Star Lore
in Ancient India

Andromeda

In Hindu astronomy, α Andromedae and γ Pegasi form Uttara Bhādrapadā, the twenty sixth Nakshatra or Lunar Mansion.

This Nakashtra is ruled by Shani, the god of Karma, justice and retribution in Hindu religion.

Source: Wikipedia

Hindu mythology has its own version of the story of Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Perseus. In this legend, Andromeda is Devayani, daughter of the sage Shukracharya, while Cassiopeia is personified as the princess Sharmishtha.

Here is the story as told by Wikipedia:

"One day Sharmishtha, daughter of the Danava king Vrishparva and Devayani, daughter of the Daitya sage Shukracharya, go with Sharmishtha's retinue to bathe in a forest pool not far from their home. After bathing, Sharmishtha confuses Devayani's sari with hers and puts it on instead. Devayani returns, scolds Sharmishtha for her mistake and belittles her with the jibe that she is the daughter of Shukracharya (Shukracharya being a sage and high priest and indeed the guru of all the Asuras - no mere employee) as Vrishparva's and their Kingdom lives on his blessings. This slur on herself and her father Vrishparva infuriates Sharmishtha with the help of her servants throws the naked Devayani into a well and leaves the forest with her retinue.

Later Yayati, son of Nahusha, comes to the well for water and helps Devayani to climb out of it. She tells him that as he held her right hand, he should be her husband. Yayati becomes the constellation we know as Perseus.

Source: Wikipedia

Shani; Wikipedia

Yayati rescues Devyani
BP Banerjee

19th century British Geologist John Frederick Blake, quoting 18th century orientalist Francis Wilford reports an even closer analogy with the Greek myth, talking about a constellation called Antarmada, citing an ancient Sanskrit work which "... contained a chapter devoted to Upanacchatras, or extra-zodiacal constellations, with drawings of Capuja (Cepheus), and of Casyapi (Cassiopeia) seated and holding a lotus flower in her hand, of Antarmada charmed with the fish beside her, and last of Parasiea (Perseus) who, according to the explanation of the book, held the head of a monster which he had slain in combat;blood was dropping from it, and for hair it had snakes."

Based on that story, Blake suggested that the Greek myth actually had its origins in India.

Source: John F. Blake: Astronomical Myths - Based on Flammarions's History of the Heavens, provided by Project Gutenberg.
Andromeda chained to the Rock
Rembrandt, ca, 1630; Wikipedia

Aquarius

In Hindu Astronomy, the star γ Aquarii is called Satabhishaj, meaning "a hundred physicians."

According to Wikipedia, the star lend its name to the 24th Nakshatra, called Shatabhisha.

However, R.H. Allen and Chander Mohan associate that Nakashtra with λ Aquarii, called Catabhisaj by Allen and Satataraka by Mohan.

The Nakashtra is associated with the Vedic deity Varuna, the God of Water and Sky.

In Sanskrit, Shathabhisha is written शतभिषा.

The corresponding name in Tamil is Chathayam, written சதயம்.

Sources: Wikipedia, R.H. Allen, Chander Mohan, www.mypanchang.com

Varuna; Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Aquila

In Hindu Astronomy, Altair and its two flanking stars, β and γ Aquilae form Œrāvaṇa, the 23rd Lunar Mansion or Nakshatra

Source: Chander Mohan, Chapter 3

In Sanskrit, Shravana is written श्रावण.

In Hindu mythology, the constellation Aquila is identified with the half-eagle half-human deity Garuda.

Source:Wikipedia

Garuda statue in Belur, India
Source: Wikipedia

Aries

In Hindu Astronomy, Sheratan, and Mesarthim (β and γ Arietis) are called The Aśvins. In Hindu mythology, the Aśvins are twin Vedic gods of medicine. The Rigveda describes them as youthful twin horsemen, traveling in a chariot drawn by horses that are never weary.

The Aśvins gave their name to the first Nakashtra in Hindu astronomy, called Ashwini.

In Proto-Indo-European mythology, the divine twins are gods or demigods, who serve as rescuers and healers. They are seen as the roots of the Aśvins in Hindu mythology and of Castor and Pollux (who became the constellation Gemini) in Greek mythology.

Source: Wikipedia

Ashwini Kumaras
Source: Wikipedia

The faint star Bharani (41 Arietis) gave its name to the second Nakshatra in Hindu Astronomy, where it is joined by 39 and 35 Arietis.

While the first Nakashtra is associated with healing gods, the second Nakashtra is associated with Yama, the Hindu god of death.

Source: Wikipedia

In Sanskrit, Ashwini, the first Nakashtra, is written अश्विनि.
Bharaṇī, the second Nakashtra is written भरणी.

Yama, the Lord of Death
Source: Wikipedia

Cancer

In Hindu Astronomy, Asellus Borealis (γ Cnc), Asellus Australis (δ Cnc) and Theta Cancri are the center of the eighth Nakashtra called Pushya, the nourisher.

In Hindu mythology, the Hindu god Bharata was born under this Nakshatra. It is also mentioned in the story of the Birth of Buddha.

In Sanskrit, Pushya, is written पुष्य.

Source: Wikipedia

Bharata
Source: Wikipedia

Canis Major

In Sanskrit, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is known as Mrigavyādha (deer hunter) and as Lubdhaka, the hunter who shot his arrow into Mriga, the deer, represented by Orion's Belt.

As Mrigavyādha, the star represents Rudra, a Rigvedic deity, associated with wind, storm and hunting.


Source: Wikipedia, Richard H. Allen

Rudra by Pieter Weltevrede
Source: Rudra in Rigveda

Eridanus

In Indian Astronomy, Eridanus is depicted as a sacred river, originating below the head of Nataraja, which is the constellation Orion. In Sanskrit, it is called Srotaswini, which means stream or current. It is commonly depicted as the river Ganges.

Source:Wikipedia


Hydra

In Hindu Astronomy, the asterism forming the head of the Hydra (consisting of
δ, ε, η, ρ and σ Hydrae) constitutes the 9th Nakashtra, called Āleṣā, meaning "Clinging Star" or "Nāga."

Nāga are semi-divine deities, or a semi-divine race of half-human half-serpent beings that reside in the netherworld.

In Sanskrit, Āleṣā is written आश्लेषा.

Source: Wikipedia

6th century Naga at
Badami cave temples, Karnataka, India; Source: Wikipedia

Leo

In Hindu Astronomy, the constellation Leo stretches across three Lunar Manisons, called Nakashtras.

Regulus (α Leo) is the center of the 10th Nakashtra, called Maghā, मघा, "the bountiful."

Zosma (δ Leo) and Chertan (θ Leo) form the 11th Nakashtra while Denebola (β Leo) is the centre of the 12th Nakashtra. These two Lunar Mansions are called Pūrva Phalgunī पूर्व फाल्गुनी and Uttara Phalgunī उत्तर फाल्गुनी, respectively, meaning the "first reddish one" and the "second reddish one."


Libra

In Hindu astronomy, the stars of Libra are part of the 16th Nakashtra, called Visakha, meaning "forked, having branches."

In Hindu mythology, Visakha was the chief female lay disciple of Gautama Buddha. She was also popularly known as Migaramata, literally Migara's mother. Visakha had built a monastery for the Buddha which is known as Migaramatupasada near Savatthi.

Sources: http://ariyamagga.net/, buddha-heads.com

Visakha statue
Source: buddha-heads.com

Lyra

Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra and the fifth-brightest star in the night sky,

In Hindu Astronomy, Vega is the main star in the 22nd Nakashtra, called Abhijit, meaning "the Victorious One" or "the One who cannot be defeated." In the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, Krishna was born under this Nakashtra.

In Sanskrit, Abhijit is written अभिजित

The Mahabharata also tells the following story: "Contesting against Abhijit (Vega), the constellation Krittika (Pleiades) went to Vana the summer solstice to heat the summer. Then the star Abhijit slipped down in the sky."

It has been suggested that the "slipping of Abhijit" and ascension of Krittika might refer to the gradual drop of Vega as a pole star since 12,000 BC.

Source:Wikipedia

15th Century Krishna
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Source: Wikipedia


Milky Way

In Hindi, the Milky Way is called Akasaganga, the Ganges River of the Sky.

In the Bhagavata Purana, a Hindu collection of stories, the heavens are called iumãra cakra, the dolphin disc.

All the visible stars and planets moving through space are likened to a dolphin that swims through the water. The Milky Way forms the abdomen of the dolphin.

Source: Wikipedia

Manuscript page of Bhagavata Purana
Source: Wikipedia


Orion

In India, the constellation Orion is seen as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer - an avatar of Shiva

The Rig Veda refers to Orion's Belt as Mriga, The Deer and to Orion's Sword as the Baby Deer.

The four bright surrounding stars Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph are hunting dogs, and the star on top, Meissa is the hunter.

In Indian astronomy, the stars at the top of Orion, Meissa ( λ Ori), φ1 and φ2 Ori are part of the 5th Nakshatra, called Mrigashīrsha, the Deer Head (मृगशिर).

Betelgeuse (α Ori) is the central star of the sixth Nakashtra, called Ardra, the "Moist One" (आर्द्रा).

Source: Wikipedia

Shiva as the Lord of Dance
Source: Wikipedia

Pisces

In Hindu Astronomy, the rather faint (magnitude 4.9) star system Zeta Piscium is the center of the 28th Nakashtra, called Revati, "the prosperous."

Indicating a connection to cultures west of India, Revati is is also associated with the sea and symbolized by a fish, or often even by a pair of fish.

Zeta Piscium is identified as the First Point of Aries, meaning, when the Sun crosses this star, a new solar year begins.

In Sanskrit, Revati is written रेवती.

Meena (Fish)
Drdha Vrata Gorrick

Zeta Piscium is a quintuple star system, consisting of a binary star (ζ Piscium A) and a triple star system
(ζ Piscium BC).

ζ Piscium A's two components are designated as ζ Piscium Aa and ζ Piscium Ab.

ζ Piscium BC consists of a spectroscopic binary (ζ Piscium B) and a single star (ζ Piscium C).

In 2017, the IAU's Working Group on Star Names (WGSN) attributed the Indian name Revati to Zeta Piscium A. The WGSN attributes proper names to individual stars rather than entire multiple systems, which is why the name Revati technically only applies to Zeta Piscium A.

Sources: Wikipedia: Revati, Wikipedia: Zeta Piscium

Pleiades

In Indian astronomy, the Pleiades formed the third Nakshatra, called Kṛttikā, meaning "the cutters".

Kṛttikāis is also the name of its goddess-personification, who is a daughter of Daksha and Panchajani. Her husband is Chandra, the Moon.

In Sanskrit, Kṛttikā is written कृत्तिका

Source: Wikipedia

The star cluster of the Pleiades is part of the constellation Taurus, but given the amount of Star Lore related to them, they deserve a separate entry.

Kṛttikā
Source: astroved.com

Scorpius

The constellation covers the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth Lunar Mansion (called Nakashtras) in Indian astronomy.

The 17th Nakshatra is called Anuradha, meaning "following rādhā," which is one of the names of the 16th Nakshatra. This Lunar mansion is associated with the divinity Mitra. It entails the stars we usually consider the scorpion's head.

The 18th Nakshatra is called Jyeshtha, meaning "the eldest, most excellent." It is the Lunar mansion of Antares and its celestial neighbors and is associated with Indra, the chief of the Hindu Gods.

The 19th Nakshatra is called Mula, meaning "root." Is is usually symbolized as a bunch of roots and is associated with Nirṛti, the Hindu God of dissolution and destruction. It contains the stars we usually see as the scorpions tail.

Source: Wikipedia

In Sanskrit, Anuradha, Jyeshtha and Mula are written
अनुराधा, ज्येष्ठा and मूल.

Scorpius in Indian Astronomy
Map designed based on a map
provided by seasky.org


Ursa Major

In Hinduism, the Big Dipper is known as Saptarshi (सप्तर्षि - meaning "seven sages"). Each of the stars of the the Big Dipper represents one of the Saptarshi or Seven Sages.

The Saptarshi are the seven rishis in ancient India, who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and other Hindu literature. In the Vedas, they are regarded as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion.

The Seven Saptarishi
Source: indiafacts.org


Ursa Minor

Early in Indian history, the star nearest the pole (which until 300 AD was Dubhe [β UMi]) was known as Grahadhāra, the Pivot of the Planets.

In ancient Hindu literature, Polaris is personified as Dhruva, the son of the King Uttānapāda.

The ancient text of the Vishnu Purana tells us, that Vishnu appeared to Dhruva in a meditation. When Vishnu offered Dhruva to grant him a wish. Having no desire for worldly or heavenly pleasures, Dhruva only asked for a life in memory of the Lord.

Vishnu granted him Dhruvapada - the state where he would become a celestial body.

the Saptarshis, seven Rishi (enlightened people), represented by the Big Dipper gave Dhruva the most revered seat of a Star.

Sources: Wikipedia, R.H. Allen
Dhruva as the Pole star; by Manaku ca. 1740
Source: Wikipedia

Virgo

In Hindu astronomy, Spica (α Vir) forms the 14th Lunar Mansion or Nakshatra, called Chitra, the Bright One.

In Hindu mythology, this Nakashtra is associated with Vishvakarma, the divine architect of the gods.

Sources: Wikipedia, Chander Mohan

Vishvakarma
Source: Wikipedia

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