The gravitational pull of the moon causes the seas and oceans to bulge outwards resulting in tides, which affect all life on earth in dramatic ways. (Note: Latest research shows Moon phases also affect sleep cycles in Humans.) Vedic astrology (Jyotish) asserts that the nearby nine celestial bodies and phenomena also have unique effects on humans on earth. Thus Hindus recognize and respect the nine celestial phenomena (Navagraha) at the beginning of all Hindu pujas (religious services).
The Nine, along with their associated days of the week are:
- Sun: Surya, Ravi, Sunday
- Moon: Chandra, Soma, Monday
- Mars: Mangal, Tuesday
- Mercury: Budha, Wednesday
- Jupiter: Brihaspati, Guru, Thursday
- Venus: Shukra, Friday
- Saturn: Shani, Saturday
- Rahu: ascending, or Northern lunar node
- Ketu: descending or Southern lunar node
Of these, Saturn (Shani in sanskrit), the second largest planet of our solar system and its presiding spirit, Shani Dév has an outsized, generally malefic effect on humans.
As we go through life, in addition to positive, uplifting thoughts and actions, we also engage in negative actions to gain favors or advance desires. But Shani, like the carefully observant policeman on our tail, evaluates our every action and makes us pay for our wrongs. Thus Shani highlights our negative actions and nudges us, albeit grudgingly, towards the path of piousness. For this role in guiding our refinement and spiritual evolution, Shani Dév is revered as our Guru (teacher).
Saturn takes 30 years to go around the Sun, thus the sanskrit name Shanaishchara, or slow walker. With twelve constellations of the zodiac girdling the earth, Saturn spends 2½ years traversing each constellation. Each constellation representing specific energy patterns, projects associated characteristics in humans. When planets traverse the constellations, they manifest and enhance unique patterns of behavioral expression. Thus when Saturn moves through your zodiac constellation, its judicial attention is focussed on all your activities and you will feel the full consequences of your negative actions. Actually, Shani’s effects start when it is enters the previous constellation and lingers through the following constellation. With Saturn taking a leisurely 2½ years through each constellation, it totals 7½ years of judicial oversight. Hindu sages presciently recognized this trying period in everyone’s lives as the dreaded “Sādé Sātī” (literally, seven and half). With Saturn repeating its cycle every 30 years (29.46 earth years precisely), we can expect Shani’s jurisprudence to impact us twice or thrice in our lives. One of these 7½ periods will be during the most prolific periods of our life. How we respond to Shani’s influence will define the arc of our lives. Verily, some describe Shani as the anvil, on which our characters are pounded to perfection.
While many ricochet from one action-reaction to another action-reaction during the Sādé Sātī, it is important to recognize this phase in your life. There are numerous prescriptions to ward off Shani’s negative influence, but the most effective are imposing self-control and critical introspection.
Astrologers ask that we chant the popular Hanuman Chalisa (Forty verses to Hanuman) on Saturdays, and wear blue-sapphire bound in an iron ring; Saturn itself has a rocky iron core. Most Hindu temples, like the Chinmaya Hanuman Temple in Boston, have a shrine dedicated to the Navagraha (nine celestial bodies), which includes Shani. The most popular temple dedicated to Shani is the Shanéshwar Devasthān (Temple to Ruler of Saturn) in the village of Shinganāpur in Maharashtra.
While on a trip to Shirdi last year, we drove to Shingnāpur to pay our respects at the Shanéshwar temple (Shri Kshetra Shanéshwar Devasthān). The temple is simply a monolithic block of black granite nearly 6 feet tall and about 18 inches wide. Exposed to heat and cold, rain and shine, and in constant communication with Saturn and all the celestial bodies, it is impressively stark.
Devotees offer mustard oil and black sesame seeds to Shani. Offerings are poured in nearby troughs, from where the oil is pumped to spout over the monolith. This ensures a steady stream of all our offerings on the black granite, assuring us of Shani’s grace. If you are traveling around Maharashtra, I highly recommend a quick visit to Shingnāpur Temple. There aren’t many facilities there, so an hour is all you need.
|| Om Shum Shanaishcharaya Namah ||