Every family belonging to Sanatan Dharma has a Kuldevata, ie a family deity. This ray of the divine eternal specifically protects your family and must be worshipped as per culture and tradition. Your this body, in fact your current existence, is derived from your ancestors and you maintain this with the blessing of the family deity. There are references to the Kuldevata in several of our Puran. Also examples in ancient history where kings built temples of their Kuldevata. The Kuldevata demands pujas at auspicious events, eg before solemnising a marriage in the family, at the birth of a child, at Yajnopavit sanskars, a yearly puja at the temple of the Devata etc.
In the current times several of us live physically away from the hometown. ie regularly going to the Kuldevata temple may not be practically feasible. So if you really cannot make it then here are some via media which you can adopt,
- Offer the fruit, coconut, sweets, sari/cloth, money, specific items etc to a local temple whereve you are and think of your Kuldevata with all intensity. Request him/ her to accept it as you have offered these items to him from your heart. Even if this is not at his actual temple this does work if you have deep gratitude for him in your heart, ie your intention/ Sankalp is pure.
- Keep the offerings in a separate bag in your own puja ghar. Think of your Kuldevata and sincerely tell him that you have kept the offerings ready and whenever he calls, you will go to his temple and offer him these exact offerings. When you do this generally something unexpected helps you complete your pilgrimage soon, eg a few days off or some bonus money.
- If your extended family members still reside in your hometown then you can request them to offer the yearly offerings to the temple on your behalf. For this you must make a full set of offerings, ie cloth, money, sugar crystals etc which can be sent by post to your family member’s house. Before sending the items everyone in your family should pray to the deity and touch the offerings before packing them securely.
- Keep in touch with the pujari Brahmin family of the temple and from time to time send some offerings, money, Dakshina to the temple and request them send the prasadam to you by post.
Another more serious problem is that several of us have forgotten the Kuldevata’s name itself. Forgotten the ancestral village. Or the elders of the family are dead. Either way the identity of this deity is lost to you which is highly unfortunate. So here is something you can do to help yourself,
- Make a small pindi (small rounded mound) of the purest soil you can find. Or take a green coconut with the peduncle intact. Keep this with due respect in your puja ghar, adorn it with a nice cotton cloth, saffron, turmeric, unbroken rice, flowers etc. Intend that your Kuldevata, whoever he is, resides in this and do its puja just as you would do the puja of a regular moorti. You can keep this as a full-time set up or a temporary set up for specific days, ie during auspicious events, festivals etc. Generally what happens is if your intention is pure enough, there will be hints on the identity of the deity, ie dreams where you see the temple, deity’s moorti, hear his name, or his mantra/stotra etc. When this happens, if you want, you can get a proper moorti of your deity and put this coconut / soil in flowing river or sea.
For women, after you get married, the Kul devata for you is now of your husband’s family. During the Vivah sanskar, the bride formally does the final pujas of her birth family Kuldevata. And immediately after marriage she does the first pujas of her new family deities.
(The Gram devata is the deity of the village where your family has its ancestral home. Generally the oldest temple in the village. So if you go to your ancestral village do go to this temple too.)
Ishta devata is the deity which you personally feel drawn to and want to worship. But this does not mean that you forget your Kuldevata. First puja is always offered to the Kuldevata, for protection of the family, the departed ancestors and the future generations. In some cases, the Kuldevata can also be worshipped as the personal Ishta devata. Your Guru, if a genuine Atma jnyani Mahapurush, a Jivan Mukt Satguru can also be adored as an Ishtadevata.
Jyotish gives some pointers on the Ishtadevata. Let’s first use the basic birth chart D1,
- The Deity connected to the 9th house of your basic birth chart helps you live a balanced life as per Dharma. He ensures that you get the benefits of the 9th house as and when you need them. Your role in this process is a bit passive as even if you do the bare minimum it will be enough to trigger the 9th house benefits. This is an ongoing background life time support.
- The deity connected to the 5th house of your birth chart helps you fructify the sadhana you perform in your life. To reap these benefits you are required to be active, ie do your mantra, jap etc. After you complete it will you get the huge and evident result, all at once.
- Functionally benefic planets placed in the 1st 5th 9th houses of the birth chart and the deities linked to them can also be a choice for the Ishta devata as they protect and help you grow.
BPHS Chapter 33 shloks 63-74 Using the D9 Navamsha chart to find the Ishta devata
- First find the Atmakarak, ie the planet who has traveled the highest degree in any sign. In our example chart it is Saturn at 27deg 24mins.
- In the D9 chart, he shifts to Virgo navamsha. This is called the karakamsha navamsha.
- Check if any planet placed in the sign 12th from the karakamsha. Here it is Leo and it is vacant.
- So we try the second option given in the BPHS. Find the Amatyakarak, ie the planet who has travelled the second highest in any sign in the D1. This is the Sun at 27deg 10min.
- Locate the Sun in the D9. He is in Virgo navamsha. Now count the 6th sign from Virgo. This is Aquarius and it has a planet, this is Jupiter.
- So our example Aleister Crowley, could have worshipped the deity linked to Jupiter as his Ishta devata.
- (If there are no planets in either of these two locations then the planetary owner of the sign can be used to locate the Ishta devata. Eg here Leo – Sun or Aquarius – Saturn. This is not given in BPHS but can be inferred in practice)
BPHS chapter 16 shloks 17-21 – The D 20 is seen for spiritual progress so you can choose a deity from here. Either the one associated with the ascendant degree’s Vimshamsha or the deity of the Atmakarak planet’s Vimshamsha. (This is not given in the BPHS explicitly but I have seen in several cases that this deity is very close to the person and always willing to help especially so if you are doing tantra sadhana)
Let’s do this with the example. A bit of math. One division in D20 is equal to 1deg 30min. In the example,
- Ascendant degree at 15deg 55min Cancer sign (even sign) – Devi Pingalaa
- Atmakarak Saturn at 27deg 24 min (even sign) – Devi Mangalaa
Sequence of deities for even signs – Daya, Megha, Chinnashirsha, Pisachini, Dhumavati, Matangi, Bala, Bhadra, Aruna, Anala, Pingala, Chuchuka, Ghora, Vaarahi, Vaishnavi, Sita, Bhuvaneshi, Bhairavi, Mangala, Aparajita.
Sequence of deities for odd signs – Kali, Gauri, Jaya, Lakshmi, Vijaya, Vimala, Sati, Tara, Jvalamukhi, Sveta, Lalita, Bagalamukhi, Pratyangira, Sachi, Raudri, Bhavani, Varada, Jaya, Tripura, Sumukhi.
Now for the deities associated with the planets. This is always a source of confusion so I am directly copying from the BPHS.
BPHS chapter 2 shlok 1-13 – The general Vishnu Avtars connected to the planets.
- Surya Sun – Shri Ram avtar
- Chandra Moon – Shri Yadunayak Krishna avtar
- Bhoomiputra Mars – Shri Nrusimha avtar
- Somasuta Mercury – Shri Budha avtar
- Vibhudejya Jupiter – Shri Vaman avtar
- Bhargav Venus – Shri Bhargav Parshuram avtar
- Bhaskarputra Saturn – Shri Koorma avtar
- Sinhikeya Rahu – Shri Sookara Varaha avtar
- Ketu – Shri Meen Matsya avtar
(One point to be noted – the Budha avtar is not the generally known Siddhartha Gautam. As per the BPHS the actual Budha Avtar of Bhagwan Vishnu was before his Krishna avtar. We can only wait for more texts to be translated or recovered or brought into the public domain to know more about this Avtar.)
BPHS chapter 3 shlok 18 – General deities/ Adidaivata connected to the planets
- Sun – Bhagwan Agni
- Moon – Bhagwan Varun
- Mars – Bhagwan Subrahmanya
- Mercury – Bhagwan Vishnu
- Jupiter – Bhagwan Indra
- Venus – Bhagwati Sachidevi
- Saturn – Bhagwan Brahma
BPHS Chapter 33 shloks 63-74 – The planets in the 12th from the Karakamsha or 6th from the Amatyakarak’s position and the deities/ Adidaivata
- Sun and Ketu – Bhagwan Shiv
- Moon and Ketu – Devi Gauri
- Venus and Ketu – Devi Laxmi
- Mars and Ketu – Bhagwan Subramanya
- Mercury and Sun – Bhagwan Vishnu
- Jupiter – Bhagwan Shiv
- Rahu – Devi Durga in her Tamasic form
- Ketu – Bhagwan Skanda or Bhagwan Ganpati
- Saturn if inauspicious – Tamasic deities
- Venus and Saturn if inauspicious – Tamasic deities
Point is, there are several deities which can be chosen as per the BPHS. Choose one who appeals to you. Generally while you are thinking about this, you will get some signal ie in your dreams or some shakun, ie omen which will help you discover your Ishta devata.
Finally do read this one post on the real nature of the deities. The deities are not ‘gods’, they are conscious aware and intelligent energy, a ray from the same Non dual source. You are also a ray from that very same source. As you express your gratitude to them on the outside, you in fact enhance your own energy on the inside.