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to the ecliptic. The orbits of the moon and all the planets must necessarily intersect the plane of the earth's orbit on the ecliptic at two points, and these are called the nodes of the moon and each planet respectively. In consequence of the inclination being so slight, though the course of the moon and planets is not actually on the ecliptic, they are all so close to it that they are included in the belt of the zodiac. Thus the moon and all the planets follow almost the same apparent course on the zodiac or belt round the ecliptic in the changes of position resulting from their own and the earth's orbital movements with reference to what are called the fixed stars.

As the sun completes his circuit of the ecliptic or zodiac in the course of a year, it followed that if his course could be measured and divided into periods, these periods would form divisions of time for the year. This was what the ancients did, and it is probable that the measurement and division of time was the primary object of the science of astronomy, as apart from the natural curiosity to ascertain the movements of the sun, moon and planets, when they were looked upon as divine beings controlling the world. They divided the zodiac or the path of the sun into twelve parts, and gave to each part the name of the principal constellation situated on, or adjacent to, that section of the line of the ecliptic. When they had done this and observed the dates of the sun's entry into each sign or răshi, as it is called in Hindi, they had divided the year into twelve solar months. The following are the Hindu names and meanings of the signs of the zodiac :

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The signs of the zodiac were nearly the same among the Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Babylonians and Indians. They are supposed to have originated in Chaldea or Babylonia, and the fact that the constellations are indicated by nearly the same symbols renders their common origin probable. It seems likely that the existing Hindu zodiac may have been adopted from the Greeks.

The solar year begins with the entrance of the sun into 6. The Mesha or Aries.1 The day on which the sun passes into

new sign is called Sankrānt, and is to some extent observed as a holy day. But the Til Sankrānt or entry of the sun into Makara or Capricorn, which falls about the 15th January, is a special festival, because it marks approximately the commencement of the sun's northern progress and the lengthening of the days, as Christmas roughly does with us.

On this day every Hindu who is able bathes in a sacred river at the hour indicated by the Joshis of the sun's entrance into the sign. Presents of til or sesamum are given to the Joshi, owing to which the day is called Til Sankrānt. People also sometimes give presents to each other.

The Sankrānts do not mark the commencement of the Hindu months, which are still lunar and are adjusted to the solar year by intercalation. It is probable that long before lations of

the moon's they were able to measure the sun's progress along the

path. ecliptic the ancients had observed that of the moon, which it was much easier to do, as she is seen among the stars at night. Similarly there is little reason to doubt that the first division of time was the lunar month, which can be remarked by every one.

Ancient astronomers measured the progress of the moon's path along the ecliptic and divided it into twenty-seven sections, each of which represented roughly a day's march. Each section was dis

7. The nakshatras or constel


Owing to the precession of the equinoxes, the sidereal year is not the same as the solar year, being about 20 minutes longer. That is, the sun passes a particular star a second time in a period of 365 days 6 hours and 9 minutes, while it passes the equatorial point in 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 49 seconds, this latter period being

the solar year.

The difference is due to slight changes in the direction of the earth's axis, which change the position of the celestial equator and of the equinoctial point where the sun crosses it. It is not clear how the Hindus get over this difficulty, but the point does not affect the general account.

and 41

tinguished by a group of stars either on the ecliptic or so near it, either in the northern or southern hemisphere, as to be occultated by the moon or capable of being in conjunction with it or the planets. These constellations are called nakshatras. Naturally, some of these constellations are the same as those subsequently chosen to mark the sun's path or the signs of the zodiac. In some cases a zodiacal constellation is divided into two nakshatras. Like the signs, the nakshatras were held to represent animals or natural objects. The following is a list of them with their corresponding stars, and the object which each was supposed to represent :



zodiacal sign. 1. Aswini. B and y Arietis. A horse's head. Aries. 2. Bharani. 35, 39

Pudendum Aries.

muliebre. 3. Krittika. Pleiades.

A knife.



Taurus. 4. Rohini.

q, y, d, e, 0 Tauri A wheeled car Taurus. (Aldebaran). riage

temple. 5. Mrigasiras. 1, 41, 42, Orionis A deer's head.

(Orion's head). 6. Ardra.

Betelgeux or

Orionis (one of

Orion's arms). 7. Punarvasu. Gemini or Castor A house.

Gemini. and Pollux. 8. Pushya.

dand o Cancri.
An arrow.

Cancer. 9. Aslesha. 8, €, n, P

A wheel.

Hydrae. 10. Magha. A, Y, €, Š n and u

A house.

II. Pūrva Phāl. S and A Leonis. A couch.

12. Uttara Phāl B and 93 Leonis. A bed.

Leo. guni. 13. Hasta.

A, B, Y, 8 and A hand.

Corvi. 14. Chitra. Spica (a Virginis). A pearl.

Virgo. 15. Swāti.

Arcturus (a Boötis). A coral bead.




A gem.

and o

1 The stars corresponding to the nakshatras and their symbols are mainly taken from Mr. L. D. Barnett's Antiquities of India, pp. 190, 191,

compared with the list in Mr. W. Brennand's Hindu Astronomy, pp. 40, 42.




19. Mula.




zodiacal sign. 16. Visacha. a, ß, y and i Librae. A garland. Libra. 17. Anurādha. B, 8 and a Scor A sacrifice or Scorpio. pionis.

18. Jyestha.
a, o and T Scor-

An earring. Scorpio.
€, Ś 1, 0, 1, K, d, My A lion's tail. Scorpio.

v, Scorpionis. 20. Pūrva As 8 and € Sagittarii.

A couch or an Sagittarius. hādha.


tusk. 21. Uttara As Ś and o Sagittarii. An elephant's Sagittarius. hādha.

tusk or the

singāra nut. 22. Sravana. a, ß and y Aquilae. The footprint of

Vishnu. 23. Dhanishtha. a, B, 7 and 8 A drum.

Delphinis. 24. Sata-bhishaj. Aquarii.

A circular jewel Aquarius.

or a circle. 25. Pūrva Bha

a and B Pegasi. A two-faced drapada.

image. 26. Uttara Bha

y Pegasi and A two-faced drapada. a Andromedae. image or

couch. 27. Revati. Piscium. A tabor.

Pisces. All the zodiacal constellations are thus included in the 8. The nakshatras except Capricorn, for which Aquila and Delphinis


of the are substituted. These, as well as Hydra, are a considerable moon. distance from the ecliptic, but may perhaps be nearer the moon's path, which, as already seen, slightly diverges from it. But this point has not been ascertained by me. The moon completes the circuit of the heavens in its orbit round the earth in a little less than a lunar month or 27 days 8 hours. As twenty-seven nakshatras were demarcated, it seems clear that a nakshatra was meant to represent the distance travelled by the moon in a day. Subsequently a twenty-eighth small nakshatra was formed called Abhijit, out of Uttarāshādha and Sravana, and this may have been meant to represent the fractional part of the day. The days of the lunar month have each, as a matter of fact, a nakshatra allotted to them, which is recorded in all Hindu almanacs, and enters largely into the Joshi's astrological calculations. It may have been the case that prior to the

naming of the days of the week, the days of the lunar month were distinguished by the names of their nakshatras, but this could only have been among the learned. For though there was a nakshatra for every day of the moon's path round the ecliptic, the same days in successive months could not have the same nakshatras on account of what is called the synodical revolution of the moon. The light of the moon comes from the sun, and we see only that part of it which is illuminated by the sun.

When the moon is between the earth and the sun, the light hemisphere is invisible to us, and there is no moon.

When the moon is on the opposite side of the earth to the sun we see the whole of the illuminated hemisphere, and it is full moon. Thus in the time between one new moon and the next, the moon must proceed from its position between the earth and the sun to the same position again, and to do this it has to go somewhat more than once round the ecliptic, as is shown by the following figure.

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9. The

As during the moon's circuit of the earth, the earth days of the is also travelling on its orbit, the moon will not be week.

between the earth and the sun again on completion of its

1 Taken from Professor Newcomb's Astronomy for Everybody.

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