Shani is one of the Navagrahas which are the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology. 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.
The birth of Shani Dev
As per ‘Scanda Poorana‘ God Soorya was married to Daksha Kanya Sadnya. From God Surya, she had three children. One was Vaivastahva Manu, the second was Yama Raj and the third was Yamuna. Though Sandhya was a chaste and highly devout wife to sun god, she could not tolerate the radiance of God Surya. She used to feel that by doing penance she could increase her brilliance. Or, by the power of her penance, she could diminish the glare of God Surya. But for God Surya, she was a spouse worshiping wife. Sadnya loved her children very much. But, she was very upset with the radiance of God Surya. One day, she thought that she would separate from God Surya, go to her parents’ home and undertake great penance. And if there was opposition, she would go far away to a lonely and undertake great penance.
Sandhya created a woman namely Chaya (shadow) from her own shadow and asked her to represent her role as the wife of Sun and take care of the three children too. However, she did not want to reveal any of her plans to Sun God. Doing so, she left for thick forests to do penance.
Sadnya hander over her responsibilities to Chaya and went away to her parents’ place. She went home and told her father that she could not stand the radiance of God Surya. And therefore, without telling her husband she had come away. Listening to this, her father scolded her and told her that without being called, if the daughter returns home, both her and her father would be cursed. He told her to go back to her home immediately. Then, Saudnya began to worry that if she went back, what would happen to the responsibilities which she had given to Chaya. Where would Chaya go? And their secret would be exposed. So, Sadnya went to the dense jungles in Uttar Kurukshetra and took repose there. She was fearful of her safety in the jungle because of her youthfulness and beauty. And she changed her form into that of a mare so that none could recognize her and started her penance.
Since Chaya resembled Sandhya very closely, Sun God could not doubt her. Three more children were born to Sun God through Chaya namely Manu, Shani and Tapti. Therefore, Shani is called the son of Surya and the brother of Yama.
As Shani was in the womb of Chaya, she undertook a severe penance under the dazzling sun to propitiate Lord Shiva. As she was totally immersed in prayers and worship of Lord Shiva, the divine vibrations were unconsciously nurturing the baby inside the womb. Therefore, Shani Dev was so much devoted to Lord Shiva too. Also, since Chaya did penance under the blazing sun for so long, Shani was growing black inside the womb. As Shani Dev was delivered, Sun god despised seeing the color of the boy and doubted whether Shani was born to him. This angered Shani Dev who casted an angry look at his father. Due to the power of Shani Dev, Surya too was scorched to black color.
Later Surya repented for his blunder and worshiped Lord Shiva who described him why Shani was so black. Knowing the truth behind the issue, Sun God grew happier with his son Shani Dev and they came closer to understand each other better. Shani Dev became an ardent disciple of Lord Shiva and learnt all the Knowledge directly from him. Shiva was so much pleased with the devotion and sincerity of Shani Dev that he made him an important planet ruling over the lives born on the earth. He was given the responsibility to distribute the effects of the deeds performed by people.
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.
Shani’s gravitational power is more than that of the Earth’s. Therefore, when we think good or bad thoughts and make plans, they reach Shani by the strength of his power. In astrological terms, the bad influence is considered as unlucky. But the result of good deeds will be good. Therefore, we must understand God Shani as a friend and not as foe. And for bad deeds, he is Sade Saathi, disaster and an enemy.