We had earlier had our attention drawn to this verse (and its backdrop) by several associates. It is a work of one of the great Tamil Shaivite saints, Sambandar (also anglicized, as here, as Campantar) – and, as one can immediately see, it is a verse for the simultaneous praising of Lord Shiva, as well as the warding against potentially baleful effects of various Grahas (‘Planets’ – although that does not quite capture the appropriate sense to the term).
And that is eminently logical, for reasons that we shall shortly soon look at.
Now, as we have covered elsewhere – a Graha is, we may say, an ‘Influencer’. Indeed, it is etymologically cognate with our modern English: ‘Grab’. They ‘grab’ one, they ‘influence’ one according to the placement within one’s birth-chart and Their place within the Heavens.
This can have potentially positive impacts – or it can lead one to wrack and ruin accordingly. However, whereas Western Astrology often (at least, in the form we tend to encounter it day-to-day) tends toward the ‘descriptive’ or ‘diagnostic’ … inherent within Jyotisha (‘Hindu Astrology’, to … well, not-exactly-translate the Starlit term in question) is the knowledge of how to remedy these difficulties thusly detected.
Say one is having difficulties due to a placement of Mars – we have various ritual and other forms of assistance designed to ameliorate (or more usefully channel) those worrisome energies. One might be prescribed prayer to Lord Hanuman, or the wearing of Red Coral, for instance. These are general solutions. More specific scenarios (say, an impending marriage) demand more specific answers, of course.
One approach to the appeasement of the Grahas (of which there are Nine – NavaGraha – the Sun (Surya), Moon (Chandra), Mercury (Budh), Venus (Shukra), Mars (Mangala), Jupiter (Brihaspati), Saturn (Shani), and Rahu and Ketu) is the direct engagement with those Graha. So, one might attempt to propitiate a ‘Planet’ through the recitation of Their Mantras or the engagement in conduct which They deem to be positive and worthy.
However, another is the ‘going one step above’ in a certain sense – and seeking the intercession of particular Gods that have dominion or responsibility over such spheres.
That exemplar given earlier viz. prayer to Hanuman for assistance with the energies of Mangala (Mars) or Shani (Saturn) is just such an instance – an approach couched in the relevant mythology (particularly that attached to the broader complex of the Ramayana) wherein such a relationship is observably attested and established.
We might succinctly surmise it as a circumstance of a Graha agreeing not to trouble the Devotee of a particular God, in a feudal ‘divying up’ of approved spheres of influence. To over-simplify things rather dramatically for ease of shorthanded referencing.
So – ‘Going to the God Above’, then.
In effect and in essence, that is what this Verse is endeavouring to do.
Now, the question thusly becomes – why Lord Shiva? Why is He enlisted in order to ‘cure all’, across all Nine Navagraha Figures?
Well, on one level, it is obvious. He is All Powerful.
Yet we can do better than that in pursuit of our explication.
Lord Rahu – one of those two Serpents mentioned in the text – is said to ‘Stand at the Heart of Neelakantha’, and to be a pious Shaivite Devotee.
Ketu (the other Serpent), I have not examined in depth nor detail the relevant mythology – however we should note that in one of the most archaic occurrences for Ketu within the Shruti Canon, that being AV-S XIX 9 7-10 (chiefly oriented toward the propitiation of the Grahas), we do find the Rudras most prominently hailed directly alongside as a coda upon the verse. We also, tellingly, seem to find ‘Ketu’ as a Name of Shiva per the ‘Thousand Name’ Hymnal to He in Shiva Purana IV 35.
There is much we can (and have) said upon Rudra – Brihaspati (Jupiter) coterminity. I shall not repeat all of that here. Taittiriya Aranyaka I 10 1 should seem to directly co-equate Rudra with Brihaspati; and we would invite interested readers to examine our recent ‘On The Hellenic Propitiation of Sirius Wolf-Zeus In Order To Re-Bestow Life To The Natural World’ and ‘Sirius In Central Asia – Soma, Tisya, Tishtrya, Rudra’ for some further details pertaining to the archaeo-astrology.
Shaani, meanwhile, is most intriguing for having an array of straight-up Roudran conceptry going on. These include iconographic points of resonance (the Corvid, the Bow, etc.), shared Theonymics (indeed, Shani is quite directly within that aforementioned Sahasranama Stotram to Shiva) – and even a deadly gaze and being responsible for the headlessness of the young Ganesha in some myths.
However, I must also note that there is a bit of a conflation / confusion going on viz. Shaani in a number of popular commentations – wherein two rather distinct theonymics, ‘Shanaischara’ and ‘Shaneshvara’ (or ‘Shaneswara’, ‘Saneeswaran’, etc.).
Now, the former ( शनैश्चर ) – it refers to Shaani the Slow-Moving One. For, after all, the length of time it takes Lord Shani to complete but one orbit of the Sun is near thirty of our Terran years (which, due to the breadth of a Sign, means that a ‘Saturn Return’ customarily occurs around the time one is somewhere about 27).
The latter, however, Śanīśvara ( शनीश्वर ), is Shani[‘s] Ishvara. The Lord of Shaani. Who is that Lord? Well, the same as the Ishvara of the Cosmos Entire – the God-Emperor, Lord Shiva.
To explicate more fully: Shaani prays to Lord Shiva. This does not make Shaani into Shanishvara – rather, it establishes a primacy for He Who Is Lord Over All, even over this most Dread of Grahas.
And that is exactly as it should be.
Sanaiscara [and yes, I am using multiple styles of anglicization for further reach] is, in fact, the Son of Shiva. How do we know? Well, we could digress through my long-standing theoretical broad-ranging Indo-European theological reconstruction that would also encompass the Dioscuri and Asvins (variously, Sons of Surya, Sons of Dyaus, and Sons of Rudra), Zeus, Dyaus Pitar, Surya in RigVedic Saliency, the situation of Saranyu and Chhaya relative to Demeter and Demeter Erinyes or Melaina (and therefore, of course, Skadi & Kali) etc. …
… or we could just go with the Smriti statements upon the subject. Let’s do the latter. Vishnu Purana I 8 directly states Shanaischara to be a Son of Rudra. Specifically, it would appear, Sired by One of the AshtaMurti [‘Eight Facings’] ‘visages’ of Rudra that we have frequently discussed elsewhere. Wherein Rudra takes on eight ‘elementally keyed’ or ‘portfolio-associated’ Forms in reaction to Brahma’s Naming of Him – and has Eight Wives that are, likewise, Eight Forms of the Devi. One Form for each Form.
One of these is, predictably, the Sun – and so, therefore, it presents no dysjunction with the more commonly encountered mythology for Shani as a ‘Son of the Sun’. Indeed, the situation is further double-buttressed with the identification of Suvarcala as one of these Wife-Faces of Devi to Rudra in various Puranic sources … alongside the identification of the relevant figure (facing) of Rudra as the Sun; and, elsewhere, Suvarcala being prominently noted as Wife of Surya.
Now, despite the statement in at least one compendium of lore, it actually appears that it is Rudra Himself that is the Sun, rather than Bhava (another of the Eight Facings) in various Puranic sources.
The Brahmanda Purana [II 10] makes this quite clear. Indeed, we shall quote directly therefrom upon a subsidiary point:
“His first body has been glorified by the name Rauḍrī. Its wife is Suvarcalā and her son is Śanaiścara (the Saturn).
The second body of Bhava is remembered by the name of Āpaḥ. Its wife is remembered as Dhātrī and the son is remembered as Uśanas (the Venus).
The body of the third name of Śarva is Bhūmī (the earth). Its wife is Vikeśī and the son is remembered as Aṅgāraka (the Mars).
Vāta (wind) is the body of the fourth name of Īśāna. Its wife is Śivā by name. Anila (Wind) has two sons, viz.: Manojava (Having the speed of the mind) and Avijñātagati (One of inscrutable movement).
Agni (Fire) is remembered by Brāhmaṇas, as the body of Paśupati. Svāhā is remembered as its wife. Skanda is remembered as its son.
The Ether (Ākāśa) is called the body Bhīma, his sixth name. The quarters are remembered as its wives and Svarga (heaven) is remembered as its son.
The seventh body Ugra is remembered as the initiated Brāhmaṇa. Dīkṣā is remembered as its wife and Santana is called the son.
The body Mahat of the eighth name is remembered as Candramas (Moon). Its wife is Rohiṇī. Her son is remembered as Budha.”
[Brahmanda Purana II 10, Tagere translation]
We quoted all of that for the rather simple reason that it also gets us a rather direct Roudran parentage for, in addition to Shani (Saturn), also Mangala (Mars – here identified as Angaraka : The Red, or the Colour of Burning Charcoal), Shukra (Venus – here Ushanas : which, whilst ostensibly from ‘Ushat’, as in ‘Dear’, we would consider the similarity with ‘Ushas’, as in ‘Dawn’, to be entirely uncoincidental. Venus, after all, is the ‘Dawn Star’), and Budha (i.e. Mercury – the Sanskrit name referring to ‘Awareness’, and if memory serves having some degree of connexion with ‘Boding’, in the sense of communication, in Germanic speech; both from Proto-Indo-European *bʰewdʰ- – ‘to be awake’, ‘to be aware’; and ‘to make aware’ being how we arrive at ‘Bodes’. Mercury, as in the Western sphere, is strongly linked with Communication and Enlightenment).
To further pick up the thread viz. Mars, I shall quote myself:
“The Puranic mythology around Mars makes for interesting reading. There, we find the origin of Mangala stated to be drops of sweat from tapasic exertion from the brow of Lord Shiva that had fallen upon the Earth (with the Latter acting as His Mother for these purposes).
Shiva’s situation at the time of this was engaging Himself in strenuous pursuits to endeavour to control and contain His immense grief at losing His Wife, Lady Sati.”
That is the presentation contained within the Skanda Purana at IV 1 17 4-6; and also the Shiva Purana at II Rudra Samhita 3 10 7-27.
Although another Puranic narrative presents the circumstances somewhat differently. In Brahmanda Purana II 10 78 we find Sharva (‘The Archer’ – Rudra) married to Vikeshi as Her Husband (with pointed ‘Earth’ linkage), and states Angaraka (Mars) to be Their Son; whilst Brahmanda Purana, II 24 48 directly equates Skanda with Mars / Mangala (there referred to as Angaraka) and in line 91 states Kumara Mars born to Vikesi and Agni. The matrimonial situation is further buttressed by Markandeya Purana 52 – wherein Rudra in His Ishana form is stated to be married to Vikesi (Isana being ‘Light’, ‘Ruler’; and in the Shatapatha Brahmana (VI 1 3 17) being that Form and Name of Rudra-Agni (therein Himself referred to as Kumara – ‘Young Prince’) correlate with the Sun), with Their Son being Lohitanga (Mars, again); whilst elsewhere in the same section we find Rudra’s Bhima form to be married to Svaha with Their Child being Skanda. As we can clearly see, it is a situation of many Names, many Qualities, many Aspects, many Facings even – for but Three.
As the Markandeya Purana then puts it:
“Such was Rudra Himself. He found Satī for his wife; and through Dakṣa’s curse Satī quitted Her body. She was the Daughter of Himavat by Menā, O brāhman; Her brother was Maināka, the chiefest friend of Ambhodhi (the Ocean.) And the Lord Bhava [Rudra] married Her again as His Only Wife.”
(F. Eden Pargiter translation)
At this point we ought move on to Budh. And here we encounter something of a … difficulty for our narrative and our incipient typology.
For you see, one of the defining elements to Budh’s mythology within the Puranas is that of a conflict between Brihaspati / Guru (Jupiter) and Soma / Chandra, over the figure of Tara (‘Star(light)’, and similarly etymologically derived , from PIE *h₂stḗr ), a most beautiful Goddess that was married to the former and carried off rapaciously by the latter.
Now, we are on relatively easy grounds to assert that a figure named Soma, named Chandra … may also very well be a figure named Rudra. As we have the rather well-known suites of scriptural attestation to confirm this. And so, Budh being the Son of Chandra would make Him by default a rather likely prospect for a Son of Shiva.
Except at least some sources (for instance, Padma Purana I 12), have Rudra fairly directly called upon to fight against Soma. Which would, interestingly, place Rudra in a similar position to Brihaspati in the other narratives of the conflicted encounter – not least due to the heavy-grade munitions employed by Rudra and Brihaspati sharing some other potential coterminities that we may speak upon at some other juncture.
So, is Rudra Chandra or is Rudra Brihaspati? Or is Rudra Both? Yes. And perhaps not quite. We have, as noted earlier, been keen to point out that the Grahas are not always 1:1 with the Gods – and by this, we in no small part had intended to intimate that what is recorded in certain of the mythology is … conceptry not entirely designed to be taken ‘literally’, but rather to encode other important precepts and principles. In this particular case, the situation of characterization between the Moon, Mercury, and Jupiter as Planets and Their attendant, accordant energies and interrelations. But more upon that, perhaps, at some other point in time.
What we would, nevertheless, note is the situation aforesaid in Brahmanda Purana II 10, wherein Rudra – as Chandramas – does indeed father Budh, with the Mother being Rohini. The fact that this is also the name of the Nakshatra that represents the Goddess / Wife / Cow that is defended against the depredations of Prajapati by Ardra / Rudra / Pashupati – well, that’s rather interesting.
To this we should also add additional attestation drawn from the Markandeya Purana (LII, in the Pargiter rendition) – there, we find that it is, surprise surprise, Rudra as Mahadeva in blissfully conjoined partnership with Rohini that are the Parents of Budh.
Although we could have just short-circuited the whole thing by instead citing Skanda Purana I 46, wherein we find that Budh’s elevation to the status of a Graha by none other than Lord Shiva (in particular, it should appear, as the aforementioned ‘Bhava’ facing).
This is a not entirely unusual phenomenon as applies certain Beings, and Grahas in particular (it is directly stated for Ketu in Skanda Purana I 51, for instance, and seemingly implied for Rahu in the immediately preceding chapter; Mangala (Angara), meanwhile, undergoes just such a process in Skanda Purana I 46, Shukra in ibid. 48 (albeit with some … interesting additional elements that include something of a ‘second fathering’, to put things politely), and Brihaspati in ibid. 47 (there through, inter alia, the attainment of knowledge known to Mahadeva, and self-control).). Their Power, Their Station, comes from Their Relationship with the Great Father.
Not merely in a ‘paternal’ – or, dare somebody suggest it, a ‘nepotistic’ sense (and I am genuinely not quite sure how much the tawdry inference of such a term can be feasibly suggested to apply when we are dealing with quite literal Divine Bloodlines, and the accompanying Potency of Qualification flowing thusly therefrom … it really is a situative circumstance wherein One being related to the Figure In Charge in such a manner DOES render one automatically of greater qualification for holding the role in question. Not least due to the other fact that there’s often some very specialized ‘engineering’ of the Scion in question to take up such a position, from even afore They were ever Born).
But rather, that Relationship ‘stablished when the would-be or soon-to-be Graha in question demonstrates Themselves ready and worthy to be Invested with such a sacrosanct and hallowed position of such incredible both import and purport as that of a Graha.
And so – whether we wish to argue and/or approach it in the rather literal (or, at least, mytho-literal) sense of ‘paternity’, or that other sense of ‘seniority’ and regal rulership and ultimate regulation …
We find that Lord Shiva is, indeed, the Sire Whom the Planets are the executors of certain delegated powers for. Whom the Planets, the Stars, the Sun and the Moon Themselves are but glittering adornments, truly mighty subjects indeed. Part of a great, and grand ‘chain of being’ stretching from Him Up Upon High, the most Celestial of Sky Father(s) all the way up there down to us down here upon this Earth and Globe of not-quite-ours.
And so therefore, yes, if one is able to obtain the faculty for direct audience with He Who Rules All – the Ishvara Himself – then it only makes sense that this should therefore also facilitate an end to any and all woes which might be inflicted via Graha (mis-)alignments.
Ishvara, after all, Controls All – it’s right there in the name.
Although as applies this one particular verse of Sambandar or Campantar, we could simply have been even more direct, again.
Look at the first line.
Now, a most renowned Sage indeed,, the great Shakta devotee, Bhaskararaya Makhindra, in His commentary upon the excellent Tantrika Hymnal to the Goddess – the Sarvasiddhikari StutiH (the ‘Hymn for the Author(ess) of the All-Power(s)’ – or, I suppose, the Prayer to Author All the Powers … She is, after all, Vak – and the Hymnal Itself does hail Her as occurring in the form of Mantras and Matrukas (effectively, the relevant elements to the Empowered Speech’s fulsome Expression) … the ‘Forms of Sacred Speech’ in the sense of the ‘Constructions’ and also the ‘Forms of Sacred Speech’ with which said ‘Constructions’ are to be even Built) found in the Setubandha (which we might shorthand as being a ‘manual’ for the Tantrika observance-elements in question) –
Well, He made the logical point that as the Hymnal rather directly states the pertinent supra-form of the Devi to be the Ruler (Isha – ईश) of the Ganas (i.e. the ‘Gana-Esha’, the ‘Ganesha’) – of Grahas and Nakshatras (Lunar Signs) and Rashis (Solar Signs), as well as appearing in the Form of These (viz. रूपिन् – Rupin … a most beauteous appearance, indeed ! ) …
… without disrespecting the Grahas or being negligent as to Their due share of proper pious invocation and offering, a sufficiently adroit Tantrika practitioner would be able to ‘go to the source’ when it came to the remedying of matters astrological.
Now, before anybody gets ahead of themselves with some funny ideas – we ought clarify what we mean by that.
We most emphatically do NOT mean to suggest that an ordinary person, or even a rather pious devotee, can simply carry out prayers to the Goddess and not have to worry about the influences of Grahas forever after. Not how this works.
Being equipped with this knowledge is a very good ‘first step’ towards perhaps one day being able to have such an engagement with Her – yet there is a great and a grave gulf of distinction between ‘abstract knowledge’, and its more reified cousins / forebears, which eventually can be stirred also into tangible ‘action’.
Which is what this kind of wisdom and insight ultimately is – it is not so much that ‘action’ of this kind is ‘applied knowledge’. But just the other way around. Wisdom of this quality is ‘action potentiated’. ‘Action waiting to happen’, action already happening, and just also happening to be talked about or observed as it moves – in the similar manner to sound or physical force in wave-formation as ripples upon the pond.
The ‘knowledge’, in essence, then, is a secondary expression of the ‘action’. It’s knowledge beyond easy words. Precisely because, as we had said earlier – She is a-priori to same. Good gateway, though. Plus a few thousand miles. And I’m not here talking about the ever-expanding length of this piece nor (necessarily) my various other tributes to Her !
But we digress.
Consider it this way. We know that the Sun is up there, in the sky. And rather immense it is too. Takes a lot of effort to get there, and who knows how much of what kind of force should be required to actually interact and engage with it as anything other than the tiniest and most inconsequential of recepticles to its immense (and likely life-disintegrating through sheer over-abundance) energy.
And now imagine the Power that is above this Power … that makes the Sun ‘go’, empowers the Sun with its, with His, with Her Radiance (viz. Kushmanda).
And controls not only this most mighty of Grahas … but also all the other Grahas as well.
A mere suite of booster-rockets, a capsule, and some moon-boots isn’t going to be nearly enough to go seeking to petition Her. All one can do is try and live rather harmoniously with Same. Samrajya.
Yet we are digressing, and again rather wildly at that. Of literally astronomical proportions, as my somewhat … exerted mind from last night’s sustained Shaivite pious observances for the first Somvar of Shravan Maas still seeks to continue pushing yet further than its mortal limitations should, perhaps, be infiltratingly slipped past in the morning (and now mid-afternoon) light.
Out there, there are indeed those who are able to engage with Her on – if not an ‘equal footing’ (for these are feet that run far beneath and yet above the furthest extremities of the firmament) , well, at least ‘well’ and ‘highest’ enough to be Noticed. Able to Listen when They are ‘Given the Time of Day’.
The foremost of These is, of course, Her Husband. Lord Shiva.
And so this is, in part, how these great humans – that are oh so more than human – manage to actually do and be what They are in such regards. By managing to ‘resonate’ themselves, their own Gods-given essence, in such a fashion that … well, you get the idea. In various cases, these great men (and women) are, in fact, incarnations of Divinity that … may not have quite realized it prior.
To bring all of this back to Lord Shiva Himself – what we are saying is that we are very unsurprised to find such a glorious Verse as this.
For the simple reason that it makes so much salient, cosmological sense.
All we have done (at, perhaps, far grander and more expository length than may have been called for), is set out some of the further ‘demonstration’ of other scriptural bases that help to reinforce its central premise.
And, at the same time, help us to inexorably show Lord Shiva as, we may say, a truly ‘Celestial’ Sky Father indeed.
Thus also drawing together numerous pre-existing strands to our (and by this we most properly mean His) underlying Shaivite (-Shakta) theology.
Just as one should do for a month’s observance such as this !
With the Favour of Lord Shiva – we shall feel comfortable, even amidst the near-visible immensity of the influencing energy of the Great Grahas surging around us.
For we know that His Influence, and His Favour (when deservedly Bestowed), is ever the greater !
ॐ नमः शिवाय !