Brihat Samhita

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

This page describes meteors (ulka) which is the thirty-third 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 33 - On meteors (ulkā)

Note: This term (ulkā) has been made to include a number of unusual appearances–vide text.

1. Meteors (ulkā) are appearances of those who, having enjoyed in the higher worlds the effects of their puṇya karma (good deeds), fall down to the Earth. These meteors are of five sorts known technichally as—1. Dhiṣṇya, 2. Ulkā, 3. Aśani (thunderbolt), 4. Vidyut (lightning), 5. Tārā (stars).[1]

2. Dhiṣṇya produces its effects within a fortnight; Ulkā takes also the same period; Aśani produces its effects within a month and a half; Vidyut within 6 days and Tārā takes the same period.

3. Tārā produces only a fourth of the effects assigned to meteors in general. Dhiṣṇya one-half, and Vidyut, Ulkā and Aśani produce their full effects.

4. Aśani is a meteoric substance, circular in shape; it strikes with a loud report men, elephants, horses, deer, rocks, houses, trees and sheep and passes into the Earth.

6. Vidyut is a large bent fiery substance and strikes, with a loud and fearful sound, living creatures and collection of wood.

7. Dhiṣṇya is a blazing fiery meteoric appearance, thin and with a small tail, and visible beyond a distance of 40 cubits. Its length is two cubits.

8. Tārā is a meteoric substance, a cubit in length and of white or copper colour, or of the colour of the stem of the lotus; it will appear to move either horizontally or vertically downwards or upwards as if dragged by some invisible force.

9. Ulkā (meteor) is an appearance with a large head, a very small tail and of the length of a man’s body; as it falls it increases in length. This appearance is of several kinds.

10. It assumes the shape of a dead body, a weapon, an ass, a camel, a crocodile, a monkey, a tusked animal, a plough, a deer, a lizard, a snake or smoke, and it sometimes appears doubleheaded. It causes misery in the land.

11. If it should be of the shape of a flagstaff, of fish, an elephant, a hill, a lotus, the moon, a horse, melting silver, a swan, the Bilva tree, the Vajrāyuddha (a weapon), or conch or a triangle, there will be prosperity in the land.

11. Numberless meteors (ulkā) fall from the sky; these import misery to the reigning sovereign. Meteors that simply whirl round and round import misery to the world at large.

12. Those meteors which, when they fall, just appear to touch the solar or lunar disc, or to issue from it and which are at the same time accompanied by earthquakes import a foreign rule, famine, drought and fears of various sorts.

13. If the meteors should appear to move from the right to the left of the sun and moon, houseless people will suffer miseries. If a meteor which appears to have issued from the sun should fall before one who marches out for fight, it imports good luck.

14. If the meteors should be white, red, yellow or black, the Brāhmaṇas, the Kṣatriyas, the Vaiśyas and the Śūdras will respectively suffer; the same effects will occur if the meteor falls with its head, breast, side or tail foremost.

15. If the meteor should be of fearful appearance and if it should fall in the north, east, south or west, the Brāhmaṇas, the Kṣatriyas, the Vaiśyas and the Śūdras will suffer respectively.

16. If the colour of the meteor should be white, black, red, blue, of blood color, of the colour of fire, or black, or of the colour of ash, and if its appearance should be fearful, and if it should appear either immediately before sunrise or after sunset or during the day, or if it should appear crooked or cut into halves, there will be fear of foreign invasion.

17. If the meteor should be seen to fall crossing the discs of stars and planets, the persons and objects represented by such stars and planets will suffer. If it should be seen to fall crossing the discs of the sun or moon at rising or setting, houseless people will suffer.

18. If a meteor should be seen to fall crossing the discs of Pūrvaphālguni, Punarvasu, Dhaniṣṭhā and Mūla, young women will suffer. If it should be seen to fall crossing the discs of Puṣya, Svāti and Śravaṇa, the Brāhmaṇas and the Kṣatriyas will suffer

19. If it should be seen to fall crossing the discs of the Pole-star and benefic planets and stars, the chief rulers will suffer; if crossing the discs of malefic planets and stars, thieves will suffer and if crossing the discs of ordinary stars, music and fine-arts will suffer.

20. If the meteor should be seen to fall on the images of the Devas the rulers and their countries will suffer; if it should fall on the Śakra tree (Pentaptera arjuna) kings will suffer, and if on houses, the owners thereof will suffer.

21. If it should be seen to fall crossing the discs of the direction planets[2] the countries situated in the respective directions will suffer; if on threshing floor, farmers will suffer; and if on the sacred trees planted in public places, virtuous men will suffer.

22. If it should fall at the entrance to towns, the towns will suffer; if on ornamental structures over buildings, the people will suffer; if in the middle of Brāhmaṇa habitations, the Brāhmaṇas will suffer; and if in cattle-fold, the owner of the herd will suffer.

23. If, while it falls, its noise should be like the roar of the lion, like the sound caused by striming against one’s breast or like a combination of vocal and instrumental music, the rulers with their countries will suffer.

24. If the meteoric appearance should be seen to hover in the sky for a long time, of the shape of a stick, or if it should be seen of the shape of Indra’s banner suspended in the sky as if by threads, rulers will suffer.

25. If while it falls it should retrograde in its motion, merchants will suffer; if it should move horizontally, queens will suffer; if vertically downwards, rulers will suffer; and if vertically upwards, the Brāhmaṇas will suffer.

28. If the meteor (ulkā) should be of the colour and shape of the peacock’s train, there will be misery in the land; if it should move like a serpent, women will suffer.

27. If it should appear circular in shape, towns will suffer; if of the shape of an umbrella, priests will suffer; and if of the shape of a clump of bamboos, the kingdom will be imperilled.

28. If it should be of the shape of a snake or a pig, or appear as if covered with sparks of fire, or cut or fall with noise, there will be misery in the land.

29. If it should appear of the shape of the rainbow, the kingdom will suffer; if it should disappear in the sky, clouds will be destroyed; if it should move against the course of the wind or obliquely or retrograde in its motion, there will be misery in the land.

30. If it should fall on a town or an army, the ruler will suffer from such town or army; if it should appear to come blazing from a certain quarter, the prince that marches for fight in that direction will succeed in battle.

Footnotes and references:


Garga says that weapons that have slipped from the hands of the Devas are known as Ulkās (meteors).


These are: the Sun–East; Venus–South East; Mars–South; Rahu–South West; Saturn–West; Moon–North West; Mercury–North; and Jupiter–North East.