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Rahu: Head of Demon Snake, Konarak Idol, British Museum
|Mantra||ॐ कया नश्चित्र आभुवदूती सदावृधस्सखा। कया शचिचष्ठया वृता॥ om kayā naścitra ābhuvadūtī sadāvṛdhassakhā|
|Mount||Blue / black lion|
|Region||Andhra India; South-West|
In Hindu tradition, Rahu () is the severed head of an asura called Svarbhānu, that swallows the sun causing eclipses. He is depicted in art as a serpent with no body riding a chariot drawn by eight black horses. Rahu is one of the navagraha (nine planets) in Vedic astrology and is paired with Ketu. The time of day considered to be under the influence of Rahu is called Rahu kala and is considered inauspicious. In Vedic astronomy, Rahu is considered to be a rogue planet. The other name of Rahu is Bhayanaka.
Astronomically, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they move on the celestial sphere. Therefore, Rahu and Ketu are respectively called the north and the south lunar nodes. The fact that eclipses occur when the Sun and the Moon are at one of these points gives rise to the myth of the swallowing of the Sun and the Moon by the demon snake.
According to legend, during the Samudra manthan, the asura Svarbhānu drank some of the amrita. The Sun and the Moon realized it and alerted Mohini, the female avatar of Vishnu. Mohini cut off Svarbhānu's head before the nectar could pass his throat. The head, however, remained immortal due to the effect of amrita and became Rahu.
It is believed that this immortal head from time to time, swallows the Sun, causing eclipses. Then, the sun passes through the opening at the neck, ending the eclipse. The body also turned into Ketu due to a boon, and it in turn, swallows the Moon on timely basis to cause a lunar eclipse.
Various names are assigned to Rahu in Vedic texts including: the chief, the advisor of the demons, the minister of the demons, ever-angry, the tormentor, bitter enemy of the luminaries, lord of illusions, the one who frightens the Sun, the one who makes the Moon lustreless, the peacebreaker, the immortal, bestower of prosperity and wealth, and ultimate knowledge.
In ancient Tamil astrological scripts, Rahu was considered as incarnation of Shakti in beastly form.
Hanuman and Rahu
Hanuman, in his childhood, flew towards the Sun, as it appeared to be a big fruit. The day was solar eclipse day, when hanuman was to swallow up the Sun. Rahu arrived and saw Hanuman also approaching and thought that Hanuman is trying to swallow the Sun; Hanuman, seeing Rahu, was attracted by curiosity to the disembodied head, and caught Rahu.
On another occasion, during the Ramayana war, Ravana imprisoned the Navagrahas. Hanuman arrived and released them. They were grateful to Hanuman, saying "people devoted to you are blessed by us too." All the grahas thanked Hanuman individually for releasing them. Thus, it is believed that Rahu's negative influence will be subdued when one worships Hanuman. Worship of Lord Rama appeases Lord Hanuman the most.
Rahu is mentioned explicitly in a pair of scriptures from the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon. In the Candima Sutta and the Suriya Sutta, Rahu attacks Surya, the Sun deity and Chandra, the Moon deity before being compelled to release them by their recitation of a brief stanza conveying their reverence for the Buddha. The Buddha responds by enjoining Rahu to release them, which Rahu does rather than have his "head split into seven pieces". The verses recited by the two celestial deities and the Buddha have since been incorporated into Buddhist liturgy as protective verses recited by monks as prayers of protection.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Rahu is considered to have been subjugated by Padmasambhava, becoming one of the principle protectors of the Dzogchen teachings, particularly the Longchen Nyingthik. He is usually depicted with nine heads and a thousand eyes all over his dark-colored body. In his four arms he holds a bow and arrow, and often a lasso and victory banner. He is wrathful in appearance, ablaze with fire, and his lower body has the form of a snake. Rahula is a sa, a class of deities associated with the heavenly bodies. Rahu is one of the krodhaasuras.
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In Vedic astrology Rahu is a tamas asura. Rahu dasha can either be the best time of any person's life or plunge him into deep trouble depending on which planet is controlling him and which bhava or pattern of life like longevity, pleasures etc. he is aspecting or controlling. Rahu dasa gives immense scope for obtaining spectacular results from worship or dhyana. Worship of Goddess Durga nullifies Rahu the most and it confers immense benefits to the worshipper. Rahu is seen as an asura or demon who does his best to plunge any area of life he controls into chaos, mystery, and cruelty. He is associated with the world of material manifestation and worldly desire, as well as random, uncontrolled growth without wisdom or understanding.
Mining of petroleum also falls under the significations of Rahu according to Vedic astrology. Rahu is associated with dualities, resulting from its illusory nature. It is a legendary master of deception who signifies cheaters, pleasure seekers, operators in foreign lands, drug dealers, poison dealers, insincere and immoral acts. It is the symbol of an irreligious person, an outcast, harsh speech, falsehoods, uncleanliness, body ulcers, bones, and transmigration. Sudden changes in luck and fame are also linked to Rahu. Rahu is considered instrumental in strengthening one's power and converting, even an enemy into a friend. It relates to the Seventh Ray energy of esoteric astrology, as it represents a force displaying all the possibilities within the realm of existence.
The astrological text Lal Kitab notes that if Saturn and Mars are conjunct, they can be together considered as Rahu, while if Jupiter and Venus are conjunct, they can together be treated as Ketu.
In Vedic astrology, different systems assign Rahu different signs regarding rulership, exaltation, and debilitation.
Rahu is lord of three nakshatras or lunar mansions: Ardra, Svati and Shatabhisha. Shatabhisha is his most powerful nakshatra, it's said that Rahu is at his apex of power when operating through this nakshatra. Rahu is associated with the following: its color is smoky, metal is lead, and its gemstone is honey-colored hessonite. Its element is air and its direction is southwest.
The astrological function of both Rahu and Ketu may be understood by the following example: One fine morning a man woke up from the bed, brushed his teeth properly, had his breakfast and decided to take a day off from work to take his wife and kids for a day out. He ate an unusual quantity of lunch and in the evening returned home to spend it on watching television and saved all the work of the present day for the next. At supper too, he ate more than his usual routine or diet, all for a day. Finally he had to go to a long sleep. The next day, as the consequence of the previous day, he will have no time or focus on his family and avoid them throughout the day due to excessive engagement at work to fill the deficiency of the previous day. He would also have to avoid lunch and would have to make do with a snack since he must work overtime. Rahu, being a karmic planet would show the necessity and urge to work on a specific area of life where there had been ignorance in the past life. To balance the apparent dissatisfaction one has to go that extra mile to provide a satisfactory settlement in the present lifetime. When afflicted this "extra mile" is lengthened otherwise it is sometimes given by unforeseen circumstances or achieved through proper discipline. Ketu, would indicate the areas where unnecessary over-indulgence has been in the past life and to balance the over-satisfaction of the karmic presence there has to be some kind of dissatisfaction in that specific area of life. When afflicted in birth chart this dissatisfaction is imposed forcefully on the soul otherwise it is self-willed.
N.B: Rahu and Ketu are neither exalted nor debilitated by their mere presence in a sign but they are identically conditioned as per their hosts or dispositors.
There is a dedicated temple to Rahu - Naganatha Temple at Thirunageswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. There is a milk abhishekam everyday during Rahu Kaalam to appease Rahu. The milk turns light blue when it flows down after touching the statue of Rahu. This practice has been followed for over 1,500 years.
Rahu is also worshipped along with the other 9 planets in all Hindu temples in Burma. The navagraha deities, featuring nine planets, exist in the Ganesh Temple in Mandalay, Myanmar, and also in the courtyard of the South Indian temple in Silom, Thailand. One complex of this nature, featuring statues of all nine planets, also exists in the Bhairav Mahadev Sthan in Gyaneswor, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Phra Rahu (พระราหู), as he is called in Thailand, is worshipped in Wat Traimit in Bangkok's Chinatown and also in Wat Yannawa, amongst other wats. The most famous temple for Phra Rahu worshipping in Thailand is in Nakhon Pathom Province, a temple called Wat Srisathhong.
Rahu is also worshipped by the Dusadh caste found in Bihar. A prayer in the form of a three-day fast is offered by devotees. The priest assists the devotee in prayer by standing on a ladder made of swords and by fire-offering at which the bhagat walks through the fire. The ritual is a device to secure abundance of sunlight and prosperity by the community.
The Rahu mantra in the Navagraha Stotram is "Ardha kayam maha viryam Chandraditya vimardhanam; Simhika garbha sambhutam tam rahum pranamamyaham".
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 77.
- Candima Sutta
- Suriya Sutta
- Access to Insight; see the summary in the Devaputta-samyutta section
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