The Shani Mahatmya is the tale of the lessons that King Vikramaditya learned from Saturn or Shani. It is a story that also gives us a wealth of information about all the other planets as well. The story tells us of the events that led up to and that occurred during the seven and a half year Sade Sati period of the King. It is a cautionary tale that also teaches us the right attitude to have in order to face this period. Listening to the narration of this story every Saturday is a good remedy to follow for challenging Saturn periods.
The narration of the tale is set in the court of the great and kind King Vikramaditya. He is listening to a debate on the question of which of the planets is the greatest. The learned representatives of the planets each describes the characteristics of his planet. First, we have the representative of the Sun tell us about why he is the greatest and then we have the narration of the Moon’s characteristics. Next, the representative of Mars speaks about the planet. He is very courageous and his eyes are red.
Mangal – Mars
He says that Mangal is as sharp as a blade and very cruel. When a person worships Mars with arrogance he becomes very angry and destroys his family and prosperity. However, a devotee who worships Mangal regularly with humility is blessed with wealth and cure for his or her diseases. Mars helps to relive one of the difficulties of illness, debt, as well as enemies. Any observation of vows to Mangal should be accompanied by the wearing of red clothes and one should offer red flowers and eat reddish food such as what on the day.
Description Of Mars
Mars is full of energy and as bright as a blazing fire. He is also lustful, wrathful, adventurous and is an accomplished speaker. The caste of Mars is Kshatriya as he is a warrior who causes injury. Mars favours the colour red. He is the ruler of the southern direction, Tuesday and the constellations of Mesha (Aries) and Vrishchik (Scorpio). His metal is copper while his gem is the coral. Since the colour of Mars is red he is also called Angarak. His names are also wound-causer and disease-eater. The speaker also told the King that there was a Mangal Dev temple in their city and that Mangal was born in Ujjain on the banks of the River Kshipraa. The King was very curious to know the story of the birth of Mars.
The Birth Of Mars
The speaker told the King that he had already heard of the curse that Daksha had put on his son-in-law Chandra when the story of the Moon was narrated. The same Daksha also insulted his other son-in-law Lord Shiva. He had given one of his daughters Sati in marriage to Lord Shiva. Once, Brahma organised a Yagna and all the celestials were present. Daksha came after Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu had already arrived. All those who were present rose from their seats and greeted him. His son-in-law Lord Shiva, however, did not do so. Daksha was furious and insulted and scolded his son-in-law for not greeting him. To this Lord Shiva replied that they were both the same and asked who should greet who. This angered Daksha so greatly that he formed an enmity towards Lord Shiva.
When Daksha became Prajapati he organised a great Yagna and invited all the celestials as well as his relatives with the exception of Lord Shiva and Sati. Sati saw that many people were going to the Yagna and on enquiry came to know of the Yagna. She was happy to hear about her father and wanted to go. Lord Shiva told her that it was not advisable for her to go without an invitation but she insisted on going despite his advice. Lord Shiva sent her with some of his people.
When Sati arrived at the Yagna, she was not welcomed. Her mother was the only person who greeted her warmly. She also saw that there was no place for her husband allotted at the Yagna. Sati was enraged and declared that she had no right to stay in a place where her husband was not respected. She immolated herself with the Yagna fire. Lord Shiva’s people ran to him to report the happenings and a drop of his sweat of rage fell from his forehead where Chandra sits to fall on the Earth.
This drop transformed into a fiery being named Veerabhadra who had unlimited energy, many heads, many eyes and tens of thousands of arms and legs. He burnt through the Earth, Pataal or the underworlds and the seven seas. He asked Lord Shiva for further instructions. Lord Shiva told him to kill Daksha and destroy his Yagna which Veerabhadra did.
Becoming A Planet
Lord Shiva then told Veerabhadra that he had already wreaked a lot of havoc on the universe and to calm and pacify the cosmos and live in Heaven. He would be the foremost among planets and bear the name Angarak. This was how Veerabhadra was transformed into a planet that is the equal of Kartikeya. Lord Shiva then permitted Daksha’s Yagna and peace returned to the world. However, the incident caused many diseases in the world. Veerabhadra became fever. The other diseases that were caused were abdominal swelling, leprosy, insanity, epilepsy, diabetes and haemothermia. The eighth was the one that was originated by Daksha when he caused the disease of consumption by cursing the Moon.
King Vikramaditya then asked about the relationship between Mars and Kartikeya. The representative of Mars said that it is said that Mangal is Kartikeya while others say that Kartikeya is a star while Mangal is a planet. But those who are afflicted by Mangal are told to worship Kartikeya.
It is said that when Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati were enjoying physical union uninterrupted for 100 million years they were interrupted by Agni Dev which caused Lord Shiva to ejaculate. Lord Kartikeya was born of this semen.
Son Of Kritikkas
Another version of the story says that Kartikeya means the son of the Kritikkas and that he was born as the son of Agni. It is said that Agni Dev had developed an intense passion for the Krittikas who were the wives of the Sapta Rishis. This happened when Agni Dev was at a big sacrifice conducted by the Rishis. In his desire for them, he entered the household fires in order to touch them but failed as they refused to be tempted by him. This served to increase his desire for them and he went into the forest.
Another daughter of Daksha name Swaha was in love with him and expressed her feelings to him but he rejected her. So, she took the form of one of the Rishi’s wives and made love with him. She then took the form of another of the Rishi’s wives and again made love to him. This happened six times with Swaha taking the form of six of the Rishi’s wives. However, she could not easily take the form of Arundhati who was Sage Vashista’s wife as she was so very devoted to her husband. Every time she mated with Agni she took the form of a bird and flew into the mountains to deposit the semen in a safe place. From this semen, Skand was born.
Stars In The Sky
The news spread however that the Rishi’s wives were mothers and the Rishis’s abandoned their wives. Sage Vishwamitra saw all that had happened. He told the Rishis that their wives were chaste but they did not listen. The six wives then went to Skand and requested him to elevate them to heaven which he did. He made them the six stars in the heavens known as the mothers of Skand/Kartikeya. The seventh Krittika, wife of the Rishi Arundhati remained with her husband and is the star Alcor.
Another version of the story states that Indira felt insecure due to the immense power of Skand and asked the six wives to kill the child. However, they were so moved by love for the child that milk started oozing from their breasts creating the Milkyway. And since Kartikeya had nursed from that milk he was also known as the son of Goddess Kali. When Indira attempted to kill him again he defeated all the Devata who attacked him easily. Indira then pierced his side with the thunderbolt and a boy called Vishak holding a club in his hand came out. Indira finally accepted Skand as a celestial and appointed him as the head of the Devata’s army. With these words, the speaker bowed down low to the eternally young Mangal and concluded his speech in praise of the planet.