The Shani Mahatmya is a tale of the incidents that happened during the Sade-Sati period in King Vikramaditya’s life. It is a story that teaches us lessons on how to manage difficult Saturn periods. It also tells us a lot about all the other planets.
The story is in the court of King Vikramaditya. He is listening to a debate on which planet is the best of them. Representatives of each planet extoll their virtues and proclaim his own planet to be the best. After the description of Surya, Chandra and Mangal, the representative of Budh or Mercury stands up to tell the King why he is the best of the planets.
Budh – Mercury
Budh is the most intelligent of the planets and since the brain is better than strength, he is better than Mars. His prominent characteristic is that he does not cause any inauspiciousness and instead helps people prosper. He speaks very distinctly with sweet and pure words. Budh is very fond of jokes, puns, ambiguities and clever wordplay. He is as green as the Durva grass and is a Vaishya by caste. This makes him a very good businessman and mathematician. In the body, he is the ruler of speech, the rational mind and skin. His gem is the emerald or Panna and his metal is brass. He likes all the tastes. Budh rules the North, Wednesday and the constellations of Mithun (Gemini) and Kanya (Virgo).
The Birth Of Budh
The story of the birth of Budh is interesting and also a good lesson in the laws of Karma.
Chandra was so great that when he came of age he conquered the three worlds. He also did many Yagnas. The nine Devis were his worshippers; the Devi of the two sides of the Amaavasyaa (New Moon day), Vapus (beautiful body), Vasu (the excellent), Keerti (fame), Dhriti (firmness), Pushti (nourishment), Prabhaa (lustre) and Lakshmi (prosperity). This made him quite arrogant. He was the main disciple of Brihaspati the Dev Guru and also the favourite of Brihaspati’s wife Tara. Tara liked his nature, beauty and character.
There are different versions of what transpired between Chandra and Tara in Brihaspati’s absence. Some versions say that Chandra and Tara fell in love and that Tara went away with him. Others say that Chandra abducted her. Yet another version says that Tara did not want her fertile period to be wasted. Regardless of the versions, when Brihsapati did come back he found his wife missing. Repeated requests to Chandra to send her back were in vain. Brihaspati was furious and enlisted the help of Indra who was also his disciple. Chandra insisted that as Tara was with him of her own free will she would return only when she wanted to.
When Chandra refused Indra’s requests as well war broke out. Shukra (Venus) and the Asuras fought on the side of Chandra. All the Devas fought on the side of Brihaspati. Finally, Lord Brahma intervened. Chandra sent Tara back. Tara was pregnant at this time. Brihaspati threatened her and forced her to expel the fetus from her womb.
But when the child was born he was so attractive that both Chandra and Brihaspati claimed him as their own. When Tara was asked who the father was she remained mute. The child shouted at her. Finally, she revealed to Brahma that the father was Chandra. Lord Brahma named the child Budh for his intelligence (Budhi). This did not go down well with the 27 Nakshatra wives of Chandra and his father-in-law Daksha cursed him that he would not have children by them.
King Vikramaditya’s Comments
King Vikramaditya commented that this story revealed the weakness and wrong actions of many of the planets that are considered to be benefics. Chandra desired and took his Guru’s wife. Shukra supported his wrong action simply because of his enmity with Brihaspati. Brihaspati lied and claimed the child as his own simply because he was so beautiful and intelligent. Budh the child insulted his mother in front of others.
Descendants And Family Tree
The Story Of Ila
The 12 Adityas were the sons of Kashyap and Aditi. One of them, Surya married Vishwakarma’s daughter Sangya and had 6 children. Of these 6 children, Vaivaswat Manu wanted to have a son and performed a Yagna for the same. But he had a daughter instead. When he inquired as to the reason, the priest revealed that his wife Shradha had wanted a girl as the first child. Vaivaswat Manu wanted a boy only and requested Vashisht to please Narayan and make the girl a boy. This was successful and the boy was called Sadyumn.
There was a forest that was protected by Lord Shiva and Parvathi with the ability to turn whichever male entered it into a female. Sadyumn and his party of soldiers entered and became women and wandered there. The female form of Sadyumn was named Ila. She saw an ashram where Budh was living and lived there with him for some time. He was attracted to her and they had a son by the name of Pururava. So in this way, Pururava becomes the grandson of Chandra and Surya.
When his son did not return Vaivaswat sent people looking for him and came to know of what had transpired. He asked Vasisht to change him back into a male by pleasing Lord Shiva. The boon given was that Ila would be a male for a month and then a female for a month. In this way Sadyumn/Ila ruled the earth for a long time. But as people found it hard to accept the changing gender of their ruler, he/she handed the kingdom to Pururava and went to the forest.
Pururava And Urvashi
Mitra and Varuna happened to behold the beauty of the damsel Urvashi and discharged their semen. The seed that fell into a pot (Kumbh) produced Rishi Agastya. He was called Kumbhaj which means one who is born from a Kumbh or pitcher. The semen that fell on Earth produced Rishi Vashista. Urvashi was cursed to wander the earth.
She met Narad who extolled the virtues Pururava. Urvashi went to find King Pururava. He was attracted to her and requested her to be his wife. She agreed on three conditions. The first condition was that her two rams who she loved as her children were to be protected like a treasure. The second was that her only food would be Ghee. The third was that she should not see the King naked except for when he was in bed.
The King readily agreed and they were happy for many long years. However, the celestials missed Urvashi and wanted her back. Indra sent the Gandharvas to get her back. The Gandharvas stole her rams away. Urvashi cried lamenting that while her precious rams were being stoled the King lay asleep. He woke up and despite being unclothed ran with a sword to save them. There was a flash of lightning and Urvashi saw him naked. Since two of her conditions were broken she left.
Pururava Finds Urvashi Again
Pururava missed her terribly and wandered in the forest searching for her. He saw her one day in Kurukshetra by the Saraswathi river with her friends. He asked her why she left and reminded her of their times together. She told him that she was pregnant and that mortals can only be with the immortals when the immortal desires it. She told him that she could not come back to him but that she would send their child to be with him. Later, she had a son Aayu (life) and sent him to Pururava.
Pururava was inconsolable. He threatened to kill himself. She felt pity for him and told him that once in a year she would come to him and spend the night with him and that he would have another child by her. Urvashi kept her word and came to him. She told him to propitiate the Gandharvas to give her to him so that they could be together in heaven. She gave him a firepot to keep the fire in for the rituals. When he was meditating on Urvashee every night the three Vedas dawned in his mind. This was at the time of the Treta Yug or silver age. He also made a sacrificial fire in the forms Aahvaaneeya, Gaarhapatya, and Dakshin. He adopted this fire as his son and with the help of the fire attained the world of Urvashi.
King Trishanku And Janu
Vishwamitra was a descendant of Pururava. Once King Trishanku wanted to enter the Heavens with his mortal body. However, Guru Vashishth refused to perform the ritual. He cursed him to be a Chandal. He went to Vishwamitra to achieve this but when he went to heaven the celestials pushed him down. But the strength of Vishwamitra’s mantras prevented him from falling headlong. He is suspended upside down shining like a star.
Janu was another descendant of Pururava and he once drank all the water of the River Ganga. The Rishis took her out again and thus Ganga became his daughter. His name was then Janavee. His other descendants are the River Kaushiki, Sage Dhanvantri, Rishi Jamadagni and his son Parashurama.
The representative thus concluded that Mercury was the best of the planets with such an extraordinary family tree.