Janmashtami from a cosmic angle

By Dr. Jayasree Saranathan  : Janmashtami or Gokulashtami is the celebration of birth-tithi of Sri Krishna. This is different from the general practice of celebrating birthdays on birth stars though certain sections of Hindus continue to celebrate Krishna’s birth day on his birth star, Rohini. Same is the case with Rama’s birthday which is celebrated on Navami tithi. Certain other tithis connected with deities like Ganesha, Subrahmanya and Shiva also stand out in exception. Different schools of thought exist for the rationale behind the choice of tithis for those celebrations. This write-up draws attention to these tithis from an astrological angle, related to comparative motion of the sun, the moon and the earth.

Before going further let us know what a ‘tithi’ is. It is the distance of 12 degrees travelled by the moon calculated from the position of the Sun as seen from the earth. The starting point is the conjunction of the moon and the sun (Amavsaya). The distance between one conjunction to another is a circle covering 360 degrees. This distance is travelled by the moon in approximately 30 days. So in one day around 12 degrees are covered. This duration of 12 degrees is known as a tithi. In effect a tithi refers to a certain part in the path of the moon which is not fixed always but keeps shifting in relation to the location of the sun as the moon moves along with the earth around the sun.

There is a concept called ‘Paksha Chidra’ in astrology which refers to certain spots identified by certain tithis in the motion of the moon around the earth. They refer to weak points or some defects on the path of the moon around the earth in both waxing and waning phases (paksha). These are the 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th 12th and 14th tithis in both the phases of the moon. One is advised to avoid starting new ventures or conducting auspicious functions on these tithis. This is on the astrological side.

In real terms of planetary motions in the sky one can notice some interesting correlations. The combined pull of the sun and the moon continue to be on the earth in varying degrees through all the phases of the moon. The well-known tithis of such influences are Amavasya and Pournimasya (No-moon and full-moon). Their impact on oceans on these days is a reminder of how our own body is susceptible to the influence from these two celestial bodies.

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Another location of the moon in relation to the sun has a reversal of the above kind of pulling effect, though the two would still continue to exert their full force on the earth from that location. That location corresponds to Ashtami tithi! In the following illustration ashtami tithi can be seen to correspond to a point in space where the moon will be at right angles to the sun with reference to the earth.


It can be easily observed that the combined effect of the sun and the moon on the earth will be the lowest on ashtami, but that does not mean they have nil effect as the earth can be seen being pulled in different directions simultaneously. The impact on this day would certainly be different from all the other days which science had not yet probed. But this tithi being identified as a Paksha Chidra, or a defective day lends credence to the possibility that there is some un-discovered negative effect on this day on the earth and its liquid elements which include the liquids in our body too.

The other tithis of this group imply a negative effect in astrology but have never been probed scientifically. A look at the probable location of those tithis show that the mid-point between Ashtami and Full-moon / New Moon must be wielding a different effect – of negative kind as they are classified as Chidra tithis (4th and 12th). The 12 degrees that precede New Moon and Full Moon are weak ones (14th tithi), as also the 12 degrees after Ashtami (9th tithi). The 6th tithi is also part of this group.

The defective tithis of the above illustration shows a periodic struggle between the sun and the moon, which our ancestors have noticed as ill-effects on mankind on those days. Our sojourn in our life on these tithis seems to be in need of some divine protection. Or it could be to do with avoiding mundane chores.  It can also be assumed that the luni-solar effect on Chidra tithis enhance mental concentration for spiritual realisation. This is supported by the fact that austerities like fasting and/or meditation are done on these tithis.

The way our ancient sages have devised austerity-based celebration for various Gods on these tithis of Paksha Chidra underscore some un-discovered scientific facts impacting our mind and body. Modern studies say that periodical fasting is good for health. But tithi-based celebrations show that fasting is supposed to yield better results on specific days identified by the location of the Moon with reference to the sun.

By naming those tithis as Chidra tithis, they have indicated some disturbance too. It is as though by the blessings on Lord Ganesha, we cross the Chathurthi, with the blessings of Lord Subrahmanya, we cross Shashti and with the blessings of Lord Vishnu we cross Dwadasi and of Lord Shiva, we cross Chaturdasi. Every fortnight we remember these tithis and pray the respective Gods.

Ashtami and Navami are completely away from this group as they exhibit different kind of luni-solar effect on the earth. In an amazing coincidence the two celebrated Gods of India were born in these tithis. So, the sages have found it fit-enough to celebrate their birthdays on their birth tithis than on their birth stars, which is a normal practice. Gokulaashtami and Rama Navami are both celebration times and time for spiritual thought and religious austerities.

The astrological text, Kalaprakasika says that fasting must be done for the duration of the tithi by those desiring material benefits. This implies a connection between the tithi and fasting – a fit case for scientific probe. By their intuition the sages have given the knowledge of defective tithis and also the ways to convert the defect into an advantage. Let this knowledge and practice inherited from them live on forever!

Dr. Jayasree Saranathan is a researcher, writer and astrologer with a Ph.D. in Astrology. Her research areas include Indology, Hindu Epics, Tamil Sangam literature and Astro-meteorology.

You can follow the author on twitter at @jayasartn



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