Sanjana was the daughter of Vishwakarma (the celestial engineer and architect). As Sanjana grew to a marriageable age, Vishwakarma sought out for a suitable groom, and approached Surya, the Sun God to accept his daughter’s hand in marriage. Surya accepts and the marriage is solemnized.
A little while into the marriage and Sanjana is troubled, she can take it no more, the glare and heat emitted from Surya’s golden aura have darkened her complexion and sapped her energy; she no longer feels any love for her husband. Her color now resembles the energies of evening/dusk and the Gods bestow her with a new name – Sandhya.
Sanjana plots a plan for her escape. She creates a clone (perhaps one of the first documented instances of cloning). She calls her clone “Chhaya” (shadow). She installs Chhaya in her place and instructs her not to leave Surya’s presence under any circumstances, and to dutifully remain there till her return. Sanjana then returns to her father’s house for some respite. Surya does not notice the difference. He takes Chhaya to be his wife; he initiates marital relations; Chhaya conceives and delivers a son – Shani (Saturn). Shani is born of dark complexion like his mother, and also inherits Chhaya’s serious and somber countenance.
Vishwakarma hears news of Shani’s birth and he is deeply troubled. He confronts Sanjana and ask for the truth. Sanjana confesses having left behind a clone. Vishwakarma immediately orders his daughter to return to her rightful position in Surya’s house. Sanjana returns to Surya’s house but is livid with Chhaya for having violated the scope of her orders. Sanjana destroys Chhaya’s tangible body and reduces her to a mere illusion in Surya’s light and glare.
Surya once again does not notice the exchange of wives. Sanjana gives birth to 2 children from Surya – son Yama and daughter Yamuna. As the children grow older, Sanjana’s animosity towards Shani grows stronger and she does everything in her power to distance him from Surya. Devoid of motherly love and fatherly attention, Shani is distraught, depressed, lazy and utterly directionless.
The 3 children come of age, and time comes to bestow them with responsibilities. Surya announces the same to his children; hearing this, Sanjana quickly poisons Surya’s mind against the capabilities of Shani and requests him to divide his responsibilities between Yama and Yamuna. Surya relents.
So on the appointed day, Shani (the elder son) is ignored and Yama (the younger son) is given the title of “Dharmaraj” or “king of dharma” and is given the responsibility of upholding truth in humanity. Yama though popularly known as “God of death” is not literally so; he merely appears at the appointed time of death so that he can cart away the soul and present the updated karmic balance sheet of the life just gone by, to the soul; and explain with compassion, righteousness and an unwavering approach – the good and bad deeds of the soul and the likely implications of same in this after-life.
Yamuna is given the status of a holy river, and is given the responsibility of washing away the sins of those who bathe in her or partake of her waters. She is also given the responsibility of generating a spark of good thought in all those who touch her waters.
Yama and Yamuna accept their responsibilities and leave. Shani is left standing all alone. As a son and older brother, he feels humiliated and insulted. Unable to break the barriers of communication with his father; unable to invoke love from his mother; unable to express authority over his younger brother and sister, and unable to prove the capability that he believes he has – a rage builds up in Shani.
To vent his anger, he seeks out mother Sanjana and delivers a well aimed kick in her womb believing that she is an insult to the womb that she birthed him from. Shocked at this act, Sanjana retaliates by cursing Shani to lose the leg that he kicked her with. Maimed and helpless, Shani lies on the ground. The scene is witnessed by Surya. Though he can forgive Shani’s behavior as he act of an unruly son, he is unable to understand the curse of mother Sanjana. Surya then confronts Sanjana for the truth.
Sanjana confesses to her folly, apologises, and narrates about her clone Chhaya and the birth of Shani before her return to Surya’s home. Surya is livid with rage and glows brighter and hotter than before. He accepts Shani as his legitimate older son, restores his lost leg though a limp still remains to honor the word of his mother’s curse, and then makes amends by bestowing upon him the honor of a place in the solar system. Shani is installed as the planet that will govern “karma” and “dharma” in a horoscope. He will enter your horoscope as your karmic guru, your harshest teacher, and will ensure that you learn your lessons and pass your tests, so that you can rise higher up the karmic ladder. Like his brother Yama, Shani will brook no concessions in the house that he will appear in, and will force you like a hard taskmaster to confront and deal with your toughest karmic issues – and bestow you with his own traits of patience, seriousness and diligence to help you learn your lessons in the appointed house.
True to his own life experiences, the house that Shani appears in, will first experience – insults, depression, prejudice, laziness and a sense of being directionless before you can invoke his powers of patience, perseverance and hard-work to deal with your tests.
Astrologically also, the placement of Shani and Surya in the same house is not considered good. The old Vedic animosity will resurface and the native will always feel the pressure of “wanting to glow with the pride of Surya” but being “subdued with the restrictions of Shani”. It is a balance that the native will seek to find in his life. (Incidentally, my own horoscope has this conjunction, but more when I write about the significance of Saturn in a Vedic horoscope chart.)
After Shani’s installation into the solar system as a planet, the Gods gathered around him and chanted an invocation to restore his lost honor; that chant is used even today used as a prayer to propitiate Shani:-
Neelaanjana samaabhaasam (To the color of brilliant dark blue)
Ravi-putram Yama-agrajam (Son of Surya, elder brother, agraj, of Yama)
Chhaya-Maartanda sambhootam (Son of Chhaya and Surya)
Tam namaami Shanaishcharam (We offer our obeisance)
The Story of Ashwini Kumar(s) – twin sons of Surya – Part II
Sanjana, after being admonished by Surya in the presence of Shani, and being further unable to bear the glow and heat of an angered Surya, leaves his abode once again. She now cannot return to her father’s house, so she disappears into a Himalayan forest to cool herself; there she takes on the disguise of a mare to prevent herself from being discovered and sent back home. She spends many long years in the forest, as a mare.
When Surya’s anger cools down, he begins to miss his wife and he goes in search of her to Vishwakarma’s house. Vishwakarma informs him of Sanjana’s whereabouts but also has as humble request – he asks Surya to reduce his glare so that daughter Sanjana is not discomfited. Surya says he is helpless as it is part of his nature; Vishwakarma then offers to help. Vishwakarma, the celestial engineer and architect, puts his skills to use and scrapes the glow away from Surya’s face and body, thus giving him, what they would say in modern day parlance – a matt-finish. Surya in his new look ventures into the Himalayan forest in search of Sanjana. He spots her grazing the grass in the form of a mare. To entice her, he takes the form of a young stallion and approaches her. Sanjana recognizes her husband and is pleasantly surprised at his efforts to woo her. She concedes, they mate, and out of this mating are born the Ashwini Kumar(s) – the twin sons of Surya. The name “Ashwini” is derived from the root “ashwa” meaning “horse”.
The Ashwini Kumar(s) are given the responsibility of healing; keeping with this order, they pursue the field of medicine and emerge as the celestial physicians/doctors of Gods. The Ashwini Kumar(s) true to the horse form in which they were conceived, also hold the prime reigns amongst the 7 horses that drive Surya’s chariot. Every sunrise, they come forth as the first rising rays of Sun, and are also known as “Surya-kiran”.
Being the celestial physicians/healers of Gods and humanity, facing their rays during sunrise bestows good health. This is done, as per prescribed Vedic customs, by honoring their mother Sanjana or Sandhya as the Gods called her – hence we welcome the first rays of morning Sun with “Sandhya-vandanam” or “Sandhya-vandan” by offering “arghyam” or water from our palms to the rising Sun. The Sandhya-vandan is often accompanied by a chant of Gayatri mantam.
There is another analogy which I read about the Gayatri mantram – that the original Gayatri has been hidden by Gods because of its potency. But more on that – maybe next time.