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Stars of the Nakshatras

 
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Therese Hamilton



Joined: 22 Feb 2011
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Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:29 am    Post subject: Stars of the Nakshatras Reply with quote

STARS OF THE NAKSHATRAS

It has always concerned me that the stars that are said to mark the ancient 28 nakshatras didn’t always match the ecliptic areas of the 27 equal lunar mansions of 13°20' each. Thus (so I thought) the attributes of the various deities to today’s lunar mansions must be in error.

However, I didn’t consider that the association of deities with ancient nakshatras came long before the identification of the nakshatras stars which are discussed in the Ebenezer Burgess translation of Suryasiddhanta. I also didn’t know that the identification of at least some of the stars was based on conjecture.

Recently I’ve been introduced to a book that offers a plausible solution to the problem of misplaced stars (as per our contemporary lists) within the 27 lunar mansions. I’d recommend Professor K.D. Abhyankar’s Pre-Siddhantic Indian Astronomy: A Reappraisal (2007) to anyone interested in the nakshatras from their earliest history up to the present. Abhyankar is an astronomer and scholar who has specialized in the study of classical texts. Though astronomical, his research on nakshatras is very helpful to astrologers.

Based on Abhyankar’s dating, nakshatra lists with the names of their deities appeared around 2300 B.C. (p. 57) Radhe in The Divine Forces of the Lunar Nakshatras (2014) has included the translations of both the 27 and 28 nakshatra lists from the Taittriya Brahmana. I don’t know if anyone has tried to trace the first appearance of specific nakshatra stars in India’s texts, but the Suryasiddhanta is dated to the 500 A.D. era, almost 3000 years after the earliest nakshatra lists with deities. The Burgess translation of Suryasiddhanta is apparently the source of the nakshatra stars listed in our modern Jyotish texts, though Burgess clearly states on page 209:

“The number and configuration of he stars forming the groups are not stated in our text; we derive them mainly from [Henry] Colebrooke.” (1807)

However, both Burgess and Colebrooke had India’s astronomical textbooks in their possession for study and research. These texts are listed on page 209 of the Burgess translation of Suryasiddhanta.

Anyone who has studied a sky map with the traditional nakshatra stars circled sees immediately that some of these stars are not in the correct mansions said to be associated with particular deities. Using the stars discussed in Suryasiddhanta, Abhyankar has managed to align the original 28 nakshatras into 12 or 13 degree segments of the ecliptic with only a few changes of stars.

He has replaced Vega (Abhijit) with Altair (alpha Aquila), Betelgeuse (alpha Orion) with lamba Gemini) and has adjusted several stars in the later nakshatras which he believes were mis-identified when Abhijit was dropped in favor of 27 equal mansions. Abhyarnkar’s suggested division of the ecliptic even places Spica (Chitra) and Arcturus (Svati) in separate mansions since he draws the possible ancient boundary line between those two nakshatras.

Using Abhyankar’s suggested correct identifications, most stars today fall within the appropriate equal 27 mansion division said to be associated with a particular deity. The table below summarizes Abhyankar’s suggested changes in the identification of nakshatra stars. I have added the common names of stars which are not listed in the table in the text.



(Continued in Part 2)
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Last edited by Therese Hamilton on Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:19 am; edited 8 times in total
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Therese Hamilton



Joined: 22 Feb 2011
Posts: 1142
Location: California, USA

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

STARS OF THE NAKSHATRAS: Part 2

Even with Abhyankar’s plausible changes of stars, there are still three mansions without their traditional stars (as per Suryasiddhanta and related texts) in the 27-fold division: Svati (Libra), Purva Ashadha (Sagittarius), and Uttara Ashadha (Sagittarius-Capricorn). There is no way that Arcturus can be made to fit Svati’s longitude as Arcturus is only minutes from Spica which lies at the center of Chitra. The traditional stars given to Purva Ashadha are actually in Mula, and the stars in Uttara Ashadha are in Purva Ashadha. The feet of the constellation of Virgo are aligned with today's Svati. (iota and kappa Virgo)

However (as I’ve come to believe), this doesn’t mean the deity association of he mansions is out of alignment since no mention of the original stars associated with the nakshatras has come down to us. The nakshatra-star picture has been cloudy with disagreement among scholars. We can ask a key question: “Is there really a genuine lunar zodiac of 27 mansions each 13° 20' in size, just as there are 12 equal Rasis or signs of the zodiac?” And are the true nakshatra stars the stars that actually happen to be located in each of the 27 mansions?

Were the ancient 28 nakshatras only an approximation of a true lunar zodiac discovered much later, a lunar zodiac that happens to be perfectly aligned with the 12 Rasi sidereal zodiac, so that zero degrees of Ashvini is the same longitude as zero degrees of Aries? This is an open question that will take much study and research by contemporary astrologers.

Abhyankar’s Pre-Siddhantic Indian Astronomy: A Reappraisal can be purchased from Exotic India, which in my experience has been a very reliable Indian company. Overseas shipping is included in the cost of books.

Link to the site:
http//www.exoticindiaart.com/aboutus.php3

Direct link to the book:
http//www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/pre-siddhantic-indian-astronomy-reappraisal-IHL814/
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Sirius_and_Procyon



Joined: 25 Jul 2014
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Posted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Therese

Thank you so much for the extensive review of this book.
As you know I wrote extensively about this topic, of the relation between the nakshatras and the stars, and I find Professor K.D. Abhyankar’s reflections interesting and relevant for this debate.

Although I didn't read the book, allow me make some short comments to his new attribution of starts.

- Vega (Abhijit) replaced with Altair (alpha Aquila)
I have some problems with this. As far as I studied this matter, Vega "falls" from the sky. This word is used in ancient text to refer to the movement of Vega in the sky, due to the precession of the equinox. With this shift the nakshatras went from 28 to 27 , thus leaving Vega out. So I really don't see the point in replacing her with Altair.

- Betelgeuse (alpha Orion) with (lamba Gemini)
I'm really against this idea, because the presiding deity is Rudra and Orion is much "Rudra" than "Gemini". Besides this Betellgeuse is a red star, much more in sync with Rudra than the white Alhena.

During the years I have been studying the nakshatras, I came to understand them better, the more I read about the myths and deities that rule them.
In my option the key to get their full meaning is thought their ruling gods and goddesses.

I also find relevant to say (and think) that for a long period of time , the vedic text draw a parallelism between the nakshatras and the gods. The early lists are list of gods, not lists of starts. This comes much latter.

I'm sure this is not a closed topic and astrologers will be busy with this for many years to come - and this is a good thing!
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Remy



Joined: 30 May 2017
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Posted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Therese for your review.
I have also been disturbed by the misalignment !

I suggest that stars could be reported on the ecliptic from the celestial pole, that is to say through equatorial projection. This way, Arcturus would fit nicely in Swati. Vega would "fall" onto the Nunki asterism of Sagittarius - corresponding with Uttarashadha - which could account for its association with the end of this nakshatra.
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Therese Hamilton



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Posted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remy, nice to see this topic resurrected! The Chinese mansions are measured with equatorial coordinates, but India has used the ecliptic. The bottom line is that we need to align the influence of the stars with the proper coordinates, and there hasn't been any real research done in that area.

There are many books and articles that discuss the influence of India's nakshatras, but not a lot of discussion or research on whether these meanings actually relate to specific stars or even if the supposed traits are accurate in practice. In my own work it seems that the figures of the constellations and asterisms do have some influence, but I haven't looked at equatorial measurement.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Therese Hamilton wrote:
Remy, nice to see this topic resurrected! The Chinese mansions are measured with equatorial coordinates, but India has used the ecliptic.

Though originally, they would presumably have referred to asterisms in the apparent path of the moon, not in the apparent path of the sun (= the ecliptic, which became all-important with the introduction of horoscopic astrology).
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Remy



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Posted: Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incidentally, I was reading "Zodiacs Old and New" by Cyril Fagan ; he speaks of the date 2791 BC, when Eta Ursa Major (Alkaïd) and Spica were aligned at 9h18 of right ascension (Thuban being the pole star)

Interestingly, at this time, Vega and Altaïr were also aligned relative to this pole star.


[img]http://hpics.li/022800d[/img]


A thousand year later, we could find a correlation between the 6°40 and 10°53'20 of Capricorn and the lines falling from Lyra.

It is not impossible that stars may have been formerly (perhaps loosely before Suryasiddhanta) attached to nakshatras from an equatorial (consequently : tropical) point of view. What would account for a modern redefinition, from a fixed and ecliptic point of view as Abhyankar.

In relation to the 27/28 number, I have read that Abhijit was an intercalary nakshatra, but nowhere found the basic calculation that would show how its length relate to the 7h43min beyond the 27 days of its sidereal period. Maybe obvious ? But it seems to me that it would prevent from the idea that one nakshatra was "dropped". This 28th one would have always been considered "epagomenal".
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Mark
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Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remy wrote:
Quote:
It is not impossible that stars may have been formerly (perhaps loosely before Suryasiddhanta) attached to nakshatras from an equatorial (consequently : tropical) point of view. What would account for a modern redefinition, from a fixed and ecliptic point of view as Abhyankar.


This is precisely the conclusion I reached a few years back. I have compiled a several points which I feel support this case for an equatorial origin to the Nakshatras. I had thought of marshalling my points here but i dont want to derail Therese's thread. The whole focus on this thread is centred on Abhyankar's theories which I think are somewhat misconceived at least in regards the origins of the nakshatras. It might make more sense to open another thread exploring this theory.

Mark
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Tue Jul 11, 2017 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Remy wrote:
It is not impossible that stars may have been formerly (perhaps loosely before Suryasiddhanta) attached to nakshatras from an equatorial (consequently : tropical) point of view.

Irrespective of the historicity of this assumption, I don't think the 'tropical' is relevant here. The tropical/sidereal distinction refers exclusively to the zodiac (centred around the ecliptic). The other astronomical great circles are not assigned any astrological symbolism of their own, and so their starting points are purely a matter of convention.
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Therese Hamilton



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Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Mark wrote:
I have compiled several points which I feel support this case for an equatorial origin to the Nakshatras...It might make more sense to open another thread exploring this theory.

Martin wrote:
Irrespective of the historicity of this assumption, I don't think the 'tropical' is relevant here. The tropical/sidereal distinction refers exclusively to the zodiac (centered around the ecliptic). The other astronomical great circles are not assigned any astrological symbolism of their own, and so their starting points are purely a matter of convention.

The suggestion of an equitorial origin of India’s nakshatras has always puzzled me, both for the reason Martin mentioned, and because in India the nakshatras have traditionally been seen as ‘the wives of the Moon.’ The Moon traverses the ecliptic with a maximum latitude of 5 degrees. In contrast the Moon’s declination can be up to 28.5 degrees. The stars of Scorpio and Sagittarius are especially far south of the celestial equator. So, yes, it would be interesting to clear up this topic in a new discussion thread.
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