THE PLANETS(Vedic and Puranic)

“AT the great festivals of the Hindus a small offering is made to all the planets at once; but, excepting on these occasions, they are never worshipped together. They are, however, frequently worshipped separately by the sick and unfortunate who suppose themselves to be under the baneful influence of one or other of them. At these times they are worshipped one after the other in regular succession.”

Seven of the planets give names to the days of the week; the other two represent the ascending and descending nodes. Surya and Chandra (Soma) have already been noticed at length among the Vedic Deities; they are again described briefly along with the planets, under the names they bear in this connection.

“To Surya or Ravi are offered in the burnt sacrifice small pieces of the shrub arka (Asclepias gigantica); to Chandra those of the palasa (Butea frondosa); to Mangala (Mars) those of the khudiru (Mimosa catechu); to Budha (Mercury) those of the apārmārga (Achryranthes aspera); to Vrihaspati (Jupiter) those of the asvattha (Ficus religiosa); to Sukra (Venus) those of the ūrumbara; to Sani (Saturn) those of the Sami (Mimosa albida); to Rāhu (the ascending node) blades of Durva grass; and to Keta (the descending node) blades of Kusa grass.”

“The image of Surya is a round piece of mixed metal twelve fingers in diameter; of Chandra, a piece like a half-moon, a cubic from end to end; of Mangala, a triangular piece six fingers in width; of Budha, a golden bow two fingers in breadth; of Vrihaspati, a piece like a lotus; of Sukra, a square piece of silver; of Sani, an iron scimitar; of Rāhu, an iron makara (a fabulous animal, half stag and half fish); and of Ketu, an iron snake.”

  1. RAVI (the Sun), hence Ravibāra (Sunday), is the son of Kasyapa and Aditi. Though as Surya he is daily worshipped, as Ravi he is only worshipped at the greater festivals. “The ‘Jyotish-tatwa,’ a great work on astrology, says that if a person is born under the planet Ravi, he will possess an anxious mind, be subject to disease and other sufferings, be an exile, a prisoner, and suffer the loss of wife, children, and property.”

2. CHANDRA or SOMA, hence Somavāra (Monday). “If a person be born under the planet Soma he will have many friends; will possess elephants, horses, and palanquins; be honourable and powerful; will live on excellent food, and rest on superb couches.” A race of kings are said to be the descendants of Soma, by his wife Rohini (the Hyades), who are called the children of the moon.

3. MANGALA, hence Mangalavāra (Tuesday), is represented as a red man with four arms, riding on a sheep; he wears a red necklace and clothes of the same colour. “ If a person be born under the planet Mangala, he will be full of anxious thoughts, wounded with offensive weapons, imprisoned, oppressed with fear of robbers, fire, etc., and will lose his lands, trees, and good name.” This deity is identical with Kartikeya.

4. BUDHA, hence Budhavāra (Wednesday), was the son of Soma by Tārā, the wife of Vrihaspati, the preceptor of the gods. At his birth, on the confession of his mother that he was Soma’s son, her husband reduced her to ashes. Brahmā afterwards raised her to life, and, being purified by the fire, her husband received her back. Samudra (the Sea), incensed at his son for the great crime of dishonouring his preceptor’s wife, disinherited him; but owing to his sister Lakshmi’s influence, part of his sin was removed, and he became bright as the moon when three days old; and, through her intercession with Pārvati, he was restored to heaven, by being placed on Siva’s forehead, who, thus ornamented, went to a feast of the gods. Vrihaspati on seeing Chandra again in heaven was greatly incensed, but was appeased on Brahmā’s declaring that the lascivious god should be excluded from heaven and placed among the stars; and that the sin which had obscured his glory should remain for ever. “ If a person be born under the planet Budha, he will be fortunate, obtain an excellent wife,” etc.

5. VRIHASPATI, hence Vrihaspativāra (Thursday), was the preceptor of the gods, and is regarded as identical with Agni, almost the same epithets being applied to both in the Vedic hymns. In later times he is said to be a Rishi, a son of Angiras. “If a person be born under this planet, he will be endowed with an amiable disposition, possess palaces, gardens, lands, and be rich in money and corn. He will possess much religious merit, and have all his wishes gratified. Brāhmans, however, will not be so fortunate as those of other castes, for Vrihaspati being a Brāhman does not wish to exalt those of his own caste.”

6. SUKRA, hence Sukravāra (Friday), was the son of Bhrigu. He was the preceptor and the priest of the demons, and blind in one eye. The reason of this affliction is told in the following legend: When Vishnu, in the Dwarf Incarnation, went to Bāli, king of the daityas, to solicit a blessing, Sukra, as Bāli’s preceptor, forbade the king to give him anything. The king being determined to give what was asked, it was the duty of the priest to read the customary formula and to pour out water from a vessel as a ratification of the gift. Sukra, anxious to prevent his master from giving what was asked, as he foresaw that it would prove his ruin, entered the water in an invisible form, and by his magical powers prevented it from falling. Vishnu, aware of the device, put a straw into the vessel, which, entering Sukra’s eye, gave him so much pain that he could remain there no longer; so the water fell, the gift was ratified, and Sukra lost an eye. “If a person be born under the planet Sukra, he will have the faculty of knowing things past, present, and future. He will have many wives, a kingly umbrella (an emblem of royalty), and other kings will worship him.”

Sukra is said to have possessed the power of raising the dead, as the following legend shows: — Devajāni, the daughter of Sukra, was deeply in love with Kacha, a son of Vrihaspati and a pupil of her father, who had been sent to Sukra for the express purpose of learning from him the incantation for raising the dead. One day Devajāni sent Kacha to gather flowers from a wood belonging to some giants, who, on previous occasions had eaten him; but Sukra, by the above incantation, had restored him to life. The giants now resolved to make Sukra himself eat the boy; for which purpose, they cut him into small pieces, boiled him in spirits, and invited Sukra to an entertainment. As Kacha did not return with the flowers, Devajāni with many tears told her father that, if he did not restore her lover, she would certainly destroy herself. Sukra learned by the power of meditation that he had eaten the boy, but did not know how to restore him to life, without the attempt being fatal to himself. At length, whilst the boy was in his stomach, he restored him to life, and then taught him the incantation he was so wishful to learn. Kacha, tearing open Sukra’s stomach, came forth, and immediately using the wonderful incantation restored his teacher to life.

7. SANI, hence Sanivāra (Saturday), is said to be the son of Surya, and Chhāya, the servant whom his wife Savarnā substituted for herself; or, according to other accounts, he sprang from Balarāma and Revati. He is represented as a black man, clothed in black garments, riding on a vulture, with four arms. “If a person be born under the planet Sani, he will be slandered, his riches dissipated, his son, wife, and friends destroyed; he will live at variance with others and endure many sufferings.” Many stories are told of his evil influence, consequently the Hindus are under fear of evil from this planet. It was Sani who was said to have burnt off Ganesa’s head.

8. RĀHU (the ascending node) was the son of Vrihaspati and Sinhikā. He is described as a black man, riding on a lion. “If a person be born under the planet Rāhu, his wisdom, riches, and children will be destroyed; he will be exposed to many afflictions and be subject to his enemies.” According to the popular notions of the Hindus, at the time of an eclipse Rāhu devours the sun and moon; hence, as soon as an eclipse is noticed, the people make a dreadful noise, shouting, blowing horns, and beating drums, to cause Rāhu to restore these luminaries. The reason of this custom is probably found in the following story: Rāhu was originally an asura or giant, who took his present form at the churning of the sea. As the gods and demons churned, Surya and Chandra, who were sitting together, hinted to Vishnu, when the amrita appeared, that one of the demons had tasted it. Vishnu immediately cut off the head of the offender; but as he had drunk of the water of life, neither head nor trunk could perish. The head, taking the name of Rāhu, and the trunk, that of Ketu, were placed in heaven as the ascending and descending nodes, and leave was granted, as a means of revenge on Surya and Chandra, that on certain occasions

Rāhu should approach these gods and render them unclean, so that their bodies at these times become thin and black.



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