Sanskrit roots of the planets’ names


My good friend Frank Schmidt wrote the following on the Sanskrit roots of the names of the planets.  Interesting and insightful!

Sun or sūrya सूर्य

sūra is the sun. If we consider it as sūra+ ya it is the sun (sūra) + mover (ya). This su means excellent , right , virtuous , beautiful , rightly , much , greatly, easily , willingly , quickly, to go and to move. It also means to possess supremacy, as the Sun is Supreme amongst the graha-s.
Yet what of सू? It means to grant or bestow. What is on this earth that is not bestowed by the Sun?

Since we have considered su as easy, beautiful, excellent, much, etc. We can apply it ( some what) to the śukra.

Venus or śukra शुक्र

śukra means bright , resplendent , clean, pure; it is also the essence of anything and associated with ojas¹, semen and the ‘seed’ of animals.
Śukra is śu + kra. Śu means quickly , swiftly + kra ( or kāra) which is making , doing , working , a maker , doer.
Hence śukra, the one that is bright, and a swift mover ( in the sky). Yet śukra is also associated with beauty from su, one of the verbal roots mentioned before.

Some other words that sometimes are associated with ( but are not) śukra.

  • sukara means easy, easy to be done .
  • śūkāra – that act of startling

Since we are talking of brightness, let’s extend this to the moon.

Moon or candra चन्द्र
candra चन्द्र– glittering, shining; having the brilliancy or hue; a lovely or agreeable phenomenon of any kind. Note that ‘ca’ is pronounced cha like in church. This ca means pure. It also means moving to and fro.
We see this applies to the moon, as its purity ( white) that waxes and wanes ( moves to and fro) from new moon (amāvāsya) to full moon (pūrnīmā)¹ .

Some times people consider candra as caṇḍī (Chandi or caNDi) चण्डि.

This caṇḍī is defined as a passionate woman; also a female attendant of durgā¹ (some call umā). Yet can चन् ( recall ‘ca’ is pronounced ‘cha’) is rooted in ‘kan‘ which means to shine, as this brings up back to candra चन्द्र– glittering, shining. Yet this ‘kan’ also means to please, delight, to enjoy and to be satisfied with.

The moon is associated with mother , the one who delights, nurtures, pleases. And the moon is associated with mind and emotions that looks to be delighted and become pleased.


§ grāhaka ग्राहक– one who seizes or takes captive ; from grāha ग्रह– seizing , laying hold of , holding i.e. a grāhaka ~seizes~ or influences the circumstances of the native. This is done via the tattva they manage and control.

§ ojas ओजस्– bodily strength , vigor , energy , ability , power; splendor, luster

§ durgā is also known as durgatināśinī or durgati+nā+śinī – the one that removes (na) the race (śinī) from misfortune, distress, poverty (durgati)

Jupiter or bṛhaspati बृहस्पति also known ( more popularly) as guru गुरु

bṛhaspati bṛ́has-páti बृहस्पति bráhmanas-páti – lord of prayer , chief offerer of prayer and yajya (worship). We may also see this written as vṛhhaspati where the bṛh and vṛh sound is quite close.

As mentioned he is brahmaṇas-pati ‘lord of prayer or devotion’ . He is the chief offerer of prayers and sacrifices , and therefore represents the brahmin order; also the purohita (appointed, one holding a charge or commission ) of the devatā with whom he intercedes for men, just as brahmin-s (possessing sacred knowledge).
Yet we know Jupiter too as guru. Guru गुरु is defined as heavy, weighty, great, large. We know from astronomy that Jupiter is the largest planet. It also infers the importance of the one with substantial knowledge.

We know that guru also is the spiritual teacher, preceptor, respectable, wise, realized and knowledgeable. Some like to look at guru as gu + ru. This ‘gu’ is rooted in ‘ga‘ – to go after, to pursue. It also means to come into any state or condition. So we can see the connection to guru – the one to pursue, but he/she is the one that leads the individual to that state ( the pursuit) or condition of mokṣa¹. Also ‘ga‘ also means a path, and to come to an end…the end is mokṣa.

Now what of this ‘ru‘ ? It is to make a sound, to roar, also to sing, even to hum. This ‘ru’ also means to break to pieces, to shatter.
We now can see that this ‘ru‘ is to shatter ignorance – some say shatter the ego or the small self (i or me).

mokṣa मोक्ष – emancipation, liberation, release from worldly (mundane) existence

Saturn or śanaiscara, śani शनि

Consider śanaiscara :
This śanais शनैस् means quietly, softly, gently, gradually. So we have śanais as gradually, softly + cara चर moving, walking , wondering. Hence śani is considered śanaye kramati sathe one possessing or containing ~ with the attribute~ (sa) who moves or precedes ( krama) slowly (śani), quietly (śanais).

We know it takes śani some 29.7 years to make one complete trip around sūrya, his father – hence the slow moving one. From this we can deduce he owns the last day of the week (slowest or arriving last).
He is high in patience, as patience comes with time and steadiness. This patience and steadiness gives way to being deliberate and purposeful. From this we can also see perseverance in difficult times. From this steadiness, one can groom devotion (bhakti).

Many fear śani for the wrong reasons (IMHO), yet this may be addressed within a future post.

Mars or maṅgal मण्गल् or maṅgala मङ्गल

Verbally rooted in maṅg meaning happiness, felicity, welfare, bliss; maṅgala is anything auspicious or tending to a lucky issue.

This maṅgala is also another name for agni. And another name for agni found in the ṛg veda 1.1.6 is añgiras¹ which is flaming or glowing. With this flaming or glowing (heat, fire, luminosity) Mars is also called aṅgāraka अङ्गारक. This is heated (glowing) charcoal.

Mars is also known as kuja कुज – ‘ku’ कु is earth + ‘ja’ which means connected to or belonging to; Hence kuja कुज – born of the earth, or son of the earth.
Mars is also considered skanda स्कन्द the General of the devatā. He is the son of śiva and leads the army against the enemies of the devatā.

What I find interesting (too) is skanda is another name of Sanatkumāra¹ (‘always a youth’). Some say it differently, that Sanatkumāra is a Skanda, but we can leave that for a different time.

Skanda is he who attacks the enemy of ignorance (the knots of the heart). It is he ( says the Chāndogya Upaniṣad) that brought wisdom and insight to Nārada.


  • Sanatkumāra सनत्कुमार – one of the 4 sons of brahmā ; sanat + kumāra; sanat = ‘ever’ + kumāra – ‘a boy, youth’ .
  • aṅgiras – a noun for agni; We also know aṅgiras as a ṛṣi , author of many hymns in the ṛg veda; he is said by some to have been born from brahmā’s mouth, and to have been the husband of smṛti , of śraddhā , of two daughters of maitreya , of several daughters of dakṣa.

Mercury or budha बुध

budha means intelligent, clever, wise, it means awaking. Budha is considered the son of soma ( moon). If budha is the son of soma, he then can be called:

  • saumya सौम्य – ‘resembling the moon’ i.e. placid, gentle, mild

§ saumāyana सौमायन which is sauma or belonging or related to soma + ayana which is going, path, way. Hence saumāyana is belonging to the pathway of soma i.e. budha.

Some write budha as buddha बुद्ध. This buddha means awakened or awake. Yet we are now talking of the Buddha (circa 500 BC),
a fully enlightened man who has achieved perfect knowledge of the truth and thereby liberated. Many know of him as Gautama, yet this is the race ( gotra¹ – lineage) to which his family belonged. His father ( as I understand it and read) was śuddhodana, of the śākya family , being the rāja of that district , and his mother , māyā-devī , being the daughter of rāja su-prabuddha. Siddhārtha Gautama belonged to the kṣatriya caste¹. Siddhārtha Gautama’s original name was śākya-muni (sage of the śākya-s) or śākya-siṃha ( or lion of the śākya-s) hence śākya was his family name as I look to my reference material¹.

The point to be made is budha (Mercury) has this quality of wakefulness, intelligence, wisdom ~awaking~ that fully blossomed in the buddha,

Siddhārtha Gautama, śākya-muni.

If we look at budha (Mercury) we see ‘bud’. This ‘bud’ बुद् is to perceive, learn. And ‘budh’ बुध् is to perceive, notice, learn, understand, become or be aware of or acquainted with. We can see how Mercury then is an integral part of learning and expansion as it is the fundamental quality found in learning i.e. perception and awareness.


gotra गोत्र – family , race , lineage from the root trai protection or shelter for cows , cow-pen , cow-shed , stable for cattle , stable

ketu केतु and rahu राहु – the two lunar nodes (south and north)

ketu केतु

is the descending node (south) ; ketu means bright appearance, clearness, brightness ‘rays of light’ ; intellect , judgment , discernment. How is it associated with intellect? Because the word is rooted in cit चित् to perceive, fix the mind upon, attend to, be attentive, observe, and take notice of.

Ketu is the kāraka or mokṣa, liberator from the world. That is, he has no head – no mind for worldly pursuits i.e. non-attachment. Ketu is a kāraka of intelligence, non-attachment, keen and deep insights, psychic abilities. When ketu is blemished, then derangement is possible.

rāhu राहु is the ascending note (north); rahu means ‘the seizer ‘; What does he seize? The luminaries during an eclipse.

rāhu is rooted in rabh रभ् – to desire vehemently to act rashly; we will see this as we define rāhu’s kāraka traits.

Rāhu is a kāraka¹ or indicator of worldly activities i.e. fame, greed, manipulation, obsessive-compulsive behavior. When rāhu is blemished then one may endure mass disease, dementia and inertia. Because of rāhu’s compulsiveness rahu is known for its instance of actions and effects, randomness, uncontrolled growth, actions without wisdom or understanding. This is where one finds troubles, ‘why did I do that!’ or ‘ I don’t believe what just occurred’ .

It is said when rāhu’s influences are used the right way, Rāhu can be instrumental in strengthening one’s power and converting even the strongest enemy ( and traits) into a friend.

Now there is a story in the purāṇa-s¹ of rāhu drinking amṛta¹ (nectar for immortality) at the Churning of the Ocean – called samudra manthan¹.

This story can be found in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. The question for us is comprehension and wisdom ( or symbolism , saṃketa) the story offers.


  • kāraka कारक– as a noun – ‘instrumental in bringing about the action’ ; in general , making or doing. In this conversation it is the grāhaka¹ ( the ~planet~) as one who produces, creates or influences a condition to unfold. Sanjay Rath is sympathetic to the notion of influences vs. directly controls on how the graha-s function.
  • samudra manthan:
    • samudra समुद्र (ocean or sea) – “gathering together of waters ” , ” the aerial waters ” , ” atmospheric ocean or sky”
    • manthan or mantha मन्थ – churning or stirring.
  • amṛta अमृत (some write amrita) – immortal , imperishable; world of immortality , heaven , eternity i.e. final emancipation
  • purāṇa पुराण – belonging to ancient or olden times , ancient , old : there are considered 18 principle purāṇas grouped in 3 divisions:
    • rājasa, exalting brahmā
    • sāttvika, exalting viṣṇu
    • tāmasa, exalting śiva
  • saṃketa संकेत – a hint , allusion , preconcerted sign or signal or gesture