Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes comets (ketu) which is the eleventh Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 11 - On comets (ketu)

Note on Ketu: This term is defined by the author in stanza 3, and is made to include comets, meteors, falling stars, solar and lunar spots and the like luminous bodies.

1. Having examined the treatises of Garga, Parāśara, Asita, Devala and many others on Ketus, I now proceed to give a clear account of the same.

2. The reappearance or disappearance of the Ketus is not subject to astronomical calculations. The Ketus are of three kinds—celestial, etherial and terrestrial.

3. Ketus are luminous appearances resembling fíre but without the power to consume objects—the glow worm, certain phosphorescent appearances, gems, precious stones and the like excepted.

4. The etherial Ketus appear in flag staffs, instruments of war, houses, trees, horses, elephants and the like. The celestial Ketus appear in stellar regions and the terrestrial ones appear in pits and low grounds in the surface of the Earth.

5. Some writers[1] say that the Ketus are 101 in number; others[2] say that they are 1,000 in number; Nārada says that there is but one Ketu which appears in various shapes at various times.

6. Whether there is one Ketu or many, the effects to be described are various and these effects depend on their reappearance or disappearance (at particular times and places), their positions, the heavenly bodies with which they might appear to be in contact and on their colours.

7. The effects will last for as many months as the number of days during which the Ketus continue to be visible; if visible for months, the effects will last for years.[3] The effects will commence after three weeks from such appearances.

8. Generally, if the luminous body or comet be small, clear, glossy, straight, transient, white and visible either immediately after their appearance or some time afterwards, there will be health and happiness in the land.

9. If it be the opposite of these, or of the shape of the rainbow or with two or three tails, mankind will not be happy.

10. The Ketus or comets that resemble garlands, gems and gold are named Kiraṇa Ketus and are 25 in number; they have tails and appear in the east and in the west; they are the sons of the Sun, and when they appear, princes will begin to be at strife.

11. The Ketus that are of the colour of the parrot, of fíre, of Bhandhu-Jīvika[4] flower, of lac or of blood are the sons of Agni (fìre) and appear in the south-east; they are 25 in number; when they appear mankind will be afflicted with fears.

12. The Ketus or comets whose tails are bent and which are of sharp rays and black are the sons of Yama; they are 25 in number; they appear in the south; when they appear there will be deaths in the land.

13. The Ketus or comets that appear like a mirror, are round in shape without tails but with rays and looking like oil or water are the sons of the Earth; they are 23 in number, and appear in the north-east; when they appear mankind will be afflicted with fear and hunger.

14. The Ketus or comets that appear bright like the moon, silver, snow, white jasmine and the white water lily are the sons of the moon; they appear in the north and are in number; when they appear mankind will be happy.

15. A single comet possessing three tails and three colours is called Brahmadaṇḍa (born of the creator); it appears anywhere; when it appears the world will come to an end.

16. Thus have been stated briefly 101 Ketus and we will now proceed to state clearly the 1,000 Ketus already referred to.

17. The comets that appear in the north and north-east are 84 in number; they are the sons of Venus; they have large, white and shining discs and when they appear mankind will not be happy.

18. The comets that appear glossy, with rays and double-tailed are sixty in number; they are the sons of Saturn; they appear anywhere and are named Kanaka Ketus; when they appear mankind will feel very miserable.

19. The comets which are white, of single disc, without tails and glossy are named Vikacā Ketus and are the sons of Jupiter. They are 65 in number; they appear in the south and when they appear mankind will not be happy.

20. The comets that are neither very bright nor clearly visible to the naked eye, and that are long and white are named Taskara Ketus; they are the sons of Mercury, they appear anywhere and are 51 in number; when they appear mankind will feel miserable.

21. The comets which are of the colour of blood or fire and with three tails are named Kauṅkuma Ketus: they are the sons of Mars and are 60 in number; they appear in the north and when they appear mankind will feel miserable.

22. The Ketus that appear as spots in the solar and lunar discs are 33 in number. They are named as Tāmasa and Kīlaka Ketus. They are the sons of Rāhu. Their effects have been stated in the chapter on the Sun (vide stanza 7, Ch. 3.)

23. The comets that resemble the flaming fire or a garland are 120 in number. They are the sons of Agni and are named Viśvarūpa Ketus. When they appear there will be fear from fire.

24. The comets that are dark-red in colour, without disc, presenting the appearance of Cāmara[5] and with scattered rays are named Aruṇa Ketus. They are the sons of Vāyu (the wind) and are 77 in number; when they appear mankind will feel miserable.

25. The comets that resemble clusters of stars are named Gaṇakā Ketus; they are 8 in number and are the sons of Prajāpati. Those that are oblongular[6] in shape, are 204 in number and are the sons of Brahmā.

26. The comets that resemble clusters of bamboo canes and that are as bright as the moon are named Kaṅkā Ketus; they are the sons of Varuṇa and are 32 in number. When they appear mankind will suffer miseries.

27. The comets that resemble a headless trunk are named Kabandha Ketus; they are the sons of Yama, are 96 in number and are without discs; when they appear there will be much fear all over the Earth.

28. The comets that are white possessing a single disc are 9 in number; they appear in the four corners. Thus we have given an account of 1,000 Ketus. We shall now give a few particulars connected with them.

29. Vasā Ketu is a comet which lies with its head towards the north; it is of large size, glossy and appears in the west. When it appears there will be immediate[7] deaths in the land but prosperity in the end.

30. Asthi Ketu resembles the Vasā Ketu; but if it appears of sharp rays, there will be fear in the land. Śastra Ketu also resembles the Vasā Ketu but is glossy and appears in the west; and when it appears, there will be wars and deaths in the land.

31. Kapāla Ketu is visible on new-moon days; its tail is of the colour of smoke; its course lies through the eastern half of the visible hemisphere; when it appears mankind will suffer from hunger, death, drought and disease.

32. Raudra Ketu is a comet resembling the dagger’s end and is of a dull red colour; it appears[8] in the south-east and travels through a third of the sky and produces the same effects as the Kapāla Ketu.

33. Cala Ketu is a comet which appears in the west with a tail an inch in length pointing to the south; as it proceeds more and more towards the north, it increases in length.

34. After touching the Pole star or the constellation of Abhijit, it turns back and after travelling one half of the sky disappears in the south.

35. When this Ketu appears, the country between Prayāga (Allahabad) and Avantī, the forests near Puṣkara, the north, the country of Devikā and Madhyadeśa will perish.

36. The other countries will also suffer in several places from disease and from famine; the effects described will last for 10 months according to some and for 18 months according to others.[9]

37. Śveta Ketu is a comet which appears in the east about midnight with its tail pointing to the south. Ka Ketu is a comet of the shape of a carriage pole and appears in the west. Both the above Ketus are seen simultaneously for 7 days.

38. If both should appear glossy, there will be prosperity and happiness in the land; if the Ka Ketu should be visible for over 7 days, there will be much suffering from wars for ten years.

39. The Śveta Ketu is of the shape of the twisted hair and of a dull and disagreeable aspect; it travels through a third of the sky and then retraces its steps. When it disappears it leaves only a third of mankind as survivors.

40. Raśmi Ketu is a comet possessing a tail slightly coloured like smoke; it appears in the constellation of Kṛttikā. The effects are the same as those assigned to Sveta Ketu.

41. Dhruva Ketu is a comet possessing no fixed course, colour or shape and appears anywhere in the heavens, in the sky and on Earth. When it appears glossy, mankind will be happy.

42. To those whose death might be near this Ketu appears in the several divisions of the King’s army, in houses, in trees, in hills and in household utensils.[10]

43. Kumuda Ketu is a comet of the colour of the white water lily. It appears in the west with its tail pointing to the east and is visible only for a night. When it appears there will be unprecedented happiness in the land for a period of ten years.[11]

44. Maṇi Ketu is a comet which appears for only 3 hours occasionally; it possesses an invisible disc and appears in the west; its tail is straight and white and it resembles a line of milk drawn from a human breast.[12]

45. There will be happiness in the land from the very time of its appearance for four and a half months; reptiles and venomous creatures will come into existence.[13]

46. Jala Ketu is a comet which appears in the west with a raised tail; it is glossy, when it appears there will be prosperity in the land for 9 months, and the world will be freed from all miseries.

47. Bhava Ketu is a comet visible only for a single night and in the east, possessing a small disc; it is glossy; the tail is bent like that of a lion.

48. There will be unprecedented happiness in the land for as many months as the number of hours for which it continues to be visible; if it should be fearful to look at, fatal diseases will afflict mankind.

49. Padma Ketu is a comet white like the stem of the lotus. If it appears only for a night, there will be joy and happiness in the land for 7 years.

50. Āvarta Ketu is a comet of red colour; it appears in the west at mid-night with its tail pointing to the south and it is glossy. There will be happiness in the land for as many months as the number of kṣaṇas (four minutes) for which it continues to be visible.

51. Samvarta Ketu is a comet which appears in the west in the evening with a tail of the colour of smoke and copper, extending to a third of the sky and resembling the sharp end of a dagger; it is fearful to look at.

52. Princes will suffer m wars for as many years as the number of hours for which it continues to be visible. Those persons will also suffer in the star of whose nativity the comet appears.

53. Omitting the benefic comets, we shall proceed to state the several princes who will perish according as the malefic comets either dim with their tails the stars of the various constellations or appear to be in contact with the same.

54. If the stars of the constellation of Aśvinī should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of Aśmaka[14] will perish; if the stars of Bharaṇi should be so dimmed or in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of Kiratas will perish; if those of Kṛttikā, the ruler of Kaliṅga will perish; if those of Rohiṇī, the ruler of Śūrasena will perish.

55. If the stars of the constellation of Mṛgāśīrṣa should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of Auśīnara will perish; if those of Ārdrā, the ruler of the people subsisting by the products of water will perish; if those of Punarvasu the ruler of Aśmaka will perish; and if those of Puṣya the ruler of Magadha will perish.

56. If the stars of the constellation of Āśleṣā should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of Asika will perish; if those of Maghā, the ruler of Aṅga will perish; if those of Pūrvaphālguni, the ruler of Pāṇḍya will perish; if those of Uttaraphālguni, the ruler of Ujjain will perish; and if those of Hasta, the ruler of Daṇḍaka[15] will perish.

57. If the stars of the constellation of Citrā should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of the Kurus will perish; if those of Svāti, the rulers of Kāśmīra and Kāmboja will perish.

58. If the stars of the constellation of Viśākhā should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the ruler of Ikṣvāku and of Alaka will perish; if those of Anurādhā, the ruler of Puṇḍra will perish; if those of Jyeṣṭhā the chief emperor will suffer.

59. If the stars of the constellation of Mūla should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with malefic comets, the rulers of Andhra and of Madra will perish; if those of Pūrvāṣādha, the ruler of Benares will perish; if those of Uttarāṣādha, the rulers of Yaudheya, of Arjunāyana, of Śibi and of Caidya will perish.

60. If the stars of the constellation of Śravaṇa should be dimmed by the tails of or appear to be in contact with the malefic comets, the ruler of Kekaya will perish; if those of Dhaniṣṭhā, the ruler of Punjab will perish; if those of Ṣaṭbhiṣaj the ruler of Ceylon will perish; if those of Pūrvabhādra, the ruler of Bengal will perish; if those of Uttarabhādra, the ruler of Naimiṣa will perish; and if those of Revatī, the ruler of Kirāta will perish.

61. If the tails of the comets should be crossed by the fall of meteors there will be happiness in the land; if there should be a fall of rain at the time of the appearance of a comet mankind will be exceedingly happy; but the people of Cola and Avagāṇa as well as the white-men, the infidels and the Chinese will suffer.

62. The rulers of the countries to which the bent tails of the comets point, of the countries in the direction of which the tails of the comets extend and of the countries corresponding to the several constellations (as described above) with whose stars the comets might appear to be in contact, will triumph over their enemies and be happy.

[Apendix 2: Note regarding modern science on the subject of comets]

Footnotes and references:

1.

Parāśara for instance.

2.

Garga for instance.

3.

The commentator says: From 1 to 24 days of visibility the effects will last from 1 to 24 months. From 25 to 30 days of visibility, for two years; if visible for 5/2 months for instance, the effects will last for 5/2 + 3/2 or 4 years.

4.

Bhandhujivika: Pentapetes phoenicca—a plant with a red flower which opens at mid-day and withers away the next morning at sunrise.

5.

Cāmara: the bushy tail of the Bos grunniens.

6.

Garga says triangular.

7.

On the day of appearance according to commentator.

8.

About the constellation of Āṣādha according to commentator.

9.

For 8 years according to Parāśara and Garga.

10.

According to Parāśara, it is seen in trees, mountains, bamboos, roads, implements of war, jewels, chariots, elephants, camels, beds seats, vessels and the like. The number of these Ketus are 10, 21, 60, or 100 in the opinion of several writers.

11.

Vṛddha Garga says that this happiness cannot be an unmixed one; according to him, cometary appearances never fail to produce evils.

12.

This and several other comets can be very well identified by a look into the map of comets published by Europeans.

13.

According to Parāśara, if the comet continues to be visible for over 3 hours, serpents, mongooses and the like will come into existence.

14.

Most of these countries have been already explained. The rest wherever they can be identified, will be explained as we proceed.

15.

Daṇḍaka: name of a district in the Dekhan between the Narmadā and Godāvarī rivers which in the time of Rāmacandra was a forest and celebrated as a place of pilgrimage.