Shani, son of the Sun aka Surya, owing to the deceitful circumstances of his birth, was born crippled. In constant pain, barely able to move, unloved, unwanted, and banished, the young Deva was also a eunuch. He had every reason to be filled with rage, to wreak havoc on all, but truthfully was too pure, having been literally burned by the light of truth, to have any malefic intent.
As to his lethal gaze, the one that had marred his father’s golden complexion and burned the head off Ganesha, that wasn’t anything he asked for. Others looked at him and he saw it as an invitation to look back. If anything, he found his destructive gaze the greatest of all the many curses he bore. What good was it to be immortal, to be the son of the light of life and truth, to orbit that glowing wonder of creation and sustenance if he could not look upon any of it?
Moving slowly at the dark and freezing edge of visibility, young Saturn pondered. After a time he came to a remarkable conclusion: reality was what it was, and every being was a necessary addition to the whole of experience. The light of life and truth, to be that all-inclusive center, must shine on all extremes and everything in between. Young Shani was necessary and so resolved to play his part fully, just as soon as he figured out how.
About this time, the demon Ravana, he of the hundred heads passed near the orbit of Saturn. One of the monstrous heads glanced at Shani a moment too long and was incinerated when Saturn looked back. Furious at this offense to his physical form, Ravana immediately captured Saturn and locked him in a black dungeon far away from the solar system. As Saturn grew the dungeon became more and more confining, its black and lifeless walls pressed in from all sides. “Is this my purpose?” Shani wondered, “To be crushed within a cell too small to contain me? Is this really truth?”
But fate had greater plans for Saturn. The Sacred Monkey, Hanuman, the son of Vayu, the wind, had recently seen his own fortunes turned because of his curiosity. He had watched the rising Sun one fine morning and not yet fully awake but very hungry, he mistook it for a ripe fruit. With divine strength he leapt upwards toward the glowing orb, thinking to seize and eat it. Lord Indra, seeing the sleepy monkey leap, shouted a warning but before it reached Hanuman the Sun’s heat had completely incinerated him.
Taking compassion on the foolish Hanuman, Indra called For Vayu who created a cosmic whirlwind to gather the scattered ashes of his son. Painstakingly, he and Indra reformed the monkey, stretching the ash molecules to their limit and filling the gaps with wind and divine power from Indra’s thunderbolts.
The reconstructed Hanuman was reborn better, stronger, and with both more abilities and more intelligence than neatly any other being. Specifically he had the power to leap across continents and could change his size at will from the tiniest ant to as large as the whole cosmos.
It was from his giant perspective that he viewed the plight of young Shani, trapped and suffering in the cell where Ravana had imprisoned him. “I can help you,” he offered.
Shani looked at the talking-monkey who had drifted through the bars and sat on the cell’s window sill. Despite his misery, young Shani was amused. Perhaps this monkey was like many if his kind, enjoying a good joke. Shani, accepting reality, decided to go along. “If that is true, and you free me from this cell, I will share my day with you. Saturday shall be a day for all to pay tribute to you. They will bring coconut, sweets, jasmine oil and flowers to the temple where they worship. They will also feed your fellow monkeys and sing mantras to praise you.”
“Deal!” Hanuman said, and without moving he expanded to enormous size, shattering the window frame and the rest of the cell and scattering its pieces so many directions Ravana would never be able to rebuild it.
Surprised but grateful, Saturn averted his gaze. “No need for that,” Hanuman said. “After your father burned me to ash, Vayu and Indra recreated me in a body impervious to all fiery powers.”
Saturn slowly and with much encouragement gazed at his new friend. Not a single hair was singed no matter how long Shani’s eyes rested upon Hanuman.
“See? Nothing!” the delighted monkey chittered. “But, if you’re going to hang around anyone else, you’ll have to learn to control that gaze of yours.”
“Can you help with that?” Saturn asked.
“No, but my father can.” And so Hanuman brought Vayu, who was so pleased with Saturn’s offer to share his glory with Hanuman, that he gave Saturn the unlimited use of wind power to cool and dry.
“To look upon others, first send your wind,” Vayu said. “Keep it between you and those you look upon at all times. Then they will be safe.”
“How can I repay you both for this gift, for my very life?” Saturn asked.
Hanuman, who had been keeping a sharp eye on the Sun since rescuing Shani, fearful that Surya might harbor resentment at Hanuman’s attempt to eat him, climbed up on Saturn’s broad shoulders and said, “Your father is coming. He fears you, but he is coming. When you figure out what he wants, use your gifts to help others. It will perhaps earn us both some favor from him.”
Next post: Father and Son make a truce.