In Hinduism, there are 33 crore deities. The 9 planets of the solar system are also regarded as deities and are collectively called Navagrahas. One of the most important of these is Shani or Saturn, which is also the most feared planet in Hinduism.
Shani is the son of Surya/Sun and his proxy wife, Chhaya (the shadow of his actual wife, Sanjana). Surya suspected his son’s paternity due to his black color and rejected him. This led to a conflicted relationship between father and son. Shani’s brother was Yama, the god of death. Shani himself is the god of karma and justice, which is why he evokes fear in the minds of people. The gaze of Shani is much feared even by the gods, as it can cause many problems. It is said that his gaze caused an eclipse of the Sun itself.
Shani in Astrology
Saturn is the planetary ruler of the zodiac signs, Capricorn and Aquarius. It takes 29.5 years to complete its journey around the Sun and spends 2.46 years in one zodiac sign. So it is a slow-moving planet. The name itself means ‘one who moves slowly’. It signifies justice, ethics, career, achievements in life, virtues, and values. The return of Saturn can trigger significant events in life. Saturn is seen as malefic. Its transit, Shani ki Sade Sati, can cause many problems. Saturn rules the spleen, right ear, and bladder. Saturn is known to be disciplined and a hard taskmaster. It expects hard work and discipline from us. Saturn is a teacher of hard lessons and will punish us for our bad deeds. Shani gets strength in the 7th house. Those with Shani afflictions suffer from bone ailments. Shani is also the planet of old age. The number 8 is ruled by Saturn.
If Shani is well-placed in the horoscope, can bring success and wealth. As he is an important deity, there are many temples for Shanishwara in India. Let us explore some of them.
Shani Shingnapur Temple, Maharashtra
This temple is a very popular temple for Shani. The idol here is Swayambhu, a simple stone block. Local shepherds discovered it. When they hit the stone block accidentally with an iron rod, it began to bleed. Later, one of the shepherds had a dream in which Shani appeared and explained how to worship the stone. The idol is open to the sky, as Shani supposedly told the shepherd that he did not need a temple as the whole sky was his roof. Since then, people have been worshipping it.
Interestingly, none of the houses in this village have locks on their doors. Here, thefts are almost non-existent. People believe that if anyone tries to steal something, they will have to face Shani’s fury.
No moon day is the most special day in Shani Shingnapur. Usually, there are thirty to forty thousand visitors at the temple. But on No Moon Day, around 3 lakh visitors arrive here. Moreover, there is a fair here on this day.
Thirunallar Shani Temple, Tamil Nadu
This temple lies 5 km from Karaikal. There are many temples in India that have separate shrines dedicated to the 9 planets or Navagrahas. One such temple lies in the town of Thirunallar in Tamil Nadu. Shani’s shrine is within the premises of the Dharbaranyeswarar Temple, and Shiva is the main deity here. But Shani also has equal importance. Tradition dictates that devotees must worship Shani before entering the inner sanctum of Shiva. Legend says that due to Saturn’s malefic influence, King Nala suffered great hardships. He lost his kingdom and his wife, turned into an ugly dwarf, and lived a life of penury. King Nala then prayed to Shaniswara at Thirunallar Temple and took a bath in Nala theertham (the temple pond). Shani was appeased, and King Nala regained all that he had lost.
Devotees from every nook and corner of India come here to get relief from the problems inflicted by Saturn.
Shanichara Temple, Madhya Pradesh
This is supposedly one of the oldest Shani temples in India. The temple stands on Shani Parvat near Ainti village, Morena, Madhya Pradesh. Supposedly, it is the Tapobhoomi (the place where he did penance) of Shani. People believe that the idol of Shani here is made from a meteorite that fell on earth a long time ago. The history of this shrine dates back to the time of Ramayana. Local lore says that Hanuman kept Shani’s idol of Shani atop a hill in such a way that he could direct his gaze at Lanka and reduce it to ashes.
Another story says that this is the place where Shani landed when Hanuman threw him from Lanka after rescuing him from the dungeon where Ravana held him captive.
The spot where Shani fell is called Shani Parvat, and temple legends claim that the impact of his fall was so immense that it formed a crater.
But geologists say that a few million years ago, a meteorite fell at this spot, forming a crater. The rocks/ Shila (which were used to make the statue of Shani) are a reminder of that fallen meteorite. In Shani Shingnapur and Sirsa temples, too, people worship the same rocks or Shilas taken from here as Shani.
The legendary emperor Vikramaditya built this temple in the 1st Century B.C. Supposedly, Shani sits here in his immortal form even today. After witnessing the miracles of Shani, Daulatrao Scindia, the then-king of Gwalior, renovated the temple.
Shani Dham, Delhi
This temple is near Asola, in Delhi. The shrine has the world's tallest idol of Shani, apart from his self-manifested idol. It boasts intricate architecture and carvings. Also, there are shrines for other gods and goddesses. Due to the presence of the 21 ft tall idol of Shani, the shrine attracts thousands of devotees who come here to offer their prayers.
The large Shani idol and idols of the twelve Jyotirlingas are in the eastern part of the temple. In the western part, one can find large Shani statues erected over the buffalo and the vulture. An idol of Hanuman is seen to the right of these statues. In the western section, there is an oblation pool and idols of the Navagrahas.