Shani Ashtami is observed when Ashtami or eighth day in a lunar fortnight in the Hindu calendar falls on a Saturday. Saturday in Hinduism is called Shanivar and is dedicated to Saturn, Lord Shani. Saturn is the only planet named as an embodiment of the Divine, called Sanieswaraya (Shani+eashwara). Shani Ashtami dates in 2015 are 11 April, 22 August, 5 September and 19 December. On occasion of this last Shani Ashtami in 2015, we look to Shani and Ganapathi.
Special prayers and offerings such as pujas and rituals are observed in South India on the day. Lord Shani is worshipped on the day. Prayers are offered to mitigate Saturn’s impact in one’s horoscope and elicit peace health and prosperity. On this last occasion of Shani Ashtami of 2015, we look to the relation between Shani and Ganapathi.
How Ganapathi obtained his Elephant Head
A lesser known story from the Brahma Vaivarta Purana narrates a version of Ganapathi’s birth. On the insistence of Shiva, Parvati fasted for a year to propitiate Vishnu so that he would grant her a son. Vishnu, after the completion of the sacrifice, announced that he would incarnate himself as her son in every kalpa (eon). Accordingly, Ganapathi was born to Parvati as a charming infant. This event was celebrated with great enthusiasm and all the gods were invited to take a look at the baby. However Shani, the son of Surya, hesitated to look at the baby since Shani was cursed with the gaze of destruction. However Parvati insisted that he look at the baby, which Shani did, and immediately the infant’s head fell off. Seeing Shiva and Parvati grief-stricken, Vishnu mounted on Garuda, his divine eagle, and rushed to the banks of the Pushpa-Bhadra river, from where he brought back the head of a young elephant. The head of the elephant was joined with the headless body of Parvati’s son, thus reviving him. The infant was named Ganapathi and all the Gods blessed Ganapathi and wished Him power and prosperity.
Ganapathi has many dimensions and aspects. As son of Lord Shiva, Ganapathi has the honour of being worshipped first in any sacred undertaking. Ganapathi is known as Son of Lord Shiva, Master of all Knowledge, Supporter of the Universe, Remover of Fear, Remover of Obstacles, Bestower of Salvation.
Shani (Planet Saturn) on the other hand, is known as manda, the slow one, son of the Sun and Chhaya ( the shadow wife of the Sun), the lazy one, the big toothed one, the lame one, the one who dwells in rubbish and refuse, the one who wears rags, the one with the cruel sight (drishti), the one who gives longevity.
We might turn to Ganapathi to remove obstacles; Shani give obstacles to help us develop discrimination and detachment from what happens in the external world. We may turn to Ganapathi for a clarified intellect; Shani gives frustration and delay in that we might learn to manage the mind and not let our minds manage us. We may turn to Ganapathi for removal of fear; Shani grants longevity so that we may finally come to know that fear does not exist in the world of light.
The cruel drishti of Shani destroys the head of the child Ganapathi when he is ordered to do so by Parvati; the sight of Shani destroys the home gotten by Parvati as a dwelling for Shiva and Parvati when Parvati insists that Shani attend the festivities of the new abode and look at it. Shani is vairagya and viveka, discrimination and detachment. We may honour the requests of the chief guests, but it is our duty to speak the truth and follow dharma at all times, all stages of life. One may be cunning with acts and words and find a solution that satisfies the guest and the hosts, but one always follows dharma, speaks truthfully. Sathyam moolam jagat, truth is the basis of the Universe. There are always solutions to a problem, if we look with discrimination and detachment and take the time Shani places at our disposal. (Shani is also known as Lord of Time.)
Composed by Veda Vyasa in the famous Navagraha Stotram.
- Neelaanjana samaabhaasam (To the One who is coloured brilliant dark blue)
- Ravi-putram Yama-agrajam (Son of Surya, elder brother (agraj) of Yama)
- Chhaya-Maartanda sambhutam (Son of Chhaya and Surya)
- Tam namaami Shanaishcharam (We offer our obeisance)
Astronomy and Saturn
Saturn’s rings require at least a 15-mm-diameter telescope to resolve and the rings were not known to exist until Galileo first saw them in 1610. He thought of them as two moons on Saturn’s sides. It was not until Christiaan Huygens used greater telescopic magnification that it became clear that these “moons” were in fact rings. Huygens discovered Saturn’s moon Titan; Giovanni Domenico Cassini later discovered four other moons: Iapetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. In 1675, Cassini discovered the gap now known as the Cassini Division.
Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. It is a robotic spacecraft sent to the Saturn system. It has studied the planet and its many natural satellites since arriving there on June 30, 2004, also observing Jupiter and the heliosphere, and testing the theory of relativity. Launched in 1997 after nearly two decades of development, it includes a Saturn orbiter and an atmospheric probe/lander for the moon Titan called Huygens, which entered and landed on Titan in 2005. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2015. The two-part spacecraft is named after astronomers Giovanni Cassini and Christiaan Huygens. All our quality images of Saturn are gifted to us from this Spacecraft, Cassini–Huygens .
Enceladus – Moon of Saturn
On occasion of Shani Ashtami on December 19 – Cassini will undertake an Enceladus flyby (3,106 miles, or 4,999 kilometers)
More about Enceladus
Enceladus [en-SELL-ah-dus] is one of the brightest objects in our solar system. Covered in water ice that reflects sunlight like freshly fallen snow, Enceladus reflects almost 100 percent of the sunlight that strikes it. Because Enceladus reflects so much sunlight, the surface temperature is extremely cold, about -201° C (-330° F).
About as wide as Arizona, Enceladus is quite similar in size to Mimas but has a smoother, brighter surface. Unlike Mimas, Enceladus displays at least five different types of terrain. Parts of the moon show craters no larger than 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) in diameter. Other areas show regions with no craters indicating major resurfacing events in the geologically recent past. There are fissures, plains, corrugated terrain and other crustal deformations. All of this indicates that the interior of the moon may be liquid today, even though it should have been frozen eons ago. Enceladus’ surface is believed to be geologically “young,” possibly less than 100 million years old.
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