Understanding Navaghara

What is it?
Nava means 'nine' and ghara means planetary ‘energy’, ‘force’ or ‘controller’ so Navagraha Pooja is a prayer ritual performed to energise an individual or family according to the nine planetary forces. According to modern astronomy, only five of these nine influences are actually planets. Kuja (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Sukra (Venus) and Sani (Saturn), Surya (the Sun) is a Star. Chandra (the Moon) is a natural satellite, Rahu (north node of the moon) and Ketu (south node of the moon) are not celestial bodies, but polar energies.

Why do it?
The purpose of the Navagraha prayer is to counter-effect any negative astrological effects of the nine planets. The nine navagraha murthis (effigies) of the Gayathri Peedam Navagraha Shrine have been energised by specific mantras and prayers to promote the beneficial astrological effects of each planet, and help to counteract or reduce the potential negative effects in the life of an individual.

Who can do it?
The Navagraha Pooja can be done by anyone, but should be performed especially by business owners, those who are ill, devotees going through a negative or challenging time and anyone wanting to reduce possible future astrological influences. The prayer is best performed by all members of an immediate family together, or singularly by an individual sadhak (aspirant) whose immediate family are not involved in the temple.

How does it work?
Each Graha is associated with a specific colour and substance, according to the frequency of each. When performing the Navagraha Pooja, it adds to the efficacy of the prayer to wear the colour pertaining to your planet and if possible a navagraha ring, mala or pendant (these can be purchased from the Gayathri Peedam shop). The temple usually provides devotees with the samaghri (seeds and herbs) associated with each planet which will further add to the success of the prayer.

How do I know my planetary number and colour?
Use the following formula to calculate your planetary number:
birth day + birth month + birth year = planetary number. eg. 15 July 1953 will be calculated as follows: 1 + 5 + 7 + 1 + 9 + 5 + 3 = 31, then 3 + 1 = 4 In this case, 4 is the planetary number of this person.

The planetary colour and substance associations are as follows:
Surya (Sun) - Number 1, Colour Red, Stone Ruby, Day Sunday, Related to Soul, Wheat Chandran (Moon) - Number 2, Colour White, Stone Moonstone or Pearl, Day Monday, Related to Mind, Paddy (Rice) Kujan (Mars) - Number 3, Colour Red, Stone Red Coral, Day Tuesday, Related to Ego, Red Bean Budhan (Mercury) - Number 4, Colour Green, Stone Emerald, Day Wednesday, Related to Communication, Green Bean Guru (Jupiter) - Number 5, Colour Yellow, Stone Yellow Sapphire, Day Thursday, Related to Wisdom, Gram Sukran (Venus) - Numer 6, Colour White, Stone Diamond, Day Friday, Related to Wealth, Field Bean Saani (Saturn) - Number 7, Colour Black, Stone Blue Sapphire, Day Saturday, Related to Career and Longevity, Black Thil Seed Rahu (N. Node) - Number 8, Colour Dark Blue, Stone Garnet, Related to Chaos, Black Gram Ketu (S. Node) - Number 9, Colour Light Blue, Stone Cat’s Eye, Related to Supernatural influences, Linseed

What are the mantras for the nine planets?
There are many mantras recited during the Navagraha Prayer and even more during the MahaNavagraha. The Mantras are written in the oldest language of (Sanskrit) of which each letter has a specific frequency to affect an action when recited properly and with the correct intent.

Below are the offering mantras for each planet:
Om Guru Suryan Namaha Om Guru Chandran Namaha
Om Guru Kuman Namaha Om Guru Buddhan Namaha
Om Guru Guru Namaha
Om Guru Sukran Namaha
Om Guru Sani Namaha
Om Guru Rahu Namaha
Om Guru Ketu Namaha

Following is the English meaning of the song of praise to the planets.
Salutations to the navagrahaas, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu. I pray to the Sun, the day-maker, destroyer of all sins, the enemy of darkness, of great brilliance, the descendent of Kaashyapa, the one who shines like the japaa flower. I pray to the Moon who shines cooly like curds or a white shell, who arose from the ocean of milk, who has a hare on him, Soma, who is the ornament of Shiva’s hair. I pray to Mars, born of Earth, who shines with the same brilliance as lightning, the young man who carries a spear. I pray to Mercury, dark like the bud of millet, of unequalled beauty, gentle and agreeable. I pray to Jupiter, the teacher of gods and rishis, intellect incarnate, lord of the three worlds. I pray to Venus, the ultimate preceptor of demons, promulgator of all learning, he who shines like the fibre of snow-white jasmine. I pray to Saturn, the slow moving, born of shade and sun, the elder brother of Yama, the offspring of Sun, he who has the appearance of black collyrium. I pray to Rahu, having half a body, of great bravery, the eclipser of the Moon and the Sun, born of Simhikaa. I Pray to Ketu, who has the appearance of Palaasha flower, the head of stars and planets, fierce and terrifying. Those who read the song sung by VyAsa will be joyous, sovereign and powerful, and will succeed in appeasing obstacles, occuring by day or by night. Bad dreams of men, women and kings alike will be destroyed and they will be endowed with unparalleled riches, good health and enhancing nourishment. All the pain, devastation caused by fire, planets and stars will be of the past, so spoke VyAsa emphatically. Thus ends the song of praise of the nine planets composed by VyAsa.

Below is the translation of Sri Vaadiraaya Tiirtha Navagraha-strota
May the Sun illuminate the tenets to me, and may the Moon cause joy’ may Mars give the auspicious and may Mercury direct me to wisdom. May Jupiter give me weight (stature/pull), and Venus give me wisdom; and may Saturn cause the receipt of the good, and Ketu give victory. May Rahu remove my illnesses, and the heavenly bodies be gift-givers’ may all nine of them give me nine kinds of new gifts from the Lord. O Saturn, child of the Sun, you who are the bearer of many jewel-like good qualities! Remove my undesirables, and do me the desirable; do not cause me distress. In order to obtain the grace of Hari, and for the destruction of one’s enemies; the graha-strotra of Sri Vaadiraaja should be read always.

When is Navagraha performedat the Gayathri Peedam?
The basic prayer is performed at the Gayathri Peedam in Verulam every Saturday morning from 4am onwards. The entire prayer takes 90 to 270 minutes, depending on how many families are participating, as each family performs each ritual consecutively, in turn. A Mahanavagraha version (Greater prayer) is performed by Swami Shankarananda every 2 months or as indicated on the Peedam Calendar and usually takes about 6 - 8 hours to complete as many families attend.

How do I participate?
Contact Stephen (071 880 9680), Ashok (032 9444 373) or Kailashadeva (083 533 9001) or just attend our 7pm Friday evening service and ask. The cost is R250 per family and the requirements per family are as follows: 9 bananas, 1 or 2 litres of Clover milk (depending on the size of your family), 1 or 2 litres of Clover maas (Clover milk/maas is rennet free), ten flower heads (e.g. marigolds, roses, gerberas, chrysanthemums), 9 betel leaf, a new towel, container with a lid (for collecting prayer milk) a separate tray of fruit and a small container of milk for offering in the temple at the end of the prayer. No meat, alcohol or social drugs should be taken for one week before the prayer. This is to purify the body in order to increase the efficacy of the prayer.

What is the process?
The process of the basic Navagraha prayer is itemised below, with the purpose for each action. Note that the Mahanavagraha is a longer prayer and each Mahanavagraha prayer is different and changes according to instructions given to Swami.

1. Pradhakshinam (circumambulation of the temple)
On arriving, at 4.00am devotees walk around the temple 108 times, clockwise, keeping count with a set of 108 mala beads. The prayer is performed early in the morning to enable more devotees to participate as many have to work later in the morning. Early in the morning, before sunrise, is also one of the preferred times of the day for meditation and spiritual practices as the earth's energy is still quiet and calm. The purpose of walking around the temple is to focus on God as the central point in our lives. Some devotees chant mantras or pray silently during this practice. This usually takes 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Abishekam A(washing the murthis with water)
The navagraha murthis are washed with water to cleanse them and remove any negative energy.

3. Abishekam B (washing the murthis with milk and maas)
By washing the murthis (using both hands), the energy with which they are impregnated, is transferred via the hands to the body and energy field. The milk and maas are regarded as an offering to God and are also pure substances which are effectively energised by the murthis. During washing Swami or one of His assistants will recite the respective mantra for each murthi and indicate the correct order in which they should be washed.

4. Rinsing
After washing with milk and maas, the residue is rinsed from the murthis with water to cleanse and prepare them for the next family.

5. Abishekam liquid
During the washing and rinsing, your container will be filled with the milk/maas/water mixture which should be taken home and used to bath in on the same day to further absorb the beneficial energy of the murthis and mantras.

6. Drying
The murthis are then dried with a new towel, which is donated to the temple for cleaning of the ashram. Washing, rinsing and drying of the murthis takes about 10-15 minutes.

7. Hawan (sacred fire ceremony)
Each family then participates in the Navagraha Hawan during which seeds and herbs (samaghri) are offered to the fire while specific mantras are recited by Swami or a temple assistant. There is a specific seed for each planet, pertaining to the colour and energy of each. The seeds are mixed together and offered to the fire every time the word 'namaha' is uttered. By the influence and inhalation of the smoke created by the burning of the samaghri, devotees are further energised and cleansed. After the last hawan mantra is recited, devotees then prostrate in front of the fire to show submission to God and express thanks. The hawan takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

8. Offering to the Navagraha murthis
Fruit, betel leaf and flowers are then offered to each planetary murthi in the order indicated, and usually by the family head, while the other family members touch him (or her) with their right hands in order that all can be connected in performing this act.

9. Prayer to the Mother
A prayer of thanks is then recited to Gayathridevi while the devotee/s face the Mother's temple in front of the Navagraha Shrine before prostrating.

10. Offering to the Mother
The family or sadhak prostrate and then circumambulate the temple three times, clockwise, with their tray of fruit, milk and donation before placing it at the feet of the Mother. These offerings are given to the temple for functions or to underprivileged organisations.

11. Aarthi
In conclusion aarthi is performed by lighting the temple clay lamp and turning it three times each in front of the Gayathri murthi and the other murthis in the temple while an assistant recites the related mantras. The purpose of this is to acknowledge the light of God. Finally, each devotee is blessed on the forehead with kum-kum (a powder usually made from red tumeric) for the purpose of reinforcing retention of the energy absorbed during the prayer.

For photos of each step of the prayer, please see the Basic Navagraha Album on our Gayathri Peedam Facebook page.