Mahābharata astrological phenomena

Udyogaparva, chapter 141

This chapter is narrated by the archer Śrī Karṇa to Śrī Kṛṣṇa wherein Karṇa gives an exposition on his view of the omens occurring in the heavens and on earth to indicate the outcome of the ensuing battle. Peace talks have just ended at this event and both sides are expecting to mobilize for battle. At this event, Śrī Kṛṣṇa is trying to convince Karṇa, an incarnation of the Sun God, to join forces with the Paṇḍava, arguing that his biological mother is the mother of the same five Paṇḍava brothers, and leave his alliance with the Kauraravas and Duryodhana aside, despite being raised in the care of their charioteer Atirātha. Karṇa then justifies his alliance with the Kauraravas despite giving his clear understanding of the events that are to follow, and understands that he may not survive the war. Herein this scribe has cited the ślokas related to the astronomical phenomena.

7 पराजापत्यं हि नक्षत्रं गरहस तीक्ष्णॊ महाद्युतिः
शनैश्चरः पीडयति पीडयन पराणिनॊ ऽधिकम

7 prājāpatyaṃ hi nakṣatraṃ grahas tīkṣṇo mahādyutiḥ
śanaiścaraḥ pīḍayati pīḍayan prāṇino ‘dhikam
prājāpatyaṃ hi nakṣatraṃ: the nakṣatra or prajapati, rohiṇī; grahas: eclipse, graha; tīkṣṇo: sharp, hot, pungent, fury; mahādyutiḥ: great splendour, very bright and glorious; śanaiścaraḥ: Saturn; pīḍayati: tormenting, afflicting; pīḍayan; prāṇino: breathing, living; ‘dhikam: highest, eldest, most advanced;

 Translation: The nakṣatra of Rohiṇī is eclipsed by the splendorous and furious Saturn, who whilst afflicting the same is also afflicting the lives of the beings on earth.

Commentary: Rohiṇī Nakṣatra is governed by the divinity Prājapati, whose name literally means lord over all created beings. An affliction to the Nakṣatra indicates a terror affecting many people. One such recent occurrence of Saturn in Rohiṇī brought about the World Trade Centre bombings. As we know the result of this offset two invasions of two countries in the Middle East and battles in those countries even till today. Karṇa thus has good reason to cite this phenomena as significant for the lives of many people.

8 कृत्वा चाङ्गारकॊ वक्रं जयेष्ठायां मधुसूदन
अनुराधां परार्थयते मैत्रं संशमयन्न इव

8 kṛtvā cāṅgārako vakraṃ jyeṣṭhāyāṃ madhusūdana
anurādhāṃ prārthayate maitraṃ saṃśamayann iva
kṛtvā: acting, causing; ca: and; āṅgārako: Mars; vakraṃ: retrograde; jyeṣṭhāyāṃ; madhusūdana;
anurādhāṃ; prārthayate: seeking, wishing, desiring; maitraṃ: friends, the God Mitra; saṃśamayann: removing, destroying; iva: also;
 

Translation: Oh Madhusūdana, Mars is retrograding in Jyeśṭhā Nakṣatra as it seeks Anurādha to destroy all friendships.

Commentary: When Mars becomes retrograde a calamity or war is imminent. The indications of a planet become significantly increased during its retrogression be they auspicious or otherwise. This event is an extremely important criterion for the Mahābharata to have taken place and cannot be ignored. Notably Mars must have been placed in Scorpio where the Jyeṣṭhā Nakṣatra resides. Particularly it was on its way towards Anurādhā whose Devatā is Mitra. The name Mitra refers to all friends and governs the agreements we make with people, hence Karṇa was very specific in his mention of this where he had foreseen that all earlier ties were going to break and the family bonds between the Paṇḍava and Kaurava were at stake.

9 नूनं मह भयं कृष्ण कुरूणां समुपस्थितम
विशेषेण हि वार्ष्णेय चित्रां पीडयते गरहः

9 nūnaṃ maha bhayaṃ kṛṣṇa kurūṇāṃ samupasthitam
viśeṣeṇa hi vārṣṇeya citrāṃ pīḍayate grahaḥ
nūnaṃ: at present; maha bhayaṃ: great fright, foremost fear; kṛṣṇa; kurūṇāṃ; samupasthitam: approaching, nearness, happening, occuring; viśeṣeṇa: various, special; hi; vārṣṇeya; citrāṃ; pīḍayate: tormentet; grahaḥ;

Translation: Oh Krishna, presently a great terror approaches the Kuru dynasy. Special grahas, oh Vṛṣṇi are afflicting Chitrā.

Commentary: Why Chitrā has been highlighted is interesting. No prediction has been made based on it other than listing the Kuru’s in the context. The Kuru’s at the time had domain over Hastinapura and had taken Indraprashta (Delhi) from the Paṇḍava. Hastinapura lies to the east of Indraprashta but as far as the division of Bharata (India) is concerned it is Kṛttika, Rohiṇī and Mṛgaśira rule the central portion which includes the capitol namely Indraprashta as well as the Kuru land with its capitol being Hastinapur. The problems arising therein have already been taken into account by the affliction of Rohiṇī Nakṣatra by Saturn and thus the mention of Chitrā isn’t immediately clear in this context.

Also which special afflictions are coming to Chitrā is not evident. Possibly the reference is to meteors which are mentioned in the next śloka.

10 सॊमस्य लक्ष्म वयावृत्तं राहुर अर्कम उपेष्यति
दिवश चॊल्काः पतन्त्य एताः सनिर्घाताः सकम्पनाः

10 somasya lakṣma vyāvṛttaṃ rāhur arkam upeṣyati
divaś colkāḥ patanty etāḥ sanirghātāḥ sakampanāḥ
somasya: that of the Moon; lakṣma: signs of characteristics; vyāvṛttaṃ: covering, screening, hiding; rāhur: arkam upeṣyati: approach, tend towards; diva: heaven, sky ; ca; ulkāḥ: meteors; patanty: falling, coming down; etāḥ; sanirghātāḥ: accompanied by a whirlwind; sakampanāḥ: accompanied by earthquakes;

Translation: the marks (horns?) of the moon are being covered as Rāhu approaches the Sun. Meteors are falling from the sky accompanied by whirlwinds and earthquakes.

Commentary: A lunar eclipse seems to be described here, as well as the evil portends of meteors and other phenomena which are deemed as inauspicious to view during a lunar eclipse. Particular the type of lunar eclipse seems to be one in which the Moon is completely devoid of light in this context, which is a phenomena repeated in the future chapters on the topic.

It is worth mentioning that if all four events indicated above were simultaneous that the Sun must be been in either of the signs of Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini or possible Cancer, as then only could Mars be retrograde on this occasion. Further Rāhu should be joined the Sun and Ketu with the Moon, which is the criterion for a lunar eclipse.

It is possible that these events occurred on separate dates as all three serve as a means to predict the future outcome of the earth, i.e. 1) Saturn Nakṣatra position, 2) Mars’ first Nakṣatra of retrogression since it exited its combustion with the Sun and 3) the lunar and solar eclipses which occur up to 6 months prior to the event.

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Visti Larsen
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