Some geography concepts you will explore in this post
- Absolute location.
- Relative location.
- Sacred place.
- Sacred trace. (Sacred paths, routes)
- Belief systems.
- Geographic data collection and organization.
- Geographic vocabulary.
About navagrahas and Muttusvāmi Dīkshitar
In Hindu astrology, there are nine ‘planets’. Not all are actually planets in the strictest astrophysics definition. Each of these is represented by a deity with many different attributes.
In many Hindu temples, particularly in southern India, you may find a separate shrine dedicated to the navagrahas (“nine planets”). The shrine usually has a raised platform on which the nine grahas are placed with sūrya (sun) at the center. Usually, each idol depicts the graha, his consort, and his vehicle (also called ‘mount’). Yes, “he” and “his” … because all the grahas male.
Here is an example of a navagraha shrine. (Click on the image to view a larger size)The idols are placed in a set pattern with reference to the directions. Each idol has its own iconography (the depiction of the deity). Notice that no two grahas face each other.
In this image, notice the various weapons, the mounts, etc. in this image (click on the image to view a larger size):There are also beliefs that the planets have powerful influences on the lives of people, and even of nations.
Many people go on pilgrimage to these places. Hotels in the region offer taxi and other travel facilities to pilgrims. Among them, such maps are also offered:
Legend has it that a disciple of Muttusvāmi Dīkshitar was suffering from some ailments and Dīkshitar composed a set of nine songs to help him pray to the planetary deities. Each song is dedicated to one deity. They are in different rāgas.
In Tamil Nadu and in Kerala (and possibly elsewhere), there are individual shrines for each of the navagrahas in different places. While there is no evidence to show that Dīkshitar composed these songs specifically in reference to any of these specific places, it is interesting to note that there are place associations with each of the grahas. Geography deals with places. So, these place associations make it relevant to geography.
Here is an interactive Google map for you to explore the nine places:
Here is the database for you to explore for this exercise, if you need it.