By Jayasree Saranathan : It is everyone’s knowledge that the timing of the Hindu festivals and religious austerities (Vrat) are always guided by the location of the sun and the moon, which can be called as the time keepers. For example Diwali and Holi are celebrated at the time of conjunction and opposition of these two respectively on specific months. All the festivals and religious works are also similarly timed on the basis of these two time keepers. But once in year we look beyond these two and take a look at a distant galactic cluster known as ‘Virgo Super cluster’. From the name of it one can know that it has something to do with Virgo constellation and the month of Virgo (Bhadrapada). That month is the time our departed ancestors are supposed to arrive at us to take the oblations from us. In common parlance this time is known as Pirtu paksha that ends on Mahalaya Amavasya.
The uniqueness of this constellation is that our galaxy along with other galaxies in our neighbourhood is moving around the Super cluster in the direction of Virgo constellation. Is there anything special about this? Yes, if one looks at the way our earth is moving in the sky.
One can say that the earth is the child of the sun as it was born of a system (supernova) that gave rise to the sun as the pivotal point of our existence. The earth along with other co-borns (planets) is moving around the Sun. The Sun along with the local clusters is moving around the centre of our galaxy (Milky Way). The Milky Way along with other galaxies is moving around the Virgo Super cluster. This can be interpreted to mean that Virgo Super cluster is the basis of our existence.
What becomes central to our existence also becomes the home for our return! It seems this idea had made our ancestors locate the Virgo region as ‘Pitruyāna’ where one departs after death. Or else why should they recommend oblations to them at a time when the sun crosses that part of the sky where Virgo is located? On the day of Mahalaya Amavasya a perfect alignment happens with the earth, the moon, the sun and the Virgo Super cluster in that order as if it is a high point of direct contact with the centre of our evolution that enabled our existence. This can be understood from the geocentric perspective in the diagram given below which is nothing but the way we see the universe around us.
In the month of Bhadrapada / Kanya / Virgo, the sun is traversing that part of the sky just in front of the Virgo cluster. The departed ones are supposed to reside in southern realms. In a fine corollary the sun crosses Virgo during its southward movement. And the Virgo super cluster can be said to be in the south. There are directions in space too, with reference to the earth. Anything below the plane of the existence of the earth is said to be south and above the plane is north.
Similar alignment happens again exactly opposite to this in the month of Phalgun or Pisces (Meena). Sun’s transit across that part of the sky is reckoned as Devayāna, the path of Devas that is supposed to lead us to the realm of Devas or Eternity from where we never return. Thus we see two opposite ends with Virgo at one end where we are supposed to go if we are to be reborn into this earth and Pisces at the other end from where we will never return to earth to be re-born if we manage to catch up that route!
One may say that these are spiritual ideas and therefore not correct to equate them with the visible universe. But the views assigned to the other two ends reveal that the physical Universe has a parallel with spiritual ideas developed by the Vedic sages.
To explain this look at the two other ends in the diagram above. They are Gemini and Sagittarius. They form the two ends of the ecliptic, in which the sun is seen to move from a geocentric perception. Of them Sagittarius is in the centre our galaxy where the star Mula is located indicating the region to be the basis for our galaxy. Sagittarius is indeed the centre of our galaxy. Gemini lies on the outer edge of the galaxy. New stars are formed in this outer edge.
According to science new stars are formed mostly in pairs. Gemini is known as Mithuna, meaning pair. According to UC Berkeley reseachers “the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide binaries. These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years.” So what we now see as distant stars had a pair in the initial time of formation. With the region of Gemini found in star forming areas having many binaries, it is really surprising how our ancients correctly named it Mithuna, the pair. But today with our limited knowledge we think that they named it based on the two stars Castor and Pollux which are not close twins. With more revelations coming from science we realise that our sages have known the presence of many twins in that region of the galaxy.
Another surprise from the stable of sages is that they have identified twin deities Savita and Sāvitri as guarding the region of Gemini in Vastu Mandala. These two deities are supposed to generate growth. In a related application, Sāvitri Upanishad gives a final revelation that the twin forces of Balai – Ati Balai give abundance of food. Balai and Atibalai are the two mantras that Vishvamitra taught Rama and Lakshmana when he took them to the forest to guard the yajnas. These two mantras enabled them to be free of hunger and free of sleepiness. The twins, Balai and Atibalai kept them nourished even without food. In other words, these twins have kept them growing – like the energy present in Gemini region giving birth to new stars.
Be it Gemini or Virgo, what our sages had said and devised are in sync with what modern science says. The amazing connection with the past – both people and the place at Virgo cluster in the current month is undeniably a unique invention. So what to say about us in today’s world – have we excelled in science or nescience?
* 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.