Worshipping the NAVAGRAHAS

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Navagrahas (800-900 CE) around Eklingji temple, Udaipur. Planets are traditionally carved on rectangular slabs & bring protection to temples.
  • The ‘navagrahas’ or nine celestial bodies, which are an integral part of our solar system, are known to have a profound impact on our lives. In addition to their influences in our current life-time, the effect that these ‘grahas’ have on us is representative of our ‘karmic’ past and indicative of what the future might hold for us. Worshipping the ‘navagrahas’ remains an inherent aspect of our tradition and is a cornerstone of our belief in the integrated and harmonious existence of all the elements of our universe.

 

The influence of the stars, planets and other elements of the cosmos on our existence is undeniable. Planetary positions and conjunctions at a given point in time can create, support and disrupt harmony in nature. While the energies exerted by these forces have a visible and marked impact on life on our planet, these energies also have an intangible, deeper connect with our everyday lives – our joys and sorrows.

 

The word graha means ‘to grasp’. Planets are believed to grasp and exert karmic forces that affect our lives, both in a positive and negative manner. A graha can be auspicious or inauspicious for an individual or a group of people – even nations – based on its planetary position at a given point of time. The subtle energies conveyed by the grahas affect the physical and mental faculties of living beings, thus impacting our karmas and the consequences thereof.

 

Jyotisha-shastram, an important branch of Vedic studies – also known as a Vedanga or one of the limbs of the Vedas – is a comprehensive study of how the various elements of the cosmos and their interplay affect our lives, individually and collectively, and our karmas. The karma phalas or ‘fruits of our karmas’ are believed to have far-reaching outcomes across life-times. Astrological charts are, therefore, drawn based on planetary positions and individual horoscopes are made factoring in the location of different planets and their impact at the time of one’s birth. A horoscope is, basically, a karmic chart. It is sort of a balance sheet giving a snapshot of our assets and liabilities, in the form of good and bad karmas as reflected by the planetary conjunctions, and an analysis of the same provides information about potential opportunities and pitfalls in our lives.

 

Worship of the Sun, the Moon and other planets, together called as the Navagrahas or the nine celestial bodies, is an important aspect of the Hindu way of life. These deities include the Sun or Surya and the Moon or Chandra along with seven other planetary bodies, namely, Mercury or Budha, Mars or Mangala, Venus or Sukra, Jupiter or Brihaspati/Guru, Saturn or Sani followed by Rahu representing the North Lunar Node and Ketu representing the South Lunar Node. Rahu and Ketu are known as ‘shadow planets’ and are depicted as the head and tail of a demonic snake, respectively. Seven of the nine grahas are linked to the seven days of the week as per the Hindu calendar and are also worshipped individually on these days.

 

All Navagrahas

 

Stories and descriptions about the navagrahas as well as their impact are found throughout our epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and Puranas including the Brahmanda Purana, the Matsya Purana, the Shiva Purana, the Linga Purana, the Kurma Purana, the Garuda Purana, the Vayu Purana and the Bhavishya Purana.

 

While Maharishi Valmiki has given a detailed account of the planetary positions at the time of Rama’s birth, Maharishi Vyasa has sketched out the astral landscape leading up to the start of the great Mahabharata war. These details have now proved extremely useful as we seek to ascertain possible dates for the key events of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

 

References to planets and deities associated with them are also found in ancient Greek and Roman literature and astrology.

 

Surya or Sun is central to the solar system, the provider of energy and, therefore, represents life-force, intelligence and prosperity. Chandra or Moon is closely linked to water bodies and influences the mind and emotions. Mangala or Mars is associated with courage and aggression, while Budha or Mercury impacts learning, analytical and communication skills. Guru or Jupiter symbolises wisdom and knowledge and is considered a key catalyst for success, while Sukra or Venus stands for wealth, beauty and desire. Rahu and Ketu are considered powerful points of energy and represent conflicts and ‘karmic’ effects from previous lives

 

Sani or Saturn is representative of austerity and discipline, which are important characteristics for leading a spiritual and fruitful life. This graha is often misunderstood and feared to have sweeping negative effects on people. However, under the influence of Sani, one develops a strong sense of responsibility and resilience, the ability to endure and overcome hardships. Sani is also known to shower immense blessings and spiritual strength.

 

A popular folklore based on Ramayana highlights the defeat of Ravana at the hands of Sani. Having brought the navagrahas under his control, Ravana made them lie face down on the steps to his throne. Even Sani could not cast his spell on him as he was unable to face Ravana from his position. It was then that Narada came to Ravana and mockingly told him that the latter had no guts to face the navagrahas and that is why he had made them lie face down. His pride pricked, Ravana ordered the navagrahas to lie on their backs. This enabled Sani to cast his spell on Ravana and set in motion the events that brought about his downfall, paving the way for the final battle with Rama.

 

In situations where particular grahas are found to have negative influences, suitable remedial measures are suggested including worship of those grahas on their corresponding days of the week. A sight that most temple-goers cannot miss on Saturdays, the day presided over by Sani, is the rush of devotees at his shrine to light lamps and pray for relief from the myriad problems they face in their day-to-day lives. These lamps are generally lit using pure gingelly oil and made with wicks constituting black sesame seeds wrapped in black coloured pieces of cloth.

 

Lamps with sesame seeds

 

The ‘shadow planets’, Rahu and Ketu, are also believed to have malefic influences during certain hours of the day. For instance, the duration of time wherein Rahu is believed to have negative influence is known as Rahu kaalam. Auspicious ceremonies and important new activities are usually not undertaken during these hours.

 

The navagrahas are also known to have an impact on the different parts of our bodies and their smooth functioning. For instance, Surya provides longevity and good health, Chandra has an impact on the digestive system, fertility and mental health, Mangala affects muscular strength, Budha causes respiratory and skin-related issues, Guru impacts metabolism, liver and pancreas, Sukra the reproductive organs, while Sani is associated with nerve-related issues and Rahu and Ketu with fears and phobias.

 

The navagraha shanti puja or navagraha homam, as it is popularly known, is an elaborate Vedic ritual invoking the blessings of these grahas, and is performed by trained priests or ritwiks, who chant mantras and make offerings to them. This ritual is usually performed coinciding with auspicious occasions in the family.

 

Most temples in South India have, within the temple complex, a place devoted to the navagrahas, where devotees offer prayers and do parikrama or circumambulate the deities, nine times. The navagrahas are usually placed on a black coloured stone or granite pedestalThey are placed in a single square with Surya at the centre surrounded by the other eight deities.

 

Interestingly, no two navagraha deities are placed facing each other. The directions in which these deities are placed on the pedestal typically based upon whether the temple follows Agama Pratishtha or Vaidika Pratishtha. There are also other kinds of installations and manifestations of the navagraha deities that are found in different temples around the country.

 

Tamil Nadu is home to many well-known navagraha temples. According to tradition, the navagrahas at the Navapashanam Temple, located at Devipattinam is said to be installed by Lord Rama himself.

 

Kumbakonam town in Thanjavur district has nine temples dedicated primarily to the worship of Lord Shiva that have important pratishtanas of each of the navagrahas, within the respective temples. Suriyanar Temple is dedicated to Surya, Thinagaloor Temple to Chandra, Vaitheeswaran Temple to Angaraka or Mangala, Thiruvenkadu Temple to Budha, Alangudi Temple to Guru, Kanjanoor Temple to Sukra, Thirunallaru Temple to Sani, Thirunageswaram Temple to Rahu and Keezhperumpallam Temple to Ketu.

 

Navagraha Temples of Tamil Nadu. 

 

In the vicinity of many of these temples, one can find the practitioners of naadi astrology, which includes recommendations of suitable remedies for seekers, who are afflicted by various problems on account of malefic influences of planets and their effects, over many lifetimes.

 

The navagraha temple on top of Chitrasal Hill in Guwahati, Assam, has nine Shivalingas representing the nine celestial bodies, each covered with a garment of the colour that represents the particular graha. The Shivalinga in the centre is symbolic of Surya. Among the many famous temples in Maharashtra dedicated to the navagrahas, the Sani temple at Shingnapur is renowned. The navagraha temple at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of the river Shipra is also well-known. Many temples in other parts of India too, now have the navagraha pratishthas, within the temple complexes.

 

Navagraha Temple Chitrasal Guwahati

 

The navagrahas are also represented in the form of navagraha vruksha vanas, which is a cluster of nine different trees that correspond to each of the nine grahas.

 

Our tradition of worshipping the navagrahas with their different individual positive and negative characteristics and effects, collectively as one unit, is a hallmark of the celebration of multiplicity in our daily lives, in our ecosystems, in our universe.

 

References

1 Great Epics of India: Puranas by Dipavali Debroy and Bibek Debroy.

2 Placement for nine planets

3 Why do we worship Navagrahas

4 Navagrahas – Masters of Behaviour, Fortunes – A. Sathyanarayanan

 

Also read

1 Jyotisha, Hindu Astrology by Dr David Frawley

2 Visit the famous Navagraha Temples of Tamil Nadu

3 Astrology Science of the New Millenium

4 Guide to visiting Navagraha Temples near Kumbakonam

5 What is Naadi Shastra