Archives for category: astrology and spirituality
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.

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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. 

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

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.

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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

 

 

 

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Credit: indiamart.com 12 zodiac signs surrounded by 27 Nakshatras (Asterisms) through which the moon passes each lunar day

India’s culture and civilization have always displayed an intriguing obsession with stellar phenomena. The Hindu infatuation with the movement of the planets, the Zodiac and the Asterisms is quite unique, deeply affecting social behaviour, religious observances, fasts and festivals, ritual and customs and even commercial and trading activities. More plausibly, it has also been the basis for determining the passage of time and fixing the duration of a day, a month and the year in the Hindu lunar calendar at a time when the benefits of modern time scales and calendars were not available in ancient India.

hindu priestWhile other cultures are not unfamiliar with astrology, there is a fundamental difference in the manner in which it is treated by other established religions. Generally it is viewed with suspicion if not hostility as a heterodox discipline at variance with religious dogma and therefore to be clubbed with heretical beliefs like witchcraft. In Hinduism, on the contrary, it is given unequivocal scriptural sanction, incorporating astrological practices within the very rituals of worship. Thus the planets themselves are included in the pantheon of deities and find a place in ritual worship, with some temples even being dedicated to them. It is therefore not surprising that Hindu clerics and the priesthood are required to be proficient in Astrology if they are to discharge their religious duties effectively. thus in India we find that the Pundit and the astrologer are more or less synonymous. This is not the case with priests of other religions.

panchang

Almanacs in a shop

The Hindu lunar calendar is in fact an exercise in Astronomy, providing forecasts in Almanacs meticulously accurate and prepared for every major city covering the zones in their vicinity, on a daily basis the precise time of sunrise and sunset and movements of the planets, Zodiacs and Asterisms ( Nakshatras) down to the minute. This becomes invaluable information for religious and social observances and ‘prohibitions’ for the lay man and the cleric.

Let us then take a peek into this India to see what happens on a daily basis in the lives of its denizens:

asasasasasas

Shani Dev

We begin at a traffic light where we have halted our vehicle when it turned red. A boy comes running up holding aloft what looks like a small stainless steel bucket full of mustard oil. Not the usual street urchin demanding alms so persistently. In the oil in the bucket sits a metal deity. The boy calls ‘Shani Dev Shani Dev’ ( Lord Saturn). As it is a saturday, Lord Saturn’s day, we are expected to drop some offering into the container to ward off inauspicious events waiting to happen to us in the course of the day. Lord Saturn is known popularly to cause many painful trials on his day ( for our evolution). We have just glimpsed a planet arriving at a traffic road light – close encounter on a busy Indian street on a quite ordinary day!

mangal_bhagwanThen again when looking for a spouse for your daughter you may discover that the prominence of Mars in her astrological chart makes her into what is called a ‘Mangli’ (Martian). A serious disqualification as  it could result in the premature demise of a prospective spouse. Such an  astrological chart sent for ‘matching’, a necessity in arranged Hindu marriages, gets promptly rejected unless the prospective groom is also a ‘Martian’ when the two defects cancel each other out. Another close encounter, this time with Mars in an Indian home.

On another quite ordinary day you irritably phone the contractor at your building site to esquire why the labourers, plumbers and electricians have failed to turn up. With some annoyance he retorts, ”don’t you know?” Know what? It is neither a weekend nor Sunday, no national holiday, no festival  either, nothing? He explains with some exasperation, ”Sir, It is Amavasya – a No-Moon day which is inauspicious, a day on which labourers and handymen don’t work. They may work on weekends and Sundays even but not on Amavasya which occurs once a month without warning on any Georgian calendar – you better arm yourself with a lunar Hindu calendar. This time close encounter with the Moon on a work site!

ketu

Ketu

rahuDuring lunar and solar eclipses all auspicious activity is suspended. There is no question of going out to watch the phenomenon through dark lenses, the family remain huddled indoors till it passes, particularly pregnant women. Evil forces are abroad then in the shape of the demons Rahu or Ketu ( titans who drank the cup of nectar but were cut asunder to prevent it having its effect of immortality reserved for the gods – Rahu now a bodyless head and Ketu a headless body) who, though astrologically only lunar nodes, are deemed to be planets in their own right capable of causing great harm. particularly when they ‘swallow the luminous heavenly bodies the Sun and the Moon during eclipses. After the eclipse, purification baths and fasts are in order to cleanse the body and spirit of the evil that has just passed; another close cosmic encounter.

But cosmic events are not generally ominous. every full moon,( Purnima). important festivals and celebrations gladden the spirit. The birth of great personages like the Buddha and guru Nanak of the Sikh faith happen to fall on the full moon. However on the fourth day after No-moon one never looks at the misshapen planet for if you did a great misfortune like burglary would occur in ones home.

kumbhThen you have the  great religious gatherings or super pilgrimages at the confluence of certain rivers when millions from the four corners of the sub-continent congregate for a holy dip under a unique configuration of stars at a given moment at the great festival of Kumbh, to wash off sins and gain spiritual and material credit . This happens when the Sun the Moon and Jupiter arrive together in preordained constellations every twelve years. This commemorates the tussle for the pot of nectar, the Kumbh, which emerged from the celestial churning of the oceans by the gods and Titans. In the ensuing struggle some drops spilled onto the earth. these mythical spots become the centres of pilgrimage for millions of devotees. Aside from the pilgrims, retinues of mendicants and naked fakirs belonging to well established esoteric orders surviving over millenia in remote corners of  India and the high Himalayas arrive on horseback, elephants and chariots, resplendent with spears, gleaming tridents, unsheathed swords and caste marks on their bodies and foreheads, for the holy dip. Some are stark naked on horseback, having shed all attributes of ego, including garments, others bejeweled in silken robes of saffron and white, yet others, as a mark of containing their passions are known to walk with their phalli bandaged and tied to their wastes. It is a sight from pre-history and attracts foreign tourists in droves.

makar sakranti`But India’s stellar obsession is not confined to social, religious or festive occasions. commercial activity also come within its ubiquitous embrace. The practical and down to earth broker may advise you to postpone a sale or purchase of stock not because of market forces arising from commercial considerations like the possibility of a reduction in the bank rate or likelihood of anticipated foreign investments or say India-Pakistan tension on the border – he will insist that you wait till the fourteenth of January. The month before the fourteenth is ‘Malmaas’, an inauspicious phase which ends on the thirteenth. The fourteenth is a most auspicious day celebrated as the great festival of ‘Makar-Sankranti’ or ‘passage into Capricorn’, passage that is of the Sun. It marks the moment the Sun at the southernmost point from the equator begins on its journey northwards. thus far the nights have grown longer during winter and the days shorter. From the fourteenth begins the process of longer days and shorter nights. More Sun means more growth in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Maker Sankranti marks the moment of transition, the northern swing of the Sun, Uttarayan as opposed to Dakshinayan, the southern swing commencing in July on Kark ( cancer)Sankranti. Makar Sankranti has its latent effect on the stock market as many traders commence maximum trading on that auspicious day.To celebrate the day people fly kites from rooftops all over the cities, families picnic on roofs. The day is so auspicious that Governors and even Prime Ministers have been known to postpone oath taking ceremonies to assume charge till the arrival of this day.

male with earringsSometimes the influence of the distant stars is to be found in the most curious of places, an ear lobe. The piercing of an ear lobe is not merely for wearing earrings. Often in rural areas one finds that men also sport earrings. It is believed to ward off the blemishes in one’s horoscope The effect of the presence of the demonic lunar node Ketu in certain houses of one’s chart could result in being bitten by snakes, scorpions and dogs. the piercing of the lobe replicates the ‘bite’ and pre-empts it with a prophylactic warding off of the evil portent.

Thus it becomes crucial to have the Pundit draw up horoscopes at birth and thereafter to monitor the charts through the seasons and events of one’s life to take advantage of stellar events and be forewarned of ominous portents by taking adequate steps to counter them through prohibitions and corrective rituals and prayer.

Indeed the place of Astrology is assured in India and astrologers do a roaring business. There are now many computerized astrological centres throughout the country with their hands full.

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