Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 35

BY: SUN STAFF - 23.1 2018


Lord Ramanathaswami in sanctum at Thirunaraiyur

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.

Lord Brahma at Ramanathaswami Thirunaraiyur

Yesterday we visited the Nachiarkoil at Thirunaraiyur, one of the 108 Vaisnava Divyadesams. But the town of Thirunaraiyur is home to two other famous temples. One of these is the island temple at Rameswaram, called Thirunaraiyur Ramanathaswami Temple, which sits between the Siddheswaram Siva temple and the Nachiarkoil temple.

The presiding deity here is Ramanathaswami, who is considered to be as holy as the Deity at the main Rameswaram temple. He is facing the east, while his consort, Parvathavardhini, faces south from her separate shrine.

Parvadhavardhini Ambal

Lord Brahma is also here, in his own shrine in the sanctum sanctorum, and there is another prominent shrine here for Saturn. We were interested to learn that some scholars believe Saturn, or Sanaischaran, is an embodiment of Lord Brahma himself. Further details on this attribution are given below.

On the southern side of the temple sanctum at Rameswaram is Medha Dakshinamoorthy, to the southwest side is Vinayaka, and opposite is Subramania, with Valli and Devasena. There are also shrines for Gaja-Laksmi, Hanumantha Lingam, Annamalaiyar, Durga, and Chadikeswarar. There is a separate shrine for the Navagrahas, at the center of which are Surya with his consorts, Ushadevi and Prathyushadevi, which is said to be a rare configuration. The other eight grahas are positioned around Lord Surya.

Thirunaraiyur Ramanathaswami Temple

The temple, also known as Saneeswarar Thirukkoil, is quite famous for the shrine of Sanaischaran (sometimes erroneously called Saneeswaran), or Lord Saturn. Devotees throng to have this heavenly personality's darshan on Saturdays. Sanaischaran ('one who moves slowly') appears here with his two wives and two sons. Because it takes Saturn 30 years to circumambulate the Sun, he is called 'the slow mover'. In front of the deity's shrine there is a separate Dhwajasthamba (pole), Balipeetam, and Saturn's crow vahana in front of his shrine.

The temple's Sthala Vriksham is an Erukku tree, and the holy water sources are Brahma Theertham and Rama Theertham. According to the Sthalapuranam (temple record), Lord Rama and Anjaneya visited this place on their return from Lanka to Ayodhya.

Temple Legends:

One of the most interesting stories associated with this temple is that of Lord Sanaischaran. Saturn is said to circumambulate the legendary Meru Parvatham every day, embracing it. He was born on a Saturday, with Rohini as his birth star. His vahana is pulled by the crow (or eagle), and he carries a bow, arrow, trishul and gatha in his four hands. Sanaischaran is fond of stotras praising him, and his preferred food is rice mixed with gingelly, coconut and jaggery. A lamp with gingelly seeds, tied in a new cloth and kept in gingelly oil, is lit and offered to him, along with flowers and items that are blue in color.

It is said that when King Dasaratha ruled the world, Saturn was to pass through Rohini star, after staying in Krithigai. The sage Vasishta and others warned Dasaratha that if Saturn did so, it would spell doom for the world. There would be famine for 12 years, and animals and humans would experience much hardship. Vasishta asked Dasaratha to prevent this, and Dasaratha immediately rode his chariot to the star, Rohini. There he saw Saturn moving in his own golden chariot towards Rohini, so Dasaratha sent his divine weapons, including the Samhara Asthram, towards Saturn to stop him.

Saturn laughed at this and threatened Dasaratha, but because Dasaratha had performed severe austerities, Saturn could not kill him. Upon hearing his plea on behalf of the residents of the planet, Saturn was pleased with the king's concern for the welfare of his subjects. He therefore did not pass through Rohini, and the people were spared the suffering.

Saturn also told Dasaratha that if he visited Thirunaraiyur and bathed in the tank there, he would give the king darshan. Dasaratha did so, and Sanaischaran appeared as promised, born into the family of Chayadevi and Surya. Thus Thirunaraiyur is considered to be the most famous place of Saturn's worship, even more so than the famous Thirunallar temple. At Thirunaraiyur Ramanathaswami Temple, Saturn is worshipped along with his two wives, Mandhadevi and Jyeshtadevi (or Neeladevi) and his two sons, Maandhi and Kuligan, and this is said to be the only temple where the entire family resides.

Lord Sanaischaran with consorts Mandhadevi and Jyeshtadevi,
and sons Maandhi and Kuligan (right)


Associating Lord Brahma with Saturn

Some scholars assert that the identification of Lord Brahma with Saturn is indicated by the fact that Brahmadeva is assigned a celestial sphere (see Ramayana, Canto XLV, and the Kalika Purana, ch. xxv), and such a celestial sphere may be interpreted as an orbit.

The Mahabharata states that 'the high-souled Brahma is seated in the highest (abode)'. Likewise the Brhad-aranyaka Uphanishad places Brahman in the highest "world". In the Yogabhasya of Vyasa, the highest celestial sphere is described as being that of Brahma. In the Vishnu Purana the Brahmaloka is noted as the seventh and highest heaven, and some sources refer to Brahmaloka as Satyaloka. We also read that Saturn moves in the highest orbit, exerting the greatest influence. The notion that Shiva shines in Jupiter, and Brahma in Saturn, was instituted into the western understanding of Vedic cosmology by E. Moor, in his widely distributed tome, The Hindu Pantheon (1864).

In Brhat Parashara Hora Shastra and in Jaimini's Upadesa Sutras we find comments on the Graha Sutras:

"Vahni (Fire), Ambu (Water), Shikhija, Vishnu, Vidauja (Indra), Sachi, and Ka (Brahma), O' Twice Born, from the Sun and the other Grahas in their order are known the Devas." 
(Brhat Parashara, 18)

The Grahas are considered to be under the administrative power of several deities. As creator of the three worlds, and behind the veil of Maya and each jiva's avidya, Saturn is said to be responsible for this avidya, through his governance of the flow of life force into the nerves. As consciousness descends into the nerves, then into the sense organs, the material creation is perceived. In this way Brahma is said to require Saturn for his creation, and likewise, Saturn is said to be an embodiment of Brahmadeva. This is a field of knowledge entirely out of the scope of our own limited understanding of such things, so the comparison of Brahma to Saturn, or any relationship between the two, is a matter for the experts, and in the context of this article, the information must be taken as speculative.

Iconography of Brahma as Saturn (left) and typical Saturn (right)