, Budh, synonymous with intelligence and Astrology. For students and scholars he is their ultimate mentor, the one who will decide their academic fate.

He is also the intellect that discriminates. Being neutral he acts as a benefic when associated with benefic planets, mirroring their natures and malefic when otherwise. He is exalted in Virgo and debilitated in Pisces. He is inimical to his father the Moon, friendly to the Sun, whose company he is always in, in the Zodiac and Venus, who was supportive of his father’s elopement with his mother, in the uproar which the event created in the heavens. He is neutral to Mars, his foster-father Jupiter and Saturn. He too spends a month in each Sign of the Zodiac, closely pursuing or just preceding the Sun. His gem is the emerald, his metal, all manner of alloys, true to his mixed inclinations, His day is Wednesday. His ‘vehicle’ is a hybrid lion with an elephant’s trunk, again denoting his adaptability and ambiguous nature.

Quite often those keen to gain admission to an educational institution of repute, or interested in pursuit of scholarship and higher education, finding a weak Mercury in their charts will take recourse to acquiring a ‘Budh’ Yantra, an amulet and seek the planets blessings by chanting to him on Wednesdays.

 

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moon days

Credit : digitalgalleryindia.com

The Gregorian calendar that we use in India to get along with our lives in the modern world is like a mask  traditional India wears. The lunar calendar is the face behind it. What is fascinating is the ingenious marriage of the two as it has evolved in the lunar calendar for the traditionalist called the Panchang. While each of its pages displays a month of the solar calendar with dates as per the Gregorian calendar, it is impressive to see how with each Gregorian date, in the square for it is entered all manner of information on the passage of the lunar date and its astrological significance and the lunar defined festivals which are not merely stellar and astrological events but deeply religious ones.

Hindu spirituality and the stellar world are coterminous. Hindu mythology and cosmology move hand in hand each reflecting and strengthening the other. For the Hindu, the birth of the cosmos was after all a metaphysical event as much as a physical one. In the Beyond Beyond state, the Universal Unconscious Mind for a moment experienced an egotistical consciousness, triggering creation. Thus myth and math combine and while a pragmatic determination of  days is derived from calculation of degrees and their sub division in the movement of the Moon and the Sun through the constellations of the Zodiac, the material fact governing the passage of material time in the material lives  of people, there is also the metaphysical significance attached to these stellar passages based on the mythology and cosmology of the Vedas and the scriptures.Thus the gods acquire a stellar context, while the planets, a mythological one, with mythological reasons for their placement. 

At the back of my mind therefore I have always been aware of that lunar date for addressing those issues but never really enquired who fixed it and how. Most Pundits and astrologers get their information from the Almanac while the public, from the dates given in the Panchang calendar but they rarely bother to find out how these dates get fixed. A lunar day can begin at any time during the Gregorian day and likewise end at any time with no regularity. Therefore festivals never arrive on the same Gregorian date each year. Sometimes there are two and on rare occasions even three lunar days during one Gregorian day. Intrigued and confused I decided to find out and called a reputed astrologer home to get to the heart of the matter. He warned me that it would be beyond my comprehension but I insisted that he give it a try. The following is the result of that.

Days of the month according to the Hindu Almanac begin with the first day after the full moon, Purnima and continue for fifteen days till no-moon, Amavasya. This is the phase called Krishna Paksha ( dark as Lord Krishna). Then commences the remaining half of the month when the Moon is in ascent called the Shukla Paksha. The thirty lunar ‘days’ of the two halves in terms of our solar month gets compressed into 27/29 days depending on the movement of the Moon. When a Tithi begins at sunrise it is co-terminous with a solar day but sometimes a Tithi can extend into more than a solar day even extending into the third solar day. Tithis extending into several solar days are considered inauspicious for certain activities like marriage.

The principle for determining a lunar day is acutely complex but with full astronomical logic. Simply put, the lunar day or Tithi is determined by calculating the difference in the longitudinal locations of the Sun and Moon in the Zodiac at 5.30 AM on any solar day. The figures for the location of the Moon are subtracted from the figures for the location of the Sun to arrive at the difference in degrees, which is then divided by 12. This is because it would be recalled, the Moon is deemed to traverse one Tithi every time it moves 12 degrees from the Sun’s location. From the resulting figure is subtracted 15 ( lunar days). The balance figure indicates the Tithi on a particular solar day in the Gregorian calendar.

samrat yantra

Giant Sun Dial 1800 A.D. Jaipur

iPhoto Library

Jai Singh II the Astrologer King who built the observatory

The Panchang has two sets of tables in regard to the Tithi. One provides the location of the Sun, Moon and other planets at 5.30 AM on days of the Gregorian calendar, throughout the year. The time 5.30 AM has been adopted as mean time. The second set is specific to a city and provides the exact time of sunrise and sunset which varies from place to place. This information is necessary because the Sun is the principal heavenly body in astrology and is also the ‘witness’, much as fire is the witness in ritualistic fire worship of Yagyas. The daylight hours are the hours of the witness and therefore the span of time from sunrise to sunset become crucial as all auspicious activities must take place during this time. Furthermore before the advent of standard time for all India, it was the practice to calculate Tithis from place to place based on the time of sunrise and sunset. One Hindu king even went as far as building a grand open air observatory in the city of Jaipur in the 18th century to determine the precise movements of the Sun.

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Another early 18th century sundial at the Jaipur astrological observatory

Let us now try and calculate a Tithi to make the issue clear. According to the Panchang on 25 July 2003 ( the date on which I consulted the astrologer about the manner of fixing Tithis) the Tithi at Jaipur was Ekadasi, the 11th lunar day. On that day the longitudinal location of the Sun and Moon are given as follows   

  Zodiac Sign                  Degree

                      ( Rashi )                   ( Ansha )                   

Moon            1 (i.e. 12+1=13)            18                   

Sun                      3                                8

                                                                                                  ___________________________________

                                                                                                        subtract            10                                  10

NOTE: Each Zodiac Sign has  30 degrees of the 360 degrees of the Zodiac ( 12 Signs x 30 = 360)

The above indicates that on 25 July 2003 the Moon having traveled through the first Sign, Aries, was now in Taurus second Sign of the Zodiac having completed 18 degrees out of 30 degrees of Taurus. The Sun having traveled through the third Sign Gemini was in the fourth Sign Cancer having completed 8 degrees out of the 30 degrees of Cancer. The difference in the positions of the Sun and Moon was 10 Signs which is 10×30 degrees = 300 degrees. Add to that the difference in degrees which was 10, equalling 310 degrees. As the lunar calendar is divided into two phases of 15 days we subtract 15 days from no-moon to full moon (180 degrees) and are left with 130 degrees. Every time the Moon moves 12 degrees from the Sun it constitutes a Tithi. Dividing 130 degrees by 12 we get 10.8 days after the full moon. Thankfully this tortuous excersise is done by experts and the Pundit or the common man does not have to turn his hair grey doing it.

On 25 July therefore at 5.30 AM the major part of the 11th Tithi would have passed and only 0.2 of that Tithi would carry into the day until 8.58 AM at which point the 12th Tithi, Dvadashi would commence. Thus on the 25th July two lunar dates would occur, the eleventh and the twelfth. The twelfth would in turn terminate on the 26th at 10.42 AM. The above shows that lunar dates can occur at any time during the solar date and carry into the next solar date. The precise times of commencement and termination of Tithis are crucial for predictions of auspicious and inauspicious times for events in a Hindu’s life, for drawing up his horoscope, commencements of festivals and timings for prayers and even engaging in commercial activity. The Panchang provides all such information from city to city and are therefore an invaluable necessity for regulating such activities.

Now that we know what a Tithi actually is let us turn to their classification, to learn how some are auspicious and others not so. The basic principle is the strength of the Moon. It is generally auspicious when in full strength, five days either side of full moon, moderately so in between and inauspicious as it reaches no-moon status for five days on either side of no-moon.

The Tithis are classified in groups of three, into five categories : Poorna, Rikta, Jaya, Bhadra, and Nanda.

The Poorna Tithi implies that it is full, complete, all embracing and generally positive in conferring good effects. (These astrological interpretations based on Vedic injunctions are what one may call forecasts of a general nature for the multitude, equally applicable to all. The particular astrological forecasts for an individual of course will have to rely on his individual horoscope)  The 5th, 10th, and 15th tithis are Poorna, which includes the full moon day, Purnima falling on the 15th tithi of Shukla Paksh. There is a traditional practice of leaving some milk in a metal salver in the open on such nights so that the auspicious rays of the full moon may empower the milk which is consumed the next day ensuring good health and fortune. The ruling planet of Poorna Tithis is Jupiter who confers riches, growth and strength. For religious and auspicious activities these are the best Tithis, particularly if they fall on Thursdays, whose lord is also Jupiter.

As against the Poorna, there are the empty category called Rikta, denoting want, impoverishment, weakness and scarcity. No celebrations or activities for gain should be undertaken on these Tithis. They are the 4th, 9th, and 14th Tithis. Their lord is Saturn, distant from the Sun and therefore a dark planet of want. A Rikta falling on a Saturday is particularly inauspicious.

Another category is Jaya signifying victory and courage. These fall on the 3rd, 8th and 13th. Here again the best Jayas are the 13th of Shukla Paksh (ascendant phase) and 3rd of Krishna Paksh ( descending phase), somewhat auspicious being the 8th of Shukla and Krishna and least auspicious are the 13th of Krishna and 3rd of Shukla. Lord of Jayas is Mars, therefore the best Jayas would be those that fall on Tuesdays, whose lord again is Mars. In activities where victory is desired, like in battle, legal conflict etc, Jayas are the best days to launch such activities.

Then we have the Bhadra category concerned with charitable and welfare activities. These fall on the 2nd,7th and 12th. Here again the most auspicious Bhadras are the 12th of shukla and 2nd of Krishna. the least auspicious are the 2nd of Shukla and 12th of Krishna. The ruling planet of Bhadras is Mercury and the best Bhadra would be the one falling on Wednesdays whose lord is Mercury.

finally there is the Nanda category falling on the 1st, 6th and 11th Tithis. Their lord is Venus and they denote pleasurable activities. These Tithis are appropriate for inaugurations and entertainment. The best Nandas fall on Fridays, Venus’ day and the most auspicious Nandas are the 11th Tithi of Shukla Paksha and 1st Tithi of Krishna Paksha.

This is how the curious Tithis rule the lives of Hindu traditionalists and often even those who are not but who wish to be on the right side of the stars, just in case. 

jantar mantar

Sun Dials at the famous 18th century Jantar Mantar observatory Jaipur.

 

miniature_painting_raga_chandra

The Moon, Lord Chandra, is a well-known figure in Hindu mythology, with striking good looks, almost effeminate, tall, youthful and amorous by nature. He has a likable and friendly persona but is both sensitive and fickle minded and somewhat wild and unpredictable. He is shown wearing fine white garments and silver ornaments. He is known as Lord Chandra, the shining one and Soma, the intoxicating drink of the gods, from which we derive the name of Monday, Somvar. He wears a garland of pearls and rides a chariot seated on a lotus cushion, drawn by a pair of antelopes, befitting the speed with which he traverses the heavens as the fastest ‘planet’, barely pausing in a Sign of the Zodiac for a couple of days. He helps trees and plants grow, is a source of strength for the demigods on account of their supping of the divine nectar, Soma, which he symbolizes.

Legends tell us that he is the son of Varun, lord of the oceans. Other legends tell us that he is son of the sage Atri and his consort Anasuya. The Yadav dynasty of Lord Krishna, the divine incarnation of Vishnu the sustainer of the worlds, claim descent from him, as do several warrior clans, calling themselves the Chandravanshis. Legend also has it that he abducted Tara, the wife of Brihaspati, Jupiter, the guru of the demigods and she begot his son Buddh, Mercury. A popular legend speaks of his marriage to the 27 daughters of the administrator of the temporal cosmos, Daksh Prajapati but his obsessive devotion to only one of them Rohini, to the complete neglect of the others upset Daksha. The 27 symbolize the star clusters (Asterisms) within the Zodiac, also called the Lunar Mansions, the Nakshatras. The moon inhabits one each day of the lunar month. The legend goes that thus angered the intemperate Daksha cursed the Moon, afflicting him with leprosy. The Moon pleaded with shi-n1Lord Shiva to undo the curse. After much penance Shiva allowed a modification of the curse. Thereafter he was to experience a diminishing of his glow for half the month and a revival in the other half till he attained his former glory during Purnima, the full moon day. The moon also adorns the hair lock of Lord Shiva to keep him cool after he drank the pot of poison which emerged from the churning of the  cosmic oceans, to save the world from apocalypse.

Quite aside from the myths and legends the Moon occupies a predominant position in the lives of Hindus as the single most important ‘planet’. The Hindu calendar for millenia has been lunar not solar. Days of the week are determined by the position of the Moon in the Nakshatras and the month is defined by its waxing and waning phases. Auspicious and inauspicious moments arise from the status of the Moon. For Hindus it is their true chronometer and also the harbinger of good and evil events. But it is much more than a device to track time. It has been given a central place in astrology because of Vedic presumptions. It is regarded as a significator of the mind and emotions as the Sun is the significator of the Soul. The state of the mind governed by the Moon becomes the key element in determining the life of man.

The Moon governs the manner of determining days and months in a year. We therefore have a lunar day ( Tithi ), a lunar month and a lunar year, lunar birthdays and natal charts. Among Hindus it is not the solar birth Sign ( the Zodiac Sign in which the Sun was at the time of a birth) but the Zodiac Sign which was on the horizon  at the time of birth that determines the birth Sign assigned to a person. For instance my solar birth sign is Sagittarius but the birth Sign for my natal chart is Cancer. We have already seen that there are 27 Nakshatras or star clusters within the 12 Signs of the Zodiac, 2  1/4  for each. Hindu astrology, Jyotish, gives you your precise Nakshatra at birth ( the Nakshatra in which the Moon was at the time of your birth ), which determines your likely personality and inclinations. The placement of the Moon at birth also determines the planetary cycles of life, the Dashas, which are central to predicting events in one’s life in Jyotish.

The Moon in the ascendant phase is a benefic planet for the subjects chart and in the waning phase at the time of birth is malefic. The moon is lord of Cancer and like the Sun owns only one Zodiac Sign. It is exalted in Taurus and debilitated in Scorpio. It is friendly to the Sun and Mercury, neutral to others and inimical to none. This ‘relationship’ between planets assumes significance when studying the natal chart. For instance when two planets are in ‘opposite’ Houses of the chart in astrological terms they are said to ‘aspect’  or influence each other. Their relationship then comes into play for predictions.

The Moon is significator of the mind, intellect, temperament, mother, meritorious Karma from previous lives, beauty, complexion, attractiveness, para-psychological abilities and love of pleasure. On the negative side it is significator of lunacy, addictions, jaundice, epilepsy and lethargy. Physically it represents the mind, chest, breasts and limbs.

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Nakshatras with adjacent Zodiac signs

the sun

Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit: http://www.sanatansociety.com

The Sun was one of the most important gods of the early Vedic period, influenced by Aryan beliefs. However, in the later Vedic period with growing philosophical sophistication  produced by the influence of pre- Vedic indigenous belief systems  and the arrival of the Trinity of Creator, Sustainer and Annihilator, the Sun progressively lost his pre-eminence in the Hindu cosmological framework. Yet as a visible and active symbol of godhead he continued to retain his hold on  Hindu spiritual inclinations. Vedic hymns are numerous that extol his grandeur in exquisite Sanskrit poetry. There are many Sanskrit words for sun each with a slight difference in the highlighting of some quality of the Sun : Aditya, the giver of light; Ravi, luminous;  Savitar, impeller towards light and enlightenment; Divakar, the one who gives us daylight; Mihir the one who waters the earth; Sakshi, the witness; Karmasakshi, the witness of our deeds and the most common, Surya, Lord Sun. These names are very commonly found among men in India.

One of the most beautiful Vedic hymns to Surya is recited universally in India, touching ones heart and soul.:

Asato ma sat gamaya ( Lead us from falsehood to truth)

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya ( Lead us from darkness to light )

Mrityor ma Amritam gamaya ( Lead us from death to immortality)

 It is a motto and morning theme song at schools to inspire young students. I was delighted to find that it has also inspired Hollywood, becoming the concluding incantation of the popular blockbuster Sci-fi film, Matrix Resolutions.

There is also the famous Gayatri Mantra which is the mystical mantra that promotes enlightenment. Lord Krishna in the Hindu bible the Bhagawad Gita tells Arjun his disciple and friend that of all the Mantras he is the Gayatri, the highest. The mantra has profound mystical depths. It suggests the connectivity of the earth ( life on the material plane ), the cosmos ( the created physical universe) and the spiritual realms, the different levels of reality permeated by a divine essence, manifested through the transporting light of the Sun, upon which we meditate, praying that thereby ones mind is enlightened:

Om, bhur buvaha svaha ( earth, sky, and heavens)

Tat savitur varenyam ( the divine essence manifesting through the creative principle of light, the sun, worthy of praise)

Bhargo devasya dhimahi ( that divine light we meditate upon)

Dhiyo yo naha prachodayat ( may our intellect and mind be illuminated by it)

 

The role of the Sun as a vehicle to facilitate such enlightenment is central to the mantra

 

According to legend when Lord Rama, earthly manifestation of the supreme godhead, became fatigued and despondent in his battle against the demon king Ravana, his mentor the sage Agastya initiated him into worship of the Sun with the Aditya Hridaya Stotra ( heart of the Sun hymn ) which then reinforced his confidence and strength. The hymn is often prescribed to strengthen resolve and assure success in adversity.

In southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu one of the most celebrated festivals is that of Pongal , while in the North the festival of Makar Sakranti is the most auspicious, both dedicated to the sun when it enters the sign of Capricorn and begins it six month journey of empowerment through summer.

Konark-06

credit: indiaouting.com

A famous Sun temple in the east is the magnificent tenth century Konarak temple in Orissa state. The stone temple is shaped like a giant chariot drawn by the Sun’s seven solar steeds, representing the days of the week, with giant stone wheels having twelve spokes representing the Signs of the Zodiac. Another famous temple is at Kumbakaran in Tamilnadu. It enshrines the sun as the principle deity surrounded by the other eight ‘planets’ facing him. Pilgrims with planetary afflictions ( Doshas) in their horoscopes visit the temple to appease the deities for mitigation of the afflictions. This is the only temple in India where all nine planets are found together. The Sun is also called Adivar, the first among the planets and is called the king of the planets.

Several royal families claim descent from the Sun – the Suryavanshis – with the legendary avatar Lord Rama being the foremost among them.

According to one legend, the Sun is the son of Indra, lord of the heavens. According to another he is the son of the sage Kashyap and Aditi, the earth. The legend goes that Aditi found one of her sons in the shape of an egg and presuming it to be lifeless called it Martand ( dead egg) and cast him into the sky. However in the sky the egg shone with brilliance and Surya was born.

The sacred sign of the Swastika used often in ritual prayer is also sometimes taken to represent the Sun.

Another interesting legend is about the marriage of Sanjana, daughter of the divine engineer and craftsman Vishvakarma ( the god of all mechanics) , to the Sun. Their first child was Manu, the Indian equivalent of Adam. however, Sanjana could not bear the brilliance of her consort and whenever the Sun approached her, she looked away. angered by this the Sun cursed her with fearsome progeny. She then gave birth to the god of death, Yama, and Yamuna, the river which skirts the capital Delhi and is notorious for overflowing her banks causing annual suffering and havoc. Finally unable to bear his presence she fled to the woods, leaving behind her sister, shadow ( chaya). At first the Sun mistook her for Sanjana and we have learnt of a son emerging from that unlikely union in the shape of Shani ( Saturn). Later on discovering the subterfuge he abandoned Chaya and ventured forth to find his beloved Sanjana, who meanwhile transformed herself into a mare to escape detection. Surya located her and transformed himself into a stallion and mated with her. She kept changing form into that of other female animals while he did likewise as a male animal, each time mating with her, thus populating the world with many species of animals. 

sudarshanMeanwhile Sanjana’s father Visvakarma sought to remedy the problem of too much brilliance with some divine engineering and taking some of the solar fire out of Surya recast it into weapons for the gods. Thus Lord Vishnu acquired the flashing discus which he is depicted as swirling on his finger, Lord Shiva his splendid trident, lord Yama, god of death his staff and lord Kuber, god of wealth, the mace.

Lord Surya also fathered the monkey king Sugriva of the Ramayana. In the other epic the Mahabharata, Kunti the mother of the heroes the Pandavas, nurses the guilt of having borne a child out-of-wedlock from the Sun, without really wanting to. She had steadfastly worshiped the Sun in the hope that he would grant her a vision of himself. He did more than that and left her with an unwanted child, Karna. Karna was allowed to drift in a basket to his fate but was rescued by a childless couple who reared him. When later he learnt of his true identity from his mother he became deeply resentful and swore revenge on his half brothers, joining the ranks of their bitter enemies. Karna becomes one of the most tragic figures of Indian mythology.

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Lord Surya sculpture – Sun temple Konarak

These are some of the colourful legends about the Sun in Vedic, Puranic and later Hindu mythology, influencing the imagination and spirituality of worshipers. Worship of the Sun as a deity has however dwindled and is confined only to a few corners of the subcontinent. However, the Vedic god appears to have found permanent sanctuary in Hindu astrology and is prominent in the Hindu calendar as the principal planet with a day of the week, Sunday, Ravivar, dedicated to him. For determination of time and casting of horoscopes the time of sunrise and sunset play a crucial role.

 In Hindu astrology he is significator of Atma, the soul and also of the individual ego. He is also the significator of father in the horoscope, health, courage, honour, status, fame and power. He also is significator of eyes and vision, bones and a balanced nature. A strong well placed Sun in the horoscope is an indication of a dynamic extrovert personality. Surya is however in astrological terms considered a somewhat malefic planet, probably in view of the heat he generates resulting in drought.

The Sun is lord of only one Sign in the Zodiac, Leo. He is exalted in Aries and debilitated in Libra. He is friendly towards the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter, inimical to Saturn and Venus and neutral towards Mercury. His gemstone is the red ruby and metal, gold. His day is Sunday. Devotees are advised to do the Surya Namaskar, prayers to the Sun, as it rises each morning, for good health and spiritual evolution. It is a common sight to see them by the river bank or sea-shore at dawn with folded hands.

 

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credit: sodahead.com

 

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Artist : Pieter Weltervede Credit : http://www.sanatansociety.com

Saturn is the most talked about planet in India with a pervasive influence among high and low. Lord Saturn, Shani dev, is most feared as the harbinger of ill omen and great misfortunes and those afflicted by such events vigorously appease him. There are several temples dedicated to lord Saturn, though they may not be prominent and visible like those of other Hindu deities and his grip on the Indian psyche is strong and universal. It is for this reason that I am presenting this post on him first, though he is not regarded as pre eminent among planets, as Lord of the planets, the Grihapati, is of course the Sun.

Lord Saturn is portrayed as being tall dark and ominous, emitting a blue radiance, with uneven teeth and coarse hair, sunken yellow eyes and deeply veined. He also has a limp and is very slow in movement. The word Shanishchara means slow-moving and Lord Shani’s name is derived from that word. It reflects the time he takes to complete a round of the Zodiac – some thirty years against the Sun’s one year and the Moon’s one month. This is of course because, of the seven planets of Jyotish astrology it is the farthest from the Sun and its orbit is therefore much greater.

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image of Shani

Shani’s nature is described as ‘Tamasik’: slow, irritable and lethargic. His vehicle is variously shown as the vulture, the crow and the ox. His gaze, Medusa like, is destructive and even the gods have learned to avoid it. Thus he is called ‘Krur Lochan’, fierce eyed. Legend has it that  in  worshiping Lord Krishna he neglected his wife, never looking at her. In frustration she cursed him that whoever he cast his vision on would be destroyed. He therefore developed the habit of averting his gaze rather than looking at those he encountered. One of the Puranic  legends explains how the revered son of Lord Shiva, Ganesha acquired his elephant head. Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, seeing the exquisite beauty of the child she had borne, invited the gods to come and bless him. Lord Shani, present among them did not raise his eyes to look upon the beautiful child. Parvati felt dismayed and insisted that he look upon him. When the reluctant Shani raised his eyes, Ganesh’s head disappeared. It was finally replaced by an elephant’s head as no other was available.

Another legend attributes the exile of Rama to the effect of Shani in his chart. Yet another legend about his destructive gaze is also found in the epic Ramayan. The demonic king Ravana had through penance and prayer acquired extraordinary powers over earth and heaven. To demonstrate his power he enslaved the nine planets and placed them face downwards on the steps leading to his throne. He would arrogantly ascend his throne by stepping on the backs of the planets. The divine sage Narada visited the power incensed king and mischievously suggested that it might please him more if they were placed on their backs looking upwards as he stepped on their breasts, to better see the humiliation on their faces. Ravana liked the suggestion failing to see the trap and had them turned around. As he was stepping on Shani, the latter’s gaze fell upon him and Ravana’s reason deserted him as a consequence. this led to his infatuation with Sita, Lord Rama’s wife leading to her eventual abduction by him and the ensuing battle with Rama in which he was vanquished and killed.

Hindu legend also speaks of Shani being the son of Lord Surya, the Sun, from his second wife Chaya ( shadow). There is however enmity between father and son as Shani cannot forgive his father for deserting her ( causing the disappearance of his mother whenever he makes an appearance). He is also credited with turning the horses of Surya’s chariot blind by looking upon them and afflicting Surya himself with vertigo. Their interaction in natal charts always bodes ill for father son relationships.

Though Lord Shani is considered the most malefic of planets, his portrayal as an evil dark force is a total misrepresentation. In fact  he represents the force that impels the evolution of the soul, however painful the exercise by which it is achieved. the obstacles, misfortunes and travails that he initiates are for refining the caliber of the person and cleansing his spirit. According to legend, Lord Shiva, the Lord of creation, has entrusted him with meting out justice and punishments. He maintains a meticulous account of ones misdeeds, ones abuse of wealth and ones failure to be charitable. He does not merely mete out punishments, for when he sees that it has produced favourable results he permits the re acquisition of  status and wealth double fold.

He is portrayed as a stern disciplinarian who stresses diligence and pragmatism. His goal is to bring out the finest in an individual. In going about his purpose he is ruthless and single-minded.

 Shani signifies longevity, determination, diligence, skill, sobriety, concentration, discretion and wisdom arising from experience, renunciation and spiritual evolution. He is also indicative of a person’s long-term goals, his organizational abilities and capacity to persevere. On the other hand he brings obstacles, delays, separation, loss and expenditure, anxiety, lawsuits, imprisonment, grief, lunacy, disease and death as corrective measures or results of ones Karma. In astrological terms an ‘aspected’ or afflicted planet in the horoscope may be more useful for an individual’s self-development and emancipation than one that is unafflicted but ‘weak’. Saturn’s influence though apparently malefic has the effect of producing self-reliance, acquiring experience through diligence and adverse circumstances, development of courage to withstand adversity and in the end producing qualities of restraint, wisdom, altruism and discipline through suffering. He is also portrayed as one conferring philosophical insight.

On the physical level he represents the nervous system and teeth. The diseases he brings are chronic and long in duration, like his slow movements. Some of the diseases he inflicts are cancer, arthritis, intestinal and urinal obstruction. He also induces lameness and a tendency to look askance.

Hindus believe that these effects can be minimized by prayer to Lord Hanuman, the monkey headed god and to Lord Shani on Saturdays with the chanting of the Mahamritunjaya mantra. Lord Hanuman freed Shani Dev from the clutches of the demon king Ravana. Thus prayers to Hanuman, an incarnation of lord Shiva, whom Shani worships, mitigate his adverse effects in the Natal chart. Furthermore donations of black garments, mustard oil, black lentils and sesame to the poor and helping old and needy people also pacify him. Prayers to Lord Krishna on Saturdays are also helpful as Shani is a devotee of Krishna. It is not surprising to see urchins and beggars around towns in India on Saturdays holding up metal containers filled with mustard oil with an iron figure of Shani immersed in it, urging one to put in a coin to ward off the effects of Shani on his day. Likewise the throngs outside Krishna and Hanuman temples on Saturdays are also for warding off his malefic effects.

From the astrological point of view, Shani is lord of Capricorn and Aquarius, is exalted in Libra and debilitated in Aries. He is the significator of the Eighth House in the natal chart, house of longevity and death. Saturday is his day of the week, black is his colour and the numeral sign 8 is his favourite. His gem stone is the blue sapphire which saves wearers from his afflictions, his metal is iron. his friends are Mercury, Venus and the lunar node Rahu. His enemies are the Sun and the Moon, Mars and the lunar node Ketu. He is neutral to Jupiter.

When located in one of the three houses of acquisition ( Tridhaya Bhavas), the third, sixth, and eleventh of the natal chart, he generally brings great benefits, facilitating royal comforts and aiding in spiritual growth. His capacity to confer prosperity transcends those of other planets. During his transit phases ( ‘Sade Sati’ ), the subject must develop qualities of humility, patience, deliberation and take time to ponder over decisions, becoming cautious and engage in charitable acts. The subject must slow down like Lord Shani.

There are many samll temples tucked away in the corners of cities and villages dedicated to him, the most famous being in Tirunallar in Tamil Nadu and Shinganapur in Maharashtra

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Shani’s effect on a horoscope Credit : iwanttoblogalltheway.blogspot.com

 

 

 

navgarha

Credit: karmafriendly.com

 

The influence on the daily lives of Hindus of the heavenly bodies, be they Saturn, Mars, the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, Venus or a group of stars in an Asterism, appears to be disproportionately high, because they do not strictly figure in the pantheon of numerous Hindu gods, are not universally worshiped popularly nor do they have important temples in their names. Yet each commands a day of the week and months are named after certain Asterisms and they appear to rule ones life through their auspicious or unauspicious portents. People are also named after them – common names derive from the Sun , Moon and Mars: Aditya/Suraj/Bhanu, Chandra/Purnima/Nishar, Mangal. This despite the fact that they are not the Trinity ( Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva). or their Avatars, Rama and Krishna, nor are they the numerous goddesses representing Shakti or primal energy, neither are they gods like Ganesh with an elephants head or Kartike on a peacock ( sons of Shiva). Yes, some of them do figure in the Puranic mythical stories of the ancient Vedic Olympus, Indralok presided over by the demigod (Deva) Indra ( the counterpart of the Greek Zeus) . The Sun, Moon, Mars and Jupiter (Brihaspati), as the priest of the demigods,  assemble in his heavenly court while Venus (Shukracharya), the priest of the Titans is present in their underworld ( Patalok) court. How then did they come to secretly wield so much power and influence on the Hindu psyche? The gods are essentially spiritual and metaphysical in significance, whereas the former are only planets and not gods in the traditional sense.

The pantheon of gods have spiritual and metaphysical significance, whereas the planetary influence is astronomical and therefore physical. However both tend to come together in obscure mythology. While the scriptures and doctrines of Hinduism  guide the spiritual life of the Hindu, the visible cosmos exerts its own indelible influence on the physical aspect of daily life, seeking firstly to provide a specific time scale in which to measure and live it and secondly, a framework to predict and forecast the manner in which that life will elapse. Thus we see that parallel to metaphysical doctrine and the philosophy of the scriptures there arose the discipline of Astrology to interpret the stellar influence on the life of man. While they remained distinct as disciplines the physical ‘science’ of astrology was not only tolerated by the metaphysical theology but the scriptures even encouraged its application by occasional references to its existence in myth and lore. While the progress of the mundane and earthly experiences of the incarnated Soul were assigned to astrological ingenuity, the sole purpose of reincarnation being the evolution of the Soul, that remained the private preserve of spiritual insight. Astrology or Jyotish through its activity merely reaffirmed the supremacy of the metaphysical goal.

Astrology sought to define the seconds, minutes and hours of temporal life, providing days months and years, by tracing the passage of the Moon through the 27 Asterisms surrounding the Zodiac. it also monitored the movement of the planets in precise degrees, minutes and seconds and forecast the rising and setting of the Sun on a particular day at a given location, defining the days of the week and their auspicious or unauspicious implications for the life of man. In doing so however it remained loyal to the fountainhead of inspiration, the metaphysical insight of the scriptures by allocating places in the natal chart to account for the accumulated debits and credits of a previous life. The Houses of the natal chart were also designed with scriptural injunction in mind. Thus the First became the ‘Connection’ (Lagna) of the incarnating soul to the mortal world, and represented the nature of its bodily vehicle consisting of corpus and mind, its shape, appearance, size, health, character, temperament and personality. The Second, was wealth (Arth) and accumulated credit and worth. The Third was concerned with younger siblings, courage patience and diligence. The Fourth was concerned with Mother and also security, happiness and home comforts. The Fifth was the House of progeny. The Sixth signified enemies, thieves, obstacles, dangers, vices, sin, humiliation, indebtedness, poison, maternal uncle and step mother. The Seventh related to marriage, family circumstances, spouse, sex and genitals. the Eighth was the House of death, longevity, reason and timing of death, inheritance,occult inclinations, distress, calamity, defeat, insult, overseas trips and organs of excretion. The Ninth represented spirituality and religiosity, and fortune. The Tenth related to career, occupation, livelihood, rank, status and honour, ideals and integrity. The eleventh was the House of gains and receipts, ambitions and their realization,success, friends, lovers, victory over enemies, discharge from hospital, prison  and return home. The Twelvth was the  House of loss and expenditure but also liberation (Moksha). It also indicated nature of troubles, worries, sorrow and misfortunes.

Thus it would be seen that the stellar world merely served to carry forward on the physical plane through its cosmic activity the gains and losses of the previous incarnation of the subject in question, spelling boom or doom,  for the evolution of the Soul rather than as punishment or reward. Astrology thus served mathematically to calculate and interpret what the incarnating spirit had earned and would have to experience in the course of its evolution. The constellations and planets as handmaidens of the supreme spiritual essence would act to charter the course of the roller coaster ride, teaching valuable lessons which occasionally might leave you breathless.

India has possibly the only civilization and Hinduism is the only religion which has permitted such an amalgamation of metaphysics and astrology to work hand in hand without deep contradiction. The Indian obsession with the stars may appear to be similar to those of the Mayan, Aztecs, Pharaonic, Celtic and other prehistoric cultures but this would be only superficially so because  there is an important distinction. While for these ancient cultures, stellar phenomena may have constituted a kind of  religious experience, for the Indian it was only a physical manifestation of a profound metaphysical truth contained in sophisticated religious and philosophical insight. The remarkable thing is that, therefore, unlike in other current religious disciplines where Astrology is often viewed with suspicion for creating a parallel determinism which might conflict with God’s omnipotence, for Hinduism there is no such perceived threat. Astrology fits into the Hindu scheme of things as a tool for playing out the game plan of rebirth and Karma. By creating a roadmap for the transmigrating soul it assists in its evolution. Astrology was therefore assigned a place in the most sacred scriptures, the Vedas, in the sections called Vedanga or limb of the Vedas, receiving total scriptural sanction.

It is therefore not surprising that the seven planets and two lunar nodes were deified  and  provided full accommodation in all ritualistic prayer, particularly at the time of marriage, auspicious occasions and prayers during festivals. Before lighting the ritual fire to allow Lord Agni (god of fire) to be a witness to sanctify the  ritual enactments, it was necessary to address several sets of symbols of the gods, beginning inevitably with the inaugurating deity the elephant headed god Ganesh. Then followed worship of the Kalash, pot of water with coconut atop it, representing Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the worlds,Varun the god of waters and the total ensemble representing the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Thereafter the sixteen goddesses symbolizing the Shaktis or energies, were represented by sixteen little piles of red wheat, four by four, on a red cotton cloth spread over a low table. Last but not the least, on a separate low table, nine piles of grain, three by three, representing the nine ‘planets’, were each invoked separately to bless the event. It became abundantly evident that the planets were an integral part of the pantheon of gods and demigods and were required to be worshiped at all events.

navagraha

T

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  R  E  V  I  V  A  L

 

It arises like some need

Out of the innermost,

Her story retold, the sum

Of my deepest reflex

Going back to old letters,

Faded loops and forms

Put down then by a hand

At the behest of a mind

That has gone.

 

Going back to rub the core

Into an awakening

Of scattered memory, conjoin her

Late animate being with a photograph,

Making her speak the words

Of her letters,

Think her thoughts,

For a glimpse of what

I have forgotten.

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