The Shani Mahatmya is a tale told of the happenings in the life of the king Vikramaditya during his Saturn period. Listening to the entire narration of this story is said to be a remedy for people undergoing challenging Saturn periods.
The story starts in the court of King Vikramaditya. He is a good ruler and has a great appreciation for knowledge. He asks the learned people of his court which planet is the greatest and a debate ensues. Since each planet has a representative in the court, they each support their planet. The representative of the Sun or Soorya was the first to extoll the virtues of the Sun. Next, Moon or Chandra’s representative, speaks about the reasons why his planet is the best.
Chandra, Chandramaa Or The Moon
The Moon represents the mind, emotions and senses of every person. He rules all the lunar mansions or Nakshatras. Worshipping the Moon ensures good health and keeps diseases away. The crescent Moon adorns the head of Lord Shiva and it is even said that this honour makes the Moon 1/8th of an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The Moon is the lord of the night, waters, herbs, plants and trees. It is the Moon that helps the plants and trees grow and who controls the tides. The Moon is also involved in the scheduling of rituals and is the haven of ancestors. Since people drink Som (food of the Gods) when they perform a Yagya, they go to the Chandra Loka. It is also said that the Moon and the King Som are one and the same. The Moon is the friend of the world.
The Moon dresses in white and is very fond of white flowers. The gem for the Moon is the white pearl while his metals are bronze and silver. The Moon also rules the blood in the body. Since Moon has the nature of semen, he is filled with passion. People who desire sexual satisfaction should worship the Moon. The direction ruled by the Moon is the North West and he also lords Monday and the Kark (Cancer) constellation. The Sushmana rays of the Sun grow the Moon through the waxing phase that gets complete on the day of Poornima or full Moon. The Devata drink the Som during the meaning phase and get nourished from it. The last day of the phase in the Amavasya or the new Moon when the Pitrus drink the Som. This cycle keeps repeating.
There are many stories about the birth of the Moon. One story says that the Moon was born of the tears of joy shed by the Rishi Atri who was himself one of the brainchildren of Brahma. Another story tells of the Moon being born from the churning of the ocean by the Deva and Daityas to obtain Amrit.
It is also said that Rishi Atri and his wife Anusya performed severe penance to have a child. When the Supreme was pleased with their penance, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva appeared before them. Since they were worshipping the Supreme, Rishi Atri was confused as to why these three forms had appeared before him. On questioning them as to who they were, he was assured that the Supreme had appeared before him in the form of these three deities. He then revealed that his penance was in order to have a son and the three Lords blessed him. Since three blessed him, the Rishi had three children; Dattaatreya who was Vishnu’s Avatar, Durvaasaa who was Shiva’s Avatar, and Chandramaa who was Brahma’s Avatar.
The Trinity Become Babies
Another interesting story is that the wife of Sage Atri was a very devoted and faithful wife to her husband (Pativrataa). Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva wanted to test her fidelity and came to her house in the form of Brahmins begging for food. She came out to give them food but they refused the food. They told her that they would accept the food only if she gave them the food while being without clothes. She prayed to the Supreme and by the power of her prayers, they became newborn babies and she breastfed them. She fed them without giving up her Pativrata. The trio was very pleased with her and offered her a boon. She requested that she could truly breastfeed them as her real children. Her boon was granted and they were born to her as Durvaasaa, Dattatreya and Chandramaa.
Yet another story of the birth of the Moon states that the Sage Atri stood with his arms raised and without blinking for 3000 years. His body was filled with Som and when it overflowed it filled the very heavens with its luminosity. The goddesses of the ten directions collected the Som into their wombs but were unable to contain the fetus and they dropped to the ground as the Moon.
The Marriage Of The Moon
The Moon was married to the 27 daughters of Daksha. These 27 daughters are the 27 Nakshatras. They were married under the condition that the Moon would love all his wives equally. However, the Moon favoured Rohini, his favourite wife above the others and spent the most time with her. His other wives were unhappy with this and complained to Daksha. Yet, despite the warning of Daksha, the Moon continued in his favouritism of Rohini. Finally, Daksha lost his patience with the Moon and cursed him with consumption.
The Moon began to wither away and there was no cure that he was able to find. As a result of this, the plants, trees and all living things on earth stopped growing. They appealed to Daksha who then modified his curse to state that the Moon would wane for 15 days of the month and then wax for the next 15 days. He would visit each of his wives for one day and one night. The representative of the Moon told King Vikramaditya that this is why one should avoid overindulgence in sexual activities as it would cause them to be consumed.
There was a great king by the name of Prithu. He had 10 great-grandsons who were the Prachetas or the mindful ones. As their father had requested them to multiply, they went into the ocean and then did penance for 10,000 years in order to have a son. After getting a boon to have a son they came out of the ocean and were dismayed to find that the earth was covered with tall trees that reached high to the heavens. This angered them and they set them on fire. The Moon who is the ruler of both the ocean and the trees intervened and asked them what harm the trees did to them and why they were harming the trees that could not even do anything to retaliate. He told them to make their peace with the trees and accept the daughter of the trees Maarisdha as their wife.
King Vikramaditya was curious to know more about this daughter of the trees of whom he had not heard before. The representative of the Moon explained that the child was the daughter of an Apsara Pramlocha and the Rishi Kandu. The Apsara came to earth to seduce the Rishi Kandu and when she succeeded she was pregnant. She gave birth to the child and left her on earth before returning to the Heavens. The girl was brought up by the trees. When she was hungry Chandra would let her suck Soma from his fingers. The Prachetas took the daughter of the trees as their wife and she had a son named Daksha who was a reincarnation of the old Daksha.
Descendants Of The Moon
The Moon did not have any children by his 27 wives who were the daughters of Daksha because of a curse. He had children by his other wife Manohara. His first child was Varchaa who was born on earth as the son of Arjuna and Subhadra. He sent him to earth very reluctantly and wanted him back soon which is why Abhimanyu died at the age of 16.
Budh or Mercury is also a son of the Moon. Many great kings were born in this lineage. Lord Krishna was also of this Vansh. It is said that the Moon was greatly attracted to the wife of Dev Guru Brihaspati. Her name was Tara and the Moon impregnated her.
When Brihaspati asked Tara whose child it was she did not reply. Even when Brahma asked her she did not reveal the father’s name. The child shouted from the womb asking why she did not tell him. Tara told him that the father was the Moon. When the child was born he was so beautiful that both Brihaspati and Moon claimed him as their own but Brahma declared him to be the son of the Moon and named him Budh. The representative of the Moon concluded that he paid his respects to the Moon who pours coolness into the world and creates ecstasy.