Agni – Soma/Varuṇa; The Concept of the Sun and the Moon/Waters in Saṃvatsara

This rāngoli of Mā LakṣmīI (bengal style) was done by me when I was in 6th standard, wayback in 80s. Baal mann. I was so curious for Her to come alive that I had lifted her foot from the lotus placed beneath her feet. Unkowingly I had contrasted the halo as the moon and the aura around Her as bright yellow. I remember that my little hands won’t stretch much and this took me 6 hours to complete on the shfting pāṭā. Such was the zeal and love towards artistic expressions. This must have been 8-9 ft in diameter. Knowingly, now I know the Sharad moons and the Soma elixir…..

Coming back to astronomy, the ideas definitely don’t come from the jukebox with your available coins. They come from the keen observation and this is the case with Ṛg-Veda, Brāhmaṇas and Āraṇyakās. In the concept of fires right from Ṛg-veda we find many types of “Agni“. The first mantra of first sukta of first mandala begins with Agni. In the mantra, “Agnir hotā kavikratuḥ, satyaś citraśravastamaḥ;” Sayana renders śravas to fame. “Agni has an exceedingly various renown“- Shri Aurobindo writes. On the other hand In the concept of Soma we find that the whole ninth mandala is given to laudation of single god “Soma“.

In one of my blogs I have illustrated about the sharad moons, how the moon rises early and more from towards North during and later to Sharad– Autumnal equinox. I will discuss Agni and Soma– concept of Sun and Moon in Astronomy of year beginning. This is the study of Sun in Northern hemisphere as Agni and respectively about the position of the Moon in northern hemisphere when the Sun starts its rising and setting in the Southern hemisphere.

Suryasiddhanta XII.24 speaks of Agni-Soma as the sun and the moon, during saiddhantic times, which is furthered and purified knowledge from the Vedas-Brahmanas, Samhitas and Upanishads. Śatapatha Br. says the days belong to Agni and the nights belong to Soma. It also explains that Agni and Soma are bhrātārau- i.e., brothers. Maitrayāṇī Samhitā speaks that they are two eyes.

Śatapatha Br. says the days belong to Agni and the nights belong to Soma. Similar is the concept given to "year-saṃvatsara" as Ahoraatra; the year means the combination of Day and Night. 


As we know the etymology of Agni, the one which brings forward, अग्रं नयति इति अग्निः । When seen in the context of earth it is related to heat. To some it can mean the earth’s core mantle but it means that the sun is being uplifted in the northern hemisphere. The sun’s declination change is perceived as declination getting raised from Vernal till its highest declination of 23.5 deg and its remaining in the northern hemisphere. as if it acts like a fuel which drags- nayati all the ṛtus behind Him. Therefore Śatapatha says , स ऋतव्याभिः संहितः

सम्वत्सरः- एषोऽग्निः।[ (शतपथ ब्राह्मण ६/२/२/१८) सम्वत्सर ही अग्नि है जो ऋतुओं को धारण करता है- सम्वत्सरः- एषोऽग्निः। स ऋतव्याभिः संहितः। सम्वत्सरमेवैतत्-ऋतुभिः-सन्तनोति, सन्दधाति।], Yaska; यास्काचार्यः अग्निशब्दस्य निर्वचनम् एवं वदन्ति – ’अग्रणीर्भवति’ (नि ७-१४-४) – सर्वार्थेषु अग्रनयनः ।
samvatsaraḥ- eṣo'gniḥ।[ (śatapatha brāhmaṇa 6/2/2/18) samvatsara is the agni which carries seasons- samvatsaraḥ- eṣo'gniḥ। sa ṛtavyābhiḥ saṃhitaḥ। samvatsaramevaitat-ṛtubhiḥ-santanoti, sandadhāti।], Yaska; yāskācāryaḥ agniśabdasya nirvacanam evaṃ vadanti – ’agraṇīrbhavati’ (ni 7-14-4) – sarvārtheṣu agranayanaḥ ।

Yaska explains Agni in a more meticulous way as agraṇīḥ bhavati.


As Agni gives light and heat and is the extension of Sun, as well as sun itself which belongs to longer days w.r.t equinoctial point likewise Soma is opposite, on the other hand, is the the elixir, the soft cool light and is of the moon which belongs to the night. From Autumnal to Vernal the night lengths are longer as compared to the day length during Vernal to Autumnal. “The day length” and “The night length” are equal on both the equinox days and this sets Sun at 0 deg declination which means neither the sun is rising in the northern hemisphere nor in the southern hemisphere. That would mean that sun disjoins from northern as well as southern hemisphere on equinox days.

So we see the etymology for saṃvatsara as sam vasanti ṛtavaḥ iti saṃvatsara. What does this mean? It means where all the seasons sit together equally.

That gives us a clear picture of Agni– with greater day length and Soma with greater night length in the respective hemispheres. And both of the six months constitute a year commencing from zero declination of Sun. Sometimes Soma is replaced with Varuna as we have seen a similar case in MAU. Times of clearer waters, clearer, abundant and calm rivers and oceans.

There are inquisitive questions in Rg-veda on why Agni and Soma are awake or gods in general never sleep. (RV 08.02.18). And what a day the central sattra day would had been with the Sun and Moon seen at the opposite horizons together. Such were the meticulous observations done by Rg-vedic seers. Ain’t that amazing!

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