nakṣatra नक्षत्र

Definition: Is a word of obscure origin and derivation. The Indian interpreters already show a great divergence of opinion as to its primary meaning. The śatapatha Brāhmana re­solves it into na-ksatra (‘ no power ’), explaining it by a legend. The Nirukta refers it to the root naks, ‘obtain/ following the Taittirīya Brāhmana. Aufrecht and Weber derived it from nakta-tra, ‘ guardian of night/ and more recently the derivation from nak-ksatra, ‘ having rule over night/ seems to be gaining acceptance. The generic meaning of the word therefore seems to be ‘star/ The Naksatras as Stars in the Rigveda and Later.—The sense of star ’ appears to be adequate for all or nearly all the passages in which Naksatra occurs in the Rigveda. The same sense occurs in the later Samhitās also : the sun and the Naksatras are mentioned together, or the sun, the moon, and the Naksatras, or the moon and the Naksatras, or the Naksatras alone; but there is no necessity to attribute to the word the sense of lunar mansion ’ in these passages. On the other hand, the names of at least three of the Naksatras in the later sense occur in the Rigveda. Tisya, however, does not seem to be mentioned as a lunar mansion. With Aghās (plur.) and Arjunī (dual) the case is different: it seems probable that they are the later lunar mansions called Maghās (plur.) and Phālgunī (dual). The names appear to have been deliberately changed in the Rigveda, and it must be remembered that the hymn in which they occur, the wedding hymn of Sūryā, has no claim to great age. Ludwig and Zimmer have seen other references to the Naksatras as 27 in the Rigveda, but these seem most improbable. Nor do the adjectives revatī (£ rich ’) and punarvasīi (‘ bringing wealth again’) in another hymn appear to refer to the Naksatras. The Naksatras as Lunar Mansions.—In several passages of the later Samhitās the connexion of the moon and the Naksatras is conceived of as a marriage union. Thus in the Kāthaka and Taittirīya Samhitās it is expressly stated that Soma was wedded to the mansions, but dwelt only with Rohinī; the others being angry, he had ultimately to undertake to live with them all equally. Weber hence deduced that the Naksatras were regarded as of equal extent, but this is to press the texts unduly, except in the sense of approximate equality. The number of the mansions is not stated as 27 in the story told in the two Samhitās: the Taittīriya has, and the Kāthaka no number; but 27 appears as their number in the list which is found in the Taittirīya Samhitā and elsewhere. The number 28 is much less well attested: in one passage of the Taittirīya Brāhmana Abhijit is practically marked as a new comer, though in a later book, in the Maitrāyanī Samhitā, and in the Atharvaveda list,27 it has found acceptance. It is perfectly possible that 28 is the earlier number, and that Abhijit dropped out because it was faint, or too far north, or because 27 was a more mystic (3x3x3) number: it is significant that the Chinese Sieou and the Arabic Manāzil are 28 in number.28 Weber, however, believes that 27 is the older number in India. The meaning of the number is easily explained when it is remembered that a periodic month occupies something between 27 and 28 days, more nearly the former number. Such a month is in fact recognized in the Lātyāyana and Nidāna Sūtras as consisting of 27 days, 12 months making a year of 324 days, a Naksatra year, or with an intercalary month, a year of 351 days. The Nidāna Sūtra makes an attempt to introduce the Naksatra reckoning into the civil or solar (sāvana) year of 360 days, for it holds that the sun spends 13J• days in each Naksatra (13^x27 = 360). But the month of 27 or 28 days plays no part in the chronological calculations of the Veda. The Names of the Naksatras.—In addition to the two mentioned in the Rigveda, the earlier Atharvaveda gives the names of Jyesthaghnī (the later Jyesthā) and Vicrtau, which are mentioned as in close connexion, and of Revatīs (plural) and Kyttikās. With reference to possible times for the ceremony of the Agnyādhāna, or Maying of the sacred fires/ the Kāthaka Samhitā, the Maitrāyanī Samhitā, and the Taittirīya Brāhmana mention the Naksatras called Krttikās, Rohinī, Phalgunyas, Hasta; the latter Brāhmana adds Punar- vasū, and in an additional remark excludes Pūrve Phālgunī in favour of Uttare Phālgunī. The śatapatha Brāhmana adds Mrgaśīrsa and Citrā as possibilities. On the other hand, Punarvasū is recommended by all authorities as suitable for the Punarādheya, 'relaying of the sacred fires,’ which takes place if the first fire has failed to effect the aim of its existence, the prosperity of the sacrificer. The Kāthaka Samhitā, however, allows Anurādhās also. In the ceremony of the Agnicayana, or 'piling of the fire- altar,’ the bricks are assumed to be equal in number to the Naksatras. The bricks number 756, and they are equated to 27 Naksatras multiplied by 27 secondary Naksatras, reckoned as 720 (instead of 729), with the addition of 36 days, the length of an intercalary month. Nothing can be usefully derived from this piece of priestly nonsense. But in connexion with this ceremony the Yajurveda Samhitās enumerate the 27, The Taittirīya Brāhmana has a list of the Naksatras which agrees generally with the list of the Samhitās. It runs as follows: Kyttikās, Rohinī, Invakās, Bāhū (dual), Tisya, Aśleṣās, Maghās, Pūrve Phālgunī, Uttare Phālgunī, Hasta, Citrā, Nistyā, Viśākhe, Anūrādhās, Rohinī, Mūlabarhanī, Pūrvā Asādhās', Uttarā Asādhās, Sronā, Sravisthās, Satabhisaj, Pūrve Prosthapadās, Uttare Prosthapadās, Revatī, Aśvayujau, Apabharanīs. In a later book, however, the list grows to 28, and the full moon is inserted after number 14, and the new moon after number, as an attempt to bring the Naksatra (lunar) month into accordance with the Sāvana (solar) month of 30 days. The names in this second list are as in the Samhitās with the following exceptions. The seven stars of the Krttikās are named as Ambā, Dulā, Nitatnī, Abhrayantī, Meghayantī, Varsayantī, Cupunīkā, names found also in the Taittirīya and Kāthaka Samhitās. Beside Mrgaśīrsa, Invakās are also mentioned. Then come Ardrā, Punarvasū, Tisya, Aśresās, Maghās (beside which Anaghās, Agadās, and Arun- dhatīs are also mentioned), Phalgunyas (but elsewhere in the dual, Phalgunyau), Phalgunyas, Hasta, Citrā, Nistyā, Viśākhe, Anūrādhās, Jyesthā, Mūla, Asādhās, Asā(jhās, Abhijit, śronā, Sravisthās, Satabhisaj, Prosthapadās, Prosthapadās, Revatī, Aśvayujau, Bharanyas, but also Apabharanīs. Abhijit, which occurs also in an earlier part of the Brāhmana, is perhaps interpolated. But Weber’s argument that Abhijit is out of place in this list because Brāhmana is here mentioned as the 28th Naksatra, loses some force from the fact (of course unknown to him) that the list in the Maitrāyanī Samhitā contains 28 Naksatras, including Abhijit, and adds Brāhmana at the end as another. In another passage the Taittirīya Brāhmana divides the Naksatras into two sets, the Deva Naksatras and the Yama Naksatras, being 1-14 and 15-27 (with the omission of Abhijit) respectively. This division corresponds with one in the third book of the Brāhmana60 where the days of the light half of the month and those of the dark half are equated with the Naksatras. The Brāhmana treats the former series as south, the latter as north; but this has no relation to facts, and can only be regarded as a ritual absurdity. The late nineteenth book of the Atharvaveda contains a list of the Naksatras, including Abhijit. The names here (masc.), Viśākhe, Anurādhā, Jyesthā, Mūla, Pūrvā Asādhās, Uttarā Asādhās, Abhijit, śravana, śravisthās, śatabhisaj, Dvayā Prosthapadā, Revatī, Aśvayujau, Bharanyas. The Position of the Naksatras.—There is nothing definite in Vedic literature regarding the position of most of the Naksatras, but the later astronomy precisely locates all of them, and its statements agree on the whole satisfactorily with what is said in the earlier texts, though Weber was inclined to doubt this. The determinations adopted below are due to Whitney in his notes on the Sūrya Siddhānta. 1.Krttikās are unquestionably η Tauri, etc., the Pleiades. The names of the seven stars forming this constellation, and given above from Yajurveda texts, include three --------abhrayantī, forming clouds meghayantī, ‘making cloudy’; varsayantī, ‘causing rain’—which clearly refer to the rainy Pleiades. The word krttikā possibly means ‘web/ from the root krt, spin.’ 2. Rohinī, ‘ ruddy,’ is the name of the conspicuously reddish star, a Tauri or Aldebaran, and denotes the group of the Hyades, <* θ y 8 e Tauri. Its identification seems absolutely assured by the legend of Prajāpati in the Aitareya Brāhmana. He is there represented as pursuing his daughter with incestuous intention, and as having been shot with an arrow (Isu Trikāndā, ‘ the belt of Orion ’) by the huntsman ’ (Mrgavyādha, Sirius ’). Prajāpati is clearly Orion (Mrgaśiras being the name of the little group of stars in Orion’s head). 3.Mrgaśīrsa or Mrgaśiras, also called Invakā or Invagā, seems to be the faint stars λ, φ,1 φ2 Orionis. They are called Andhakā, * blind,’ in the śāntikalpa of the Atharvaveda, probably because of their dimness. 4.Ardrā, ‘ moist,’ is the name of the brilliant star, α Orionis. But the names by which it is styled, in the plural as Árdrās in the śāñkhāyana Grhya Sūtra and the Naksatrakalpa, and in the dual as Bāhú, in the Taittirīya Brāhmana, point to a constellation of two or more stars, and it may be noted that the corresponding Chinese Sieou includes the seven brilliant stars composing the shoulders, the belt, and the knees of Orion. 5. Punarvasu, the two that give wealth again,’ denotes the two stars, a and β Geminorum, on the heads of Castor and Pollux. The name is no doubt connected with the beneficent character of the Aśvins, who correspond to the Dioscuri. 6.Tisya or Pusya includes the somewhat faint group in the body of the Crab, 7, δ, and θ Cancri. The singular is rather curious, as primarily one star would seem to have been meant, and none of the group is at all prominent. 7. Aśresās or Aślesās, which in some texts is certainly to be read Aśresās or Aślesas, denotes δ, e, η, p, σ, and perhaps also ζ, Hydrse. The word means ‘embracer,’ a name which admirably fits the constellation. 8. Maghās, the ‘bounties,’ are the Sickle, or α, γ, ζ, μ, e Leonis. The variants Anaghā, the ‘ sinless one,’ etc.,clearly refer to the auspicious influence of the constellation. 9. 10. Phālgunī, Phalgunyau, Phalgū, Phalg-unīs, Phal- gunyas, is really a double constellation, divided into Pūrve, ‘ former,’ and Uttare, ‘latter.’ The former is δ and θ Leonis, the latter β and Leonis. According to Weber, the word denotes, like Arjunī, the variant of the Rigveda, a ‘ bright- coloured ’ constellation. 11. Hasta, ‘hand,’ is made up of the five conspicuous stars (δ> Ί, e, a, β) in Corvus, a number which the word itself suggests. According to Geldner, the ‘ five bulls ’ of the Rigveda are this constellation. 12. Citrā, ‘bright,’ is the beautiful star, a Virginis. It is mentioned in a legend of Indra in the Taittirīya Brāhmana, and in that of the ‘ two divine dogs ’ (divyau śvānau) in the śatapatha Brāhmana. 13. Svāti or Nistyā is later clearly the brilliant star Arcturus or a Bootis, its place in the north being assured by the notice in the śāntikalpa, where it is said to be ‘ ever traversing the northern way ’ (nityam uttara-mārgagam). The Taittirīya Brāhmana, however, constructs an asterismal Prajāpati, giving him Citrā (α Virginis) for head, Hasta (Corvus) for hand, the Viśākhe (α and β Librae) for thighs, and the Anurādhās (β, δ, and 7r Scorpionis) for standing place, with Nistyā for heart. But Arcturus, being 30° out, spoils this figure, while, on the other hand, the Arabic and Chinese systems have respectively, instead of Arcturus, Virginis and κ Virginis, which would well fit into the Prajāpati figure. But in spite of the force of this argument of Weber’s, Whitney is not certain that Nistyā here must mean a star in Virgo, pointing out that the name Nistyā, ‘outcast,’ suggests the separation of this Naksatra from the others in question. 14.Viśākhe is the couple of stars a and β Librae. This mansion is later called Rādhā according to the Amarakośa, and it is curious that in the Atharvaveda the expression rādho Viśākhe, the Viśākhe are prosperity,’ should occur. But probably Rādhā is merely an invention due to the name of the next Naksatra, Anurādhā, wrongly conceived as meaning that which is after or follows Rādhā.’ 15. Anūrādhās or Anurādhā, propitious,’ is β, δ, and tγ (perhaps also p) Scorpionis. 16. Rohinī, ‘ ruddy ’; Jyesthaghnī, * slaying the eldest ’; or Jyesthā, ‘eldest,’ is the name of the constellation σ, α, and τ Scorpionis, of which the central star, a, is the brilliant reddish Antares (or Cor Scorpionis).17.Vicrtau, ‘ the two releasers ’; Mūla, ‘ root or Mūla- barhanī, ‘ uprooting,’ denote primarily λ and v at the extremity of the tail of the Scorpion, but including also the nine or eleven stars from e to v.18.19. Asādhās (‘ unconquered ’), distinguished as Pūrvās, ‘ former,’ and Uttarās, ‘ latter,’ are really two constellations, of which the former is composed of γ, δ, e, and η Sagittarii, or of 8 and e only, and the latter of θ, σ, t, and ξ Sagittarii, or of two, σ and ζ, only. It is probable that originally only four stars forming a square were meant as included in the whole constellation —viz., σ and f, with 8 and e.20. Abhijit is the brilliant star a Lyrse with its two companions e and ζ. Its location in 6o° north latitude is completely discordant with the position of the corresponding Arabian and Chinese asterisms. This fact is considered by Oldenberg to support the view that it was a later addition to the system; its occurrence, however, as early as the Maitrāyanī Samhitā, which he does not note, somewhat invalidates that view. In the Taittirīya Brāhmana Abhijit is said to be ‘over Asādhās, under śronā,’ which Weber held to refer to its position in space, inferring thence that its Vedic position corresponded to that of the Arab Manāzil and the Chinese Sieou—viz., a, β Capricorni. But Whitney argues effectively that the words ‘ over ’ and ‘ under ’ really refer to the place of Abhijit in the list, ‘ after ’ Asādhās and ‘ before ’ Sronā.21. Sronā, ‘lame,’ or Sravana, ‘ ear,’ denotes the bright star a Aquilai with β below and 7 above it. Weber very need- lessly thinks that the name Sravana suggested two ears and the head between. It is quite out of correspondence with the Manāzil and the Sieou, and is clearly an Indian invention.22. śravisthās, ‘ most famous,’ or later Dhanisthās, ‘most wealthy,’ is the diamond-shaped group, α, β, δ, and 7, in the Dolphin, perhaps also ζ in the same constellation. Like the preceding Naksatra, it is out of harmony with the Manāzil and Sieou. 23. Satabhisaj or śatabhisa, ‘having a hundred physicians,’ seems to be λ Aquarii with the others around it vaguely conceived as numbering a hundred.24. 25. Prostha-padās (fem. plur.), ‘ feet of a stool,’ or later Bhadra-padās,100 ‘auspicious feet,’ a double asterism forming a square, the former (pūrva) consisting of a and β Pegasi, the latter (uttara) of γ Pegasi and a Andromedse.26. Revatī, ‘ wealthy,’ denotes a large number of stars (later 32), of which ζ Piscium, close upon the ecliptic where it was crossed by the equator of about 570 a.d., is given as the southernmost. 27. Aśva-yujau, ‘the two horse-harnessers,’ denotes the stars β and ζ Arietis. Aśvinyau101 and Aśvinī102 are later names. 28. Apabharanīs, Bharanīs, or Bharanyas, ‘ the bearers,’ is the name of the small triangle in the northern part of the Ram known as Musca or 35, 39, and 41 Arietis. The Naksatras and the Months.—In the Brāhmanas the Naksatra names are regularly used to denote dates. This is done in two ways. The name, if not already a feminine, may be turned into a feminine and compounded with pūrna-māsa, ‘the full moon,’ as in Tisyā-pūrnamāsa, ‘the full moon in the Naksatra Tisya.’103 Much more often, however, it is turned into a derivative adjective, used with paurnamāsī, ‘the full moon (night)/ or with amāvāsyā, ‘the new moon (night)/ as in Phālgunī paurnamāsl, ‘the full-moon night in the Naksatra Phālgunī’;104 or, as is usual in the Sūtras, the Naksatra adjective alone is used to denote the full-moon night. The month itself is called by a name derived105 from that of a Naksatra, but only Phālguna,106 Caitra,107 Vaiśākha,108 Taisya,109 Māgha110 occur in the Brāhmanas, the complete list later being Phālguna, Caitra, Vaiśākha, Jyaistha, Asādha, Srāvana, Prausthapada, Aśvayuja, Kārttika, Mārgaśīrsa, Taisya, Māgha. Strictly speaking, these should be lunar months, but the use of a lunar year was clearly very restricted: we have seen that as early as the Taittirīya Brāhmana there was a tendency to equate lunar months with the twelve months of thirty days which made up the solar year (see Māsa). The Naksatras and Chronology.—(i) An endeavour has been made to ascertain from the names of the months the period at which the systematic employment of those names was intro¬duced. Sir William Jones111 refers to this possibility, and Bentley, by the gratuitous assumption that śrāvana always marked the summer solstice, concluded that the names of the months did not date before b.c. Ii8I. Weber112 considered that there was a possibility of fixing a date by this means, but Whitney113 has convincingly shown that it is an impossible feat, and Thibaut114 concurs in this view. Twelve became fixed as the number of the months because of the desire, evident in the Brāhmanas, somehow or other to harmonize lunar with solar time; but the selection of twelve Naksatras out of twenty-seven as connected with the night of full moon can have no chronological significance, because full moon at no period occurred in those twelve only, but has at all periods occurred in every one of the twenty-seven at regularly recurrent intervals. (2) All the lists of the Naksatras begin with Krttikās. It is only fair to suppose that there was some special reason for this fact. Now the later list of the Naksatras begins with Aśvinī, and it was unquestionably rearranged because at the time of its adoption the vernal equinox coincided with the star ζ Piscium on the border of Revatī and Aśvinī, say in the course of the sixth century A.D. Weber has therefore accepted the view that the Krttikās were chosen for a similar reason, and the date at which that Naksatra coincided with the vernal equinox has been estimated at some period in the third millennium B.C. A very grave objection to this view is its assumption that the sun, and not the moon, was then regarded as connected with the Naksatras; and both Thibaut and Oldenberg have pronounced decidedly against the idea of connecting the equinox with the Krttikās. Jacobi has contended that in the Rigveda the commencement of the rains and the summer solstice mark the beginning of the new year and the end of the old, and that further the new year began with the summer solstice in Phālgunī.121 He has also referred to the distinction of the two sets of Deva and Yama Naksatras in the Taittirīya Brāhmana as supporting his view of the connexion of the sun and the Naksatras. But this view is far from satisfactory: the Rigveda passages cannot yield the sense required except by translating the word dvādaśa123 as 4 the twelfth (month) * instead of consisting of twelve parts,’ that is, ‘year/ the accepted interpretation; and the division of the Naksatras is not at all satisfactorily explained by a supposed connexion with the sun. It may further be mentioned that even if the Naksatra of Krttikās be deemed to have been chosen because of its coincidence with the vernal equinox, both Whitney and Thibaut are pre¬pared to regard it as no more than a careless variant of the date given by the Jyotisa, which puts the winter solstice in Māgha. (3) The winter solstice in Māgha is assured by a Brāhmana text, for the Kausītaki Brāhmana12® expressly places it in the new moon of Māgha (māghasyāmāυāsyāyām). It is not very important whether we take this with the commentators as the new moon in the middle of a month commencing with the day after full moon in Taisa, or, which is much more likely, as the new moon beginning the month and preceding full moon in Māgha. The datum gives a certain possibility of fixing an epoch in the following way. If the end of Revatī marked the vernal equinox at one period, then the precession of the equinoxes would enable us to calculate at what point of time the vernal equinox was in a position corresponding to the winter solstice in Māgha, when the solstitial colure cut the ecliptic at the beginning of Sravisthās. This would be, on the strict theory, in the third quarter of Bharanī, 6f asterisms removed from Sravisthās, and the difference between that and the beginning of Aśvinī = if asterisms = 23 (27 asterisms being = 360°). Taking, the starting-point at 499 a.d., the assured period of Varāha Mihira, Jones arrived at the date B.C. 1181 for the vernal equinox corresponding to the winter solstice in Māgha—that is, on the basis of ι° = 72 years as the precession. Pratt arrived at precisely the same date, taking the same rate of precession and adopting as his basis the ascertained position in the Siddhantas of the junction star of Maghā, a Leonis or Regulus. Davis and Colebrooke arrived at a different date, B.C. 1391, by taking as the basis of their calculation the junction star of Citrā, which happens to be of uncertain position, varying as much as 30 in the different textbooks. But though the twelfth century has received a certain currency as the epoch of the observation in the Jyotisa, it is of very doubtful value. As Whitney points out, it is impossible to say that the earlier asterisms coincided in position with the later asterisms of 13J0 extent each. They were not chosen as equal divisions, but as groups of stars which stood in conjunction with the moon; and the result of subsequently making them strictly equal divisions was to throw the principal stars of the later groups altogether out of their asterisms. Nor can we say that the star ζ Piscium early formed the eastern boundary of Revatī; it may possibly not even have been in that asterism at all, for it is far remote from the Chinese and Arabic asterisms corresponding to Revatī. Added to all this, and to the uncertainty of the starting-point— 582 a.d., 560 a.d., or 491 a.d. being variants —is the fact that the place of the equinox is not a matter accurately determin¬able by mere observation, and that the Hindu astronomers of the Vedic period cannot be deemed to have been very accurate observers, since they made no precise determination of the number of days of the year, which even in the Jyotisa they do not determine more precisely than as 366 days, and even the Sūrya Siddhānta136 does not know the precession of the equinoxes. It is therefore only fair to allow a thousand years for possible errors,137 and the only probable conclusion to be drawn from the datum of the Kausītaki Brāhmana is that it was recording an observation which must have been made some centuries B.C., in itself a result quite in harmony with the probable date of the Brāhmana literature,138 say B.C. 800-600. (4) Another chronological argument has been derived from the fact that there is a considerable amount of evidence for Phālguna having been regarded as the beginning of the year, since the full moon in Phālgunī is often described as the ‘ mouth (mukham) of the year.’139 Jacobi140 considers that this was due to the fact that the year was reckoned from the winter solstice, which would coincide with the month of Phālguna about B.C. 4000. Oldenberg and Thibaut, on the other hand, maintain that the choice of Phālguna as the ‘ mouth ’ of the year was due to its being the first month of spring. This view is favoured by the fact that there is distinct evidence of the correspondence of Phālguna and the beginning of spring : as we have seen above in the Kausītaki Brāhmana, the new moon in Māgha is placed at the winter solstice, which puts the full moon of Phālgunī at a month and a half after the winter solstice, or in the first week of February, a date not in itself improbable for about B.C. 800, and corresponding with the February 7 of the veris initium in the Roman Calendar. This fact accords with the only natural division of the year into three periods of four months, as the rainy season lasts from June 7-10 to October 7-10, and it is certain that the second set of four months dates from the beginning of the rains (see Cāturmāsya). Tilak, on the other hand, holds that the winter solstice coincided with Māghī full moon at the time of the Taittirīya Samhitā (b.c. 2350), and had coincided with Phālgunī and Caitrī in early periods—viz., B.C. 4000-2500, and B.C. 6000¬4000. (5) The passages of the Taittirīya Samhitā and the Pañca¬vimśa Brāhmana, which treat the full moon in Phālguna as the beginning of the year, give as an alternative the full moon in Caitra. Probably the latter month was chosen so as to secure that the initial day should fall well within the season of spring, and was not, as Jacobi believes, a relic of a period when the winter solstice corresponded with Caitra. Another alternative is the Ekāstakā, interpreted by the commentators as the eighth day after the full moon in Maghās, a time which might, as being the last quarter of the waning half of the old year, well be considered as representing the end of the year. A fourth alternative is the fourth day before full moon; the full moon meant must be that of Caitra, as Álekhana quoted by Ápastamba held, not of Māgha, as Asmarathya, Laugāksi and the Mīmāmsists believed, and as Tilak believes. (6) Others, again, according to the Grhya ritual, began the year with the month Mārgaśīrsa, as is shown by its other name Agrahāyana (‘ belonging to the commencement of the year ’). Jacobi and Tilak think that this one denoted the autumn equinox in Mrgaśiras, corresponding to the winter solstice in Phālgunī. But, as Thibaut shows clearly, it was selected as the beginning of a year that was taken to commence with autumn, just as some took the spring to commence with Caitra instead of Phālguna. (7) Jacobi has also argued, with the support of Buhler, from the terms given for the beginning of Vedic study in the Grhya Sūtras, on the principle that study commenced with the rains (as in the Buddhist vassā) which mark the summer solstice. He concludes that if Bhādrapada appears as the date of commencing study in some texts, it was fixed thus because at one time Prosthapadās (the early name of Bhadra- padās) coincided with the summer solstice, this having been the case when the winter solstice was in Phālguna. But Whitney155 has pointed out that this argument is utterly illegitimate; we cannot say that there was any necessary connexion between the rains and learning—a month like Srāvana might be preferred because of its connexion with the word Sravana, 4 ear ’—and in view of the precession of the equinoxes, we must assume that Bhādrapada was kept because of its traditional coincidence with the beginning of the rains after it had ceased actually so to coincide. the other astronomical phenomena; the discovery of a series of 27 lunar mansions by them would therefore be rather surprising. On the other hand, the nature of such an operation is not very complicated; it consists merely in selecting a star or a star group with which the moon is in conjunction. It is thus impossible a priori to deny that the Vedic Indians could have invented for themselves a lunar Zodiac. But the question is complicated by the fact that there exist two similar sets of 28 stars or star groups in Arabia and in China, the Manāzil and the Sieou. The use of the Manāzil in Arabia is consistent and effective; the calendar is regulated by them, and the position of the asterisms corresponds best with the positions required for a lunar Zodiac. The Indians might therefore have borrowed the system from Arabia, but that is a mere possibility, because the evidence for the existence of the Manāzil is long posterior to that for the existence of the Naksatras, while again the Mazzaroth or Mazzaloth of the Old Testament may really be the lunar mansions. That the Arabian system is borrowed from India, as Burgess held, is, on the other hand, not at all probable. Biot, the eminent Chinese scholar, in a series of papers published by him between. 1839 and 1861, attempted to prove the derivation of the Naksatra from the Chinese Sieou. The latter he did not regard as being in origin lunar mansions at all. He thought that they were equatorial stars used, as in modern astronomy, as a standard to which planets or other stars observed in the neighbourhood can be referred; they were, as regards twenty-four of them, selected about B.C. 2357 on account of their proximity to the equator, and of their having the same right ascension as certain circumpolar stars which had attracted the attention of Chinese observers. Four more were added in B.C. IIOO in order to mark the equinoxes and solstices of the period. He held that the list of stars commenced with Mao (= Krttikās), which was at the vernal equinox in B.C. 2357. Weber, in an elaborate essay of i860, disputed this theory, and endeavoured to show that the Chinese literary evidence for the Sieou was late, dating not even from before the third century B.C. The last point does not appear to be correct, but his objections against the basis of Biot’s theory were rein¬forced by Whitney, who insisted that Biot’s supposition of the Sieou’s not having been ultimately derived from a system of lunar mansions, was untenable. This is admitted by the latest defender of the hypothesis of borrowing from China, Lśopold de Saussure,, but his arguments in favour of a Chinese origin for the Indian lunar mansions have been refuted by Oldenberg, who has also pointed out that the series does not begin with Mao (= Krttikās). There remains only the possibility that a common source for all the three sets—Naksatra, Manāzil, and Sieou—may be found in Babylonia. Hommel has endeavoured to show that recent research has established in Babylonia the existence of a lunar zodiac of twenty-four members headed by the Pleiades (= Krttikās); but Thibaut’s researches are not favourable to this claim. On the other hand, Weber, Whitney, Zimmer, and Oldenberg all incline to the view that in Babylonia is to be found the origin of the system, and this must for the present be regarded as the most probable view, for there are other traces of Babylonian influence in Vedic literature, such as the legend of the flood, perhaps the Adityas, and possibly the word Manā.


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