Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Grahas included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Grahas

(planets) Indians from very ancient days have maintained certain definite ideas and inferences about the planets. Though those ideas differ somewhat from the results of modern researches, the influence of the ancient ideas is discernible in all the Purāṇic texts in India. The main ideas are summarised below.

Sūrya (Sun), Candra (Moon), Śukra (Venus), Budha (Mercury), Kuja (Mars), Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), Śani (Saturn), Rāhu and Ketu are the navagrahas (the nine planets).

"sūryaścandro maṅgalaśca budhaścāpi bṛhaspatiḥ śukraḥ śanaiścaro rāhuḥ ketuśceti navagrahāḥ" Besides the above nine planets, Indian astronomers take into account a starry sphere in the sky called Saptarṣis and the star called Dhruva.


The sun gives light to all the other planets. It has an area of 50 crore yojanas and its distance from the earth is 22 crore yojanas. Śūrya exists within the universe, and is called also Mārtaṇḍa as it originated from dead (mṛta) egg (aṇḍa). Sūrya divides the sky, heaven, hell, the earth, east, west, north, south etc. from one another. According to the course of Sūrya three periods of time or 'seasons' like uttarāyaṇa, dakṣiṇāyana and viṣuvat are caused. Five months from May is the uttarāyaṇa period, five months from November the dakṣiṇāyana period, and the months of April and October are the Viṣuvats. Since during the uttarāyaṇa the sun rises up comparatively slowly (mandagati) during this period the day is longer than night. As in dakṣiṇāyana the course of the sun is quicker in pace (Śīghragati) night is longer than day, and during viṣuvat, (samagati) day and night are of equal duration.

The other planets have three positions called Jaradgava, Airāvata and Vaiśvānara, the first being the central position, the second the northern position and the third the southern position. Nine stars, Aśvinī, Bharaṇī, Kṛttikā, Rohiṇī, Mṛgaśiras, Ārdrā, Punarvasu and Puṣya occupy the Airāvata vīthī (northern position or segment). Another nine stars, Maghā, Pūrva Phalgunī, Uttara Phalgunī, Hasta, Citrā, Svātī, Viśakhā, Anurādhā and Jyeṣṭhā occupy the central position, and the last nine stars, Mūla, Purvāṣāḍha, Uttarāṣāḍha, Śravaṇa, Śraviṣṭhā, Śatabhiṣak, Pūrvaproṣṭhapada, Uttaraproṣṭhapada and Revatī occupy the southern position.

To the east, south, west and north of Mount Mahāmeru exist Devadhānikā (Indrapurī) Saṃyamanī (Yamapurī) Ṅimlocanī (Varuṇapurī) and Vibhāvarī (Kuberapurī) respectively. When Sūrya appears in Devadhānikā it will be dawn, when he has travelled to Saṃyamanī it will be noon, when he is in Nimlocanī it will be sunset and when he is in Vibhāvarī it will be mid-night. This is how Śurya circles the Mahāmeru. Within 15 nāḍikās (6 hours) the sun travels 2(1/2) crores plus 2(1/2) lakhs of yojanas. Sūrya’s chariot has one wheel and twelve spokes. The wheel represents a year and the twelve spokes stand for the twelve months of the year. The chariot has also three nābhis representing the three cāturmāsyas, and six bands representing the six seasons. The height of the chariot is 36 lakhs yojanas and it has a width of 8 yojanas inside. Aruṇadeva is the charioteer, and the seven chandas are the horses. The seven chandas are, Gāyatrī, Bṛhatī, Uṣṇik, Jagatī, Triṣṭubh, Anuṣṭubh and Paṅkti).

Night is called Uṣā and day Vyuṣṭi and the time in between is Sandhyā. When Sandhyā begins the terrible Rākṣasas called Mandehas attempt to consume Sūrya. They have been granted the boon that everyday they will be dying though they may not be losing their bodies. So, everyday there rages a fierce fight between them and Sūrya. When the fight is on, noble brahmins throw up water sanctified by Gāyatrī mantra with 'Om'. The water turns into Vajrāyudha and burns the Rākṣasas to ashes. The first offering in Agnihotra is made with the recitation of the mantra beginning 'Sūryo Jyoti' because of which the sun is able to shine with thousands of rays with the result that the Rākṣasas are burned to death. The Bālakhilyas who number more than 60,000 form Sūryā’s body-guard. (See under Sūrya for Purāṇīc stories about him).

Candra. (The Moon).

Candra exists at one lakh yojanas away from Sūrya, and it revolves round the earth. A cāndra month of twentyseven days is divided into twelve rāśis (houses) viz. Siṃha (Leo), Kanyā (Virgo) Tulā (Libra) Vṛścika (Scorpio) Dhanus (Sagittarius) Makara (Capricorn) Kuṃbha (Aquarius) Mīna (Pisces) Meṣa (Aries) Vṛṣabha (Taurus) Mithuna (Gemini) and Karkaṭaka (Cancer). Every month Candra stays in each of the above houses only for 2(1/4) days.

The full moon makes Pitṛs happy, divides the month into two halves, Kṛṣṇa Pakṣa (the dark fortnight) and Śukla Pakṣa (the bright fortnight) and functions as the very life of all living beings. The twentyseven stars from Aśvinī to Revatī are the wives of Candra. There is another view that Candra has twentyeight wives including another star called Abhijit. Candra has another name, Sarvamaya. Candra with his pleasing rays, as sweet as Amṛta (Nectar) bestows happiness on devas, Pitṛs and all other living beings. So he is called Sarvamaya.

Candra’s chariot has three wheels. Ten beautiful horses white as Jasmine flowers draw the chariot. These horses also like those of Sūrya live for a Kalpa era. Because the Devas drink its digits Candra wanes into one digit (Kalā). Then Sūrya makes him wax again with one single ray of his called Suṣumnā. When only two Kalās of his remain Candra enters the orbit of Sūrya and stays there in the ray called 'amā', and that day, therefore is called amāvāsyā. And on that day Candra enters waters for the first time, and after that dwells in trees, creepers etc. While Candra is thus in trees etc. those who cut them will be committing the sin of brahmahatyā. (slaughter of a brahmin). When only a little of the 15th kalā remains on new moon day hordes of Pitṛs gather round the enfeebled Candra to drink him, and they drink the amṛta kalā, one of the two kalās still remaining with him. Thus the three classes of Pitṛs, Barhiṣadas, Saumyas and Agniṣvāttas get absolutely satisfied for one month. Thus Candra nurtures Devas in the Śukla Pakṣa and pitṛs in Kṛṣṇa Pakṣa, and grows trees, creepers etc. with life-giving water. (For details see under Candra).

Śukra (Venus).

Śukra is an auspicious Deva very much interested in doing good to the world and making people happy. His course is also, like that of Śūrya, of three types, intense (quick), slow and of equal pace. Two-and-a-half yojanas above Sūrya, Śukra follows a course alternating in front of and behind Sūrya. Śukra never goes very far away from Śūrya, and he possesses a big chariot drawn by horses from earth. (For details see under Śukra).

Budha (Mercury).

Though inherently auspicious Budha, in contact with inauspicious planets takes their character and becomes weak. Budha also has the three paces, quick, slow and medium. Budha moves close to Sūrya and if he moves from Sūrya storms, failure of rain etc. will be the result. He is considered to be the son of Candra. His chariot is made of wind and fire, golden in colour and is drawn by eight horses having the speed of wind. (See under Budha for more details).

Kuja (Mars).

Kuja is two lakhs of yojanas above Budha, and remains in every rāśi (house) more or less for 45 days. When the position is affected it causes inauspicious experiences to living beings. The chariot of Kuja is made of gold, glittering and of huge size. Eight horses born from Agni draw the chariot.

Bṛhaspati (Jupiter).

Jupiter travels 2 lakhs of yojanas away from Kuja’s sphere. Though it is an auspicious planet its reverse course is productive of evil results. Jupiter travels for twelve months in every rāśi (house). His golden chariot is drawn by eight white horses. (See Bṛhaspati).

Śani (Saturn).

Śani is 2 lakhs of yojanas away from Jupiter’s sphere, and it stays in every house for twenty months. As it moves only slowly it is called Śanaiścara also. Śani is considered to be the son of Sūrya. It is an inauspicious planet. His chariot is drawn by multicoloured horses born in the sky.


His ash-coloured chariot is drawn by eight horses as dark as beetles. Once the horses are harnessed to the chariot it will always be running. On full moon days Rāhu starts from Sūrya and reaches Candra and returns to Sūrya on new moon days. It is an inauspicious planet. (For details see under Rāhu).


His chariot is drawn by eight horses, which have the speed of wind. It is also an inauspicious planet.


Thirteen crores of yojanas away from the zone of Śani exists the Saptarṣi zone. Seven maharṣis are incessantly on the move in that sphere, wishing all that is well for the whole world. (See Saptarṣis).


Thirteen crores of yojanas away from the saptarṣimaṇḍala there is a place called Viṣṇupada. Dhruva, son of Uttānapāda lives there in the company of Indra, Agni, Kaśyapa, Dharma and others. The Dhruvamaṇḍala remains there stationary like the supporting pillar of all the planets ever on the move. (See Dhruva; Devībhāgavata 8th Skandha; Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Part II).

Astrologers aver that living beings pass through the periods and positions of the following planets, viz. Ketu, Śukra (Venus) Āditya (Sun), Candra (Moon), Kuja (Mars), Rāhu, Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), Śani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury). The following table shows how people born under different stars pass through the different daśās. The order of succession of the daśās and the period of each daśā can also be seen from this table.

Stars (Day of birth)* Daśā Years

Aśvinī (Aśvayuk) Maghā Mūla Ketu 7

Bharaṇī Pūrvā Phalgunī Pūrvāṣāḍha Śukra 20

Kṛttikā Uttaraphalgunī Uttarāṣāḍha Āditya 6

Rohiṇī Hastam Śravaṇa Candra 10

Mṛgaśiras Citrā Śraviṣṭhā Kuja 7

Ārdrā Svātī Śatabhiṣaj Rāhu 18

Punarvasū Viśākhā Pūrvaproṣṭhapada Bṛhaspati 18

Puṣya Anurādhā Ūttaraproṣṭhapada Śani 19

Āśleṣā Jyeṣṭhā Revatī Budha 17

*) To find out your daśā at the time of birth, please see the above table. Any one born under any of the stars is considered born in the daśā shown in the right hand side against that star; e. g. People born under (Aśvayuk) Aśvinī, Mṛgaśīṛṣa and Mūla are born into the Ketu daśā. So with the other stars also as shown in the above table. To calculate how long the daśā into which a particular person is born will last requires some astrological skill; also the exact time of birth should be known. A star remains dominant for about 24 hours. If a man is born under a star when half this period of dominance is over, then that man will get only half the period of the corresponding daśā. The portion of the daśā that the man will get is proportionate to the period of dominance of the star. For example, a man is born under the star Aśvainī (Aśvyuk) when the star is in the last quarter of the Ketu daśā. The total period of this daśā is 7 years. But the man will get only the last quarter of it, namely about 1(3/4) years. After that he will pass on to the next daśā—Śukradaśā.

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