Navagraha – The Nine Influential Heavenly Bodies

- April 14, 2021


By Shivam Pathania

Ancient Indian scholars extensively studied the stars and other celestial bodies in the never-ending spatial sky. This thorough study of astronomy and astrology eventually created the Jyotish Shastra which explained how the Navagraha, literally meaning the nine planets, influence the lives of the earth dwellers. Though not all members of the Navagraha are planets; Surya, the sun is a star; Chandra, the moon is the natural satellite of Earth; Rahu and Ketu are lunar nodes that are responsible for eclipses of the sun and moon. 

Illustration: Shivam Pathania

Surya, the God of the Sun is considered to be the leader amongst the Navagraha. Rightly so, as the other members of the celestial group revolve around Surya. The son of sage Kashyapa and Aditi is a prominent figure in Hinduism and is often considered on the same level as Indra in the hierarchy of the Devas. The God is often represented with four arms, out of which two hold lotuses, one holds a staff and another one has a chakra. The sun god is depicted seated on a chariot pulled by 7 horses, which is a symbolic way of representing the splitting of white sunlight into seven colours of the VIBGYOR spectrum. The day designated to Surya is Sunday, called Ravivaar in Hindi which literally translates to ‘Sun’s day’. The colour associated with the sun god is orange and gold, and to evoke the blessings of Surya one is asked to pray to the god by offering water to the deity by pouring it from a vessel. Surya as a Navagraha embodies qualities such as leadership, ego, strength, authority and vitality of a person. 

Illustration: Shivam Pathania

Chandra is the moon god, and since Hinduism follows a Lunar Calendar, Chandra has always remained an important deity in the religion. The son of sage Atri and Anusuya was married to twenty-seven daughters of Prajapati Daksha who are all named after constellations. Chandra was biased towards Rohini and did not spend equal time with his other consorts and so the displeased women complained about their husband’s unfair treatment to their father, Daksha. The furious father, cursed his son-in-law, that he would lose his powers and his body would slowly wither away. The dying deity prayed to Lord Shiva who blessed the moon god with a boon which in a way balanced the effects of the curse. This established the waxing and waning of the moon, according to which, the moon waxes for 15 days, where it decreases in size and completely vanishes on the new moon day, and it wanes for the next 15 days, where it increases in size and regains its full powers on the full moon day. The lunar deity is never depicted with a full body, symbolising his waxing and waning and his chariot is said to be pulled by antelopes. Monday is the day associated with Chandra, and one must offer white or silver coloured articles and wear white to please the celestial god. The moon is said to embody thinking, stability and fertility.

Illustration: Shivam Pathania

Mangal, is the astrological ruler of the red planet, Mars. The theme of colour red is reflected in Mangal’s iconography, as he is often depicted to have red skin. Just like Kartikeya, the Hindu god of war, Mangal is also affiliated with war, battlefield and weaponry which is reflected in his visual depictions as he is shown armed with multiple weapons like a sword, a mace and a spear. The red-hued deity was said to be born when Lord Vishnu, in his Varaha avatar rescued Goddess Bhoomi, the personification of Earth, after asura Hiranyaksha had submerged the planet in the cosmic ocean. But in some stories the deity’s father is Shiva. One of the stories in Shiva Purana describes Mangal to be born from the sacred surface of the Earth, which had absorbed divine drops of sweat of Shiva. Mangal’s vahana is a ram and the deity is said to have an astrological influence on skills of hands, handling of equipment, anger and strength. Articles like wheat, red cloth, red flowers, copper and sandalwood are offered to the deity during prayers. Tuesday or Mangalvaar is the day associated with the celestial deity.


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