The Bhagavata Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 780,972 words | ISBN-10: 8120838203 | ISBN-13: 9788120838208

This page describes The Stellar Region which is chapter 21 of the English translation of the Bhagavata Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas containing roughly 18,000 metrical verses. Topics include ancient Indian history, religion, philosophy, geography, mythology, etc. The text has been interpreted by various schools of philosophy. This is the twenty-first chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 21 - The Stellar Region

[Note: This chapter deals with the old astronomical ideas current at the final redaction of this Purāṇa. It is a popular statement of a scientific subject. We find similar topics discussed in Devī-bhāgavata VIII 5-20, Matsya Purāṇa 124-128. Viṣṇu Purāṇa II. 8-12 and the astrological aspect in Garuḍa Purāṇa 59-64, Agni-purāṇa. 121 etc. The statements given in these Purāṇas are to be taken broadly, as modern astronomical exactness should not be expected in such works. Thus the increase and decrease in the duration of days and nights and the rate of this variation as given in verse 4 here is roughly correct, though actually it is not so uniform mathematically. Other statements are to be taken in a broad sense. The commentators profusely quote from Purāṇas, Tantras on old astronomy which cannot be summarised here]

Śrī Śuka said:

1. To this extent (viz. 50 crore Yojanas diameter and 25 crore Yojanas height) has, the disposition of the terrestrial sphere, been described, with reference to its dimensions and characteristics.

2. Experts in this (science) describe the dimensions (etc.) of the heavenly sphere with reference to this (extent etc. of the sphere of the earth, as being symmetrical in dimensions) just as the size etc. of one of the two halves of beans is known from that of the other half. Between the two (the heavenly sphere and the globe of the earth) is the Antarīkṣa (Intermediate region) which is joined by the two (by the earth from below and the heaven from above).

3. Situated in the centre (of the sky), the glorious Lord of luminaries gives warmth to the three worlds with its heat, and illumines them with its lustre. It proceeds by slow, rapid and regular movements known by the (technical) terms Uttarāyaṇa (the period of the Summer Solstice, when the Sun appears moving to the North of equator), Dakṣiṇāyana (the period of the winter Solstice, when the Sun moves to the south of equator) and Vaiṣuvata (period of Vernal or Autumnal equinoxes), and also in higher, lower and middle positions, according to seasons.

4. When the Sun traverses the signs of Meṣa (Aries) and Tulā (Libra), the days and nights are of equal duration. When it traverses the five zodiacal signs from Vṛṣabha (Taurus) to Kanyā (Virgo), the days go on lengthening and the duration of the night goes on decreasing one ghaṭikā (24 minutes) per month.

5. When it traverses the five signs from Vṛścika (Scorpio) to Mīna (Pisces), days and nights are in the reverse order (and days go on decreasing and nights increasing).

6. Days go on increasing in duration, till the Dakṣiṇāyana begins, while nights do the same, till the commencement of Uttarāyaṇa.

7. The learned say that a distance of nine crores and fifty-one lakh Yojanas is thus traversed by the Sun in its revolution round the Mānasottara mountain. (They say that) on that mountain, to the east of Meru, is situated the capital city of Indra (presiding deity of the eastern direction), called Devadhānī; to the South (of Meru) is the capital of Yama (the presiding deity of the Southern direction) by name Saṃyamanī; to the West, the city of Varuṇa (the god presiding over the Western quarter), called Nimlocanī; and to the North is the capital of Soma (presiding deity of the northern direction), named Vibhāvarī. When the Sun passes through these cities, there is Sunrise, Midday, Sun-set and Midnight on the four sides of Meru (respectively). These serve as the special time of activity and cessation of activities for living beings.

8. To the dwellers on Mount Meru, it is always the Midday. And though the Sun (with its face towards the stellar sphere, actually moves to the eastern direction) with Mount Meru on its left side, it appears (to move to the West and) to keep the Meru on its right (because the wind called Pravaha which always blows with the Meru on its right, forces the stellar spheres including the Sun which goes from east lowest to move in the opposite direction[1].

9. It is said that just on the diametrically opposite side of that point where the Sun rises (or appears in view), it sets (goes out of view). If at any point, it troubles people with heat and makes them perspire, exactly on the opposite side of the point, it makes them sleep (as it is midnight). Those who see it shining (brightly in their place), do not see it when it is at the (diametrically) opposite point.

10. When it starts from the capital of Indra, it traverses in fifteen ghaṭikās (six hours) the distance of two crores and a quarter, twelve lakhs and a half and twenty-five thousand (i.e. 23775000) Yojanas, and arrives at the city of Yama.

11. In this way, it proceeds to the city of Varuṇa, to that of the Moon-god and again to the capital of Indra (all the cities are equidistant). So also, in the stellar region, all planets-such as the Moon and others, rise as well as set together along with the stars.

12. In this way, the chariot of the Sun which is the Veḍatriad incarnate, covers in a muhūrta (48 minutes) a distance of thirty-four lakh and eight hundred Yojanas and travels through the four capital cities (in the abovementioned serial order).

13. It is traditionally said that the chariot has one wheel in the form of a year with twelve spokes (i. e. twelve months), six tyres (viz. six seasons) and three navels (three parts of four months each). Its axle-tree is fixed (at one end) to the top of Mount Meru and the other end is placed on the Mānasottara mountain. Fixed to it, the wheel of the Sun’s chariot rotates like the wheel of an oil mill over the Mount Mānasottara.

14. Into that axle, there is another axle-tree measuring onefourth of the first. It is like the axle of an oilpress with its upper end joined to the Polestar.

15. The seat of the chariot is thirty-six lakh Yojanas in extent. The yoke of the Sun’s chariot is of the same extent. Yoked to it by Aruṇa, are seven horses bearing the names of (Vedic) metres (viz. Gāyatrī, Bṛhatī, Uṣṇik, Jagatī, Triṣṭubh Anuṣṭubh and Paṅkti). And they carry the god Āditya (the Sun).

16. They say that, entrusted with the duties of a charioteer, sits Aruṇa in front of the Sun-god, but with his face turned towards the west (i.e. to the Sun-god to show respect).

17. Appointed to sing the Vedic hymns, the sages called Vālakhilyas, sixty thousand in number and of the size of the fourth part of a thumb,—who are placed in front of the Sun—sing the praise of the Sun-god.

18. And other sages, Gandharvas (celestial musicians), Apsarasas (Divine damsels), Nāgas (serpents), Yakṣas (demigods), Yātudhānas (demons) and gods—fourteen in all if taken one by one, and seven if taken in pairs—have different and varied names. And they, two at a time, serve the Lord, the Self in the form of the Sun, bearing different names; they perform their several duties and serve the Atman in the form of the glorious Sun, every month. (For details vide infra 12.11, 33-34).

19. The circumference of the terrestrial sphere is nine crores and fifty lakh yojanas. Out of this, he crosses the distance of two thousand and two yojanas in a moment.

Footnotes and references:


nakṣatrābhimukhatayā svagatyā meruṃ vāmataḥ kurvannapi, pradakṣiṇā-vartapravahākhya-vāyu-bhrāmyamāṇa-jyotiṣcakra-vaśāt pratyahaṃ dakṣiṇataḥ karotiBhāvāratha Dīpikā

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