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|North lunar node|
Rahu: Head of Demon Snake, sculpture, British Museum
In Hindu tradition, Rahu () is a decapitated head of an asura, 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 navagrahas (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.
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 Rahu drank some of the amrita (divine nectar). The sun and moon realized it and alerted Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu). Mohini cut off the asura'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, one who frightens the Sun, the one who makes the Moon lustreless, the peacemaker, the immortal (having drunk the divine nectar), 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 Rahu 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.
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 Chandra the moon deity and Suriya the sun 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 (paritta) recited by monks as prayers of protection.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Rahu (or Rahula; Tib. gza) 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 krodhadevatas (lit: Anger divinities. i.e., a divinity having the attributes of anger and the like).
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In Vedic astrology 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 pleases Rahu the most and he 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.
Rahu is supposed to be a mighty and naughty child of Maya, and thus is associated with dualities resulting from its mayavi (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, abdominal 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. 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.
Ants are considered of the favoured species of Rahu. In some parts of India feeding ants is considered one of the ways of propitiating Rahu.
In Thailand, people offer a plate of black offering—black coffee, black Coke, black beans, black biscuits amongst other items to propitiate Phra Rahu, whom they hold in very high regard. There is a shrine for Phra Rahu in Wat Traimet near Chinatown in Bangkok.
The other Phra Rahu statue is in the Wat Yannawa, near the Saphan Taksin sky train station. A glass fish-bowl filled with white sugar balls on which ants are fed continuously is also kept in Thai businesses.
Articles that are donated in order to mitigate negative effects of Rahu include mustard, radishes, blankets, sesame, lead, saffron, satnaja (a mixture of seven grains), and coal.
Worship of Rahu
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, 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 Nakon Pathom Province, a temple called Wat Srisathhong.
Rahu is also worshipped by the Dusadh (Paswan) caste found in Bihar. A prayer in the form of a three day fast is offered by devotees. The bhagat (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.
Mantras linked with Rahu include "Om Bhram Bhreem Bhroum Sah Rahave Namah" and "Om Rang Rahuve Namah Om".
- Black Sun (mythology)
- Five Suns (mythology)
- Sol (mythology)
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