Rahu, aka: Rāhu; 13 Definition(s)


Rahu means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism


1a) Rāhu (राहु).—(also Svarbhānu); an Asura and the eldest of the 14 sons of Vipracitti and Simhikā; a servant of Hiraṇyakaśipu; attained the status of a planet and immortality by drinking amṛta in the disguise of a deva, and when detected and reported by the sun and the moon, the Lord threw his cakra which cut off his head; hence he became the enemy of the sun and the moon.1 Asked by Bali to refrain from battle; position on the Śiśumāra about the neck; with Soma in the devāsura war;2 his daughter, was the wife of Āyu.3 one of the nine planets; black in colour; it is said that the sun and the moon interrupt him and therefore both are attacked on new moon or full moon days; it is Sudarśana that makes Rāhu withdraw himself; such occurrences are said to be eclipses; below the region of Rāhu is the abode of the Siddhas, Cāraṇas and Vidyādharas;4 Rāhu leaving the moon is compared to getting rid of all sins by a bath in Prayāgā;5 attains Soma in Parvas and then Ādityas;6 swallowing of the moon is a bad omen;7 with sun or moon fit for gifts in Amarakaṇṭaka;8 rise of, must lead to the performance of śrāddha.9

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VI. 6. 37; 18. 13-14; VIII. 9. 24-26; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 5. 13; 6. 20; Matsya-purāṇa 251. 12; Vāyu-purāṇa 52. 81; 67. 60; 68. 20; 111. 5; Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 19. 52; II. 12. 22.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 23. 7; VIII. 10. 31; 21. 19.
  • 3) Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 8. 1.
  • 4) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 24. 1-4; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 89; 24. 136; III. 14. 3; Matsya-purāṇa 93. 10.
  • 5) Ib. 106. 26.
  • 6) Ib. 107. 12; 127. 10.
  • 7) Ib. 163. 42.
  • 8) Ib. 188. 87.
  • 9) Vāyu-purāṇa 78. 3.

1b) A Parā god.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 1. 57.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

One of the Nava-graha (Hands that indicate the Nine Planets).—Rahu: left hand–Sarpa-śīrṣa, right hand–Sūci.

(Source): archive.org: The mirror of gesture (abhinaya-darpana)
Nāṭyaśāstra book cover
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Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).

Kathā (narrative stories)

Rāhu (राहु) was the Asura who, disguised as a god at the Churning of the Ocean, obtained possession of some of the Amṛta and proceeded to drink it in order to become immortal. Sūrya and Soma (the sun and moon), however, noticed what was going on, and immediately told Nārāyaṇa (Viṣṇu), who instantly cut off Rāhu’s head with his discus. As the head contained Amṛta it became immortal and came to represent the ascending nodes of the moon’s orbit. The body of Rāhu, according to the Puranic notion, was called Ketu, and represented the descending nodes.

(Source): archive.org: The ocean of story, vol. 1
Kathā book cover
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Kathās (कथा) are special kind of Sanskrit literature: they are a kind of a mix between Itihāsa (historical legends) and Mahākāvya (epic poetry). Some Kathās reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of the historical deeds of the Gods, sages and heroes.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Rahu is one of the nine planets, Navagrahas. He was originaly one of the Asuras, who became immortal by drinking Amrit, disguised as one of the Devas. He was decapitated by the discus of Vishnu. His head became Rahu, while the rest of his body became Ketu. This incident is chronicled elsewhere. He causes the eclipses of the sun, by eating Surya occasionally in revenge.

(Source): Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

Rāhu (राहु): Rahu is a snake that swallows the sun or the moon causing eclipses. Rahu is one of the navagrahas.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

An Asura chieftain (Asurinda) (cp. Mtu.iii.138, 254). The Samyutta Nikaya (S.i.49f) says that on one occasion when he seized Candima (Moon god), and on another Suriya (Sun god), both these invoked the aid of the Buddha. The Buddha then instructed Rahu to let them free. Rahu immediately let them go and ran to Vepacitti, trembling and with stiffened hair. This incident evidently refers to the Indian myth of the eclipses, and the legend has been annexed by the Buddhists to illustrate the Buddhas power and pity.

Elsewhere (A.ii.17) Rahu is spoken of as the chief of those possessing personality (attabhava). The Commentaries (E.g., AA.ii.474; DA.ii.487f.; MA.ii.790; SA.i.86, contains more details and differs slightly) explain that he is four thousand eight hundred leagues in height, and that the breadth of his chest is one thousand two hundred yojanas. His hands and feet are two hundred leagues long, each finger joint measuring fifty leagues, the space between the eyebrows also measuring fifty leagues. His forehead is fifty leagues broad, and his head nine hundred leagues in height. His face measures one hundred leagues, his nose three hundred, and the depth of his mouth one hundred. He is jealous of the gods of the Sun and the Moon, and stands in their paths with wide open mouth. When they fall into his mouth, the gods abandon their abodes and flee for their lives. Sometimes he caresses their abodes with his hand only, or with the lower part of his jaw, or with his tongue. Sometimes he takes them up and places them against his cheek; but he cannot stop the course of either the Sun or the Moon; if he attempts to do so, he will meet with disaster. So he journeys along with them.

The seizure of the Moon by Rahu and the escape from him is often used as a simile (E.g., SN. vs. 465; J.i.183, 274; iii.364, 377; iv.330; v.453; DhA.iv.19, etc.). Rahu is one of the four stains (upakkilesa) of the Sun and the Moon, preventing them from shining in all their glory (A.ii.53; Vin.ii.295; cp. J.iii.365). He is further mentioned as one of the five causes of lack of rain (vassassa antaraya). When he gathers water into his hands and spills it into the ocean, there is no rain (A.iii.243). The idea seems to be that he gathers up the rain water which is in the sky in order to cool his body.

To bring Rahu down from the sky is mentioned as one of the impossible tasks (J.iii.477).

It is said (DA.i.285; MA.ii.790f ) that for a long time Rahu did not visit the Buddha, he thought that being so tall he would fail to see the Buddha. One day, however, he decided to go, and the Buddha, aware of his intention, lay on a bed when he arrived, and, by his iddhi power, contrived to make himself so tall that Rahu had to crane his neck to see his face. Rahu, thereupon, confessed his folly and accepted the Buddha as his teacher.

Rahu is mentioned (D.ii.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).


rāhu : (m.) name of an asura king; an eclipse.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

Rāhu, (Vedic rāhu) N. of an Asura: see under Proper Names.—rāhumukha “mouth of Rāhu, ” designation of a certain punishment for criminals (M. I, 87; III, 164; Nd1 154 (in list of tortures)=Nd2 604=Miln. 197. (Page 571)

(Source): Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Rāhu (राहु) is the name of an Asura king mentioned in the Tsa a han according to appendix 8 of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XV). Accordingly, “Once the Buddha was dwelling at Śrāvastī in the Jetavana, in the garden of Anāthapiṇḍada. At that time, Rāhu, king of the Asuras, was blocking Candima, the Devaputra. Then full of terror, Candima Devaputra came to the Buddha and having bowed his head to the Buddha’s feet, stood aside and spoke these stanzas of praise to the Buddha...”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Rahu: A dark monster/ planet said to be responsible for the phases of the moon by swallowing it.

(Source): Longchen Nyingtik in Ukraine: The Great Chariot

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

rahū (रहू).—m C More commonly rōha.

--- OR ---

rāhu (राहु).—m (S) The ascending node. 2 In mythology. A daitya with the tail of a dragon whose head was severed from his body by Vishn̤u. The head and tail, retaining their separate existence, were transferred to the planetary heavens, and became, the first, the eighth planet, the second (or kētu) the ninth. To them are ascribed the eclipses of the sun and moon. rāhukētu māgēṃ lāgaṇēṃ or rāhūsārakhā māgēṃ lāgaṇēṃ-yēṇēṃ -pāṭha ghēṇēṃ &c. To press upon and worry greatly.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

rāhu (राहु).—m The ascending node. A daitya.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

Relevant definitions

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Asura (असुर).—According to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XV). Accordingly, “The Asuras ...
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