In Hindu mythology, Sani is identified with the inauspicious planet Saturn and its Regent, whose vehicle is a crow. Hindus believed in the existence of nine planets called Navagraha(s). Many rituals referred to the planets that often were depicted at the entrance of Hindu Temples built in the tenth and eleventh centuries A. D. in Bhubaneshwar, a city in the southwest of Calcutta. The planets were placed on temple doors, to protect the temple and all who entered it.

Hindus believed that the planets affected the life of the individual and the course of history. For this reason, they are especially worshipped in times of danger. Rahu and Ketu are also inauspicious. In South India Sani, Ketu and Rahu (as well as birds and frogs) are believed to be responsible for children's diseases. Predictions were made on rain and crops on the basis of the position of the planets. In particular, Hindus used a Saturn diagram to tell fortunes. A Saturn diagram is a circle that includes twenty-seven lunar divisions through which Saturn passes in its orbit around the Sun.

For the Hindus, the planetary council was composed of the Sun(Surya), the Moon(Soma), Mars(Mangala or Angaraka), Mercury(Buddha), Jupiter(Brhaspati), Venus(Sukra), Saturn(Sani), an ascending node called Rahu and a descending node called Ketu. The ascending and descending nodes are the invisible nodes of the Moon's orbit. Ketu, the descending node was included in the planetary council only later. In fact, it does not appear depicted in the lintel of the inner shrine of the Parashurameshvara temple, built in the eighth century A.D.

Hindus probably did not know about Uranus and Neptune which cannot be detected without telescopes. Sani was known as Kruralochana, the evil-eyed one, because his glance was extremely powerful and could burn anything instantly. According to an account, Sani is held responsible for burning the head of the god Ganesa when he was a child. Ganesa was the Hindu god who propitiates success and wisdom. He has the feature of a man with four hands and an elephant head.

When he was an infant, his mother once asked Sani to look after her child forgetting Sani's evil-eye. When Sani looked at Ganesa, the child's head burnt in a flash. Heartbroken, Ganesa's mother replaced the head of her child with the first thing she could find, namely the head of an elephant. Sani's father was the Sun god Surya.

Last modified July 19, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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