Navaratri – Celebrating Change

India is a vast land with an ancient culture. It has a range of colourful festivals. Navaratri is one among these festivals. This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests.

 While the period and date of festival is common across the land, it is celebrated in different ways across the land, but is still the same festival and spans across the same time window. The spirit is the same, that of honouring the feminine forces in Nature in the form of the three Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi, which finds expression in the place of honour given to women and girls during this festival.

 In Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, it is celebrated as Kolu, festival of dolls, ending with Saraswathi Puja. In Mysore, it is celebrated as Dassera with Devi Chamundi as the primary divinity. In Bengal, it is called Durga Puja. In Central India and Northern India, Dassera is celebrated with the Dahana, burning of the effigy of Ravana to symbolize the victory of good over evil.

 Navaratri Celebrations across the land

How is it that the same festival is celebrated in different ways in the same culture, in the same religious milieu and still accepted across the land by the same name, Navaratri and Dassera?

 The connecting bond for all these festivals is the culture, which is called Samskrti. The word Samskrti itself means “that which is well done” as Kriti means “to do well”.

This is said so for, over time, the civilization in India had learnt, understood and perfected the ways of living. It is a way of living which is in sync with Nature as reflected in the timing of the festivals in India which are mainly based on seasons and the scientific principles of Nature.

 Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are actually 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.

 Why are there 4 Navaratri festivals in a year?

 India has 4 seasons and so Navaratri is celebrated 4 times in a year.

The prime ones are celebrated in the months of March-April, the transition from Winter to Spring and in the months of September-October, the transition from summer to autumn. If you note, these are the windows close to the two equinoxes as well, the period when days and nights are equal and balanced.

Why does each celebration last for nine nights and days?

Navaratri festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and autumn. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but in fact was considered in Indian thought, to be a full span of 9 to 10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was earmarked as a period of time which is 9 days and 9 nights.

From such practices, it comes out clear to us that, in the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar with days, hours, minutes and finer divisions of time, equal importance was also given to transitory periods – transition from day to night, from month to month, from season to season and so on.

Change in Season, Change in life pattern

When seasons change, life pattern also changes. The body which is a part of Nature, changes with changing surroundings, change in seasons. There is a change in diet pattern, sleep, metabolism etc. with the change in season. In a society closely in tune with Nature, it also affects occupations, work undertaken, dressing and overall behavior. Navaratri is such a transition from one season to another and is a celebration of this change.

Whenever there is a change, one can either resist it or accept it. With resistance comes hardships.  With acceptance comes mellowness. Celebrating is one way of yielding to and accepting a change wholeheartedly. And where there is wholehearted acceptance, contentment will follow and so will happiness.

Navaratri is the expression of such a celebration where we recognize there is going to be a change, understand the change that is to follow and accept it willingly.

Alignment of Energies

 There is a saying in the Samskrt language, “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in Macrocosm”. This phrase brings forth the relationship between our body, the body of earth and body of cosmos.

The gross world, the Macrocosm, is filled with varieties of astral bodies such as the earth, sun, planets, comets, stars, nebulae and galaxies. All these bodies are in continual motion, which brings about continuous change not only in the huge cosmos but all the way in every tiny living and non living being all the way on earth.

As these bodies keep moving and causing change in the cosmos, they keep aligning and realigning amongst themselves. These alignments bring in an interplay amongst the forces of Nature.

All these alignments have their effects on each of the bodies in space including the body that is us.

 The Trinity of Energies

Our mind too, the Microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.

  •  Ichcha Shakti – desire or will to act and manifest

  • Kriya Shakti – potential to act and manifest

  • Gnana Shakti – knowledge power for the manifestation

 An alignment of these energies denotes the culmination of their interplay, leading to a balanced state of mind and individual. This knowledge, Gnana Shakti, should lead us, the people, civilizations and human race as a whole, to use our potential and faculties, i.e. Kriya Shakti, for aligning our subconscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the Cosmos.

 It is these 3 energies in the form of the three Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, that the Indians from time immemorial have been invoking and realigning themselves with, during the seasonal transition festival called Navaratri.

D.K. Hari and D. K. Hema Hari are authors, research collators and founders of Bharath Gyan

 They may be contacted through www.bharathgyan.com and email: bharathgyan@gmail.com

Navaratri – A Transitioning Window

There are definite cycles of celestial motion, some short enough for us to see and record in our lifetimes and some others long enough to be unimaginable, as well.

There is a mathematical functioning to the cosmos that we sometimes see.

There is also randomness in the Universe, which cannot be explained but which indicates the presence of subtler forces and dimensions that we have as yet not understood.

The cosmos is not made of black and white. It comes in all shades of colours and all shades of grey.

We have not even scratched the tip of knowledge of all the objects in the Universe, their motions and their phenomenon. Our science and mathematics cannot simulate nature to its exactness.

This is why, among other aspects, the ancients seem to have been wise enough to demarcate time windows for cosmic events, apart from calculating a fixed date for the event. Such time windows were called Sandhi.

A Sandhi

Sandhi is the join between two places, two activities, two periods – Yuga.

 

When one Yuga period ends and the other Yuga period starts, while there is a very specific, pin pointed time, which is used for calculation purpose, there is also another important feature known as the Sandhi period which indicates the overlaps on either side of this specific, pin pointed time marker by more than a few years. This period is collectively known as the Sandhi period, period of transition.

Effects of a Sandhi

The Kali Yuga, which was an alignment of all the planets in the Solar system, with the Aries, Mesham constellation, has been calculated to have started at 02 hours 30 minutes 23 seconds on Friday 18th February 3102 BCE.

The precise alignment of all the planets of the solar system did take place at the above mentioned precise time and date, but the effect of it was not for that moment alone.

The effect of the alignment was felt, stretched over a period of time, by hundred years on either side.

The tumultuous Mahabharatha period and the life of legendary hero Krishna, took place in the intervening Sandhi period. This tumultuous period has now been dated, using the field of Archaeo-astronomy, to be between 3112 BCE to 3031 BCE.

This period falls on either side of the start of Kali Yuga, which is why the Mahabharatha epic of India, very explicitly states that the tumultuous period of Mahabharatha, happened in the interim, antara of the two Yuga namely –Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga.

 

The Mahabharatha Wartook place in the Antare- i.e. Antare meaning the interphase or twilight- of Dwapara yuga.

The very word Antara in Samskrt means “between, inside, within”. It bears the root for the English words inter, intra, enter etc.

 

India across times has thus accorded significance to the Sandhi, the antare period or transitional window between two time periods, cycles or seasons.

Navaratri – A Sandhi in Rthu, seasons

Navaratri is a popular festival in India. It is celebrated, as the name suggests, over nine nights and concludes on the 10th day. This Navratri festival is celebrated every year in the month of September – October.

While most of the popular festivals of India are one day festivals, Navaratri is a nine day festival.

Why is it such a long festival?

A little known fact about Navaratri is that it is not just an annual event. Even though most people celebrate just one Navaratri festival during September – October every year, there are 4 Navaratri festivals in a year, each lasting for 9 nights and days.

The prime ones are the ones in the month of March-April, i.e the transition from winter to spring and the one in the month of September – October, i.e. transition from summer to autumn. These seem close to the equinox periods, a time of balanced days and nights.

Why do we celebrate the same festival four times in a year that too each time for nine nights and days?

This festival celebrates the transitory nature between the four major seasons in Nature, they being summer, winter, spring and rains. The transition from one to the other season does not take place in just one day but is in fact the full span of 9 to10 days. So this transitional nature of Nature was understood as a period of time which is 9 days and nights.

A time to allow one’s body and mind to adjust to the rhythm of Nature and align with the new season.

In the traditional Indian thought, while there was a definite calendar as a time maker, equal importance was also given to the transitory period.

Indian thought also viewed time from a cyclical perspective. i.e. They looked at time as a resultant of the periodic, cyclical motion of celestial objects in space. Hence the word Rthu to denote the periodicity in Nature.

It is this word Rthu, which gives rise to the English word Rhythm for a periodic pattern.

Alignment of Energies

Indian knowledge system also held that something cyclic can only be detected or perceived through an alignment and alignments have a nett result, a result that emerges and settles down over a transitional period.

There is a Samskrt saying “Yatha Pinde thatha Brahmande” – “As in Microcosm, so in macrocosm”

This phrase and its meaning and its relationship to the Creation of the Cosmos and everything within, is discussed in good detail in our book Creation – Srishti Vignana.

In the case of the macrocosmic universe of large celestial bodies, alignments could influence gravitational forces, magnetic forces, other such cosmic forces and the Indian knowledge system realized, recorded and revealed that the nett result, was the notion of Sandhi, the union.

Our mind too, the microcosm, is constantly under the interplay, alignment of 3 subtle forces or energies.

  • Ichcha Shakti – desire, will to manifest

  • Kriya Shakti – potential to act and manifest

  • Gnana Shakti – knowledge power for the manifestation

An alignment of these energies denotes the culmination of their interplay, leading to a balanced state of mind and individual.

Alignments bring in a sense of settlement and equilibrium in the cosmos, in Nature, in people and in civilizations.

This knowledge, Gnana Shakti, should lead us, the people, civilizations and human race as a whole,  to use our potential and faculties, i.e Kriya Shakti, for aligning our sub conscious desire and will, Ichcha Shakti to be in sync with the  Cosmos, which is the manifestation of the Ichcha Shakti, the desire, wish and the way of Nature.

It is these 3 energies that we invoke and align ourselves with, in the form of the three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi, during the seasonal transition called Navaratri.

Navaratri – A Time to Honour Women

Life on earth is discernable by 3 basic qualities –

  1. to know

  2. to feel

  3. to act.

Knowing gives rise to desire, a want, an impulse, a response. This impulse makes one act in that direction. Acting, doing anything again gives knowledge which further drives wants again and the cycle goes on endlessly.

It can also be seen as there is a want, a desire which drives one to know what to do to get it fulfilled and this knowledge enables one to act in the direction of getting the want fulfilled. Once this want is fulfilled, there arises the next want and the cycle goes on endlessly.

These 3 basic aspects can be seen in living beings in varying degrees depending on their form of existence from micro-organism, plant, insect, birds, animal to human life. Those in which, one of more of these 3 aspects, i.e. free thought, free will, free act, is missing, is considered to be non-living.

It is the power of such free thought, free will and free act, which has been described in Indian thought as Gnana Shakti, Iccha Shakti and Kriya Shakti. Together they form a part of one’s consciousness.

A new born baby, soon as it is born itself, as it struggles for air, subconsciously wants to breathe, knows how to breathe and breathes without anyone teaching it so. The cycle starts from there.

Similar is the case with a seed. When a seed is ready, there is an impulse to germinate, it knows how to germinate and it germinates on its own without anyone teaching it or making it to do so. One can only create a conducive environment. The rest is upto the seed.

These 3 energies form a part of the consciousness of every entity on earth, every entity in the cosmos and of the cosmos itself too as it is also alive.

The cosmos as an entity too is living as it is continuously evolving, goes through its cycles of births and deaths and most of all is driven by a cosmic consciousness – a consciousness that makes it want to get created, know how to create itself and to go through the process of creation.

Thus these 3 energies exist at all levels in the cosmos.

The ancients of this land had well understood consciousness and life. They had also seen a complementary nature in this universe.

Every living being on earth, be it from plant or animal kingdom, bears a predominant male or female characteristic, commonly called gender. In each species, the male and female of the species evolve roles, responsibilities innate to their character so that they complement each other in keeping themselves sustained, creating progeny and safeguarding them for the continued existence, survival of the species as a whole.

Such a complementing nature is at work in the whole of Nature.

The ancients had therefore divined the principles and workings of the cosmos into three primary masculine divinities – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their feminine counterpart divinities – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Durga or Shakti respectively.

Each of the pair of masculine and feminine divinities were associated with one aspect of the existence of the cosmos all the way down to the smallest being on it –

1.      Brahma – Sarasvati pair associated with the expansion, growth, evolution of the Universe. They represent the Gnana Shakti, knowledge to create the Universe and everything in it.

2.      Vishnu – Lakshmi pair associated with the purpose, orderly functioning, sustenance of the Universe. They represent the Iccha Shakti, the act of willful, purposeful creation and sustenance.

3.      Shiva – Shakti pair associated with the manifestation and regeneration of the matter of the Universe. They represent the Kriya Shakti, potential, energy and process of manifestation of the Universe.

Three-Powers

The cosmos is not a chaos. On the contrary it is well organized with clear distinction of characteristics, roles and responsibilities starting all the way from the divine cosmic principles to the smallest and myriad forms of existence.

Every role needs an actor to play it and the actor needs a character, Guna.

Similarly in the 3 roles played by the 3 pairs of divinities, the masculine divinity denotes the actor while the feminine divinity is the character of that actor.

If Shiva plays the role of the manifestor, Shakti is the energy in Shiva to go through the process of manifestation, Kriya Shakti.

If Vishnu plays the role of maintaining order in the cosmos and sustaining it, Lakshmi within Vishnu is the desire, principle, goal that drives this creation and its sustenance, Iccha Shakti.

If Brahma plays the role of expanding the Universe and consciousness, Sarasvati is the one inside Brahma who knows it all, the Gnana Shakti.

These feminine divinities were perhaps the earliest “Women of Substance”.

Navaratri is the celebration of these earliest “Women of Substance”.

These three divinities, Goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati, who represent power, achievement and knowledge resources respectively, are propitiated during Navaratri to enrich our lives with the above resources, vital to the survival and prosperity of any civilization.

This festival is not celebrated for a day, but for nine nights as the term Navaratri suggests. It is the time window to align the divine feminine forces in each one of us governing the three aspects of our life with that of the cosmos.

This symbolism of the Goddesses denotes the higher understanding in the civilization that the functioning and the resources needed to function, coming together with a purpose, is what ensures successful completion of any activity.

It is the understanding of this complementary nature of Nature, all the way from the divine forces at work throughout the Universe, to the various living forms in this Universe, including man and woman on earth that formed the ethos of the land of India.

This ethos through the ages has given the due position and respect, in all spheres of life, to men and women. Navaratri is the time to honour the women in the cosmos all the way from divine to human.

 Navaratri celebrations

 

Onam Festival – Part 1, The Story of Onam

Onam commemorates the homecoming of the great Asura king Maha Bali from Patala Loka. Maha Bali, the grandson of Prahalada, was a strong and learned king. The name Bali means strong. Bali was also a person who gave a lot of respect to knowledge. This is evident from the famous episode of his encounter with Vamana.

Maha Bali was performing a Yagna, a focussed and austere act, towards achieving a goal, by sacrificing one’s pleasures and possessions.

 At that time, a short, young, radiant boy entered the yagna shala. He seemed to be the epitome of true knowledge. Maha Bali as is the custom, welcomed this radiant youngster and enquired upon the reason as to why he had come to attend this yagna. The youngster requested for just that much space, as could be measured by three of His footsteps.

Bali and Vamana 

Vamana and Maha Bali

When Maha Bali thinks of this request to be very small for a man of his stature and immediately offers to give the youngster what He desires, Guru Sukracharya, the mentor of Bali and the Asura, intercedes, to restrain the Asura King Bali from granting the requested three measures of space, without giving the request a due thought.

Shukracharya advising Bali 

 Sukracharya advising Bali

Maha Bali does not pause to think, as cautioned by his mentor Sukracharya. Instead, brushing aside the warnings, he goes ahead and grants three measures of space, as asked for, by this radiant youngster Vamana.

As the legend goes, no sooner were the three footsteps granted, the youngster Vamana assumed a gigantic form known as Trivikrama and with the first step of His foot, measured the whole earth. Then with the second step of His foot He measured the whole sky. These two steps had covered the whole of Maha Bali’s kingdom, the earth and the sky. Vamana then asked the King, as to where he should place His third step.

Untitled 

Trivikrama

King Maha Bali recognizing the divinity of Vishnu in Vamana, understood his folly, bowed and offered his own head to Vamana, for placing His third step on.

Seeing Maha Bali’s sincerity and reverence, Vishnu forgives him, places his third foot on Maha Bali’s head and sends him “down” to Pathala Loka and offers to stay guard for Maha Bali, Himself.

      Trivikrama           

Vamana’s leg on Bali’s head

Acceding to the request of Maha Bali’s people, Vishnu grants Maha Bali permission to return to his kingdom from Pathala Loka, once every year to be in the midst of his people. This day is celebrated as the Onam festival.

Where is this Pathala Loka?

Read the next part in this Onam Series-  http://goo.gl/Rtvfuf

Onam Festival – Part 2, Pathala Loka

The Puranic legends of India speak of many worlds.

As per the Puranas, when Vishnu, in the form of a young scholar Vamana, humbled Asura king Maha Bali, Maha Bali was banished to Pathala Loka. When the Deva overcame the Asura in battles, the Asura were forced to migrate to the Pathala Loka, the netherworld or the world below.

 Where is this Pathala Loka?

 People have conjured up images of Pathala Loka as being vertically downwards inside the earth.

onam1

Asura going down to Pathala Loka

an incorrect understanding

The Puranic legends describe how the world is divided into different habitable regions. They list 14 regions, with 7 regions being the “nether worlds”, the Pathala Loka. The Puranic texts also give the notion of the Pathala Loka as being beyond the seas.

The words like location and locomotion are etymologically similar to the word, “Loka”.

There are other technical texts that mention the location of Asura and their adversaries, the Sura.  A sloka in Surya Siddhantha throws some light on the exact location of the Pathala. The relevant sloka is,

 Surasuranam anyonyam diva – ratra viparyayaha

For Sura and Asura, days and nights are interchangeable

According to this sloka, Sura and Asura would have lived on opposite sides of the earth as only then can their days and nights be interchangeable.  The region of the earth diametrically opposite to the Indian subcontinent is the central parts of South America which was the Pathala Loka of the Asura.

 PathalaLoka 

If we want a modern analogy, we have the British calling Australia as Down Under. That does not mean that Australia is in the underground areas of England. What the English really mean by the phrase “Down Under”, is that, for England, high in the northern hemisphere, Australia is on the other side of the earth, down in the south.

 DownUnder

Similarly, there is another popular term in the US, called the China Syndrome.

People often joke that, in case there were to be a nuclear mishap in America, then the nuclear explosion would burrow a hole beneath America, continue to burrow through the earth and come out on the other side of the earth, in China.

ChinaSyndrome

These phrases, Australia Down Under and China Syndrome, are examples of usage by people on one side of the globe to bring out the concept that, there is another side, opposite to them on the earth, which is also inhabited by people.

It is in this similar vein of expression that the ancient Indians had used the term Pathala Loka, as the area on the other side of the spherical earth. It is not to be erroneously understood as an underground cavern or kingdom.

To have had this knowledge, the ancient Indians must have known that the earth was not flat but spherical in nature.

Does this mean that Pathala Loka is for real and the story of Maha Bali, real?

Read the next part in the Onam series- http://goo.gl/qTdsGA

Onam Festival – Part 3, Significance of Onam

Onam-Bali Pada is an occasion for us to relate to the story of Vamana where Vamana grew from a short young boy to a giant form and with His 3 strides covered earth, skies and finally placed His leg on the head of Maha Bali, a good but arrogant king and pushed him into Pathala Loka.

This legend where Vamana measured the whole universe does sound like some childish mythology. Even from a cosmological perspective, it appears to be unscientific and self-contradictory. If with His first step, Vamana had measured the whole of the earth then it should have included Bali’s head too as he was also on this earth.

Next, with the second step of His foot, if Vamana had measured the whole sky, then “this earth which is also a part of that sky”, was also included in the second step.

onam2

Earth in the Solar System

Then where does Bali stand separately, to offer his head for the third measure?

 Is this not self-contradictory?

 Is there anything rational about this legend?

 We must bear in mind that the legend of Vamana avatar is Puranic, i.e. it is an expression of a deeper truth, a moral lesson from historical or scientific incidents, clothed in a story, such that the commoner can easily grasp the essence of the incident and model his conduct accordingly, right through the ages.

 What is the moral that lies behind this story of King Maha Bali?

 Maha Bali was a great Asura king and ruled over all the lands he saw. While he was basically a good person and his intention to honour the knowledgeable was great, there was also an arrogance in him because he owned all the expanse that he could see on land and was considered invincible. That ahankara, arrogance, ego, blinded him and so, despite his goodness and the keen intention to respect knowledge, his ahankara, ego, did him in.

While he had his preceptor, Guru Sukracharya, next to him, who had warned him to pause, think, take sagely advice and act with caution, King Maha Bali had brushed aside the warning in order to keep up his image, of one who was willing to give away everything. This ego and arrogance, got him banished to Pathala Loka.

 Knowledge and humility help one transcend ego which can grow as huge as this earth and sky. This ego can be conquered in three simple steps like Vamana’s.

 Step 1 – Measure the earth – Look around and be humbled by the sheer number of other living beings like you on this earth.

Step 2 – Measure the skies – Look up into the sky and be humbled by the sheer vastness and multitude of other worlds in the cosmos and how insignificantly small we are in this cosmos.

Step 3 – Place your hand on your head – Realize that in the cycle of births and deaths not only of living beings but the cosmos itself, the time span of each of our lives is very small and the role we play in the larger picture of the order of the cosmos, is even smaller. 

This story by example has had a timeless relevance in conquering ego, ahamkara which has also been timeless. A little ahamkara is essential but when ahamkara takes over, it just suppresses the person, however mighty he may be.

These 3 steps of Vamana will keep our ego, ahamkara limited to the necessary.

But why remember this story on Onam Day? Why choose this particular day?

Read the next part in this Onam series-  http://goo.gl/3nU3AP

 

Onam Festival – Part 4, Story From the Skies

Onam Festival, Shravan Month and Shravana Star

 This word “Onam” is the shortened form of Thiruvonam or Shravanam, since this event occurs in the Shravan month under the Shravana star in the Indian calendar.

Shravan is the month in the Indian calendar that typically falls between July-August in North and between August-September in the South. This period is characterized by heavy rains and many other festivals such as Narial Purnima, Raksha Bandhan, Ganesh Chathuthi, Krishna Janmashtami to name a few.

 This month is called Shravan since the full moon during this month occurs against the Shravana star.

 But why did this particular star get the name Shravana?

 Which is this star in the sky?

 The 3 footprints in the sky

Before we go to skies, let us recollect the story behind the Onam festival and why it came to be celebrated. How this festival marks the day when Maha Bali, the great Asura king was humbled by Vamana with His 3 giant strides.

 The star Shravana is the set of stars known in western astronomy as Altair the bright star in Aquila constellation along with Beta and Gamma Aquilae that flank it on either side.

Aquila constellation 

Altair-Shravana, Beta and Gamma Aquilae in Aquila Constellation

These three stars are pictured as the 3 footprints of Vamana in His gigantic Trivikrama form.

One may wonder what does the legend of Maha Bali and Vamana, have to do with the name Shravana for this star?

The word “Shravana” means to listen, to pay heed to. The legend of Maha Bali from time immemorial has been a moral story on how one should pay heed to one’s mentor, teacher, failing which one could fall into trouble. Hence these 3 stars which depict the outcome of Maha Bali’s disobedience stand as a constant reminder in the sky to caution people to listen and pay heed to good counsel.

Another way in which the name of this star is spelt is, Shrona, which means “lame” or “to limp”, in Samskrt. Shrona is one who limped. Trivikrama after measuring the 2 steps, stood limping, with one leg raised in the air, asking Maha Bali where He could place his foot for the third step?

Trivikrama 

Trivikrama with one leg up

Hence these 3 stars, as Shrona, also depict the footsteps of Trivikrama as He covered the earth and the skies with His foot.

Another Angle to the Triangle

There is yet another tale associated with how these 3 stars came to be called Shravana.

Much later, closer to the times of Rama, Shravan was a young lad who lived in the time of Dasaratha, father of Rama. He used to dote on his parents and take care of them with love and affection. Since they were old and blind, he would carry them in two baskets hanging on either side from a rod on his shoulders, like a weighing scale, balance.

One day, he was filling a pitcher of water from a pond for his parents. King Dasaratha, out on a hunting trip, mistook the gurgling sound of the pitcher for an animal and shot an arrow in its direction. He rushed to catch his prey but instead found young Shravan Kumar mortally wounded. Even in that state, Shravan requested the king to carry water to his thirsty parents. Dasaratha, approached them with trepidation in his heart and from the sound of his footsteps the old couple realized it was not their son. On being asked, he narrated what had happened. The bereaved father cursed Dasaratha that one day he would also have to bear the sorrow of his son leaving him. Strangely, the king expressed happiness on being cursed because he did not have children at the time and was pining for a child. For the curse to come true, he would have to have children. Just this thought made him so happy, that he took mud and grass from the ground and showered it on his head. As fate would have it through, Dasaratha was later blessed with 4 sons out of whom he loved Rama, the eldest dearly. But when Dasaratha grew old and had pinned his hopes on Rama to take over his kingdom, he was separated from Rama – a separation that took away his life.

Shravan Kumar, even today, is remembered for his dedication towards his parents. Altair in the Aquila constellation, in the sky has been named after Shravan.

Why is Altair equated with Shravana?

Altair, flanked by the two dimmer stars, Beta and Gamma Aquilae gives an impression of a balance, just like how Shravan Kumar carried his aged parents.

shravan Kumar and Shravana constellation 

Shravan Kumar and Shravana Constellation

 What lies in a name?

The ancient astronomers of India had a practice of giving scientific names to stars, names that denote their function, characteristic. Sometimes legends from Purana have been mapped to these objects to symbolically explain scientific principles or facts.

The story of how the Shravana star got its name is just one among many.

Does naming Altair and these 2 dimmer stars as Shravana indicate that the two stars flanking Altair are dying stars while Altair in comparison, a star in the prime phase of its life? This could be a lead for further analysis.

Incidentally Beta Aquila, also known as Tarzed though not very old, has burnt up all its fuel and has entered its dying phase. It has swelled into a giant and is expected to blast and later become a white dwarf.

Delving into understanding the detailed description of Puranic legends in connection with the stars they point to in the skies, could perhaps help provide more clues to understand these stars better.

We will understand why our ancients chose to name the stars what they did?

We will understand our ancients and our heritage better!

Thus concludes the story of Onam from Kerala, to Pathala Loka, to the skies.