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Softening the Cruelty of God: Folklore, Ritual and the Planet Sani (Saturn) in Southeast India by David M. Knipe

Softening the Cruelty of God: Folklore, Ritual and the Planet Sani (Saturn) in Southeast India by David M. Knipe

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Published by: pawan1979 on Aug 31, 2011
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08/25/2012

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ChapterNine
SofteningtheCrueltyofGod:,Folklore,Ritual
a~~~
P!~IJkt
.Sani
(Saturn)inSoutheast
India'
DAVIDM.KNIPE
I
uestionedabout'Saturn',analertAmericanmiddle-schoolchildwillinformyouthatSaturnisanoutlyingplanerorbitingthesun,theonewiththebeautifulrings,anditisanunlikelyplacetosupportlifeasweknowit.Recentphotographsrelayedtoearth-fromaspacecrafthavebeenshownonavideocassetteinclass.Ifthestudentlivesnearanobservatoryoragoodtelescope,adose-uplookwillberecounted,andperhapseventheeventoflocatingtheplanetinthenightskywiththenakedeye.(Oc~casionallyastudentwillsaythat'Saturn'ishomeinthegarage,aparent'snew-agecar.)
]This
essay
is
affectionatelydedicated
to
NarayanaRao,friendandcolleagueoftwodecades,superbmentor,indefatigableteacher,ground-breakingscholar,wisecounsellor,onewhomarvellouslyspotstheupbear,creativeaspectofanyandeverysituation.MayhisSanibe~ubha.FieldworkwasconductedinEastGodavariDistrictin
1987-88
and
1991-
92,thelatterperiodwithaseniorresearchfellowshipfromtheAmericanInstituteofIndianStudies.
My
gratimdeforfieldassistancegoestoDrM.V.Krishnayya.0fWalrairandtoDrK-V.S.L.Narasamamba,KaveriSundaramandCh.HanumanthaRaoofRajahmundry.ForinsightsonSani.Ithankmycolleagues,
V.
NarayanaRaoandKirinNarayan,andforsharingherknowledgeofastrologyin(heWest,IthankShelleyJordanMonrci,
 
SofteningtheCrueltyofGod
207
Ifquestionedabout'Sani',th~~ndSanskritj.narne
for
Saturn,analertmiddle-schoolchildinRajahmundry,orinoutlyingvillagesinEastGodavariDistrict,AndhraPradesh,will
Ie-II
youthatSanigiveshisnametoSanivara,Saturday,thelastday
III
[heweek.
He
ispowerful,black,generallyunpleasantlooking,uncomfortabletotalkaboutbecauseheisabringerof'badtimes'IIldallsortsofmisfortunes-evencatastrophicillnessanddeath-
r
I
ur
paren
ts,
relatives,andfriendsamibutefreguendyto'mySani'.(hestudenthasneverseenanactualtelescopeandhasnoideaoffindingSaniinthenightsky.-Ifadultsareconsidered,fewAmericanswillcare
to
gobeyond
1
newspaperhoroscope,limitedtothetwelvesignsofthezodiac,
10
discoverfromanastrologerthe'effects'ontheirlivesofSaturn
til
anyotherplanetorasterism.Bycontrast,themajorityofadults
111
Rajahrnundryanditsneighbouringareas,asintherestofsouthludia,haveanoccasional,arepeated,orevenaconstantconcernIrp;ardingtheRersona!influenceofthe
navagrahas,
thecelestial
II)
mmuni
ty
ofnip.~lanets.
2
Muchofthatconcernfocusesonthe
d.lrlc
andtroublesome_g1'ahaknownas
Sat.!i.
.,_o~"~~~
"<1~"')'......"..
Curiously,althoughSouthAsiansreadilyspeakoftheircon-"Imingpassionforastrology,andhundredsofbooks,articlesand
11,l7.aar
tractsarepublishedannuallyineverySouthAsianlanguage,WesternscholarshiphaspaidscantattentiontotheQlafeofastro-
i-<>f
logicalbeliefs,rituals,_customsandsymbolsinthesocialand\Irligiousfrf~of.kofS_Qutfl~i~nhistot}'"pastandpresent.This~
~~:1y
isanintroduction
to
asetofregionaltraditionsregarding
IIlIe
ofthenavagrahas.Thesetraditionsareinmanywaystypical
III
southIndia,andinsomewaysareE-pre_s_entatiye__Q£indu'1lluthAsiaatlarge.
1
ThereligiousvocabularyofTeluguisbasicallySanskritandthetermsused
III
thisessayareSanskrit,unlessotherwisenoted..Forstandardrecognition,
I,.\wcver,
finalnasalshavebeendropped,orthefinal
-:1
supplied(e.g.,
abhi-
Hili
ratherthan[hecorrectTeluguform
abhi~ekham,purohlta
ratherthan
lilt/bit)..
 
'OH
SyLlables
of
Sky
1.
SaniandtheNavagrahas
l"'~I-<'''-W'51
I
",firNaksatrasandVedicGrabas
l
r
1
win
naksatras,
or
asterisms,
werementionedsporadicallyin
,h('
!?r;ueda
towardsthecloseofthesecondmillennium
BeE.
The
lull
setoftwellty~eigh.LQ_[.Jwen~~sevenwasfirstrecordednotlong
Illl')'
1OQQBCE.inAtk4rv~l2..1
and
TaittiriyaSarrzhitii
4..4.10.
I
ht,
habitualappearanceoftheseconstellationswaseventually
I(,
ko
nedsignificantfordeterminlggthehou;>J<.holder'siIualcal-
IlId.lf,
establishmentoffiresano:!...!h~p~rforITl.ance~_Qf
.4lJ/SkiJIas
(lill'
cyclerit~andyajn~;(';;'ifices)..Consequently,particularlI,d(~:\crascametobeappraisedeitheras
pUll-ya,
'pure,auspicious',
~;'1"
tll
f/(ipa,
'evil',thereforeinausicious,andallofthemwerere-r;y.,_
wrrdcd
ritua.lly.The
nak5!!trefti'
an
u.#
(vegetaple
9ffe.dng)_
tothe1~lt'J"isms,sadomesticritualthatiseventodayperformedaccord-
I1'I
',10
theT
ai
tci~·lyatextsbyremnantpocketsofVedicBr~mins_
III
t
hc
agraharasofEastGodavariDistrict.
3
ButtheVedic
naksarra.n
relationsdidnotincludeany
set
ofplanets,entitiesthatmay
II.IV{'
beentheB-gv;dicpoets'allusionstofive
bulls
orotherpentads
111I
he
heavens.NordidtheyincludeanydeclaredmethodofIlIlHlscopicastrologybasedontheconsonanceofaparticularbirth
"II
I
I
he
appearanceofthemoon,sunorotherplanet..(}nthepathtill
henaksatras)
Theclosestapproximationwouldbe
in
the
("hYllSutras
attached
to
thevariousVedic
fiikhas
inalaterperiod,
III
wi!
ichritualistsassociatedaninfant's
namalearana,
name-giving
1111\J..ara,
with..9fFeri!.1g~e_nalg~.9f~h~c:;hild.'s_birthdayas
,II
.1
S
to
thJe_dej
!.
pg.sidi.ngflverth_at_nalqatra..Earlier,
Brhaspari
1III,ilcr),the
purohita
ofthegods,mayhavebeenregardedasthe
I,
II
Y
rulingthe
naksatra
Tisya,alsoknownas
Pusya
(Taittiriya
II,
,dlll1d,!-a
3.1.1.5),butapartfromtheSunandtheMoon,other
I
III
nearbyVijayawadaonthe"KrishnaRiver,aVedic
nahsatra
ynjiia
was
Ii
101111111)22
November
to
26December1991.InadditiontoR.Chandrasek-
I!
III
Y'IJlllu.an
agnihotrinwho
was
the
yajamiina,
13
qualified
Vaidika
Brahmins
III,
IlInlforrhe36~da)'sacrificethatbeganonthefimdayof(hedarkhalf
II
1111
ilea
mara.
K!·ttikas(Pleiades)istheini~ialnaks~~a.
acc{){(i!.!.1g._~dy
..liI,lm,l.

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