3. From Iron to Sapphire: Indian Myths and Rituals about Saturn, the Implacable Lord of Celestial Spheres
Soulless Matter, Seats of Energy - Metals, Gems and Minerals in South Asian Traditions - Fabrizio Ferrari
Monia Marchetto [+]
Ca' Foscari University of Venice and Venetian Academy of Indian Studies
Manuel Martin Hoefer [+]
Venetian Academy of Indian Studies
According to the culture of the Indian Subcontinent, everything shining above (in the sky) throws its reflection below (upon the earth). The present study will deal with the frightful Saturn, the planet (graha) which is the embodiment of time (kāla). As stated by classic astronomy and astrology (jyotiṣa), its orbit is the most external; this makes it the slowest among the planets and thus the archetype of time, passing inexorably. Astronomical and mythological aspects of this figure will be outlined through exegeses of the main textual sources and analyses of oral popular beliefs. The paper will investigate its special relation with a particular mineral, the iron and a precious stone, the blue sapphire; both elements are very relevant in different functions of Saturn. From the religious prospective, this planet is a powerful deity related to many aspects of Indian life. Saturn is feared and worshiped at the same time. Different places of the sacred geography of India are devoted to rituals whose final aim is to pacify this deity, to cast away his implacable glance and to ensure his benevolence upon many kinds of sentient beings. Specific texts (śāstra, saṃhitā, paddhati) describe the elements constituting the paraphernalia and settle the rules and timing of the rituals. Some aspects of this same figure in countries connected to Indian traditions will be mentioned at the end of the present paper.