The Sanskrit word graha is usually translated as the English word planet. Sanskrit words often have many levels of meaning which give deep and profound insights. When the planets are studied, remember the full meaning of the word graha. Graha is broadly translated as “grasp,” or “to grasp.” In this light a planet is grasping or controlling something.
The Sanskrit term graha also reflects the physical understanding of what planets are. Modern astronomy believes that during the formation of the heavenly bodies within the solar system, heaps of matter accumulated into what we call planets. This is the result of a point of attraction that attracted or “grasped” matter to form these bodies. A second signification is that each planet “grasps” certain qualities and characteristics. Everything in life has been divided up and “held” by the planets.
There are many incarnations of the unborn Lord. Vishnu has incarnated as the navagrahas or planets to bestow on the living beings the results of their Karmas or actions. He assumed the auspicious form of grahas to destroy the strength of the demons, to sustain the strength of the devas, and to establish dharma. Parahara, Chapter 2, sloka 3-4.
Grahas are also depicted as deities or characters in the rich mythology of Hinduism. These stories explain the nature of the universe and examine the motivations of humans, and the laws of nature. Understanding the myths of the grahas provides yet another level of knowledge that is most easily understood via metaphor.
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