September 2003

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Volume 2, Number 9

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 2

by Anindita Basu

 

The ancients did not have TVs to plop down in front of, they could not drive in to an open-air theatre carrying popcorn and lounge chairs with them, and they certainly had no means to acquire the carpal tunnel syndrome that we talk about today. With ample time on their hands and not much by way of distractions (unless you call wars distractions), they watched sunsets. And moon risings. They saw trees shedding their leaves in autumn only to don anew their emerald cloaks of spring, which would again be thrown off when outgrown. They saw the rivers swell with melting ice only to evaporate away to mountain-like rain-bearing clouds. They saw and they marvelled at the pattern, the cycle that seemed to be repeating everywhere - on the Earth, in the heavens, within the body. Everything, they saw, came back to the same point, the point of origin, the zero-point in the circle.

Fittingly, when they assigned rulerships to the 27 lunar mansions of Vedic astrology, they taught that the nine planets would succeed one another as rulers of the mansions in the same cyclic order. Thus, if Planet X ruled the first mansion, it would also rule the 10th and 19th mansions, as its turn repeated in each of the three sets of nine mansions of the Indian zodiac. Having covered the first set of nine lunar mansions in Part 1, we now proceed to the second group, which stretches from sidereal Leo to sidereal Scorpio, containing nine constellations, or lunar mansions, ruled by the same planets in the same order as the first group.

Despite the repetition in planetary rulership, the deities associated with the mansions do not repeat. Each lunar mansion has its own ruling god who is considered to reside within that mansion and impart his qualities thereto. Thus, an attempt to understand the nature of these gods takes us that little bit closer in our efforts to comprehend the mysteries of the lunar mansions.

The Moon basks in reflected glory as it travels through the entire circuit of its mansions in a single month. It is but natural, then, that the Moon takes upon itself the characteristics of the presiding deity and planet of the mansion in which it appears. In Vedic astrology, the Moon’s position, reflecting that mansion’s particular god and planet, is paramount in one’s natal chart.

This time we shall be looking at the nine lunar mansions that occupy roughly 13 degrees and 20 minutes of space apiece in the area of the zodiac falling between the sidereal signs of Leo and Scorpio. Clicking on the name of a particular constellation in the table below will take you, in the twinkling of an eye, to a brief description of that constellation with emphasis on the relevant Vedic god and planet.

Star List

Constellation

 Span

God

Planet

Magha

0° to 13°20' Leo

Pitr

Ketu *

Purva Phalguni

13°20' to 26°40' Leo

Bhag

Venus

Uttar Phalguni

26°40' Leo to 10° Virgo

Aryaman

Sun

Hasta

10° to 23°20' Virgo

Savitr

Moon

Chitra

23°20' Virgo to 6°40' Libra

Tvashtr

Mars

Swati

6°40' to 20° Libra

Vayu

Rahu **

Vishakha

20° Libra to 3°20' Scorpio

Indra & Agni

Jupiter

Anuradha

3°20' to 16°40' Scorpio

Mitra

Saturn

Jyeshtha

16°40' to 30° Scorpio

Indra

Mercury

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

Magha

The Pitris, or forefathers, rule this constellation. They are the sages who, having died, adorned the sky with stars and live in the third heaven. They forged the path that leads to the hidden light and generates the dawn of knowledge. They are the immortals that are invoked to bestow offspring and immortality, and they are entreated to intercede on behalf of their devotees and protect them from the effects of any sins that may have been humanly committed. They are the ones who guard tradition and lineage.

The ruling planet is Ketu, the South Node or Descending Node of the Moon. This is a spiritual planet that represents a certain amount of introspection. Ketu is also often spoken of as a banner that holds aloft the qualities of whichever chariot it may be tied to. With the Pitris, Ketu can signify a leaning towards traditions and family rituals. It may also denote mystic path-breakers. The flip side is that arrogance may result from a misplaced belief in familial, cultural or racial superiority.

Keywords for Magha: royalty, tradition, large-hearted

  Back to Star List

Purva Phalguni

The ruling deity is Bhag, the prosperous one. He is the solar power that apportions to each man his share of the riches. Bhag is regularly conceived as a god who distributes wealth and fortune to those who seek. He is said to preside over the forenoon, which is that part of the day that is brightest, busiest and happiest.

Purva Phalguni is ruled by Venus, the refined, indolent teacher of the demons, the one who seeks luxury and comfort more than anyone else. This is a potent combination with the boon-granting qualities of Bhag, although at the lower levels this may result in vanity and a senseless pursuit of material pleasures. On a higher plane, however, Venus reveals the creative knowledge that renders the universe a beautiful place to exist in.

Keywords for Purva Phalguni: blissful prosperity, procreation, material pleasures

   Back to Star List  

Uttar Phalguni

The ruling deity is Aryaman, one of the sons of Aditi. He is a Sun-eyed royal who arranged the season of autumn, as well as the months, the day and the night. He bestows light and long life and protects his worshippers in the same manner as a bird spreading its wings over young ones. He prepares the path of the Sun.

The ruling planet is the effusive and generous Sun, the patriarch who gives anything that one may ask for - wealth, offspring, knowledge. The Sun governs the soul, the latent impulse in each one of us, the light we carry within us that is waiting to manifest.

Keywords for Uttar Phalguni: friendship, humane-ness

   Back to Star List  

Hasta

This hand-shaped constellation is ruled by Savitr, the golden aspect of Sun that is invoked to arouse the intellect of men to dwell upon the brightness of Knowledge. Savitr is the all-seeing one, moving upon fixed paths and illuminating the air, the Earth, and the vaults of heaven. In one of the most poetic verses of the Vedas, Savitr is described as the one who brings all two-footed and four-footed beings to rest. He brings the wanderer to rest, and at his command the night descends, the weaver rolls up her web and the artisan lays down his tools. The path of Savitr in the sky is as dustless as the path of knowledge, to which Savitr leads his worshippers. He is the one who fixed the Earth with bonds and fastened the sky in the vast rudderless space. He is the creative spirit in all forms, the word Savitr itself having been derived from the root Srij, or creation.

The ruling planet is Moon, the pure shining drop in the sky that cares, nurtures and thinks. This, combined with Mercury, which is exalted in this constellation at 15 degrees Virgo, bestows a rare perceptive intelligence. The bright energy of Savitr teamed with gentle Moon and intelligent Mercury can work wonders on one’s mind, body and spirit. A complete rejuvenation package, if harnessed correctly. A total disaster of crafty cunning and ability to exploit others’ feelings, if taken negatively. It depends on the manner in which the benediction of Hasta, the open-palmed constellation, is channelled.

Keywords for Hasta: blessings, ability to create or manifest

   Back to Star List  

Chitra

Chitra, meaning beautiful, is ruled by Tvashtr, the architect of the gods. He is the one who fashioned the thunderbolt of Indra, the discus of Vishnu, the trident of Shiva and the cup from which the gods drink Som. His fingers have magic. He fashioned the heaven and Earth and bestowed specific shapes to all forms, whether human or animal.

The ruling planet of Chitra is the sharply focused Mars, the fiery energy of which is so essential to hammer a shape out of formless material.

Keywords for Chitra: beauty, softness, artistic

   Back to Star List  

Swati

The ruling deity is Vayu, the breath of the Cosmic Man, the lord of life-energies that support the nerve channels and chakras in the human body. He is beautiful, swift as thought, and rides a chariot drawn by ruddy steeds. Vayu fathered the storm-gods, and his lack of restraint can often wreak havoc just like the devastation left behind by the roaring velocity of an unstoppable gale. Vayu is the one who prepares man to harness his life-powers and channel them just like a charioteer collecting his horses and yoking them to the chariot.

The ruling planet is Rahu, the North Node or Ascending Node of the Moon, an airy “shadow planet” that has an uncanny ability to grasp mass trends and work them to its own favour. It is closely related to Saturn, exalted here at 20 degrees Libra, in the qualities of darkness and isolation. Rahu creates a strong craving for material success, and Saturn has enough discipline to enable the acquisition thereof. Thus, the constant challenge of Swati lies in rising above physical desires and channelling one’s life-energies towards the higher goal of spiritual attainment - something that Saturn can bestow but not until the soul has laboured.

Keywords for Swati: independent, flexible

   Back to Star List  

Vishakha

This is the only constellation that has been assigned two ruling gods, Indra and Agni. Indra is the powerful king of gods, the warrior who renders mountains asunder with his thunderbolt and wins back the waters. Agni is the sacred fire, the flame within that purifies the heart, and the flame without that purifies raw food and makes it fit for consumption. Agni is the inextinguishable fire that lives in the homes of the devout. Both Indra and Agni are inherently active and intensely so. While Indra signifies the actual performance of work on the physical or external plane, Agni denotes the work done on the spiritual or internal level.

The ruling planet is Jupiter, teacher of the gods. A teacher, they say, is higher than God and entitled to be paid homage before the homage offered to God because if the teacher had not taught “This is God” how would the pupil have known that God is to be bowed down to? Gautam Siddharth, the prince who became Buddha, was born with his moon in Vishakha, received enlightenment under Vishakha and left his body for the heavenly plane under Vishakha. He embodies the wisdom of Jupiter with the Jovian large-heartedness to share it with whomsoever crossed his path (and whomsoever did not). The power and fiery drive of Indra and Agni impelled him to actively seek out people and show them his Light; the light that he refused to hide under a bushel, the light that made him stand unflinchingly before a mad elephant and tame it with a gentle word, the light that made his cousin (and would-be assassin) fall at his feet and weep in remorse. The powerful (Indra) flame (Agni) of wisdom (Jupiter) is difficult to extinguish, if not impossible.

Keywords for Vishakha: achievement, goal-oriented

   Back to Star List  

Anuradha

The ruling deity is Mitra, the god of benevolence and harmony; the one with the pure understanding that leads to an all-round development of the faculties, rendering them harmonious. He is blameless, sinless, vast and deep, a king of kindly nature who upholds the physical and moral order and uncovers in the morning whatever has been concealed by night. He is the one who brings men together and rules over peace.

The ruling planet is Saturn, the lame dark planet that seeks knowledge in isolation and contemplation. Mitra, on the other hand, is primarily a god of friendship. Herein lies the challenge of Anuradha, to balance these opposing forces and achieve what both Mitra and Saturn seek to do - obtain spiritual knowledge; Mitra by benevolence and Saturn by introspection.

Keywords for Anuradha: friendship, upholder of order, peaceful

   Back to Star List  

Jyeshtha

The ruling deity is Indra, essentially a thunder-god who presides over battles and vanquishes enemies. He is the twin brother of Agni and is the king of gods. He is huge in size and is inordinately fond of Som, which intoxicates him to perform mightier tasks. He successfully battled with the demon Vrittra, who had encircled and concealed the light and the waters. He slew the demon with his thunderbolt, broke open the path of the water streams and won back the light; then he placed it in the sky and caused the Sun to shine. Indra denotes physical superiority and is characterised by energetic action.

The ruling planet is Mercury, the prince of intellect and discrimination. An unevolved Mercury results in cunning and deceit, something that Indra is often said to resort to in vanquishing his foes and retaining his sovereignty over heaven and Earth. At the higher levels, however, it is the discrimination of Mercury that separates the human from the non-human, the men from the boys. It is this Mercurial ability that empowers Indra to drink from the Som-cup of knowledge, slay the demons of ignorance and win back the all-encompassing light.

Keywords for Jyeshtha: mighty, a sense of being older than others, warrior

   Back to Star List  

Bright Stars of the Constellations

We have thus far covered the first 18 lunar mansions, and there remain nine more to go. These 27 constellations, along with the most visible and prominent star of each, are listed below for those among us who are astronomically inclined enough to look up at night and smile at them.

Constellation

Most Prominent Star

Ashwini

Alpha Arietis (Hamal)

Bharani

41 Arietis

Krittika

Eta Taurus (Alcyone)

Rohini

Alpha Taurus (Aldebaran)

Mrigashira

Lambda Orionis

Ardra

Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuse)

Punarvasu

Beta Germinorum (Pollux)

Pushya

Delta Cancrii

Ashlesh

Epsilon Hydrae

Magha

Alpha Leonis (Regulus)

Purva Phalguni

Delta Leonis

Uttar Phalguni

Beta Leonis (Denebola)

Hasta

Delta Corvi

Chitra

Alpha Virginis (Spica)

Swati

Alpha Bootis (Arcturus)

Vishakha

Alpha Libra (Al genubi)

Anuradha

Delta Scorpii

Jyeshtha

Alpha Scorpii (Antares)

Moola

Lambda Scorpii

Purva Ashadh

Delta Sagittarii

Uttar Ashadh

Sigma Sagittarii

Shravana

Alpha Aquilae (Altair)

Dhanishtha

Beta Delphini

Shatabhishaj

Lambda Aquarii

Purva Bhadrapad

Alpha Pegasi (Markab)

Uttar Bhadrapad

Gamma Pegasi

Revatí

Zeta Piscium

Further readings:

The Rig Ved Samhita, of which the English translations by Griffith and Wilson are generally regarded as the path-breaking ones.
The Taittiriya Brahmana, English translation
The Yajur Ved Samhita, English translation
Vedic Mythology by A.A. MacDonnell