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RAHU. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] Rahu and Ketu are in astronomy the ascending and descending nodes.

Rahu is the cause of eclipses, and the term is used to designate the eclipse itself. He is also considered as one of the planets, as king of meteors, and as guardian of the south-west quarter. Mythologically Rahu is a Daitya who is supposed to seize the sun and moon and swallow them, thus obscuring their rays and causing eclipses. He was son of Viprachitti and Sinhika, and is called by his metronymic Sainhikeya. He had four arms, and his lower part ended in a tail.

He was a great mischief-maker, and when the gods had produced the Marita by churning the ocean, he assumed a disguise, and insinuating himself amongst them, drank some of it. The sun and moon detected him and informed Vishnu, who cut off his head and two arms, but, as he had secured immortality, his body was placed in the stellar sphere, the upper parts, represented by a dragon's head, being the ascending node, and the lower parts, represented by a dragon's tail, being Ketu the the descending node. Rahu wreaks his vengeance on the sun and moon by occasionally swallowing them.

The Vishnu Purana says, "Eight black horses draw the dusky chariot of Rahu, and once harnessed are attached to it forever. On the Parvans (nodes, or lunar and solar eclipses) Rahu directs his course from the sun to the moon, and back again from the moon to the sun. The eight horses of the chariot of Ketu, swift as the wind, are of the dusky red colour of lac, or of the smoke of burning straw."

Rahu is called Abhrapisacha, 'the demon of the sky;' Bharanibhu, 'born form the asterism Bharani;' Graha, 'the seizer;' Kabandha, 'the headless.'

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM