India has succeeded in the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in the first attempt just a few days ago and it occurred to me that I should write the mythological story of Mars.

In our Puranas, it is said that once when Lord Shiva was in deep meditation, a drop of sweat from the brow of the Lord fell on the ground. It was transformed into a boy named Angarakan.

Since it fell on earth, Mother Earth known as Bhooma Devi took him and brought him up as her own son. When he was a young child, she took him to Sage Bharadwaja who took him under his tutelage and taught him all the knowledge there was to be learnt especially in the martial arts and warfare. After his learning was over Angaraka wanted to do severe penance and did penance for many years and Lord Shiva, who was pleased with his penance appeared before him and granted him the status of a planet.

Mars is known in modern times as the red planet. But amazingly, our Puranas have told this long back wherein he is called “Chevvai” which word has its origins in the word “chemmai” meaning red. Chevvai is described as being red, wearing red garland and red clothes. He is supposed to affect the blood and bone marrow of the human beings. His influence is also attributed to war or warlike situations, sibling rivalry and land dealings.

It is known that even the Romans considered Mars as the God of War and the month March is named after him. It is said that they celebrate festivals in honour of Mars. The festivals consist of mainly military activities.

Now for some interesting titbits.

In Astrology and numerology, the number nine is assigned to Mars or Chevvai. An interesting thing is that in the bloodiest war which is there in the Puranas, that is the Mahabharata war, the number 18 is predominant. 18 when added as 1+8 totals to 9.

The Mahabharata war lasted for 18 days

The Gita which was told by the Lord has 18 chapters

There were a total of 18 divisions or “akshauhinis” as there were called – 11 of the Kauravas and 7 of the Pandavas.

Each Akshauhini had chariots, elephants, horses and infantry in the ratio 1:1:3:5 and had 21870 (2+1+8+7+0=18) chariots, 21870 elephants, 65610 (6+5+6+1+0=18) horsemen and 109350(1+0+9+3+5+0=18) infantry in each Akshauhini.