Rahu: Celestial Mythos

Rahu: Celestial Mythos

Rahu, a celestial entity in Hindu cosmology, holds a prominent place among the nine major celestial bodies, known as navagraha. It symbolizes the ascending point of the Moon’s orbit around Earth, termed the north lunar node. Alongside its counterpart Ketu, Rahu is considered a “shadow planet,” playing a significant role in eclipses. Despite lacking physical form, Rahu’s potent astrological influence led ancient seers to grant it planetary status.

Lord Rahu

In Hindu astrology, Rahu and Ketu complete an 18-year orbital cycle, positioned 180 degrees apart in both orbital and birth charts. This cycle corresponds to the Moon’s precessional orbit around Earth and aids in eclipse prediction. Rahu governs the zodiac sign of Aquarius in conjunction with Shani, the traditional ruling planet. Astronomically, Rahu and Ketu mark the points where the paths of the Sun and Moon intersect on the celestial sphere, known respectively as the north and south lunar nodes. Eclipses occur when the Sun or Moon aligns with these nodes, with Rahu’s influence particularly notable during solar eclipses.

Legends and Mythology

The Mythical Story of Samudra Manthan

Samudra Manthan

In ancient Puranic texts, the story of Samudra Manthan recounts a time when the Devas (celestial beings) and Asuras (demons) joined forces to churn the ocean of milk in pursuit of the elixir of immortality, known as amrita. During this celestial endeavor, Mohini, an enchanting female avatar of Vishnu, emerged to distribute the coveted amrita among the Devas. However, an Asura named Svarbhanu cunningly disguised himself among the Devas and managed to partake of the elixir, rendering himself immortal. Upon discovery, Vishnu, disguised as Mohini, swiftly intervened, severing Svarbhanu’s head with his divine weapon, the Sudarshana Chakra. Thus, Svarbhanu’s head became Rahu, while his body became Ketu. Despite their immortal status, Rahu and Ketu harbored bitterness towards Surya (the Sun) and Chandra (the Moon) for exposing Svarbhanu’s deception. Rahu, in particular, relentlessly pursued them, attempting to devour them as an act of vengeance. However, due to Rahu’s severed body, the Sun and Moon managed to escape through his throat, causing eclipses known as grahanas, symbolizing Rahu’s temporary reprisal. This enduring mythological tale of deception, divine intervention, and cosmic consequences continues to be woven into the fabric of Hindu cosmology, shaping beliefs surrounding eclipses and celestial phenomena.

The Tale of Jalandhara

Following his rise to power, the asura Jalandhara, urged by sage Narada, sought a consort and fixated on the beautiful Parvati, wife of Shiva. Narada, knowing Jalandhara’s infatuation, advised him to demand Parvati from Shiva. Jalandhara’s emissary Rahu delivered the audacious message, insulting Shiva’s humble lifestyle and proclaiming Jalandhara’s superiority. Enraged, Shiva summoned Kirtimukha, a ferocious monster, to punish Rahu. Cornered, Rahu begged for mercy, praising Shiva and seeking refuge. Moved by Rahu’s pleas, Shiva spared him, sending him back to Jalandhara with a tale of his failed endeavor to claim Parvati.

The Myth of Hanuman’s Childhood Adventures

In his infancy, Hanuman, the monkey deity, mistook the rising sun for a ripe fruit, propelled by hunger.

In his infancy, Hanuman, the monkey deity, mistook the rising sun for a ripe fruit, propelled by hunger. Attempting to consume it, he leapt towards the sun’s blazing rays, aided by Vayu, the wind god, who shielded him with cool breezes. Coinciding with this, Rahu, a celestial being, sought to eclipse the sun but was startled by Hanuman’s approach, mistaking him for a rival fruit. Seeking refuge with Indra, the king of the gods, Rahu lamented Hanuman’s interference. Indra, accompanied by Rahu, encountered Hanuman playing with the sun’s chariot and mistook Airavata, Indra’s divine elephant, for yet another fruit. As Hanuman reached for Airavata, Indra struck him with a thunderbolt, causing him to fall towards the earth. Furious at his son’s injury, Vayu withdrew all air from the universe, causing suffering among all beings. Upon Brahma‘s intervention, Hanuman was revived, and the gods bestowed him with various blessings and powers, culminating in his legendary status as a mighty and revered deity.

Rahu in Hindu Astrology

In Hindu astrology, Rahu and Ketu, the two lunar nodes, occupy diametrically opposite houses in horoscopes and are always in retrograde motion. Rahu symbolizes materialism, mischief, fear, dissatisfaction, obsession, and confusion, while also being associated with science and occultism. Considered a malefic planet, Rahu is seen as an adversary to the Sun and Moon. Jyotisha, or Hindu astrology, incorporates concepts such as Nakshatra, Navagraha, and Saptarishi, influencing various aspects of life and spirituality.

Rahu in Buddhist Scripture

In the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon, two scriptures, the Candima Sutta and the Suriya Sutta, recount the tale of Rahu’s encounter with Surya and Chandra, the deities of the Sun and the Moon respectively. Rahu, a malevolent celestial being, attempts to devour them, prompting their plea to the Buddha for help. In response, the Buddha instructs Rahu to release them, lest he face dire consequences. Rahu, fearing his own demise, complies with the Buddha’s command, sparing Surya and Chandra. This tale, emphasizing the power of reverence and the Buddha’s intervention, has become part of Buddhist liturgy, with the verses recited by Surya, Chandra, and the Buddha serving as protective prayers uttered by monks for safeguarding against malevolent forces.

Leave a Reply