Shani is one of the Navagrahas which are the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology. Shani is the Lord of Saturday; the word Shani also denotes the seventh day or Saturday in most Indian languages. The origin of word Shani comes from the following: Shanaye Krama i.e. the one who moves slowly, as Saturn takes about 30 years to rotate around the Sun. Shani is also known as Shanaischarya, Shani Bhagavan, Shaneesvara, and Shani Dev. Astrologically Saturn is “lame” because he is the slowest moving of the Nine Planets (an afflicted Saturn in a horoscope may literally indicate lameness). Saturn is lame because one of the Sun’s first wife Sangya’s children became angered with him and struck him in the foot. Thus Saturn walks with a limp, which accounts why he is the slowest of the Grahas.
Lord of the sinews and nerves, of the west, of Saturday and is exalted in Libra and is of the constellations Capricorn and Aquarius, he is also known as the Slow, Son of shadow, the Angular, the Black, the Endless, the End- Causer, the All-Devouring, the Steady, the Controller, the Famished and the Emaciated.
Shani is a Dev and son of Surya Dev (the Hindu Sun God) and his wife Chhaya (Shadow goddess) and hence also known as Chayyaputra. He is the cousin of Yama, the Hindu God of death. It is said that when he opened his eyes as a baby for the very first time, the sun went into an eclipse, which clearly denotes the impact of Shani on astrological charts. Shani is described as having a dark complexion, a beautiful face, his caste is teli (Oil vendors), he is clothed in black; holding a sword, arrows, two daggers , mounted on a Black vulture or a raven and he prays to Kal-bhairav (God of time). Shani is said to be older in age and that is why he is looked upon as an old man. Shani is a shadow planet or “Chhaya- Graha”- that part of a person which is normally not seen.
He is known as the greatest teacher. Shani dev is said to be very harmful to those who follow the path of betrayal, backstabbing and unjust revenge. He is known in Hindu scriptures as the greatest trouble giver as well as the greatest well wisher. Practically, everyone is aware that Shani brings upon every one, a period of bad luck that is Sadhe Saati – seven and a half years of Shani crossing the moon sign (rashi) in a horoscope i.e. two and a half years in the sign before the moon sign, two and half years in the moon sign and two and half years in the sign after the moon sign in any horoscope. This period normally brings bad luck and difficulties but many people have seen their astronomical rise in this period. Also, people who go through difficulties during their Sadhe Sati emerge much stronger, more self aware and better human beings after this period is over. Only a few know that Shani has been given the portfolio of Justice just as Sun has been given the portfolio of Fame and Jupiter of Dharma and Venus of happiness.
The worship of Lord Hanuman is a panacea for the harsh effects of the ‘unfavorable’ (but actually favorable in the spiritual sense) presence of Lord Shani. In the Ramayana, Lord Hanuman is said to have rescued Shani from the clutches of Ravan and in gratitude, Shani promised Hanuman that anyone who prayed to him (Hanuman), especially on Saturdays, would be rescued from the “malefic” effects of Saturn, or at the very least, the effects would be softened.
There is no one in the universe that has not been influenced by Shani. During the time Shani enters a person’s moon or Sadhe sati, the person faces lots of problems. Also those who are the victims of Shani’s gaze face lot of difficulties in life. Even King Vikramaditya who was the ruler of the entire world loses his kingdom, he is charged with stealing, his hands and legs are cut-off by a neighbouring King. Eventually, Vikramaditya prays to Shani, who is satisfied with Vikramaditya’s devotion and brings him back to his former glory. Shani just wanted to break his ego. Shani Mahatyam stresses values such as perseverance in difficult times, complete devotion (bhakti) and faith in the values one believes in, and never to lose confidence in life in spite of difficulties.
Legend has it that, once when Shani was in meditation, his wife approached him. She wanted to give him her love and tried to entice him with her beauty. Shani however, being deep in meditation was oblivious of his surroundings.Deeply involved in meditation, he did not notice her. Feeling insulted, she cursed him that whoever aspects by Shani, will meet with misfortune and destruction.
Once Shani told Shiva that he wanted to come and stay with Shiva. Shiv asked – “What is the use of your staying with me? But still, when you plan to live with me, let me first know about it, and then only you enter me.” Shani said “All right.” and two days after Shani came to Shiva at his home in Banaras and said – “Now I want to enter your body.” Hearing this Shiva jumped into the River Ganga and remained there in Samadhi for 7 and 1/2 years. When that period had passed he came out of the river and smilingly asked Shani – “What could you do to me?” Shani said – “Although you rule Tri-Lok (the Three Worlds), but from my fear you had to run and remain in Samadhi in Ganga River for 7 and 1/2 years. Is that not enough to you?
And you call it “doing nothing” to you?” Shiv saluted Shani and thanked him saying – “Your power is indeed great, you are really the most terrible planet in the world and an average man cannot survive your punishment.”
Lord Rama was not spare by Shani. When Shani began passing over Rama’s Moon, he was forced to leave his kingdom and go to exile for 14 years. He was incarnation of Vishnu Himself. There, even his wife was stolen by Raavan and he had to wander in search of her. It was in this fashion that a seven-and-a-half came over King Harishchandra. This event so perplexed his mind that he left his kingdom for Banaras, where he was sold into slavery. His wife was also sold and he had to pass through seven and a half years of tribulations. His wife Taramati became the servant of a Brahman and he was employed by the ruler of the cremation ground to strip the corpses of their clothes and valuables before they were consigned to the flames.
Marriage of Goddess Parvati with Lord Shiva
King Nal had to experience a seven-and –a-half, which caused him and his queen Damyanti to leave their kingdom and encounter profound grief as they wandered in the forests.
When Shani beleaguered the Moon, he stole Jupiter’s wife and a black mark was laid against his name.
Even Lord Krishna was not spared by Shani. During the Sadhe sati he was accused of stealing the divine Syamantakmani and bore the insult.
Yudhishthir and his brothers – they were also exiled for 13 years. And 100 Kauravas were all slained at Pandavas’ hands. All this was the consequence of their Karma – their 7 and 1/2 year periods.”
Ravan had gained control on all 9 Planets. He installed them face down on the 9 steps which were going to his throne. Each morning when he went to his throne to sit there, he would firmly step on the back of each of each planet. To teach him a lesson Shani asked Naradji to tell Ravan to turn the planets on to their backs so that Shani could gaze at Ravan. So on Narad’s instigation as soon as Ravan turned those planets over onto their backs and arranged them neatly on his steps, Shani’s gaze fell on him and his mind became perverted. Within a few months, he kidnapped Sita, Rama invaded Lanka, and his all brothers and friends, army and people were all slaughtered in that war – all as a result of my effect on him during his 7 and 1/2 years. When Ganesha was born, his mother, Parvati, showed off her new baby to the other gods. Unfortunately, the god Shani (Saturn), who is said to have the evil eye, looked at him, causing the baby’s head to be burned to ashes. The god Vishnu came to the rescue and replaced the missing head with that of an elephant.
Most people have certain egos and superiority feeling in them, which Shani does not like and so he crushes that entirely and makes the person much more humble and malleable. Of course, most people don’t like it and resist it and so they think that Shani is a horrible and evil planet with a negative influence but Shani only brings their own doings in front of them. Therefore, Shani is also a very spiritual planet because it makes people more honest and sincere and removes their vices whatever they might be. Shani worshippers are able to develop an immense feeling of love and devotion towards Him. They are able to overcome great obstacles in their lives by praying to Shani. They are able to develop mystical powers and “Siddhis” which Shani bestows and hence acquire a heightened sense of intuition. If one can make friends with Shani and get Him to be pleased with them then nothing can hold one back because in a way, the person has made friends with the darkness, shadows and obstacles that could come in one’s way and then there is only light and happiness. That means one is ready to face up the dark side of life and not afraid of anything.
The Lion and The Jackal
If one hopes to prevent Saturn from mangling ones life, as he has mangled so many lives, one should make regular offerings of black sesame seeds, sesame oil and sugar on Saturdays to an iron image of that planet; also, make Saturday donations of sesame and iron to the needy. Also, to please Shani, take very good care of elders at home and outside, as Shani is believed to be old in age and therefore he likes elderly people to be taken care of. Also he is like the head of the family who is strict but equally caring and rational. It is also a wide spread belief that one who is an ardent devotee of Lord SriLakshmi Narsinha Swami or Lord Venkateswara (Balaji) is also always protected by Sri Shani Maharaj.
There is a Shani temple at Shanishingnapur in Maharashtra. Shingnapur is located half-way between Shirdi and Aurangabad. The deity here is “Swayambhu” that is self emerged from earth in form of Black but imposing stone. Though no one knows exact period, it is believed that Swayambhu shaneeswara was found from time immemorial by shepherds of then local hamlet. It is believed be in existence at least since Kalyug.
In Vedic numerology, Shani’s number is 8. People born on 8, 17 and 26 are all considered 8 numbered. They are hard working, disciplined and have the ability to look at the hidden intention of people and hence they are excellent judge of people. They are happy to serve people. Success comes to them with great difficulty and after a lot of hard work. A common mantra for drawing the support of Shani is: Om Sham Shanaischaryaye Namah.