...sign of our times...

Upon being handed a journal as a gift, a nine year-old asks his mom what it was. The mom says that it was a notebook to record his thoughts and feelings, every day. The kid replies, "You mean, it is a blog...on paper." Reader's Digest, Oct 2008 issue

Shani Mahatme (Greatness of Lord Shani)

Last year, I ran across an old web page put together by ShrI Anand Gupte on Lord Shani. I took the liberty of shortening that article for my study every Saturday. I also undertook a pilgrimage to Tirunallar in S. India and sought Lord Shani’s blessings (local lore has it that the blessings are given only to those who go visit physically because of another lore). Here is my version:

harihi om! shrI gurubhyo namah!

Gujarati Original: Poet Tatyaji Mahapati
Translated to English: Anand Gupte Webpage Link
Paraphrased: Vijay (for clarity and conciseness)
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In this story, we find that King Vikramaditya of Ujjaini, known for his wisdom and benevolence, unwittingly invoked the wrath of Shani, the ruling deity of planet Saturn. The King’s sarcastic remarks one day about Shani displeased him during a discussion on all nine planets’ qualities. So, Shani decided to influence the King’s destiny adversely, to teach the king a lesson.

Shani’s influence on the king began when Shani moved to the twelfth house in King Vikramaditya’s horoscope, a position considered highly unfavorable. Noticing the seriousness, the wise men advised the king to worship Shani to mitigate his negative effects. They provided the king with a detailed ritual to appease Shani, emphasizing that Shani’s displeasure affects not only individuals but also entire worlds.

Despite these warnings, the king initially disbelieved it but finally decided to accept whatever lay in store for him. He did perform the prescribed rituals of worship, albeit with reservations.

As the story unfolds, we see Shani visiting Ujjaini disguised as a horse trader, who sells the king a horse of exceptional speed, that takes Vikramaditya deep into a forest, far from his kingdom. The king is lost in the wilderness and his disappearance leaves his subjects in distress, after an unsuccessful search.

Meanwhile, in the city of Tamlinda, where the king found himself, he met Shripati, a wealthy merchant. Impressed by the king’s demeanor, Shripathi invited the king to his home. Vikramaditya feels welcomed as a guest, and despite reservations, he decides to stay for the night.

After dinner, the merchant openly inquired for additional information about the king, revealing his own ulterior motives concerning the monarch. It so happened that the merchant had a daughter of a marriageable age called Alolika, who could not find a suitable match for herself, nor could the merchant find one for her. So the merchant muses that this Kshatriya (the guest, who had not revealed his regal identity) would be a good match for Alolika. Excitedly, he tells her the good news that he found a good match for her and that she should marry him without any hesitation.

But Alolika said, “First, let me talk to him. Then, I can judge from the way he talks whether this Kshatriya is a good match for me. You might have seen many good qualities in him, but still, let me judge him.” So she asked her father to send the Kshatriya to the guest room in their house, which also doubled as a painter’s studio.

Upon returning to Vikramaditya, Shripati informed him that the studio was available if he wished to retire for the night. Not wanting to offend his host, Vikramaditya agreed and made his way to the guest room. Inside, he was greeted by a collection of impressive paintings depicting various birds such as swans, peacocks and nightingales, as well as animals such as horses and elephants. The artwork was so lifelike that one could almost believe that the birds and animals were truly alive. Vikramaditya settled onto the bed, which was adorned with jewels, vibrant colors and fragrant flowers. He also noticed the presence of numerous lamps placed in every corner of the room. Astonished by these sights, he found himself marveling at the customs of this place. Contemplating his next course of action, Vikramaditya tried to fall asleep. Deep down, he suspected that Shanidev, the troublemaker, must have orchestrated these events. Vikramaditya tried to sleep with these thoughts in mind. However, his mind remained restless, so he covered his head in an attempt to find some peace and rest.

After a short while, Alolika, after skillfully applying makeup, adorning herself with pearl necklaces, and wearing aromatic perfumes entered the studio where the king slept. She brought with her all the paraphernalia as per the custom of the time such as five oil lamps in a plate with flowers etc., to greet the guest. She also wore anklets, which made a pleasant sound. She wore dazzling diamond ornaments on her hands. She looked like a beautiful statue, and stood in front of Vikramaditya who was pretending to be asleep. As he did not awaken, Alokika thought for a while and sprinkled some water from a sandalwood jug onto Vikramaditya, in vain. About two hours passed thus. Alolika was weary, took off her pearl necklace and hung it on a peg (hook) on a nearby wall. Eventually she fell asleep next to him on the same bed somewhat worried and disappointed.

Then Vikramaditya uncovered his head and started to think. Who was this girl? And why was she sleeping next to him? Keen to commit nothing immoral, Vikramaditya decided it would be best to treat this girl like a daughter and talk to her in that manner.

Then he looked around and again saw the paintings. Suddenly and miraculously, a swan from one of the paintings came to life, grabbed Alolika’s pearl necklace with its mouth from the peg and swallowed it. Astonished by this strange happening, the king did not even make an attempt to snatch it back from its beak for fear of hurting the swan. So he watched helplessly as the swan swallowed the entire necklace. Confused about what he had witnessed, Vikramaditya fell asleep.

The next morning Alolika woke up and thought to herself, “This person is the greatest fool of all. For the whole night I was sleeping near him and he never awoke. Clearly this kshatriya has no manliness.” She was very angry and felt insulted that Vikramaditya was not attracted to her. So, she started to leave the room and looked for her necklace on the peg. To her shock, the necklace was missing. Waking Vikramaditya up, she accused him of stealing the necklace and ordered him to return it and get out the way he came. She also threatened to tell all the villagers about the theft and told Vikramaditya that he would face public humiliation and shame.

The king, in his defense, said that he had not taken the necklace, and just because he had slept there, he was being accused.

Alolika became angry and immediately told her father that the perfect “match” he brought home was a mere professional thief who stole her necklace. Then she asked her father to get the necklace from the guest and send him on his way.

Shripati addressed Vikramaditya, thus, “I provided you with comfortable accommodations, a splendid dinner, and even considered offering my daughter’s hand in marriage. Yet, despite these kindnesses, you’ve chosen to commit an act of thievery. Your behavior is most foolish! Is this how you repay my hospitality? Return the necklace promptly and depart from here.”

Vikramaditya insisted that he had not taken the necklace and explained that his current predicament was the result of both fate and his decisions. However, Shripati’s anger only intensified upon hearing this. He promptly ordered his servants to bind Vikramaditya and subject him to a merciless beating until the necklace was returned.

The servants followed his orders and beat the king brutally. Throughout the ordeal, the merchant repeatedly asked them to continue, insisting, “Beat him! Beat him until he returns the necklace!”

After enduring the severe beating, King Vikramaditya was utterly fatigued and finally spoke to the merchant, saying, “I do not possess the necklace. You are subjecting me to these beatings without cause.”

Recognizing Vikramaditya as a seasoned thief who might not easily part with the necklace, Shripati sought the assistance of King Chandrasen of Tamlinda city. He conveyed the entire situation to the king.

Upon hearing Shripati’s complaint, King Chandrasen ordered Vikramaditya to be brought to the royal court for questioning. Vikramaditya respectfully bowed to King Chandrasen and stood before him. The King instructed Vikramaditya to return the necklace to Shripati.

In response, Vikramaditya maintained his innocence, declaring, “I have spoken the truth. I did not take the necklace. Your suspicions are unfounded. The unfavorable alignment of the planets in my horoscope caused my troubles, but dwelling on the past serves no purpose. Theft is wrong, but forgiveness is a virtue. I implore you, please show mercy!”

Upon hearing this, King Chandrasen was consumed by anger and believed that Vikramaditya was playing him. Filled with fury, his face turned as red as a burning ember of coal, and he bellowed at his servants, commanding them to sever Vikramaditya’s hands and feet and cast him out of the city, depriving him of food and water. In his rage, King Chandrasen was not thinking rationally, as it was believed that Shanidev, the deity of Saturn, spoke through him.

Without delay, the servants prepared themselves and forcefully removed King Vikramaditya from the city, ruthlessly severing his hands and feet. This cruel act caused great sorrow among the citizens, who wept for the tragedy that had befallen this stranger. The servants then returned to King Chandrasen, who callously remarked that it was inconsequential whether Vikramaditya survived or perished after such grievous mutilation, as his demise was deemed inevitable.

King Vikramaditya endured immense suffering day and night, tormented by excruciating body pain, hunger, and thirst. He writhed in agony, resembling a fish gasping for water. Passersby witnessed his plight and felt deep sympathy for him, but their hands were tied due to the fear of upsetting King Chandrasen, who had ordered everyone to withhold food and water from Vikramaditya.

Meanwhile, Vikramaditya wept and pleaded for mercy from Shanidev, the deity he revered. Moved by his desperate pleas, Shanidev, in his mercy and compassion, decided that Vikramaditya had reached the high point of suffering. He influenced King Chandrasen’s thoughts, prompting him to consider an act of mercy. Consequently, King Chandrasen issued a decree stating, “It is fine to provide food and water to the limbless thief.”

Following this decree, King Vikramaditya received an ample supply of food and water. However, despite this relief, his condition remained unbearably painful due to his limbless state. He endured constant agony, screaming day and night. Vikramaditya persevered in this harrowing state for an unimaginable duration of two years, bearing the full weight of his suffering.

One day, an oilman’s wife who was en route to her in-laws’ place in Tamlinda, happened to pass through the forest where the king lay in his limbless state. In those days, some people traveled by means of a chair-lift which was held by four strong men with the traveler inside. This woman, originally from Ujjaini, was being transported in this manner to her in-laws’ city, Tamlinda.

As she passed by, she noticed King Vikramaditya and was shocked by his presence in such a destitute state. Compassion and curiosity piqued, she disembarked from her chair-lift and approached the king. Seeing him limbless, she couldn’t help but imagine the horrors he must have been enduring. King Vikramaditya greeted her and expressed his well-wishes, saying, “May you and your husband live long! Please share any news from home in detail.”

In response, the woman assured the king that everyone back home was fine and in good health. However, she was curious about how he had ended up in this predicament. The king, with a resigned tone, replied, “This is my fate. The planetary positions in my horoscope were unfavorable, and thus God has placed me in this state.” He proceeded to narrate the complete story of his affliction to this attentive woman.

The lady exclaimed, “What bad luck you have!” She instructed the men carrying her to transport the king on the chair-lift and bring him to her in-laws’ house with respect. When her father-in-law, also an oilman, caught sight of the limbless king, he was filled with fear. Worried about invoking King Chandrasen;s wrath upon discovering their hospitality towards an individual who was being punished, the oilman hesitated. However, his daughter-in-law reassured him, proclaiming that this limbless person was none other than King Vikramaditya of Ujjaini. She considered it their good fortune to have him in their home, likening the king to a precious gem amidst a pile of rubbish.

Unconvinced, the oilman went anyway to see King Chandrasen and told him that he wished to house the condemned limbless thief as he felt compassion for him. The king allowed the oilman to host the limbless thief.

Vikramaditya requested the oilman, saying, “Please keep my true identity as King Vikramaditya of Ujjaini a secret from everyone.” The oilman agreed, assuring the king that he would provide him with food, clothing, and other necessities. In return, the king offered his assistance in operating the grinder to extract oil from peanuts and other nuts.

Expressing his gratitude, King Vikramaditya praised the oilman’s wise decision to help him, which saved him from further misfortune. Thus, the king remained with the oilman for the following seven years, enduring the challenges of their arrangement.

One evening, while operating the grinder, King Vikramaditya unexpectedly began to sing. His musical rendition was in the enchanting Raaga Deep, typically performed during the evening by skilled artists. With utmost precision and a melodious voice, the king sang the composition, known for its ability to automatically light oil lamps when sung accurately.

As if by magic, thousands of oil lamps were lit throughout the city, illuminating it as if it were the festival of Deepavali. Princess Padmasena, daughter of King Chandrasen, sitting contentedly in her palace, marveled at the radiant light outside. Intrigued, she summoned her maids and inquired about the source of the unexpected festival of lights, as there were no weddings or customary celebrations taking place.

Meanwhile, Vikramaditya had concluded his rendition of Raga Deep, causing the lights to go out. However, he then began singing the melodious composition of Raaga Shree. Convinced that the singer was no ordinary performer, Padmasena instructed her maids to determine his whereabouts and bring him to her palace.

The four maids diligently searched for the singer and eventually discovered him operating the grinder at the oilman’s place. They reported their findings to Princess Padmasena, emphasizing that the singer’s appearance was unconventional due to his limbless condition. However, Padmasena remained determined to bring him to her palace, expressing her willingness to even marry him, regardless of her father’s judgment.

The maids agreed to bring the singer to the palace on the condition that Padmasena would take responsibility for any consequences when faced with her father’s wrath. Padmasena assured them that she would disclose everything to her father, should such happen.

As King Vikramaditya continued to sing melodiously in the princess’ palace, the beautiful music and the brilliance of Raaga Shree enchanted Padmasena and everyone in the palace. The entire place was filled with an extraordinary aura.

Inside the palace, Padmasena was overwhelmed by the enchanting music. She approached Vikramaditya and praised his musical skills. Padmasena was so captivated by the singer that she decided to marry him, even if it meant having to possibly go against her father’s wishes.

When the king finally went to his daughter’s palace the next day to check out the reason for the festivities, he was astonished by the magnificent decorations and the lingering sense of celebration. He inquired about the source of the festivities to which the maids informed him about the singer, a limbless man operating a grinder.

King Chandrasen was both intrigued and skeptical. He decided to meet the singer in person and evaluate his worthiness for his daughter for he had learned of his daughter’s desire. Upon meeting Vikramaditya, he was surprised by the king’s wisdom and intelligence, even though he appeared as a limbless man. King Vikramaditya explained his unfortunate situation and the consequences of his past deeds to King Chandrasen.

The music, wisdom and humility of Vikramaditya deeply impressed King Chandrasen. He realized that the limbless man was not a mere thief but a remarkable individual who had faced immense suffering. King Chandrasen decided to give his consent for the marriage between Vikramaditya and Princess Padmasena. The marriage was celebrated with great pomp and grandeur, and King Vikramaditya, despite his physical limitations, was welcomed into the royal family with honor.

The story took a dramatic turn as Vikramaditya’s fate seemed to have changed, for he now found himself in a position of great influence and responsibility in a foreign kingdom, compared to lying on the forest floor, left to die.

King Vikramaditya, weighed down by his worries and Shanidev’s seven and a half year curse, pondered when his ordeal would end and he could return to Ujjaini. In the midst of his worries, Shanidev appeared before him whom Vikramaditya did not recognize.

Chiding Vikramaditya for not recognizing Shanidev despite undergoing previous hardships, he was pleased with him, even though Vikramaditya was unable to stand due to his limblessness, but who still had prostrated himself before Shanidev. Lord Shani offered the king a boon. But Vikramaditya only asked for his mercy and for him to cease afflicting humanity, stating that others couldn’t bear the suffering as he had.

Shanidev granted Vikramaditya’s wish, restoring his limbs and making his appearance even more beautiful and radiant than ever before. Ecstatic, Vikramaditya thanked Shanidev, who then shared stories of how he had troubled gods and demons.

Shanidev explained that he had once asked Guru (Jupiter) to enter his zodiac sign for seven and a half years but Guru refused. After much persuasion, Guru agreed to two and a half hours. Under Shanidev’s influence, however, Guru lost track of time and committed a mistake that led to his temporary misfortune.

Shanidev then narrated how he troubled Indra, Chandra, and several other celestial beings and sages due to their transgressions or arrogance. He also mentioned instances where he afflicted individuals and kingdoms, including the Pandavas, Kauravas, and even Lord Krishna (Who was accused of stealing the Syamantaka Jewel), all because of their past karma and planetary positions. He concluded by recounting how he ruined King Harishchandra, Nala, Sage Vashishta, Lanka’s Ravana, and others due to their respective fates.

Upon finishing his stories, Shanidev bestowed another boon upon Vikramaditya: Those who read, listen to, or preserve this story will be protected from his wrath, find favors with him, and have their fortunes improve. Those who neglect or ridicule this story will face his displeasure. People should read this story every Saturday or sometime once a week before eating food, or listen to it with joy.

Back to the main narrative, Vikramaditya’s radiant and transformed presence had Princess Padmasena dumbstruck. King Chandrasen, stunned and speechless, after witnessing Vikramaditya’s transformation, asked for his true identity. Before revealing himself as the King of Ujjaini, Vikramaditya said, ‘I am your thief. So first, please call the merchant, Shripati.’ So a group of servants rushed to bring the merchant, Shripati, who was resting in his house.

The merchant rushed to the king’s court and bowed before the king. The merchant, pointing at King Vikramaditya said, “This is the thief, indeed. Please come to my house so you can see the studio where the necklace used to be.”

When they reached the studio in the merchant’s house, they noticed that the lifeless swan from the picture came back to life and regurgitated the pearl necklace that it had swallowed years ago. Everybody was surprised to see this and said, “Though impossible, this lifeless swan, as a matter of fact, did swallow the pearl necklace. Alas! This great man (King Vikramaditya) was blamed.”

King Chandrasen humbly apologized for unknowingly causing Vikramaditya’s prolonged suffering, to which Vikramaditya explained that his hardship was due to planetary positions and not Chandrasen’s fault, after revealing his true regal identity. They celebrated and rejoiced, and Vikramaditya bestowed many gifts on Tamlinda’s citizens. King Chandrasen was smiling on his endless good fortune!

The merchant too, regretting his past actions, was very happy and gave his daughter Alolika to Vikramaditya in marriage.

A month later, Vikramaditya decided to return to Ujjaini and was honored with gifts, servants, and more, before his departure. He arrived in Ujjaini where its citizens celebrated his return with joy! The king donated gifts and alms to the beggars to please them.

Vikramaditya resumed the worship of Shanidev, whose blessings resulted in a harmonious and prosperous royal reign over Ujjaini.

This story concludes with the translator offering prayers and emphasizing humility and Lord Panduranga’s Divine Grace for everything.

The English translator, Anand Gupte prays thus, “Let us be humble and not boastful of any of our achievements as everything happens with the grace of God Panduranga and His wish. tooch karataa aani karvitaa (Panduranga is the cause) sharan tulaa bhagvantaa (Therefore, I surrender to you O Lord!*) . OM

- posted Apr 27, 12:55 pm in


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