The Moon in Ṛgveda (Part 1)

By now many must be understanding that the Nakṣatras means stars of Lunar mansion in astronomy, ( well also in astrology). We now have 27 Nakṣatras system which reduced from 28 nakshatra system from some distant past. These 27 Nakṣatras is visited by the Moon and thus we have Lunar tithis and lunar months.

Out of many synonyms of the Moon, which I will be discussing subsequently, today I discuss one curious name of the Moon namely “Vidhu”. Remember the name Vidhu Vinod Chopra. :).

I take one mantra from Ṛgveda as under.

वि॒धुं द॑द्रा॒णं सम॑ने बहू॒नां युवा॑नं॒ सन्तं॑ पलि॒तोज॑गार।
दे॒वस्य॑ पश्य॒ काव्यं॑ महि॒त्वाद्या म॒मार॒सह्यः समा॑न॥ 
Ṛgveda 10. 55. 5 

Nirukta; (विधुं दद्राणम्) विधमनशीलं चञ्चलं दमनशीलम् “विधुं विधमनशीलं दमनशीलम्” [निरु० १३।३२॥१४।१९]

Vidhu seems clearly to mean (as it does in the post-Vedic language) the ‘moon’ in a passage of the Ṛgveda, where it is alluded to as ‘wandering solitary in the midst of many’ (vidhuṃ dadrāṇaṃ samane bahūnām). 

Hillebrandt notes “improbable” about “Many” in the mantra, (Vedische Mythologie, 1, 465.) that the ‘बहू॒नां-many’ means the Nakṣatras. He states it as neither certain nor even probable. The stars are an adequate explanation. But I doubt for this mantra is alluding to physical moon’s wandering to many Nakṣatras. The clue comes from within Shri Dayanand Saraswati’s commentary.

Shri Dayanand Saraswati translate the mantra with the Nirukta quotations as (विधुं दद्राणम्) विधमनशीलं चञ्चलं दमनशीलम् “विधुं विधमनशीलं दमनशीलम्” [निरु० १३।३२॥१४।१९] (बहूनाम्) बहूनामिन्द्रियाणां मध्ये (युवानं सन्तम्) मिश्रयितारं सन्तम्-अन्तःकरण आत्मानम् (समने) सम्-अने सम्यगनेनान्देन शयने सुषुप्तिकाले (पलितः-जगार) पलितः फलभोक्ता-आत्मा “पलित आत्मा” [निरु० १३।३२॥१४।१९] (सः-अद्य ममार ह्यः समान) स आत्माऽपि अद्यास्मिन् शयनकाले ह्यो मृत इव, यद्वा मृतो भवति देहं त्यजति, एवं योऽद्य सोऽपरे जन्मनि समानः-सम्यक्-अनिता प्राणयिता जायते जीवात्मनः जन्ममरणयोः प्रेरयिता परमात्मा (तस्य देवस्य काव्यं पश्य) तस्य परमात्मदेवस्य शिल्पं कृत्यं पश्य, हे जिज्ञासो ! यस्य (महित्वा) महत्त्वेन भवत्येवम् ॥५॥ This commentary is of Sukshma – subtle level, though is very apt for physical condion of the Moon and its condition in the sky as it dies out / not seen during new moon and again emerges as if reborn.

Vidhu in later text is used for Moon. cf., विधु  mfn. (prob. fr. √ 2. विध्; for 2. वि-धु See वि-√ धू, col.3) lonely, solitary  (applied to the moon; according to Sāyana  = वि-धातृ, वि-धारयितृ) where वि-°धातृ  means a distributer, disposer, arranger, accomplisher, maker, author, creator. ( Ṛgveda ref)

विधु  m. the moon, Manu smṛti ; Bhartṛhari ; Gīta Govinda

Now, why I assert that बहूनाम् here means the Lunar mansion. I have every reason to do so. Rigveda knows very archaic names of some mansions which we assume today as synonyms. Arjunī is, in the Rigveda,1 the name of the Nakṣatra (‘lunar mansion’), elsewhere2 called Phalgunī. It occurs in the marriage hymn, with Aghā (for Maghā). Other than that we find many deities of today’s Nakṣatras present in Ṛgveda. These names are just not synonyms of present day Nakṣatras but I have a conjecture build that these are various names of lost yogatara of the same mansion (longitudes) due to huge lapse of time and due to proper motion of the stars of particular Nakṣatra. Whether our sages knew about the proper motion of stars, and their expulsion from ecliptic, we have a clue in the synonymical name of Swati which is called निष्ट्या  f. N. of a lunar mansion (= स्वाति), TBr. ; ĀpGṛ. निष्ट्या comes form निष्ट्य  mfn. (fr. निस्+त्य) which means external, foreign, strange and has come in Ṛgveda in various occasion.

I thus completely discard the view of Hillebrandt that बहूनाम् here may not allude to lunar mansions. It appears to be highly probable. This also suggests that the neo-nakshatra names were in the making in Ṛgveda. Ṛgveda was noting the transition of time.

  1. 10. 85, 13. 
  2. Av. xiv. 1, 13. Cf. Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, ii. 1, 11, 2. 


One thought on “The Moon in Ṛgveda (Part 1)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s