(Other names : Shanaischarya, Shaneeshvara, Shani Dev)
Shani is one of the Navagrahas (Nine Planets) which are the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology. Shaneeshvara is the Lord of Saturday; the word “Shani” also denotes the seventh day, or Saturday in most Indian languages. The origin of the name Shani comes from the phrase “Shanaye Krama” i.e. the one who moves slowly, as Saturn takes about 30 years to orbit around the Sun. Shani is also known as Shanaischarya, Shani Bhagavan, Shaneesvara, and Shani Dev. Astrologically Saturn is considered “lame” because he is the slowest moving of the Nine Planets (an afflicted Saturn in a horoscope may literally indicate lameness).
Saturn is said to be 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 for why he is the slowest of the Grahas.
Lord of the sinews and nerves, of the west, of Saturday and exalted in Libra, and ruling 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 the son of Surya Dev (the Hindu Sun God) and his wife Chhaya (“Shadow”) and hence also known as Chayyaputra (Son of the Shadow). He is the half-brother 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, and two daggers, and is mounted on a Black vulture or a raven for his vehicle. He worships 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 or kept concealed.
He is known as the greatest of teachers. 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 everyone a period of bad luck that is Sadhe Saati – seven and a half years of Shani transiting the moon’s Sign (rashi) in a horoscope i.e. he spends two and a half years in the Sign before the moon’s 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 misfortune 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 restores to his former glory. Shani just wanted to puncture his ego. The 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 make love and tried to entice him with her beauty. Shani however, being deep in meditation, was oblivious of his surroundings and paid no attention. Feeling insulted, she cursed Shani that whoever he gazed upon would meet with misfortune and destruction.
Once Shani told Shiva that it was time for His Sadhe Sati, and that he was coming to stay with Shiva. Shiv asked him “What is the use of your staying with me? But still, when you plan to visit, let me first know about it, and then only come and visit.” Shani said “All right.” Two days later, Shani came to Shiva at his home in Banaras and said – “Now I am coming to stay with you.” 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 emerged from the river and then smilingly asked Shani – “What could you do to me?”
Shani said – “Lord, although you rule the Tri-Lok (the Three Worlds), from fear of me you ran and hid yourself in the Ganga River for 7 and 1/2 years. And you call that ‘doing nothing to you’?” At this, Shiv saluted Shani and thanked him, saying – “Your power is indeed great; you are really the most terrifying planet of all and the average man cannot survive your punishment.”
Lord Ram was not spared by Shani. When Shani began passing over Ram’s Moon, he was forced to leave his kingdom and go into exile for 14 years. Despite being an incarnation of Vishnu Himself. And while there, his wife was stolen by Ravan, and he had to wander far and long 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 ended up 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 Brahmin, 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
King Nala also 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 His Sadhe sati He was accused of stealing the divine Syamantakmani and had to bear the insult. Yudhishthir and his brothers – they were also exiled for 13 years. And the 100 Kaurava brothers were all slain at the hands of the Pandavas. All this was the consequence of their Karma –during their 7 and 1/2 year periods.”
Ravan had gained control of all 9 Planets. He installed them face down on the 9 steps which went up to his throne. Each morning when he went to his throne to sit there, he would firmly step on the back of each planet, humiliating them. To teach him a lesson, Shani asked the visiting Naradji to suggest to Ravan that he turn the planets on to their backs, so that Shani could gaze at Ravan.
At Narad’s instigation, Ravan did so. As soon as Ravan turned those planets over onto their backs, Shani’s gaze fell on him and his mind became perverted. Within a few months, he had kidnapped Sita. Subsequently, Ram invaded Lanka, and all his brothers and friends, army, and people were slaughtered in the war that ensued – all as a result of Shani’s effect on him during his 7 and 1/2 year period.
When Ganesha was born, his mother, Parvati, showed off her new baby to the other gods. Unfortunately, she insisted that Shani also look at the child. Shani (Saturn), whose fiery gaze brings karma home to roost, obligingly glanced at the child at her request, using only one eye, but even this caused the baby’s head to be burned to ashes.
The god Vishnu came to the rescue, and replaced the baby’s missing head with that of an elephant, and the world was saved from the wrath of Shakti, who vowed to shut down all of her manifestations one by one if her child was not restored to life immediately. Either Shiva or Vishnu found an elephant’s head from somewhere and used it to restore Ganesha to life.
Most people have oversized egos and a feeling of superiority over others, which Shani does not like, and so he crushes that attitude entirely and makes the person much more humble and malleable. Of course, most people don’t like this treatment and resist it with all their might, thinking all the while 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. For which we should all be grateful Shani worshipers 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 “Siddhi’s” 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 one, then nothing can hold one back because in a way, one 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 to the dark side of life and are not afraid of anything. If one wishes to prevent Saturn from stirring up trouble in one’s life, as he has mangled so many others, then make regular offerings of black sesame seeds, sesame oil and sugar on Saturdays should first be made to an iron image of that planet; also, it is good to 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 mature to elderly, therefore he likes to see elderly people to be taken care of, which can also serve as a devotional.
Also he is like the head of the family, who is strict but equally caring and rational for the greater good. It is also a widespread belief that one who is an ardent devotee of Lord Sri Lakshmi Narsinha Swami or Lord Venkateswara (Balaji) is also always protected by Sri Shani Maharaj.
The main temple devoted to Shani is at Shingnapur in Maharashtra. Shingnapur is located half-way between Shirdi and Aurangabad. The deity here is “Swayambhu”; that is self-emerged from the earth in form of a black but imposing monolith. Though no one knows the exact period, it is believed that this Swayambhu Shaneeswara was found by shepherds of the local hamlet. It is believed to have been in existence at least since the beginning of the Kalyug. (3500-5000 years).
In Vedic numerology, Shani’s number is 8. People born on the days 8, 17 and 26 are all considered 8-numbered. They are hard-working, disciplined and have the ability to discern the hidden intentions of people, and hence they are excellent judges of character. 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.