Dhanishta/ Avittam Nakshatra captured with mobile astrophotography
Dhanishta Nakshatra is considered to be a star mansion of multiple stars. It is the 23rd lunar mansion. It is considered as the star of excellence and abundance.
In Hindu mythology, it is the birth star of Bheeshmar in Mahabaratha.
Who was Shantanu?
Prateepa was a King in the lineage of King Bharata, who was succeeded by many decorated kings including King Kuru — one of the mightiest and most righteous kings in Bharata’s lineage.
Prateepa had three sons — Devaapi, Bahleeka and Shantanu. Devaapi had a skin blemish because of which he found he was unfit for being a king and hence, proceeded to live the life of an ascetic and left for a life in the forests. Bahleeka was a very noble soul. He was the reincarnation of King Prahlaada — who was a devotee of Lord Narasimha. King Bahleeka was given in adoption to his maternal grandfather in “Putrika Putratvam” pact.
Shantanu was a reincarnation of Lord Varuna — God of rains and waters. He was cursed to be born on earth when he lived the life of King Mahabhishak. When Mahabhishak performed penance and left for heaven, he rejoined the Gods. When a breeze passed, he stared at Goddess Ganga in the heavens and did not look away like other Gods did — that too in presence of Lord Brahma, when her upper garment slithered from her bossom, thus earning him another curse to be born again on earth.
Origin of Devavrata — Bheeshma — who was he? How is he believed to be over five hundred years old?
The children borne by Goddess Ganga, were, in their earlier lives, Gods by name Vasus. They were eight brothers and hence, called Ashtha Vasus. Among these Ashtha Vasus was a noble soul by name Dyu. He was also called Prabhaasa. His wife Varaangi instigated him to steal the cow of Sage Vashishtha, because it’s milk had ambrosial properties.
Dyu hatched a scheme with all his brothers and took the lead in stealing the cow. When Sage Vashishtha came to know of the crime, was enraged. Being a lesser soul than the Vasus, he had no authority to curse the Gods. Lord Brahma manifested in him and cursed them all to be born as human beings on earth — with Dyu to suffer the most, by leading a life as long as eight normal lives with the last life filled with the pain of all other lives. The other Vasus would go onto be born and die shortly thereafter attaining Mukti. Dyu would be steadfast in his celibacy and would have a bitter relationship with his niyata patni — Varaangi. Varaangi was cursed to be born as Amba, a destitute of a woman who would long crave to be unified with her husband but in the end would become frustrated so much that she would eventually become the reason for her husband’s death.
Assimilating their curse, the Vasu brothers let the cow go and then prostrated at Vashishtha’s feet and sought boon for their brother Dyu — that he becomes all-knowing, as well-educated, well-renowned warrior with an unparalleled knowledge of divine missilery, mighty as all the eight brothers together, during his mortal life and that he would bear a tinge (amsha) of Lord Brahma’s soul inside him. Lord Brahma — through Sage Vashishta acceded to their request.
They went to Goddess Ganga to bear them from her womb and kill them away immediately. Goddess Ganga agreed to mother them all and stick to the conditions of the curse of Lord Brahma.
Everyone knows how Ganga was wedded to Shantanu and under what conditions. Hence, I will not repeat the same story here. But would like to correct one misunderstanding that King Shaantanu himself proposed to Ganga. In the original texts of Mahabharata, Ganga came and sat on the right thigh (a place that normally belongs to daughters — while, left thigh is the place where wife adores) and sought to marry the King Prateepa. King Prateepa told her that since, she sat on his right thigh, she was like a daughter to him and hence, she would marry his son Shantanu — the heir to the throne. Goddess Ganga put forth these conditions to King Prateepa that (a) Shantanu would not ask her who she was (b) he would not prevent her doing anything even if it was a misdeed and if he questioned her actions — she would leave him forever. Prateepa agreed to the conditions and both — Ganga and Shantanu were married.
Thus — all the eight brothers were born one by one, and except Dyu, immediately after birth — seven others were cast away in the river Ganga by Ganga herself. Shantanu could not do anything because of the promises his father had made to Ganga. When Ganga was taking the eighth brother — Dyu to kill him — King Shantanu could not contain himself and stopped her — thus breaking the promise made by King Prateepa. He questioned Ganga why she was bent on killing all his sons on birth. Ganga told King Shantanu that since, the promise made by King Prateepa was broken, she couldn’t continue living with King Shantanu. She told Shaantanu that she would not kill this son of theirs and would in due course of time, return him to the King.
The son was named Devavrata. After all the initial rituals of tonsuring and threading ceremony, Devavrata was sent to Sage Brihaspati for learning Vedas for a period of fifty years. Devavrata was then sent to Parashuraama to learn metaphysics for a period of fifty years and missilery for another fifty years. So — when Devavrata was handed over back to Shantanu he was already hundred and fifty eight years old.
After joining the King Shantanu, Devavrata sought his father’s permission and again left for studies under Brihaspati and Parashuraama. Devavrata spent over three hundred years only in education under tutorship of the most knowledgeable souls on Earth. This act of three hundred years education was to fulfill the promise made by Lord Brahma to Vasus that Devavrata would bear education equal to all the eight brothers.
Let us have a look at the Avittam Nakshatra captured using mobile astrophotography.
The following table presents candidate stars which qualify as Dhanishta based on brightness, location with reference to moon traverse band, and distance from previous Nakshatra.
α Delphin -Sualocin
Beta Delphini — Rotanev
The brightest star in the Delphinius constellation is Rotanev, Beta Delphini. There are no meteor showers associated with this constellation.
Alpha Delphini is sometimes known as Sualocin. Alpha to Delta Delphini together corresponds to the Avitam star in Tamil star charts. It is called Dhanishta in sanskrit , telugu and kannada.
In our next post we will see Sadhayam/ Shathabishak nakshatra. Until then, have a great day :-)