Posted on: January 27, 2009


There is a very interesting myth behind this Solar or the Lunar Eclipse in Indian context as far as the astrology is concerned. It has a link with the Ocean Churning (Samundra Manthan) myth.

The myth says that the Sun and the Moon had witnessed a demon called Rahu in god’s disguise consuming the ambrosia from Shri Vishnu who later becomes immortal. During the event of distributing the amrut (elixir of life extracted out of the sea churn) to the gods the ‘Moon god’ signals Shri Vishnu of this act and realizing the happening. His entire wrath falls upon the fleeing demon Rahu who by then was running fast to save his life. Rahu at last pays for the act as he is slew by Shri Vishnu into two parts from throat.

That’s why in India whenever there is an eclipse one is warned not to stare at that event as it symbolically signifies that Rahu is trying to swallow the Sun and the Moon+. That’s why it is termed as Purna Grahan (Total eclipse) or Ardha graham (partial eclipse) symbolizing complete or partial swallowing. How interesting the Indian fables for children are that keep off children staring at the phenomenon even without explaining the scientific reason.

Interestingly, in Indian astrology only seven planets were anciently identified before this act of Sea Churning’. Later they were named after seven days of the week: Sun (Surya), Mon (Chandra/ Moon), Tues (Mangal/Mars), Wed (Budh/Mercury), Thurs (Guru/Jupitar), Fri (Shukra/Venus), Satur (Shani/Saturn). While Rahu and Ketu got the boon to join the family of the seven planets to enlarge its domain to Nine Planets (Navagraha).

The Samudra Manthan (Ocean Churning) event brought out the Ambrosia (Amrut) along with many other gifts. The leela (divine play) that followed was like wonderful bed-time stories that take you to a beautiful world of fantasy. In fact it is said that Shri Vishnu had to take His two incarnations that manifested during the entire process when the Deities and the demons jointly undertook the task of churning the sea to get the Amrut (Ambrosia …elixir of life). One incarnation was that of the Tortoise to make the entire Mandrachal Mountain to act as pivotal over its body on the sea bed to act as a tool for churning the sea and the second was the Mohini (a beautiful damsel).

So the myth goes like this +.. Once a hermit called Durvasa Rishi became angry with the Gods and cursed them. This curse caused them to lose their celestial glow and powers. This led the asuras and daityas (Demons) to trouble them. The powerless gods went to Lord Indra and explained their problems in detail. Lord Indra advised them to take refuge at Shri Vishnu’s attention. Lord Indra accompanying the gods goes to Shri Vishnu and pleads, “Lord, kindly relieve us with a solution to this problem. If this problem continues, soon all the gods will be out of existence”.

Listening to all these pleas and the descriptions of the events that followed Lord Vishnu said to Indra “All of you that are gods, asuras and daityas must perform the churning of the ocean. The gems gained from the ocean can return the glow and the power you seek. For this, you must go to daityaraj Bali (king of demons). He is your brother as both of you had the same father, Kashyap. He will certainly remember this and assist you.”

Thus obeying Lord Vishnu’s words, Indra went to meet Bali, the king of daityas. Daityaraj promised to help Lord Indra in the churning of ocean. Indra said that he would equally share with daityaraj whatever they would receive from the ocean after the churning.

A joint venture thus ensued. It was decided that to churn the gifts from the ocean Mandrachal Mountain could be used as churner. The name of Nagraj (king of serpents) Vasuki (the serpent king on which Shri Vishnu rests) was proposed to be used as a substitute for the giant rope to wound around the mountain to initiate the churn.

It was then time for the gods and daityas to get down to the serious business of a joint venture in order to receive the ultimate gift that would make them immortal. So the representatives from gods and daityas tried to lift the Mandrachal Mountain and many in that process had to be sacrificed under its weight and pressure of the gigantic mountain while lifting it. Even being together their efforts gave way as they could not lift it. Thus Indra again approached Shri Vishnu seeking His help. Lord Vishnu thus rode on His vehicle Garuda (Eagle like bird) and helped to lift the entire weight of the Mountain in His right hand at one go and placed it in the middle of the ocean. But immediately the sea bed gave way to the heavy weight of the Mountain. Lord Vishnu seeing this immediately incarnated as a giant tortoise and went under the water and balanced the entire load of the mountain on its back sitting on the ocean floor preventing it from further sinking.

The serpent king Vasuki was wound around Mandrachal and thus began the Ocean churning (Samundra Manthan) story. The asuras and daityas pulled Vasuki from its head-ward side as they argued that it would be quite below their dignity to take the tail-wards side in their share in this joint venture like a tug-of- war. So the gods and devtas opted for the tail-ward end of Vasuki while the daityas preferred the head. So the first thing to get out of the churning was the phenomenon of the serpent’s poison emerging out called as Halahal’. Neither the gods nor the daityas dared opting for the dreadful poison. So, Lord Shiva came up for the rescue as He drank the Halahal and placed it in His throat to be called as Neelkantha’ (Blue throat) later.

Next that emerged from the churning was the celestial cow – Kamdhenu – that was gifted to the sages by Lord Vishnu. Then up came the Horse-Ucchashrava -that went to Daityaraj Bali. Next was the four tusked Elephant Airavat that was taken by Indra for his own use. The fifth was the Koustuvmani- the jewel-that was accepted by Lord Vishnu Himself. It was a divine tree with flowers called Parijat from kalpabriksha (a celestial tree), which later the Gods took to the heaven as the sixth gift. The seventh gift that came was a beautiful maiden named Rambha who herself desired to reside partly on Earth and partly in Heaven. Then Shri Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth emerged out of the churning, who chose to be with Shri Vishnu as the fight ensued between the two parties for who would accept the gift of Shri Lakshmi emerging out of the churning. Further, churning resulted in emergence of Varuni, an alcoholic drink. The demons (daityas and asuras) gladly accepted the drink.

At last the churning yielded the most coveted gift in form of Vaidya Dhanwantari (Doctor of doctors) who appeared holding a vessel full of ambrosia (Amrut) which had ability to transform one to immortality. An argument ensued as to who would get the share or the larger chunk of the share to enjoy the elixir of life as both the parties had worked very hard. At this point the daityas snatched the vessel of nectar from Dhanwantari and ran away. There was a bit of divine play (leela) from Lord Vishnu’s side. Shri Vishnu incarnated in form of a beautiful maiden named Mohini’. Everyone suddenly came under the bewitching spell of Her beauty. Mohini spoke in Her soft voice “Do not fight”. “You may give the nectar to me and I shall distribute it for each one of you here”. “You all must queue up in the line to wait for your turn of the sip while I distribute”. She continued with the leela, “it seems the nectar is watery at top while the concentrated portion seemed to have settled at the bottom of the pitcher. So I shall better start with the god who gets the diluted watery stuff++.”

The asuras, daityas and gods all agreed together as the beautiful Mohini convinced them. So, Mohini started distributing the ambrosia first to the gods sitting in the queue. A daitya named Rahu was watching all these leela and was intelligent to suspect some foul play in this distribution. He suddenly realized the trick that Mohini was playing with the demons. He immediately transformed himself into a figure of like-god and queued up in the line with gods before the gods could realize it. He sat in between two deities Surya Dev (Sun God) and Chandra Dev (Moon God) who was sitting at the end of the last row. Chandra dev immediately recognized him and signaled Mohini to avoid Rahu who was in disguise of god sitting next to him as Mohini was about to serve it to Rahu and coming for Chandra dev at the last. But it was too late before Mohini could realize. Rahu had already had his share and gulped it down his throat. Immediately Shri Vishnu reappeared in His original Form from emerging out of His Mohini incarnation. Serving the remaining portion of the ambrosia to Chandra Dev (Moon) he threw the pot on the Earth and sprang into action to catch up Rahu.

In order to save his own life Rahu tried to run away from the scene as fast as he could. But Shri Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra (the discus) was released to server his head from his body. Since Rahu had already drunk the ambrosia he did not die. Chandra dev witnessing all these events pleaded Lord Vishnu to spare him and said, “O, my Lord, please do not asunder his body into any more pieces, as each piece falling on ground would incarnate as daityas and they will multiply again to trouble the gods in turn”.

Hearing these pleadings of Moon, Lord Vishnu realized and thus spared him as He spoke to Rahu, “Since you have drunk the nectar sitting amongst the gods now you must leave your asura life style. You must now stay with Surya (Sun) and Chandra (Moon) and other seven planets forever to be now counted amongst nine planets (Navagraha)”. Thus the severed head of the daitya is called as Rahu while the body without the head is called as Ketu which plays a very important role in astronomical calculations. It is said that when Rahu comes to engulf Moon or between Sun and Moon it causes the eclipses.

A more interesting aspect is the Herbal Aurveda in India claims that Garlic’ that is called as “Rasoun (Lahsoun)” is said to be the fruit born out of the pot that was thrown on the earth. It is said it bears all the qualities of Amrut (Rasa) except one – that’s why it is called as “Rasoun” (prefix of this word) which has all great qualities to affect human body to attain elixir. The word oun’ spelt as one less than the whole number (like pronouncing 19, 29, 39, 49 etc.) in devnagari so it is Ras (meaning Amrut) and oun (meaning one less). It is said Garlic has a good effect on our left Swadhisthana, too. It is considered to be of a prime importance in herbal medicine for blood pressure and other physical ailment. One may try to consume garlic clove in the morning and see for one self the coolant working throughout the day although it is hot for itself but kills the heat generated inside the human system. Isn’t it interesting?

(Adapted from Indian Mythological folklores, fables and the bedtime stories)

PS: – So, do you see how Rahu and Ketu enter in disguise between the Sun and the Moon? It is our own ascent that we are stuck with and we need to identify them like the six enemies and avert giving them concession of having the nectar. The two are the channels within us. If we invite the demons like Rahu and Ketu, how it disturbs the two channels is the subtle knowledge I believe. In fact in India as they calculate the horoscope in the planetary position if Rahu or Ketu sits it does troubles us+What a mathematical calculation?!

Rabi and Ranjana from India

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2 Responses to "Eclipes"

very interesting story….thanks for sharing!

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January 2009
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"..the self-knowledge that I am talking about is concrete, verifiable and is tangible like science itself and completely understandable in rational terms" - Shri Ma.

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