This Festival is celebrated as the birth anniversary of the Lord Shani. The son of Lord Surya, Lord Shani also rules the planet Saturn and a day of the week which is Saturday. The festival is also known as Shani Amavasya. With regards to the Hindu calendar, Shani Jayanti falls on the Vaishak Vaidya Chaturdashi Amavasya. One of the temples that the festival of Shani Jayanti is primarily celebrated is at the Shani Shingnapur Shaneshwara Mandir which is located in Maharashtra. Other North Indian temples and devotees also celebrate this festival in large numbers.
Legend goes that Lord Surya was married to Daksha’s daughter, Sandhya through which he was a father to 3 children namely, Manu, Yam and Yamuna. All was well until Sandhya felt small in the company of her radiant and powerful husband, where as a solution she created a womanly figure named Chaya from her shadow and gave her the responsibilities of being the wife of Lord Surya who in turn, did not doubt it. Sandhya went on to the forest to do penance in order to increase her powers. Chaya soon gave birth to 3 children namely Manu, Shani and Bhadra. However, when Chaya was pregnant with Lord Shani in her womb, she was doing severe penance to pacify Lord Shiva under the scorching sun which turned Lord Shani’s complexion to black. When Lord Shani was born, Lord Surya got shocked to see the dark complexion and suspected whether he was his child and vented out his anger on Chaya. Lord Shani as a child, saw that his mother was insulted without reason where he cast a cruel gaze upon his father which burned Lord Surya and turned his complexion as well to black. Lord Surya, unable to understand this went to Lord Shiva for help and was told the reality of the situation and Lord Surya thereby apologized and got his original complexion back. Ever since then, both the father and son shared a close-knit bond with each other.
The festival of Shani Jayanti is celebrated to avoid or fend off all the bad omens and evils from an individual’s life by appeasing Lord Shani. Devotees follow strict rules and regulations so as to keep the Lord Shani happy to avoid his furious nature. Regardless of your status, healthy or unhealthy, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, if you have to pay for your sins, Lord Shani will ensure that you do. However, it is not only bad luck or ill omens that happen due to Lord Shani. Conferring blessings to those who work hard and keep trying their best on a continuous basis is also done by Lord Shani.
The festival of Shani Jayanti is home to some of the rituals such as bathing the idol of Lord Shani in the morning with Gangajal, panch-amrut, oil and water. Once the bathing is completed, a haar or necklace is placed made of Navratnas, which depicts the navgrahas. A Shani Shanti puja as well as ‘Telabhishekam’ is performed in order to stay guarded from black magic, a ‘homam’ or ‘yagya’ is performed to avoid the influence of witchcraft where people are advised to wear a horse ring or hang it outside their house. Feed ants with wheat and jaggery. Chanting of Shani stotra and ‘Om Sham Shaneshchraya Namah’ is done to gain the benefic blessings of Lord Shani.