Shani Mahatmya is a narration of the happenings in the life of the King Vikramaditya during his seven and a half year Saturn period called Sade-Sati. The narration starts in the court of the King Vikramaditya. He was a very wise, benevolent and well-loved King.
King Vikramaditya liked to encourage meaningful debate in his court. He was listening to a debate on which planet among the Navgrahas was the greatest. One by one the representative of each planet stood up and described and praised the virtues of their planet. Each representative naturally argued that their planet was indeed the best of them all. Surya or the Sun was the first planet whose virtues were extolled. Next came the representatives of Chandra (Moon), Mars (Mangal) and Mercury (Budh). The King listened carefully to each of the speeches. The next speaker was the representative of Guru or Jupiter.
Guru Or Jupiter
The person who spoke for Guru was very intelligent and jovial. He stated the main reason for Guru being greater than Mercury is that Mercury is a two-faced politician. Mercury gives good results when he is with a benefic. However, when Mercury is with a malefic his results are also malefic. This proves that he changes according to the company that he keeps and cannot be relied upon. This proves that Guru is the better of the two. Guru is the greatest benefic. It takes very unusual circumstances for Guru to turn malefic.
Teacher Of The Gods – Deva Guru
Guru is not only a good and benefic planet but he is also the Guru of Indra, the Devatas and all the celestials. All of them respect and obey Guru. They respect and follow his counsel and advice. The desires of those who worship Guru are fulfilled when they worship him regularly and sincerely. He is very wise, happy, forgiving and very modest.
Guru is not only wise, but he is also very learned. He is the master of the Vedas as well as all human knowledge. His senses, as well as his mind, are disciplined. Guru rules the Rashis of Dhanus (Sagittarius) and Meena (Pisces). He is very fond of yellow flowers and clothes. His favourite gem is also the yellow coloured Topaz. His metal is gold. Guru rules over Thursday, the north-east direction and the fat in a person’s body. Jupiter is the Lord of Speech and the teacher of the immortals. Guru is worthy of being worshipped. Guru’s curse on the Apsara Punjikasthala was the cause of the birth of Hanuman.
The Extraordinary Birth Of Guru
Guru is the son of Angira. Angira himself was born through an extraordinary incident. Brahma the creator was attracted to an Apsara and lost his seed. He then put that seed into the fire. This produced 10 Manas Putras or brainchildren of Brahma. Since he was born in live hot coals he was called Angira. Angira was married to Shraddha who was one of the nine daughters of Kardam Rishi. They had 8 sons of whom one is Brihaspati.
Since Guru was born to Angira who was born in live coals he is also referred to as the son of Fire as he was born to a form of Agni. Lord Shiva gave Guru his position as the Guru of the celestials and as a planet as a reward for his severe penance.
Brihaspati And Shukracharya
Shukracharya was the Guru or teacher of the Asuras. He once went to the Himalayas to do penance for Lord Shiva. He wished to do penance for 1000 years in order to get a boon which would enable him to destroy the Devatas.
Indira wanted to get this knowledge from Shukracharya by underhand means. He sent his daughter Jayanti to the Himalayas to obtain it. She stayed with Shukracharya for many years as his disciple. When Lord Shiva gave Shukracharya the desired boon he decided to return to the Asuras. However, Jayanthi asked him to marry her. He could not refuse her and agreed to marry her for 10 years. During this time they both were not visible to the world.
Brihaspati knew of this. He disguised himself as Shukracharya and went to the Asuras. They mistook him for their Guru and presuming that he had returned from his penance, welcomed him happily. Guru taught the Asuras for 10 years. In this period he successfully removed hatred from their hearts.
After the promised period of 10 years, Shukracharya sent Jayanti away and returned to the Asuras. The Asuras were confused as to which Shukracharya was the real one. They finally decided that Brihaspati who had been teaching them for 10 years was the real Shukracharya. This made the real Shukracharya very angry and he cursed them to be destroyed soon. Brihaspati left and went back to the Devtas. The Asuras were left without either of the Gurus. They went to the real Shukracharya and begged for his forgiveness. He relented and returned to them but his curse still had an effect. For a period after that, the Asuras were no threat to the Devas because of the curse.
The Devtas Anger Brihaspati
The representative of Guru then narrated an incident when Brihaspati got angry with the Devtas. This was because Indra did not show respect to Brihaspati. It happened that Indra was in his court and engrossed in enjoying a dance. When Guru entered the court Indra was so engrossed in the dance that he did not even notice that his Guru was there. He did not pay any attention to Brihaspati. This annoyed Guru and he left the court. Indira realised his mistake. He went after Guru but could not find him anywhere. Shukracharya and the Asuras saw this golden opportunity. They attacked the Devatas and wounded them severely.
When the Devtas went to Brahma to ask for advice he said that they were suffering because of the insult to their Guru Brihaspati. This made them weak. He advised them to find a Guru.
The Devatas had to find a Guru. They requested Tvashta to be their Guru but he refused. They then asked Vishwaroop and asked him to be their Guru. Vishwaroop was the son of Tvashtar/Vishwakarma (the celestial architect) and an Asura Rachana. Vishwaroop agreed to be the Guru of the Devatas. He had three heads; one was for the nectar Som, one for liquor and the third for food. When he did any Yagna he secretly made offerings for the welfare of the Asuras. When Indra learned of this he was furious. He cut off all the three heads of Vishwaroop. These three heads transformed into birds. By killing Vishwaroop Indra had incurred the great sin of killing his Guru.
Sage Dadichi And The Vajra
Tvashtar was furious to hear that Indra had killed his son. He immediately performed a ritual to create a terrible demon Vritrasura to kill Indra. This demon was powerful and terrible to behold. The Devatas tried their best to attack him but he was too powerful. When they ran to Brahma for help again, he told them that they had to get Sage Dadichi’s bones and create a weapon out of it.
The Devatas went to Sage Dadichi and asked for his bones. He gave them his bones. A Vajra or thunderbolt was created out of these bones. The Devatas went into battle with Vritrasura and there was a terrible battle. Finally, Indra killed the dreadful Asura with his divine weapon. However, since Vritrasura was the son of Tvashtar, by killing him Indra had again committed a grave sin. Indra hid in a lotus stem for 1000 years to be saved from his sin. Finally, Brihaspati returned as the Guru of the Devatas and they were saved.
The representative of Guru thus proclaimed that there was no other planet that was as great as Brihaspati. He has the capability to destroy all enemies when pleased and the capability of destroying all prosperity when displeased. Jupiter’s knowledge and compassion were beyond comparison. He is very merciful and removes all the negativity for his devotees. He removes all difficulties, sorrow and poverty. Guru is a Brahman and even the immortal Devatas worship him. Even if a person does not worship any of the other planets it is enough to pray to Brihaspati.
The Other Planets
After the representative of Brihaspati had spoken it was the turn of the representative of Venus or Shukra to speak. He extolled the virtues of the planet Venus and declared that he was indeed the best. He praised the different characteristics of Shukra and also told the story of the Sanjeevani Vidya that Shukra had. After this, the representatives of Rahu and Ketu spoke. They described the different ways in which Rahu and Ketu troubled the other planets. He also said that they can be appeased when worshipped and that one should worship them. The last planet to be represented was Saturn or Shani. As his description was being narrated Shani Dev happened to be travelling by that way. He stopped at the court of the king and this is where the story really begins.