August 2003 A Conscious Evolution Newsletter
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Vedic Star-way of Heaven, Part 1
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Volume 2, Number 8


Opinions presented in Metamorphosis are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others associated with the newsletter.


Vedic Star-way of Heaven, Part 1 

by Anindita Basu

Left: A view of the Milky Way from the southern hemisphere - towards the centre of our galaxy (AAO); Right: The spiral galaxy M83 which is believed to be similar in size and shape to the Milky Way (AAO). Source: Cambridge Cosmology Galaxies

The night sky: an indigo cape embellished with twinkling stars, crowned with the Moon - gentle, cool, ambling from one end of the cape to the other. To the ancients, whose limits of virgin imagination and intuitive knowledge were surpassed perhaps only by the expansive of the heavens, the night sky would have presented the handiest tool for marking time. The shining star-groups would have, to them, looked like a bull’s head or a hunter’s dog, much like the shapes we imagine we see in the fluffy clouds today. They thought that souls, after leaving the Earth-plane, went to the realm of stars.

Over a period, they observed that while shapely star-clusters were numerous, Moon preferred to travel through only some of them – those that fell within its nightly highway from east to west. “Why, look,” they would have said. “The Moon is nearing the Archer.” They saw this pattern repeat itself every 27 days or so – the Moon would again be nearing the Archer. The astrologers of ancient India and environs then named each of the 27 star-groups, or constellations, in which the Moon spends a single day in its monthly cycle. They assigned each of the constellations a basic nature (divine, human or demonic), a chief impulse (Dharma, material wealth, sensuous pleasure or spiritual liberation) and an inherent quality (spiritual, active or inert). They gave a ruling planet and ruling god to each and developed the art and science of Vedic astrology.

The ancient seers were fond of speaking in riddles. This was perhaps prompted by their firmly held belief that knowledge comes to him who seeks. Knowledge, being a rare gift, should not be bestowed indiscriminately on the non-worthy. Perhaps. As they say, “Tears, to some, are water. To others, pearls.” But we can, as a first step toward decoding the constellations, look at the mythology associated with, and the features attributed to, the ruling gods and planets of these constellations.

These are the Vedic constellations within the ecliptic, which is the belt of space around the Earth in which the planetary movements are tracked. Western astrologers divide the ecliptic into equally sized “signs” named after the 12 major constellations westerners see in the ecliptic. But Vedic astrologers see 27 constellations in the ecliptic, each of them a “Mansion of the Moon,” and they track when planets actually enter and exit the constellation itself.

In the first part of this series, we shall examine the first nine constellations (enumerated below), with special emphasis on their Vedic gods and ruling planets. Clicking on the name of the constellation in the chart will take you to its description.

Star List

Constellation

 Span

God

Planet

Ashwini

0° to 13°20' Aries

Ashwin

Ketu *

Bharani

13°20' to 26°40' Aries

Yam

Venus

Krittika

26°40' Aries to 10° Taurus

Agni

Sun

Rohini

10° to 23°20' Taurus

Brahma

Moon

Mrigashira

23°20' Taurus to 6°40' Gemini

Som

Mars

Ardra

6°40' to 20° Gemini

Rudra

Rahu **

Punarvasu

20° Gemini to 3°20' Cancer

Aditi

Jupiter

Pushya

3°20' to 16°40' Cancer

Brihaspati

Saturn

Ashlesh

16°40' to 30° Cancer

Naag

Mercury


* Ketu is South Node (Caput Dragonis).
** Rahu is North Node (Cauda Dragonis).

Ashwini

The ruling deities of this constellation are the Ashwins, the twin-gods, the divine physicians born of Sun in his form as a horse. These twins are ever youthful, the lords of bliss and healing, and are the most ready of all gods to come to the aid of humans. They are fleet-footed and they travel faster than thought. They trace hidden defects and flaws and make the Yajna successful. The Ashwins are full of bliss, the very delight of existence - they not only seek this joy for themselves but also give this away to all those who seek. Thus, to humans striving for knowledge, the Ashwins first cure the physical body by bestowing on it an essential perfection and making it a fit channel for raising the Kundalini. They then work upon the subtle body by creating in it an earnest desire for knowledge. Ashwins are said to reside in the Mantra and release arrows sewn with the rays of knowledge. They also guard the seeker from obstacles caused by physical ailments and mental blocks. The path of the Ashwins is the path of light, their chariot preceding that of Dawn. Only when the Ashwins lead the seeker from his present state of confusion can the light of Truth dawn upon him.

The ruling planet of Ashwini is Ketu (the South Lunar Node), the serpent-like body of the headless dragon. Like a banner, it boosts or proclaims the power of anything it conjoins. Ketu shows a process of internalisation, perception and wisdom, and therefore is a planet closely associated with Moksh. The flip side is a too-limiting or critical view of things and the consequent isolation or negative energies created by a person for himself.

Sun is exalted at 10° Aries, a point that falls within this constellation. Sun represents the soul-power, which is the source of will, energy and motivation. It shows a seeking of the Light and a capacity or drive to become that very Light.

Keywords for Ashwini: Fast, radiant, true, healing, youthful, delight in existence itself, discriminative knowledge

« Back to Star List   «

Bharani

The ruling deity of this constellation is Yam. In the RigVedic period, Yam was conceptualised as the Controller or the Supreme God. The word itself means “restraint.” Yam later came to be identified as the chief of the blessed death, residing in the remote recess of the sky, his heaven being the highest, and higher than that of his father, the Sun. He is said to have chosen death, abandoned his body and passed on to the highest realm, thus forging a path for the mortals who die and guiding them to the astral world.

Venus, the refined and beautiful planet, rules Bharani. In Hindu mythology, Venus is a teacher and the only one who knows how to bring back the dead from death. In this, Venus is considered superior even to Jupiter, the teacher of the gods, because Jupiter does not know the secret of raising the dead.

Keywords for Bharani: creativity, restraint, austerity

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Krittika

The ruling deity of this constellation is Agni, the sacred fire, the messenger for the gods. Agni is the priest who presides over the Yajna and carries the offerings to the realm of the gods. Agni is the guest that resides in the homestead. Just as a guest is treated to the tastiest food that the householder can offer, so does Agni, the beacon that resides within the physical body, need to be constantly worshipped with offerings of spiritual sacrifice. Created (or raised) by the seers, Agni showed them (the seers) the Light. He purifies everything he touches, motivates the sacrificer to greater heights, and is the one that can, figuratively, build a new body fit for bearing the knowledge of Immortality. Agni is the one that transforms ordinary human beings into knowledge-holders.

The regal, splendorous Sun, representative of the Soul, rules Krittika. It is a body of infinite light, illuminating other planets. It gives vitality and strength of character. It is the divine being that resides within the hearts of all and hence represents the cosmic consciousness of who we are.

Keywords for Krittika: burn, razor, sharpness

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Rohini

The ruling deity of this constellation is Brahma, the Creator, first in the Hindu triad. He is the one who created this world out of the Word and brought forth the Vedas, repositories of spiritual knowledge.

The ruling planet is Moon, a waxing and waning planet closely associated with emotions and the mind. Moon is exalted in this area in the middle of Taurus. Once upon a time, it is said, the Moon had 27 sisters as his wives. All of them were beautiful and accomplished, but Rohini was the most charming of them all and Moon loved her more than the others. This aroused the jealousy of the remaining 26 and they complained to their father. The father-in-law warned Moon once, twice, thrice - Moon promised to mend his ways but would every time lapse into his single-minded attachment to Rohini. This angered the father-in-law, who cursed Moon with consumption. Moon started wasting away day-by-day, and this created chaos on Earth - the plants stopped growing, the waters stopped flowing, and there descended despondency into the hearts and minds of all men. The father-in-law was requested to lift his curse. But a curse, once uttered, cannot be lifted, only modified. So, the curse was modified, and Moon was damned to waste for 15 days before he could regain himself bit by bit in the next 15 days, only to start wasting away again.

This is, thus, the constellation that warns against excesses. Rohini bestows so much charm, grace and beauty that it is very easy to fall prey to the path of laziness and take things easy. It is the attraction that makes us slaves of material things in life and allows us to forget the real purpose of our being. The challenge lies in realising that these are but as constant as the Moon and as full of mere reflective light.

Sri Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu (second in the Hindu triad) was born with his Moon and Ascendant in Rohini. He personifies the charm of Rohini, coupled with the empathic perception and balanced mind that produced the Bhagavad Gita (one of the most sacred of Hindu Scriptures) for mankind. “For look,” he declared to his pupil, “there never was a Time when you were not there or I was not there. You are but a part of me, I am in everything - the Sun, the Stars, the Mantras, the Wind, the Song and the Metre ... I am Eternal.”

Keywords for Rohini: creation, growth, sensuality

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Mrigashira

Mrigashira is a soft, gentle constellation, represented by the deer’s head. The ruling deity of this constellation is Som, the divine nectar. Som is often treated as nothing but a plant whose leaves, when squeezed, yield a mildly intoxicating drink. But the Vedas themselves proclaim: “The ignorant think of Som as a creeper that is crushed to obtain a juice offered in sacrifices. To the wise, Som is something else again.” The intoxication flowing from Som helps the seeker delve deeply into the hidden depths of the unconscious and find knowledge; thus does Som systematically lead one towards the path of enlightenment. Som is repeatedly invoked to help bolster power, slay ignorance, purify thoughts and lead one on the straight path.

Mrigashira is ruled by Mars, the fast, sharp, powerful planet of fire and focused energy. In Hindu mythology, Mars is born of the Earth; hence, his energy requires physical manifestation. Mars bestows daring and courage, valour, indomitable will and tremendous powers of self-discipline. This, together with the knowledge-seeking quality of Som, has the capability of bestowing great spiritual prowess.

Keywords for Mrigashira: fulfilment

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Ardra

The ruling deity of this constellation is Rudra, the third in the Hindu triad and the one who destroys. He is as powerful as the storm and one who forcibly leads creation upwards. Thus, although rather awe-inspiring, he is essentially benevolent, and compassionate to the distressed. He is invoked to release one, not from death, but from the bondage of mortality, just as a ripened fruit gets loosened from the shell covering it - this Mantra, commonly called the Maha Mrityunjay Mantra, is popularly recited as a Jaap for deflecting severe problems.

The ruling planet is Rahu (North Lunar Node), a shadow planet depicted as the head of the bodiless dragon. As the ascending node of the moon, Rahu bestows heightened astral sensitivity. On the negative side, this takes the form of mental aberrations; on the positive, it gives the rare ability to be perceptive to mass trends and in use them to one’s advantage. A strong Rahu thus often gives worldly power and success, but rarely does it give inner satisfaction. The key lies in using the sensitivity to loosen the soul’s attachment to the gross body and its material pleasures.

The word Ardra literally means “moist,” and this constellation is described as a soft, wet, green one, shining like a gem. It denotes the knowledge gained after tears just like the fresh luminosity of trees in the dappled sunlight after a storm.

Keywords for Ardra: death, dissolution, immortality

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Punarvasu

The ruling deity of this constellation is Aditi. Literally, the word means “unbound” or “infinite.” In the Vedas, Aditi is the personification of the Universal Nature and is the mother of gods. She is often invoked for freedom from the bonds of physical suffering and moral guilt and to grant abundance.

The ruling planet of this auspicious constellation is Jupiter, a planet associated with joi de vivre, luck and expansion. It also rules knowledge. At the lower end of the spectrum, this knowledge tends towards the dogmatic and ceremonial; at the higher end, it is the knowledge of that divine spirit which establishes and upholds the laws of nature.

Sri Ramchandra, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu (the second of the Hindu triad), is said to have been born when the Moon was in Punarvasu. His life and actions exemplify his constant endeavours to subdue evil, uphold the moral code, and establish a realm where prosperity rules and goodness prevails.

Keywords for Punarvasu: intellectual and spiritual wisdom, abundance, birth, creativity, mother

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Pushya

The ruling deity of this constellation is Brihaspati, the teacher of the gods. First-born from the great light of the highest heavens, he rides the chariot of Rita, which drives away darkness and wins over the light. He is the lord of speech, eloquence and wisdom. He presides over Mantra, endowing it with a power that releases its concealed forces and renders it potent. Just as a blacksmith beats a specific shape out of a lump of iron, Brihaspati gives a specific form to every aspect of the body - speech (by manifesting the Mantras), gross body (by removing afflictions), mind (by bestowing understanding), etc. On the material level, Brihaspati is an opulent benevolent deity that gives wealth, increases nourishment and generally prolongs life. The word itself (Brihat) means “large,” and everything about Brihaspati is large.

Pushya is ruled by Saturn, a planet as far removed from opulence as, say, Mayflower-Puritans from chocolate. It is the only planet that can put some kind of a restraint on the largesse of Brihaspati; the only planet that can bring in an element of discernment to knowledge; the one that can round off theoretical learning (Brihaspati’s forte) with the pain of existence and experience. Saturn is a deeply spiritual planet, and its darkness is said to precede the chariot of the dawning Sun. Saturn, although the son of the Sun, is said to be his father’s antithesis.

Jupiter is exalted in this constellation, at 5 degrees Cancer. Jupiter is a large-hearted planet. This, coupled with the wisdom of Saturn, bestows on this constellation a rare ability to establish and to nurture. The root word of Pushya means “sustain.” The expansion of Jupiter, together with the contraction of Saturn, is what fashions the constancy of creation-destruction that is so essential to sustain life.

Keywords for Pushya: Preservation, spiritual energy, the most auspicious of all constellations

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Ashlesh

The ruling deity of this constellation is the Naag (serpent). In the texts, a serpent represents unreleased knowledge covered by layers of darkness. It is the symbol of life-force trapped in greed, anger and destruction. The destruction of the serpent results in the release of waters, symbolic of knowledge tempered with perception. At the lower levels, this serpent power translates into ignorance, bigotry and the shiftiness of the fraudulent; if harnessed and refined, it gives the penetrating spiritual wisdom of the mystic.

Mercury, the light, fast, adaptive and expressive planet closely associated with trade and communication, rules Ashlesh. Mercury governs the intellect and the faculty of discrimination. In the lower levels, this discrimination is apparent in the ability to evaluate the material value of things, possessions and other external trappings of daily life. At the higher levels, it is the capability to discern the truth from falsehood, the pure from impure, the reality from illusion. Mercury, being a mental planet associated with speech, bestows oratory skills; if afflicted or weak, this may take the form of double-speak or craftiness.

Keywords for Ashlesh: deceptive, poison, separation, thoughtful, penetrating

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Further readings:

  • The Rig Ved Samhita. Numerous English translations are available. However, many - like the one by Griffith - tend to focus on the dictionary meanings of Sanskrit words rather than their esoteric meanings.
  • The Yajur Ved Samhita. Any number of English translations available.
  • Vedic Mythology by A.A. MacDonnell. Gives a comprehensive account of all the gods spoken of in the Vedas and related texts, but again, focuses on the literal meaning. A classic, nevertheless.