The Bhagavata Purana

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

This page describes Description of the Moon and other Planets which is chapter 22 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-second chapter of the Fifth Skandha of the Bhagavatapurana.

Chapter 22 - Description of the Moon and other Planets

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The King (Parīkṣit) enquired:

1. Your revered Self has described that while the glorious Solar deity, facing the stellar sphere moves forward (through the signs of the zodiac) with Meru and Pole Star to the left but appears to traverse keeping Meru and the Pole-Star on its right side (vide supra 21.8). How are we to reconcile (and understand) that statement?

He (Śrī Śuka) said:

2. When a potter’s wheel is rotating, the movement of ants and other (insects etc.) which dwell on it is quite different (and independent from that of the wheel even though they are carried along with it), for they are found in the different parts of the wheel (even while it is in motion). Similarly, (although) the wheel of Time consisting of constellation of stars, signs of zodiac as a whole, revolves with great velocity, keeping Mount Meru and the Pole-Star to the right, the Sun and other planets depending on it (i.e. the Time-Wheel), their course of movement is also different (from that of the Time-Wheel with which they move); for they are observed in conjuction with different constellations of stars and signs of zodiac (at different times).

3. He (the Sun) is the very same glorious Lord Nārāyaṇa, the First Person (the Prime cause of the universe). He is enquired into by learned sages with the help of the Vedas. For the well-being of the people and for the purification (and timely performance) of ritualistic acts, he divided his body which is an embodiment of three Vedas, into twelve parts. He creates the respective characteristics (such as heat, cold) in the six seasons like the spring etc., for enjoying, fruits of Karmas.

4. In this world, people who follow the path of duties prescribed for different classes of society (Varṇa) and stages in life (āśrama), in the three Vedas, devoutly worship him through different rituals, high or low, as laid down in the Vedas, and through the practice of Yogic meditation with faith, attain the eternal bliss.

5. Now, this Soul of the worlds[1] (or living beings), viz. the; Sun moves along the Wheel of Time in the middle of the sky, midway between the earth and the heaven and enjoys twelve months known by the signs of the zodiac as (twelve) divisions of the year. The learned teach that a month consists of two fortnights (one bright and the other dark), or a day and night (of the Pitṛs) or a period required (by the Sun) for traversing two constellations and a quarter in the space. It is (further) instructed that the season (ṛtu) is that period (division) of the year in which the Sun traverses one sixth part (of his orbit).

6. And the period which he (the Sun) takes to traverse one half of his path through the sky is called an Ayana.

7. The learned have laid it down that the period in which the Sun, with his slow, rapid and moderate motions, completes his circuit in the orbit (through the whole extent of the sky) along with heavenly and earthly spheres, is called Saṃvatsara, Parivatsara, Iḍāvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara. (Vide Supra 3.11.14).

8. Similarly the Moon is observed to be a hundred thousand Yojanas above the rays (orb) of the Sun. As it is- faster in velocity (than the Sun), it goes ahead (of the Sun). It covers in two fortnights the circuit made by the Sun in one (complete) year; in two days and a quarter of that distance which the Sun traverses in a month; and in one day the distance the Sun requires a fortnight to cover.

9. It is by the waxing of its digits in the case of gods and in the waning of its rays in the case of manes that the Moon makes the day and night of gods and manes, by means of its first (bright) and the second (dark) fortnights.[2] The Moon (as the king of plant-life and as such a food-giver) is the very life (-breath) of all species of living beings and (hence is called) the life. He is in conjunction with each of the constellation of stars for thirty Muhūrtas (24 hours).

10. And this glorious person comprising of sixteen digits(in his fullness)viz. the Moon, is the presiding deity over the mind, the ruler (and giver) of food and an embodiment of nectar. The sages describe him as one with all, as he is, by nature, the nourisher of the life of all gods, manes, men, goblins, beasts, birds, reptiles, plants and creepers.

11. The Almighty god has placed twentyeight constellations inclusive of Abhijit[3], three lakh Yojanas above the Moon. They are fixed by him on the Time-Wheel. Hence they revolve with Meru on their right side.

12. Above these (constellations) at a height of two lakh Yojanas, is observed Venus. It revolves with rapid, slow and even velocity like the Sun, and is found either ahead of or at the rear of or along with the Sun. As it (overcrosses the constellation in the serial order and thus) marches rapidly, it generally brings showers of rain and is always favourable to the world. And (in combination with some other constellations) it is observed to counteract the unfavourable influence of planets (like the Mars obstructing rainfall.

13. The Mercury (Budha) becomes described (in its variations of motions etc.) by the description of the Venus. Budha or the Mercury, the son of Soma (the Moon) is observed to be two lakhs of Yojanas above the Venus. It generally sheds beneficent influence. When it surpasses the Sun (and becomes independent), it indicates dangers like stormy winds, cloudy weather, drought and other calamities.

14. Two Lakh Yojanas higher up (than the Mercury) (i.e. eleven lakh Yojanas higher than the earth) is the Mars traversing each sign of the zodiac in three fortnights, it completes its revolution through the twelve signs, unless it takes retrograde course. It is an inauspicious planet in general portending evil.

15. At a height of two lakh Yojanas above the Mars is the glorious Bṛhaspati (Jupiter). Unless it takes to retrograde course, it moves through each sign of the zodiac in one year. It is generally favourable to Brāhmaṇas.

16. The Śanaiścara (the slow-mover i.e. the Saturn) is observed to be two lakh Yojanas above Bṛhaspati (Jupiter). Lingering for thirty months in one house of the zodiac, it takes as many (thirty) years to complete its revolution through all the signs of the zodiac. It generally portends evil and anxiety to all.

17. At a height of eleven lakh Yojanas from the Saturn are seen the (seven) sages (the Ursa Major). Always contemplating (and wishing) the good of the world, they go round the most exalted region of Viṣṇu, keeping it to their right.

Footnotes and references:


Cf. sūrya ātmājagatas tasthuṣaśca / Ṛg Veda Saṃhitā. 1.115.1.


The construction of the SK. text is significant. It wants to emphasize the Śruti text:

tasmād āpūryamānāḥ pakṣe yajante /

Which enjoins worship etc. of gods in the bright fortnight and the injunction apara-pakṣe pitṛṇām about the suitability of the dark-fortnight for the worship etc. of the manes. Bālaprabodhini points out the contradiction of the statement ‘bright and dark fortnights make the day and the night of gods’ in the above verse with that of supra 3.11.12. which states ‘the ayanas are called the day and night of the Svarga’. He reconciles by explaining that the bright fortnight is called the day of gods for it is regarded as suitable for the worship etc. of gods and the dark fortnight as the night of gods due to its unsuitability for worship and other functions, pertaining to gods.


Bhāvāratha Dīpikā notes that this constellation is supposed to be on the conjunction of the Uttarāṣāḍhā and Śravaṇa constellations. It is supposed to be an independent constellation due to its astrological implications. In his support, he quotes a Śruti passage:

abhijin nāma nakṣatram upariṣṭād aṣāḍhānām [āṣāḍhānām?] adhastāc śroṇāyāḥ /

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