Every known society comes up with entertaining stories that introduce society’s norms and mechanisms of the communities to the succeeding generation, not necessarily as prescriptions but at least as descriptions of that period. Along with traditional themes, careful use of characters and hyperboles is made to engender a particular effect in terms of moral narratives or to convey any particular material wisdom in its embedded version to the audience. Well-versed mnemonics enchants human more than dry facts, hence ensures better retention of the information.
Lemme share a love story of astral elements that organically passed over generations before reaching me.
Begins with the moon (Soma) marries 28 daughters of Daksha Prajapati, the first King according to Hindu texts. After some time, other wives realized that the moon is very partial towards his wife Rohini and spends far more time with her. Considering this favouritism a disgrace, their younger brother who also used to stay in the moon’s abode left angrily to imform his father. Daksha got angered by this bias and cursed the moon to perish. All of a sudden the moon started losing all his splendor and started diminishing. When he was about to disappear completely, Rohini suggested his husband to please Shiva who can be easily gratified. Shiva then, though can’t reverse the curse, purposed an alternative to ease the impact. Shiva adorned Soma within his curly locks from where dying moon extracted energy and started waxing again. After reaching the point when his energy is maximumly acquired with respect to his capacity, Daksha’s curse again acts and he again starts waning. The cycle goes on every twenty-seven days.
Anyone may instantly proclaim this is all absurd “myth”. Fortunately, completely disregarding all past sources by assuming myself of some ultra-modern person doesn’t suit me. Carving rationality in everything obliges me to look for pieces of information embedded in them as a science-biased.
- Moon’s 27 wives: Linking twenty-eight astral bodies with the moon.
- Brother-in law abandoned the moon: Out of twenty-eight, one is no longer available for observation.
- Moon’s excess addiction to one wife: Moon’s more occultation towards one entity.
- Moon’s waning and waxing phase in course of twenty-seven days
Twenty-eight astral bodies trace to twenty-eight Lunar Stations or Nakshatra. During synchronous rotation with Earth, the moon rotates along with elliptic and hence, the moon’s position on the ecliptic can be determined by the constellations along the ecliptic. Ancient India while looking up to the sky as a directory of time determined twenty-seven constellations who correspond with the lunar orbit of our Double Planet System, hence called Lunar Mansion or Nakshatra. The entire Lunar Mansion is named by a prominent star that decides Lunar Occultation with the particular Mansion. Indic Astrology again divides each Nakshatra along with the principal star and other stars into 4 equal parts. When the moon moves in a particular distance, it’s considered as the day of that Nakshatra or Mansion out of the 27 Lunar Mansions.
On the lost Lunar Mansion context, there comes ‘Vega’ in the constellation ‘Lyra’ or Abhijit (according to Indic Astrology). Earlier Lyra was placed in the belt of Lunar Mansion, but it isn’t. Indian school of Astrology divides the entire Lunar orbit into 27 equal sections where the length of each Nakshatra is equal to the distance moon travels one day, i.e; 13°20′ and that used to be 28 sections earlier for the presence of Abhijit. Since Lyra no longer belongs to the belt due to wobbling of Earth’s axis, it’s not used in natal astrology. It’s considered only as an intercalary constellation.
Exactly similar astronomical phenomena are internalized by ancient Star gazers of China. Chinese Valentine or Double Seventh Festival celebrates the romance of Weaver Girl Niu Lang (astronomically Lyra) constellation and Ox-herdman Zhi Nu (astronomically Aquila) constellation. Milkway punished Niu Lang for illegal dalliance and expelled her.
For the third point, let’s begin with the fundamentals. The plane of the moon’s orbit almost coincides (the inclination angle between both is about 5.14° degrees) with the plane of the ecliptic of the earth. The elliptical path of the moon around the earth intersects the elliptical path of the earth around the sun and the intersecting points (opposite pairs) are called Lunar Nodes. Ancients observed the ascending and descending lunar nodes gradually coincide with Earth’s fixed orbital place within a particular time period. Our Modern Astronomy has found that the time-period exactly amounts to 18.6 Earth’s years, which we call Nodal Cycle. That simply means the position where the moon rises and sets with respect to one stationary point on the earth, it takes another 18.6 years for the trajectory to be repeated.
In this course of each nodal cycle, the moon does series of occultations with Lunar mansions coming in its way with ecliptic latitude less than ±6 degrees of north and south of the ecliptic. Astrologically, consider Nakshatra (Lunar Mansions) as the twenty-seven mansions that were identified by twenty-seven wives of the moon (prominent stars of the Lunar Mansions). This results in different numbers of lunar occultations for different mansions, that is the moon visits each wife a different number of times. Rohini Nakshatra or astronomically Aldebaran (also called alpha Tauri) that lies 5.47° south of ecliptic suffers maximum occultations. With every rotation, the moon is supposed to occult 1/2° north of Rohini. In the current century, Aldebaran has been occulted 247 times due to its position closer to the ecliptic with respect to parts of the United States . Along with Aldebaran, the other three 1st magnitude stars occulted were Antares, Regulus and Spica who are astrologically denoted as principal stars of Jyeshtha nakshatra (the eldest, probably due to large size), Magha nakshatra (the clustered), Chitra (the brightest) respectively.
(Aldebaran’s conjunction with the moon traces back to the discovery of Proper Motion by Edmund Halley. Halley measured the right ascension and declination of stars listed by Greeks and surprised by the theoretically impossible lunar occultation of Aldebaran in the year 509. Later found the relative motion of stars which was too radical claim for that time.)
Forth point is pretty simple. Moon takes twenty-seven days to make one rotation relative to earth and stars, called Sidereal month including waxing and waning phases. However, slightly more than 360 degrees are needed to catch up with the sun. Indian Lunisolar Calendar considers that another 2.2 days to traverse that extra path. A complex system that keeps lunar month in phase with Tropical year (Solar Sidereal year).
Human has been observing the sky with awe and wonder since time immemorial. Each ancient texts in India recorded astronomical phenomenon in order to keep track of time. An Indic text Shatapatha Brahmana narrates while it was being composed Kritika nakshatra (Pleiades asterism) was rising in due east. The narrators say when all other nakshatras were moving from the eastern quarter of the sky, Kritika was stable, hence rituals are to be done under Kritika, not at the direction of the sunrise. We’re well aware that Kritika must be right on the celestial equator then. Our modern astronomy software can date at what the exact period in timeline stars of Pleiades cluster were in position as mentioned in the particular scripture and the texts were composed. Such was the basic and tiny idea on how ancients used to keep record of time.