King Vikramaditya, said, “Now tell me about the seventh planet.”
The tall, dark, thin seventh pundit, whose dress and manner betokened his traditionalist conservative nature, was the very portrait of disciplined authoritativeness. He spoke with his eyes slightly downcast, a shadow of harshness in his voice. His words reverberated across the palace’s marble like the caw of a distant crow skips along the surface of a glacier.
“0 King!” he began. “Saturn is the supreme terrifier among the planets. All beings fear him, for he rules bereavements and misfortunes. If pleased he will give you a kingdom, but if irate he will snatch everything away from you in a moment. His grace makes you happy, while his wrath so thoroughly ruins you that your name is completely forgotten in the human world. Saturn determines longevity and death, for he is Lord of Time. The ambition of kings is great, but their lives are fleeting. All the kings who have ever ruled the earth with their might have been reduced by Time to tales that others tell. Even King Indra and all the gods panic when Saturn is nearby, for over the ages many thousands of Indras have been overtaken by the power of Time.
“Lord Saturn is tall, black, long-limbed, and emaciated, with reddish-brown eyes, large teeth and nails, prominent veins, a sunken stomach, a long beard, matted locks, and profuse coarse, stiff body hair. He is lame and his limbs are rigid; his constitution is Vata. Intensely harsh, he is cruel in authority, and his gaze, which is directed downward, is utterly terrifying. He is a Shudra; some even call him outcaste. By trade he is an oil-presser who worships Kala Bhairava (‘the Great Black Terrifier’). His metal is iron, and his gem is blue sapphire.
“Lord of the sinews and nerves, of the west, of Saturday, and of the constellations Capricorn and Aquarius, he is also known as the Slow, Son of Shadow, the Angular, the Black, the Endless, the End- Causer, the All-Devouring, the Steady, the Controller, the Famished, and the Emaciated.
“Saturn is the son of the Sun and his wife’s shadow Chaya. As soon as Saturn was born, his gaze fell on his father and caused vitiligo; his gaze next fell on the Sun’s charioteer, who fell and broke his thigh; and when that gaze lit upon the seven horses of the Sun’s chariot they all went stone blind. The Sun tried a number of remedies to remove these infirmities but nothing worked. It was only when Saturn’s gaze left them that the Sun’s skin cleared, his charioteers femur healed, and his horses regained their sight.
“Although Saturn became a planet after performing penance in Benaras and propitiating Lord Shiva, he did not even spare his benefactor. When Shiva’s son Ganesha was born, his mother Parvati wanted to show the boy to Saturn. Saturn politely advised Her not to do so, but when She insisted, he gazed at the child reluctantly with only one eye. Instantly Ganesha’s head was reduced to ashes. To prevent Parvati in Her anger from destroying the universe, Lord Vishnu flew north on His eagle Garuda and, finding a bull elephant exhausted from intercourse with his mate, cut off his head, returned with it, and joined it successfully to Ganesha’s body.
“If you hope to prevent Saturn from mangling your life, as he has mangled so many lives, make regular offerings of black sesame seeds, sesame oil, and sugar on Saturdays to an iron image of that planet; also, make Saturday donations of sesame and iron to the needy. I make my sincere obeisance to that Lord Saturn whose color is that of pure collyrium, who is the son of the Sun and Shadow, and who is the brother of Yama, the god of righteousness and death.”