What is Shani Jayanthi?
Shani Jayanti is the birth anniversary of Shani (Saturn). He is one of the Navagrahas, or nine planets. He is also called ‘Shanishchara’. Saturdays are dedicated to Shani, and he rules the west direction. Shani is considered as a karmic planet as he punishes people who do evil things. One can get relief from the punishments meted out by Shani if one worships him on the day of Shani Jayanti. Shani Jayanti is celebrated on the ‘Amavasya’ of the Hindu month ‘Jyestha’ (June 15 – July 15). The crow is associated with Shani, maybe because it is considered as a bad omen. Hindus worship Shani to get rid of the negative effects of their sins. Supposedly, exorcism rituals are performed by villagers on this day. This year, Shani Jayanti is on 22 May, a Friday.
Legends behind Shani
In Hindu mythology, Shani is described as the son of the Sun God, ‘Surya’, and his second wife, ‘Chaya’. Surya was married to Sandhya, and they had a son called ‘Yama’ (God of Death) and a daughter by the name of Yami’. Sandhya could not tolerate the radiance of her husband, hence she left Surya and went away. In her place, she left Chaya, her shadow, to take care of Surya and her kids, to ensure that others would not come to know that she had abandoned them. Chaya made Surya expel his kids from heaven. Later, she gave birth to Shani or ‘Chayaputra’. It is the two sons of Surya, Yama, and Shani, who punish humans for their evil actions. Shani punishes them while they are still alive, and Yama punishes them after death.
There is also another story that says that when Shani opened his eyes soon after his birth, the Sun was eclipsed, so great was his power. Though Shani is considered a malefic planet, he is actually more like a just teacher who disciplines unruly children and rewards the good ones. In popular representations, Shani is seen attired in black-colored garments, carrying two daggers and a sword. He is also shown seated on a crow.
Rituals followed during Shani Jayanti Pooja
On Shani Jayanti, people observe fast and perform certain rituals.
• One must wake up before sunrise (at the ‘Brahma-Muhurta’) and bathe.
• The pooja room should be cleaned, and an idol of Shani made of iron should be readied.
• The idol should be bathed with mustard oil and sesame seeds. Black pepper, pickle, peanut oil, basil leaves, cloves, and black salt should be offered to the deity.
• The Shani mantra, “Om Shanishcharya Namah”, should be chanted 108 times.
• When the ‘pooja’ rituals are done, articles like black cloth, black ‘urad’ dal, black footwear, black umbrella, mustard oil, and sesame seeds, mustard oil, etc. should be donated to the poor and needy.
• The person should not take any meals on this day. He/she must chant the holy mantra.