The crossing of ashmanvatI
In the days of our earliest memories we were transfixed by the sight of that part of the sky which has inspired and continued to inspire all discerning beholders. We drew that little cluster, the mothers of our god, and the three stars in a line, which form the arrow of The god. All this got imprinted in our minds. Over the ages the language of myth has preserved the passage of time through this region of the sky and beyond. Tilak first and de Santillana and von Dechend thereafter (the latter two are possibly plagiarists of Tilak, who failed to cite him appropriately) realized some of the underlying celestial secrets. We continue this journey of exploration through this part of the heavens.
We first briefly return those hymns of sauchika agnI, which is verily a repository of astronomical lore connected with precession in the typical language of the vedic mantra shAstra (as a tangential aside, those who understand the vedic mantra shAstra code, even if only in fragments, will see the concealment so typical of the tantric mantra shAstra that followed):
sAdhvI makar devavItiM no adya yaj~nasya jihvAma vidAma guhyAm |
sa AyurAgAt surabhirvasAno bhadrAmakar devahUtiM no adya || RV 10.53.3
Today he made the food-offerings to the deva-s effective;we have now found the secret tongue of the yaj~na. Today he has come, robed in good-scents, extending life, and had made our oblations to the deva-s effective. [This celebrated mantra is recited in the midst of the long chant “you O agni, who is rudra …” when the fire is brought to the main altar borne in a pot by the adhvaryu. The brAhmaNa text of the taittirIyas explains that the mouth the sacrifice, which is the year, is the equinotical colure, which was then in kR^ittikA. Hence, by analogy the finding of the tongue of the sacrifice is finding of the new position of the equinotical colure, which is agni, after it had precessed from its old position. This was alluded to in the first sauchIka agnI hymn]
tantuM tanvan rajaso bhAnumanvihi jyotiShmataH patho rakSha dhiyA kR^itAn |
anulbaNaM vayata joguvAmapo manurbhava janayA daivyaM janam || RV 10.53.3
Spinning the thread, follow the sun in the heaven, guarding the stellar path that was found [made] due to knowledge. Weave the regular pattern praised in the sacred rites, become manu, bring forth the heavenly folks. [In the kaushItaki tradition of the R^igveda the hotar chants a mantra on the mahAvrata and viShuvAn days in which it is said that the sun is a spider that spins a web going six month north and six months south. The spinning in the first half of the mantra alludes to this, while the weaving in the second half alludes to the coming of days and nights in a regular pattern, which is also mentioned in the kaushItaki mantra- KB 19.3. The gods are asked to watch upon the path of the sun that was earlier “disrupted” by precession]
akShAnaho nahyatanota somyA iShkR^iNudhvaM rashanA ota piMshata |
aShTAvandhuraM vahatAbhito rathaM yena devAsoanayannabhi priyam || RV 10.53.7
O soma drinkers, fasten that which is to the tied, prepare the ropes and decorate. Bring forth the 8 seats of the chariot and with which the gods lead forth that which we love. [The deeper meaning of this mantra is still shrouded in mystery- e.g. why eight seats? Yet the axle and ropes here allude to the world frame being set in place]
ashmanvatI rIyate saM rabhadhvam uttiShThata pra taratA sakhAyaH |
atrA jahAma ye asann ashevAH shivAn vayam ut taremAbhi vAjAn || RV 10.53.8
ashmanvatI flows by. Hold tight together, keep your self erect and cross [the river], friends. There let us leave that which is not good, and we cross over to that which is auspicious. [This is the single most important element of the sauchIka agni hymns in terms of a date. It clearly mentions crossing of the river ashmanvatI to the other side where the auspicious lies. This means that the new equinoctial position laid on the other side the ashmanvatI- the heavenly river the Milky Way. I prepared a simulacrum of the skies that inspired this hymn using the Cartes du Ciel program, the best freeware for the purpose. One can note that if the Milky was crossed by the equinoctial colure as indicated in the picture, the period was likely in a period after 4000 BC, possibly around 3700 BC by which the crossing was definitely over].
The final mantra of these series while extremely obscure gives a clue of what the period might have been:
garbhe yoShAm adadhur vatsam Asany apIchyena manasota jihvayA |
sa vishvAhA sumanA yogyA abhi siShAsanirvanatekAra ijjitim || RV 10.53.11
The hymns appears to state that the R^ibhu-s [not named directly but indicated by brahminical tradition] secretly placed the young lady in “womb” and the calf in the jaw. Now this calf if the sun at the New Year, the jaw, as de Santillana and von Dechend show, is Taurus. Thus we have the crossing of the Milky Way, asmanvatI to enter Taurus. The yoShA being placed in the garbha is more obscure. Possibly it means Virgo, the yuvati being deposed from her place at the top of the ecliptic and being moved to the descent [Tilak mentions the Virgo full moon in the solsticial year beginning at an early era].
But the same celestial sector also appear more dramatically in the mythosphere as the place where rudra slaughters prajApati with his 3-fold arrow. The related issues we shall narrate if we get a chance later and then return to complete the tale of andhaka where an element of the astronomical language of myth survives. But for now we conclude with a much later litany to show how firmly planted these events were in Hindu thought.
puShpandanta’s shiva mahimna:
viyad vyApI tArAgaNaguNita phenodgama ruchiH
pravAho vArAM yaH pR^iShatalaghu dR^iShTaH shirasi te |
jagad-dvIpAkAraM jaladhi valayaM tena kR^itamiti
anenaivonneyaM dhR^ita mahima divyaM tava vapuH ||17||
The heavenly stream (the Milky Way) envelops the sky, with its beauty enhanced by the illumination of the foam by the groups of stars. It forms a ring around the universe making it look like an island. The same current is a mere trickle on you head. This itself shows the greatness of your celestial form.
prajAnAthaM nAtha prasabhamabhikaM svAM duhitaraM
gataM rohid bhUtAM riramayiShumR^isShyasya vapuShA |
dhanuSh-pANeryAtaM divamapi sapatrAkR^itamamuM
trasantaM te.adyApi tyajati na mR^igavyAdharabhasaH ||22||
O lord, once prajApati was attracted to his own daughter. When she fled becoming a red deer he took the form of a stag and chased her. You as a hunter, with a bow in hand [went after him]. Struck by your arrow and greatly terrorized he is in the sky [as a constellation].
In the picture above all these scenes are seen on the celestial dome.