Rāhu (Sanskrit: राहु)() is one of the nine major astronomical bodies (navagraha) in Indian texts. Unlike the other eight, Rāhu is not a real astronomical body but a shadow entity, one that causes eclipses and is the king of meteors. Rahu represents the ascend of the moon in its precessional orbit around the earth.
|North Lunar Node - When Moon moves from South to North in its orbit and crosses Sun's path – the incision point is called Rahu or Dragon's Head|
Rahu: Head of Demon Snake, Konarak Idol, British Museum
|Affiliation||Graha, Asura, Svarbhanu|
|Mantra||Om Viprachitti putra Simhika putra Om Navagraha Rahuya Namah|
|Day||Friday, Rāhu Kāla|
|Mount||Chariot drawn by eight black horses|
|Festivals||Amavasya or Rāhu Kāla|
As per Vedic astrology Rahu and Ketu have an orbital cycle of 18 years and are always 180 degrees from each other orbitally (as well as in the birth charts). This coincides with the precessional orbit of moon or the ~18 year rotational cycle of the lunar ascending and descending nodes on the earth’s ecliptic plane. This also corresponds to a saros, a period of approximately 223 synodic months (approximately 6585.3211 days, or 18 years, 11 days, 8 hours), that can be used to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon.
Astronomically, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move on the celestial sphere. Therefore, Rahu and Ketu are respectively called the north and the south lunar nodes. The fact that eclipses occur when the Sun and the Moon are at one of these points gives rise to the understanding of swallowing of the Sun and the Moon by the snake.
Often Ketu is misunderstood as Neptune during Sanskrit to English translation, however, Neptune isn’t visible to the naked eye and its discovery is attributed to the use of high resolution telescopes in modern astronomy.
Rāhu is mentioned explicitly in a pair of scriptures from the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon. In the Candima Sutta and the Suriya Sutta, Rahu attacks Surya, the Sun deity and Chandra, the Moon deity before being compelled to release them by their recitation of a brief stanza conveying their reverence for the Buddha. The Buddha responds by enjoining Rāhu to release them, which Rāhu does rather than have his "head split into seven pieces". The verses recited by the two celestial deities and the Buddha have since been incorporated into Buddhist liturgy as protective verses recited by monks as prayers of protection.
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Rāhu is found in the Puranic genre of mythology. The tale begins in the "remotest periods of prehistoric time, when the gods and asuras, churned the milk Ocean to extract from it the Amrita, the elixir of immortality." Rāhu was present at that time and overcome with pride. Mohini started distributing Amrit to the Devtaas. One Danav, Svarbhanu, sat in the row of devtaas and drank the Amrit. The Sun God and the Moon God noticed him and they informed Mohini; however, by that time Svarbhanu, had already became immortal. Vishnu as Mohini cut off his head with Sudarshan Chakra . Rahuketu could not die but his head was separated from his body , his head came to be known as Rahu and his body Ketu. Now the Devtaas were immortal so they fought the Danvaas and won. Rāhu.
In film, art and literatureEdit
- Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 77.
- Candima Sutta
- Suriya Sutta
- Access to Insight; see the summary in the Devaputta-samyutta section
- Cornelia Dimmitt (2012). Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas. Temple University Press. pp. 75, 347–349. ISBN 978-1-4399-0464-0.
- Heinrich Zimmer, Myth and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilisation. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1946, p. 176
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