Sunday, March 27, 2016

New discoveries around “Great Attractor” reveal importance of ‘Trishanku’ as a marker in the South!

{This article can also be read at  The link is here }

Of two discoveries in cosmology reported last month (Feb 2016), the one pertaining to the first evidence of Gravitational waves released by colliding black holes received all round attention. But the other discovery about the Great Attractor has a greater relevance from the point of view of Vedic cosmology.  Great Attractor is a location in the southern sky that is hidden from our view because it is on the other side of our Milky Way galaxy. The special interest in this Great Attractor is due to the reason that our Milky Way along with many galaxies that we see around are rushing towards this region in the sky. We are accelerating towards this region which is about 150 million light years away, but we could not know what is pulling us or attracting us. The name Great attractor is due to this pulling effect. But now a team of researchers have identified hidden galaxies in this region that are causing the “Great” attraction.


(Hubble Telescope image of the region of the sky where the Great Attractor is located. )

The discovery of the great attraction potential of this group that has more or less ‘sealed’ the fate of our Milky Way galaxy to move only towards the southern direction runs counter to the idea of Hindu Thought that south is for pithrus (departed ancestors getting into the cycle of rebirth) while north is for exit into the world of Devas and of no return to samsara (cycle of rebirth). One may argue that such a Hindu idea may be about spiritual realms and the physical movement of the worlds may have nothing to do with that.
In this context two ideas of the Hindu Thought on cosmology stand out distinctly with reference to directions. One is that our Universe is moving towards the star Mrigashirsha in Taurus. This is the Eastern direction. In other words, our Universe is moving towards eastern direction. The other idea is that groups of stars (Nakshatra vamsham) and worlds (lokas) were created by the sage Vishvamitra (friend of the cosmos) in the southern direction which was just opposite to the worlds of Devas in the North.
The direction (South) of our Milky Way galaxy and the direction of the movement of our growing Universe in the east look a bit complex. But a deeper understanding of what lies beyond the Great Attractor and behind the Milky Way (from the recent discoveries)  gives a newer understanding of the legend of Trishanku and how that legend has been skilfully woven to indicate a cosmic truth. It also reveals that the ultimate direction of Milky Way may not necessarily be south, thereby concurring with the Hindu views. 
To explain this let me begin with our location in the sky and how our Milky Way is moving forward. Our Milky Way Galaxy is part of a local group of many galaxies that move around the Virgo Super cluster.  This super cluster of many galaxies can be identified by the Virgo constellation. Interestingly, this constellation coinciding with Solar transit occurs in the solar month of Virgo (called as Purattasi in Tamil) when the important annual ancestor ceremony called Pithru Paksha is observed.  That means the Hindus have recognised this constellation (Virgo) and the direction where it is seen, as the place where departed souls go. In reality our earth along with the Sun and Milky Way galaxy is moving towards this constellation. 
This attraction towards Virgo Super cluster does not stop with that. Along with the Milky Way, the Virgo Super cluster is moving towards the Great Attractor. Until now we could not know what lies at the location where the Great Attractor is hypothesised. But the recent discoveries revealed that there are several massive galaxies in the region of Great Attractor. The Hydra - Centaurus Super cluster is a main cluster in this group that facilitates the attraction making our galaxy and all the others in our vicinity to fall towards it like water flowing towards a pit.  

In this picture, the filaments are pathways along which the galaxies are moving. The Milky Way galaxy is moving in the pathway that leads to Virgo cluster. The Virgo cluster leads to the Great Attractor. Almost all the galaxies in the visible part of the Universe are attracted to this Great Attractor. The green areas indicate density of galaxies while the blue and dark blue regions indicate voids.

The entire mass of super clusters along with the great Attractor is called as Laniakea which means “immeasurable Heaven” in Hawaiian language. The above picture condensed into the cluster of Laniakea is shown below.

The dense clusters of stellar mass are seen in green. The blue ones are voids. The blue dot is the Milky Way in this picture.

Another view of Laniakea.

We are in the border region of Laniakea and the filaments show that we may be moving towards the central dense region of Laniakea.

But there is a curious fact about this location.  Laniakea with its great attracting potential is not alone. It seems to be shaking hands with another similar super cluster in the North known as Perseus - Pisces Super Cluster.  The two are like two power centres, attracting the galactic material towards them. There is a watershed like border between them where the pathways diverge in opposite directions towards the core of these two super clusters. This can be understood by the following figure.

On the left is Laniakea (Great Attractor) cluster with filaments showing the movement of galaxies towards it. Just adjacent to it, on the right is Perseus- Pisces cluster with filaments showing movement of galaxies towards it. Where they meet, the filaments may go either way. That means galactic material could go either way. As seen from the earth, the Laniakea is in the south and Pisces is in the northern direction. Their interaction can be understood better by the following diagram.

Check this video:- 

These two are just a single pair like many other pairs or groups of clusters in the Universe, but what makes them special for us is that we are on the borderline between the two clusters. There is Laniakea on our south and Pisces at our north.  Which direction are we going? What is our ultimate destination, Laniakea or Perseus – Pisces? At the moment we are being attracted towards Laniakea, towards the South. But this is something counter to Vedic idea of our existence and future ‘existence’ or the path of our journey towards Liberation or Moksha.

The Vedic idea always attaches importance to Northern direction. North is the direction of growth while south is the direction of death. North signifies Meru, the apex in any context. In the context of cosmic voyage of our earth as part of the Milky Way Galaxy, we must be surging towards or revolving towards the Northern parts. But the current knowledge says that we are moving towards the South.

One may argue that directions such as north and south are meaningless in the cosmos. But in Vedic parlance any item can be identified to have directions. The front is head (east), the back is tail (puccham) which can be equated with west. The right side is south and the left side is north. And there is central body (refer 2nd chapter in Taittriya Upanishad for more details in this regard). As per this, our existence in this galaxy is moving towards east (head) and the swirling movement could be from north to south (Pradakshina).

Thinking in these lines, the presently detected movement towards Laniakea in the south could be just part of the ‘pradakshina’ while surging towards east. This means there is a definite direction in the Universe through which we are moving. This also means Universe is likely to have a direction for its expansion. Though by nature the universe is bulging and expanding on all sides (like Brahman whose root verb ‘brih’ means huge and growing) it must be surging forward in a direction.

As per Vedic Thought, the star Mrigashirsha signifies the direction in which we are moving forward. This star is in Taurus sign and can be seen like the ‘three eyes’ of a coconut, on one side of Orion constellation.

The three consecutive stars, Rohini, Mrigashirsha and Arudra are lorded by the Trinities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Of these, Mrigashirsha shows the ‘mArga’ or the route towards which we are going. This is the eastern direction. The constellation of Taurus lies in this direction.

The amazing information in the environs of Laniakea is that there is void in the direction of Taurus which is called Taurus Void. A void is an empty region where not much galactic material is found. There are very less number of stars and galaxies in the region making it markedly look void compared to the surrounding regions. A recent research found out that voids contain the seeds of new stars or in other words, they contain matter from which gas, dust, stars and galaxies would evolve later. This description perfectly fits with our Hindu Thought that our Universe is moving forward in the direction of a massive Void in the direction of Taurus.

The Taurus Void is shown in the picture above. It is bordering the Perseus- Pisces super cluster. The Milky Way lies close to it. Another picture with more details is shown below.

As per Vedic Thought our Milky Way must be moving towards Taurus void as Mrigashirsha lies in that direction only. While surging towards Taurus Void, we are making a Pradakshina from north to south and therefore we seem to be moving towards Laniakea in the south. 

The directions as we see in the above picture and in all the pictures that are available on the internet on Laniakea and Perseus- Pisces super clusters have a reverse appearance. These directions can be best understood by means of the horoscopy diagram.

Our Milky Way galaxy must be moving towards the direction shown as east. (The Taurus Void is in that direction).While moving it is rotating from north to south. Presently it appears to be moving towards south. But there will come a time when it will be seen to move towards North (Pisces constellation). While moving in rotating motion, it is surging forward in the Taurus Void.

The presence of a massive void in the direction of forward movement gives interesting connection to the Vedic concept of Brahma seated on a lotus surging with the cosmic waters. The lotus stalk emerges from the navel of Narayana or Hiranyagarbha from whom the life sap is being drawn. This is a metaphor drawn from the idea of how a foetus is growing in the womb by being connected to the umbilical cord and drawing its life essence from the cord.

The human creation (the ultimate creation of Brahman) happens along the path that the lotus grows. The lotus flower (with Brahma seated on it) will always be on top of the cosmic waters. As the cosmic waters grow and expand, the lotus stalk also grows taking the human creation along its path. Every point in space where the lotus moves must have been a void and it gets filled up as the created world is carried along. Only on the path of the lotus stalk connecting Creator Brahma with the umbilical cord of the Brahman (Eternal God of Paramatma), there is life or life giving sap.

This explanation might sound absurd, but it is a logical explanation. The entire universe as we see around us has several galaxies but it is empty of life. It is like how only one sperm is capable of creating life while millions of sperms accompany it. For that one sperm to spring into a new life, the presence of millions of sperms all around that sperm is needed. Simultaneous growth of those sperms from inception is also needed, but only one among them can form a new life. Similarly, with creation of millions of galaxies all around us, only we in our Milky Way galaxy have the seed of life.

This also pre-supposes that we are located in the lotus stalk, receiving divine sap of existence from the Almighty (Brahman) at the base and guidance from Knowledge of the four-faced Brahma at the top. In this set-up the ultimate destination is merger with Divinity only (to be Divine). An idea of the surging lotus and life emanating worlds going along that path can be depicted as follows.

As per the Vedic thought, the ultimate exit point is in North, also known as the Swarga or world of Devas. The path leading to that is known as Devayana. It is in the northern direction and identified with the location where we find the constellation of Pisces. So our world in the Milky Way galaxy must ultimately travel towards north and not south. But the discovery of movement of Milky Way Galaxy towards the Great Attractor in the southern direction can only be explained by means of the above figure.

In that figure, the Milky Way is shown as a small circle in red. It is numbered 1.At the location 1, it is following a direction towards the south, leading to the Great Attractor. But this cannot be the final destination. The location of Milky Way in the water shed area bordering Perseus- Pisces Super cluster is an indicator that ultimately we will make a turn-around and move northward.

When the Milky Way reaches no2, there is a turnaround (rotating movement) towards the North, Pisces. That may take millions of years. By the time the Milky Way reaches no 3, the entire design of the Milky Way may have changed or distorted or merged with some other galaxy. The Sun and the solar system also may have vanished by then. But what continues is Life in that path in some other star system of some other galaxy that is travelling at that time in the path of Brahma, the lotus stalk. By the time the lotus stalk makes one swirl in the cosmic waters while surging forward, the present system of Life supported by the present system of cosmic laws would be over.

The four faced Brahma would exit along with the Jeevas that have attained Liberation by then. But the remaining Jeevas get back to the Hiranyagarbha. They are personified as His snake bed (Adisesha).

The three layers of the snake bed signify the three Gunas (Sattwa, Rajasa and Tamasa) of the Jeevas. The five hood of the snake signifies the basic 5 factors (Pancha Bhuta) along with their attributes. These 2 (3 Gunas and 5 Bhutas) are what make the Jeevas bound and require to be shed only through births and rebirths. For that to happen, the Brahman once again gets manifest through Hiranyagarbha. The worlds and Life once again get manifest with four-faced Brahma at the lotus. This is the basic concept of Creation in Hindu Thought, a fraction of which we could see in the movement of our galaxy in the watershed between southern Laniakea identified by the constellation of Centaurus and northern Pisces constellation which always signifies path of Moksha or Devayana.

In this context, the Vedic concept of Northern path or Solar path aided by ‘light in the form of fire’ and Uttrayana (northern movement of the Sun), leading to Liberation once for all and the Southern path or Lunar path identified by ‘smoke’ (Dhuma) and Dakshinayana (southern movement of the Sun), which makes the departed Jeevas to be born again on earth have some significance. {Refer Bhagavad Gita (VIII – 23 to 26) and Brahma Sutras (4-2-18 to 20) for details of Northern or Solar path and Southern or Lunar Path}.

Taking insights from Upanishads, Acharya Ramanuja deduces that though people like Bhishma waited for the Northern path (Uttarayana) to reach the state of no-return-to-earth, for the knower of Brahman, there is no distinction between the solar and lunar paths. Bhishma had a choice to choose the time of leaving the earthy coils. So he waited. For others of his calibre, even if they die during the Dakshinayana and are therefore drawn by the Lunar path, they would ultimately attain Brahman once Uttarayana sets in. What is understood from this is that northern movement or movement through North is the way to Liberation. This must suit the way the ‘lotus’ surges and also the way our space of existence must soar. This also indicates direction of movement is important in cosmology to reach specific realms.

It is in this context, the story of Trishanku  and Trishanku Swarga where he is in upside-down position (falling from North to South) has relevance.

The legend of Trishanku.

The legend of Trishanku is explained in 4 chapters of Bala khanda in Valmiki Ramayana. The legend is unique in itself for, there is a narration of creating stellar worlds in the southern direction, as a replica of the stellar worlds of the North dominated by the Sapta Rishi mandala or the Big Dipper towards which the earth’s axial rotation is oriented.

The ultimate message of that story is that Trishanku was pushed down from the North and Vishwamitra created a world for Trishanku in the South and ordained that all the stars in the south would circumambulate Trishanku. In cosmological terms, this can happen only if the south pole of the earth is oriented towards Trishanku, so that the stars in the south would seem to be circumambulating Trishanku! In other words, only if Trishanku was made (or personified as) the South Pole star just like Dhruva, born to Uttanapada and Suniti was made as the Northern pole star, this can happen. But the story of Trishanku is not explicit about it being the pole star. This is investigated further in this paper.

As has always been the way with the Hindu myths, the etymology of the terms and names in the legend help in unlocking the hidden meaning.

Let us first take the name Trishanku. Trishanku was a noble ruler of the solar dynasty. The name Trishanku is a derivate of three-shanku or three ‘sins’ or 'fears' or 'darts' or blemishes. The first blemish was father’s curse that came when he misbehaved with his father. The second blemish was to have killed the milch cow of Vasishta. The third blemish was to have eaten unsanctified meat of his kill. All these three blemishes made him known as Trishanku – the one who carries three blemishes. That these three blemishes are common to any human being can be known from the name of his father, which is “Suryaaruna”. This name is closer to mean Surya’s ruNa (Surya’s debt) than Surya+ aruna. 

All of us are sons of Surya, the Sun. We are being taken along by the Sun in its journey guided by the Sapta rishis. In this way the Sun is our father and we are all indebted to it. In the course of our birth and countless rebirths in our journey along with the Sun, we incur three debts. One is the debt to our biological parents, which we incur birth after birth. The second is incurred when we extract the wealth of the “Milch cow of Vasishta”. This cow is known as kamadhenu which is a euphemism for prosperity of every kind. In our human birth we strive for a variety of riches and in the course of getting them we incur a number of sins knowingly or unknowingly. A majority of our so called Prarabhda karma are related to material conquests. This is the second blemish which we mindlessly accumulate.

The third blemish refers to the sins in acquiring our food. It must be sattwic food where no suffering is done to any being while collecting our food and eating it. Here is hidden the reference to the need to go for vegetarian food and shun killing a life to make our meals. This third blemish is carried my many human beings.

So all these 3 blemishes make one lose the power and entitlement to soar to the heavens or Deva loka or the exit point of samsara (rebirth). As per Trishanku story, he could not go the Heavens with his mortal body. This actually refers to the three blemishes he (or anyone for that matter) carried. These three blemishes bind one to the cycle of rebirths. Without having shed these three blemishes, it is not possible to go to Heavens which is an abode or a state of no-return-to-earth to discharge karma. Trishanku was not freed of the three blemishes and this is indicated by the description of him having a haggard body. The presence of the three blemishes gave him the name, Trishanku.

Such a Trishanku could not go to the heavens. Whatever be his other merits, his so called surge towards spiritual growth had to take a U-turn and he fell down. This is told as Trishanku falling upside down. This refers to the direction north to south as North is the location of Heavens. In the upside down position, the head would be forward. Always the direction of the head shows the direction in which we are going. The upside down position means Trishanku (us with the 3 blemishes) was heading towards South, the direction that indicates Pithru loka from where we keep shuttling between earthy life and pithru life and end up in rebirths only.

It is at this juncture, Vishwamitra makes interference. He stops Trishanku from falling down to the South completely.

The location of Trishanku

Vishwamitra  stalls the further fall and equips him with the worlds that resemble the path to Deva loka. More importantly he creates the Sapta Rishis of the Southern direction (Valmiki Ramayana, 1-6- 21).  The Sapta rishi mandala of the northern direction goes round the pole stars of different times. A Sapta Rishi mandala in the south must therefore go round the southern pole stars at different times. Before exploring that part in the sky, let us proceed with the remaining part of Trishanku story.

Vishwamitra was dissuaded from continuing the Creation of worlds as creation is the sole prerogative of the Almighty (Brahman). Vishwamitra relented only after he extracted a promise that Trishanku would remain as a star and that all those who want to go to heavens must go round Trishanku. The word used here is ‘anuyaasyanthi’ अनुयास्यन्ति (VR 1-6-32). It means to strive like him (Trishanku). In the context of a star, it means to go around the star of Trishanku or circumambulate that star or that region of the sky.

In literal terms this means similar rotation of the sky around a point in the South Pole, or to be in circumpolarity around the southern pole star.

Valmiki Ramayana (1-60- 20,21,22)  says,  "Like the other Creator that resplendent Vishwamitra, himself staying among sages, has replicated Southerly Sapta Rishis (Ursa Major) in southerly direction. And still remaining amidst of sages that highly reputed sage Vishvamitra further started to replicate the stereotyped stocks of stars sequentially, resorting to the southern hemisphere, as he is convulsed in anger at Indra”

He continued to tell, “Let there be eternal heaven to Trishanku with his mortal body. Next, as long as the worlds remain, let all of these stars and galaxies I have created also remain eternally in their places as my creation. It will be apt of you all gods to accede to this.' [VR - 1-60-28, 29]

Then comes the crucial verse on the status of the worlds created that include the southern Sapta Rishi:
"When all the gods are addressed thus they replied the eminent saint Vishwamitra saying, 'so be it! Safe you be! Let all the created objects prevail in their respective places. Those amazing and numerous stars you have created will remain in firmament, but outside the path of stelliform of Cosmic Person. Trishanku will also remain in the circle of stars you created, but upside-down, for Indra's indict cannot be annulled, and he will be gleaming like a star and similar to any celestial. [VR - 1-60-30, 31, 32a]

This creation is outside the path of Vaishvanara (‘वैश्वानर पथात् बहिः’)

What is Vaishvanara?

An understanding of Vaishvanara would help to unravel further the mystery of the myth of Trishanku.
Vaishvanara is  the name for the Cosmic Almighty which is in the form of a kind of Agni.
Vaishvanara is Narayana who is none other than Brahman, says Jaimini in the Brahma Sutras.

Krishna as Gitacharya says that He, as VaishvAnara, the gastric juice is pervading all beings. This idea that Vaishvanara exists in every being as the fire that eats food is conveyed in Kathopanishad in the story of Yama having failed to treat Nachiketas as athithi in whom Vaishvanara, the Agni personified Brahman is left to starve. The core of this idea is that Vaishvanara signifies life force! (For details read my article here).

In this context Chandogya Upanishad says, "This VaishvAnara Self extending from Heaven to the earth," (Chandogya - V-XVIII-1).

The Puranic lore gives us further insights on understanding and locating Vaishvanara in the sky in the context of star Agastya.

Location of Agastya

The location of Agastya (Canopus) is given in Brahmanda Purana (Ch 21-verse 101 and 102)  and Vayu Purana (Ch 50- verses 155 & 156) as lying south of Nagaveethi, and north of LokAloka and outside the path of Vaishvanara.

Nagaveethi is a reference to Capricorn as known from another verse in Vayu Purana (Ch 50- 130) that says that when the Sun turns to the north (winter solstice) in three stars from Abhijit, Shravana and Dhanishtha, it is said to be in Nagaveethi.

South of Nagaveethi refers to Dakshinayana, i.e. southern hemisphere. So the first reference of Agastya is that it is in southern part of the sky.

The next reference is its location north of Lokaloka which is the Milky Way. Milky Way is so called in the Puranas because all worlds (loka) are present in it. The Milky Way extends till Gemini in visual observation and Agastya is seen north of the Milky Way arm.

Canopus (Agastya) lies at north of Milky Way (Lokaloka)

This location of Agastya is outside the path of Vaishvanara, say the two Puranas.

In the 54 degree to and fro oscillation of equinoxes recognised by the Vedic society (check my video HERE) and the corresponding movement of pole stars within 54 degrees (check my video HERE), the path of life force can be said to pass through the axis of the earth connecting north and South Pole. With Agastya always lying outside the southern polar point in the 54 degree arc (that can be delineated from the section of the polar path between the years 2299 CE and 1301 BCE), one can deduce that Vaishvanara is indeed the axis connecting north and south poles.

Trishanku outside Vaishvanara

In Trishanku episode the Gods told that whatever Vishwamitra had created (the southern Sapta Rishi et al) would remain outside the path of Vaishvanara. (‘वैश्वानर पथात् बहिः’). That means they would be outside the Southern poles or the axis of the earth. In other words, life cannot exist in the direction of South around Trishanku loka!

With Trishanku loka becoming a kind of landmark around which those are going to heavens must go round, it is implied that our present sojourn towards the South will not be continuous.  Our Milky Way galaxy has to take a turn around after going towards the South. The present location of the Milky Way in the border between Laniakea and Perseus – Pisces super cluster is a defining moment in space- time. Before analysing the constellations of Trishanku and Sapta rishis in that direction, there are 2 questions to be analysed.

Question no 1:-

Why should Trishanku with the three blemishes be helped to reach the impossible (reaching Heavens) when he is not qualified enough?

In reality all of us are like Trishanku. We are entrapped in the karmic cycle with our triple blemishes. Trishanku episode shows that not all is lost even if one is triple bad. There is a way out. The answer lies in Vishwamitra in having come to his rescue and guidance. Vishwamitra means the friend of the Universe. In all the three blemishes, the one who overcomes them comes in the good books of the ‘Friend of the Universe”. Such a person would inevitably get his dues, that of gaining heaven or a heaven of his own. What is conveyed in this is that every person must pay off his debt to his creator (parents and the Sun), must not spoil the world in his quest for prosperity for self and must not harm any creature in getting his food. The one who meticulously takes care of these three debts would eventually be freed of getting into the karmic cycle or rebirths. Such a person will be dear to the Friend of the Universe and would become a Universe unto himself. Wherever he is, there is heaven. This is the import of Trishanku story.

However in Trishanku story, Trishanku attained Heavens, inspite of having the three blemishes, mainly because he sought the guidance of the “Friend of the Universe”.

As Vishwamitra himself gets into action to help Trishanku having the three blemishes, it is deduced that, that element which is the Friend of the Universe is there to help us only if we seek or desire to reach the Heavens (liberated from Karmic cycle). Perhaps the Gayatri mantra revealed by Vishwamitra was an attempt by him to relieve us of the three blemishes by meditating on the three levels of existence (Bhu, Bhuva, Sva) at the Solar path. This mantra is supposed to protect the one who repeats / meditates on it. Such a protection perhaps offers a release from the three blemishes and also helps the one who meditates, not to create new blemishes of these types.

Question no 2:

Why did the sages infuse a cosmic element of a kind which is not found in any other myths created to educate people? This is the only story where a person, a sage who has been given an apt-to-context name Vishwamitra, is found to create stars and galaxies and even a replica of Sapta Rishi mandala – all in the direction which is opposite to Deva loka or Devayana or the route of Brahma. Why identify a star as Trishanku and create an area for Trishanku?

Any attempt to find an answer to this would invariably point out to the presence of the knowledge of cosmic spheres towards which our earth is aligned. The discovery of the southern point around which the worlds turn towards north was perhaps made by Vishwamitra who also discovered the blemishes that obstruct one from soaring spiritual heights and the method to overcome the obstructions. Perhaps the sages created the story of Trishanku with an impossible element of creation of stars by an earthbound person, to make that story live on in memory for ever. The spiritual import had been conveyed down the ages by sages, but the cosmic truth could only be known only when they are unravelled by science. Now with the discovery of Great Attractor and path of the Milky Way, Trishanku story has greater relevance.

Locating Trishanku, the star.

First we must locate the star Trishanku. In popular theory, the star “Alpha Centauri.” is identified as Trishanku. Modern research shows that it is actually a triplet! We see it as a single star. It is actually three stars merged to look like one star! This goes with the Trishanku idea of 3 in one. The three stars are Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri. Though this star Alpha Centauri is regarded as the nearest star to our earth, in reality its component Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to the Solar system. Its close proximity to the Sun is striking given that Trishanku’s father was Suryaruna and he belonged to the Solar dynasty.

View of Alpha Centauri from the Digitized Sky Survey 2

One can never miss Alpha Centauri in the Southern sky. During summer months (presently after midnight), one can see the beautiful alignment of the Northern Sapta Rishi mandala with Alpha Centauri in the southern sky. Known as the Big Dipper, the Northern Sapta rishis  make an alignment with stars Swati (Arcturus) and then Chitra (Spica) in Virgo constellation across the sky. Chithra will be more or less over head viewed from South India. Between Chithra and Alpha Centauri in the South, the sky looks dim (Dhuma / Lunar path / Southern path?) and without prominent stars. Now it has been found out to be the region of Great Attractor with many hidden galaxies. (Our Milky Way stars hide the vision at this region). For naked eye observation, one can see this region almost star less and then stars appearing in the south of which Alpha Centauri is prominent.  The following diagram is what we see with naked eye on a summer night.

In the region of Alpha centauri, the southern Sapta Rishi Mandala must be present.

Though Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to the earth, it is seen as part of the larger Centaurus super cluster which is very far away. Closer home we are attracted by Virgo Super cluster. Beyond that the Great Attractor with a mass of 1000 trillion Suns is attracting us. Beyond that the more massive Hydra Centaurus Super attracting us towards the core of Laniakea. Seen from the earth, Alpha Centauri looks like a part of the Hydra Centaurus group.

Next to Alpha Centauri is the easily identifiable Southern Cross, also known as Crux. According to popular belief, this Southern Cross is Vishwamitra!

As per the legend of Trishanku, there must be a Southern Sapta Rishi Mandala that circumambulates Trishanku. However by the reference of outside the Vaishvanara, Alpha Centauri can never be a pole star of the South. That it had never been a pole star is true when we take into consideration the 54 degree arc envisaged by the Vedic society.

Vishwamitra, the Crux is a pointer to the present Southern Pole Star. This pole star is known as Sigma Octantis. Just as how the northern sky seems to revolve around the Northern Pole star, Polaris  (Dhruva Nakshatra), the southern sky revolves around this southern pole star. And Crux is seen in the Lokaloka (Milky Way) cluster.

The northern pole star is pointed out by the northern Sapta Rishi Mandala (pic below) and Shishumara (Ursa Minor)

The southern pole star is pointed out by none other than Crux, the constellation that is identified as Vishwamitra. (Pic below)

The four starred Crux cannot be the regarded as the Sapta Rishi Mandala, because as the name indicates, there must be 7 prominent stars, somewhat like Northern Sapta Rishi mandala (Big Dipper in the constellation of Ursa Major) in the Southern Sapta Rishi Mandala. The above picture is what we see presently.

There is another interesting entity in this picture. It is Canopus which represents another important sage, namely Agasthya. According to a myth given in Srimad Bhagavatham, Vashishta and Agasthya were common sons of Varuna and Mitra, the 10th son of Aditi. The myth says that when Varuna and Mitra saw Urvashi, the celestial nymph, they discharged semen. It was collected in an earthen pot and from the semen grew up Vashishta  and Agasthya. They represented the two halves of the pot. This could mean Vashishta and Agasthya representing two halves or hemispheres of the sky as they both are circumpolar stars of the North and the South respectively.

Vashishta is the mind-born son of Brahma according to many other myths. But he is referred to as the son of Varuna and Mitra in the Agasthya myth. Therefore this myth seems to have been woven to indicate a particular idea, that of Vashishta being the counter part of Agasthya in the sky. Both of them are moving around the pole stars of their respective spheres.

Locating the Southern Sapta Rishi Mandala.

As per the Trishanku myth, Vishwamitra created a Sapta Rishi Mandala of 7 sages in the southern hemisphere similar to the Sapta Rishi Mandala of the northern hemisphere.
Let us first take a look at the Northern Sapta Rishi Mandala.

The seven stars joined by yellow line in the above picture are the Sapta rishis (7 sages) who are the pillars of Vedic religion and are supposed to guide in the evolution of mankind. They vary from time to time (Manvanthra). The current cosmic knowledge also says that the shape of this Sapta Rishi Mandala ( known as Big Dipper) changes with time.  

Vishwamitra created a replica of this in the southern direction for the sake of Trishanku. Only Centaurus is available as a better candidate for being the southern replica of Sapta rishis. Following picture is that of Centaurus.

The Crux (Vishwamitra) is seen at the bottom. The bright star shown by pink arrow is Alpha Centauri or Trishanku. The following picture is a simple representation of these stars seen with naked eye.

The background Centaurus is also shown in the above picture. Somewhere from this Centaurus, the sages have deduced the southern Sapta Rishi Mandala. As it keeps rotating around the southern pole, it seems to go round Trishanku, owing to its location within Centaurus and towards the south in the inner side.

Trishanku is regarded as part of the Centaurus group that forms the core of Laniakea towards which we are moving. (Though Canopus (Agasthya) was once considered as part of Centaurus group (Scorpius- Centaurus Association), today it is not treated so by the astronomy community.)  

A probable design of the southern Sapta Rishi Mandala that Vishwamitra identified (created as per the myth) could have been as follows.

As per this diagram, the 7 stars of the Centaurus constellation marked in yellow could make a circumambulation of Trishanku (Alpha Centauri) everyday as it moves in circumpolarity which is true for all times in the Vedic concept of 54 degree span of polar movement.

With South Pole marking the path of Vaishvanara, the Trishanku references point out to a turnaround of Centaurus / Laniakea in the region or direction of Trishanku which means that those looking for life in outer space can shift their focus away from this direction. 

Related articles:-

பிரபஞ்சம் செல்லும் பாதையும் பித்ரு காரியத்தின் அவசியமும்


VirtualPresence said...

Thank you, that was a very interesting read. It is quite fascinating to learn about the scale of the thought process of ancient rishis. It would be fascinating if stories like this accompanied by graphic illustrations and data from modern research can be woven into discreet episodes that can be narrated to our future generations. Word of mouth (may be videos in this generation?) is after all one of the most effective means of preserving a culture.

Was it the case that this new information lead to your reinterpretation of the Trishanku story, as is usually the case where new data leads to new theories, or was it the case that the theory already existed and the new discovery adds some data points to it?

skm said...

Thank yo! Really this is an amazing read with plethora of information scientifically with vedic background. Much appreciated!!

jayasree said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts VirtualPresence. The reality is that a vast number of stories (myths) are yet to be properly understood to convey them without deviating from the Hindu thought. Therefore there is a danger of presenting them in a wrong way. (Even Ramayana is being presented in a very objectionable way in a recent TV series). Where there is proper scientific backing, those stories can be presented with the scientific facts. In my opinion, such understanding with logical and scientific perspective comes only with age. At childhood we listened to these stories with awe and disbelief, but without doubting our faith in our Gods. Therefore my thinking is that let kids be fed with strong faith in Gods while being exposed to these myths. As they grow old and get exposed to science, they would explore and realize the various utilities of these myths.

Yesterday a science research on conflict between science and religion to be present in our brains was published ( This conflict will be there for believers of Christian and Muslim faith but certainly not for Hindus. Almost all our myths and stories have either moral reasoning or scientific / logical background ingrained in them. The understanding of them would come with age and experience with life only.

To reply to the second part of your comment, the discovery on the hidden galaxies was reported lat month end. It did fascinate me at the first instance because as an avid star-gazer, I am always perplexed at that part of Great Attractor in the sky as you cannot see any stars in that vast section and the sky also looks dim in that part. I showed a hand made sketch in the article connecting northern sapta rishi mandala to Trishanku (Alpha Centauri). A regular star-gazer would not miss the line of stars as I had shown. That is the only part of the sky in 360 degrees where you will find a line-up from northern end to southern end. In my younger days, I had imagined all sorts of stories / myths to fit with that. But nothing was convincing. Trishanku in the South also looked like a loner to me.

Now when I read about the discoveries in Great Attractor, I started browsing to know the complete details on the galaxies in that section. The presence of Milky way galaxy in the border line between Laniakea and Pisces was an amazing information to me. There is something also in this section which I have not written in the article. It is the presence of "Arrow head super cluster" in the middle of these two massive clusters of north and south. This cluster divides the filaments through which the galaxies move. Somewhere near this cluster, we (Mikly way) had to a take a turn and start moving northward. I was convinced of this as Hindu Thought insists on northern movement for Devayana and that all life is destined for Liberation sometime.


jayasree said...

Read about Arrowhead cluster here:
This video also helps to understand easily:-

The shape of this cluster led me to think of Trishanku and that made me go through the legend of Trishanku from Ramayana to look for clues. This cluster is conical in shape and the super cluster of Laniakea and Pisces along with another super cluster called Coma cluster seem to be rotating this Arrowhead. This fulfills the description of Trishanku as a cone, as a three sided one and as something which the worlds circummabulate. I started writing this article at that time itself (last month end) and came upto Trishanku. But there is one thing that was not convincing to me. It was the fact that we can not view it in the sky. It looked absurd for me to say that our sages got its location (of Arrowhead cluster) by intuition and expect others (both scientists and believers) to accept it in an article where I am trying to prove that Vedic sages had encapsulated science in myths.

I almost gave up continuing this article and started thinking on Trishanku, Alpha centauri and its location as seen from the earth. What I conceived step by step looked logical in course (Vishwamitra, the three blemishes, gayatri mantra and finally south pole star). It looks logical to have Vishwamitra to have identified Trishanku as the South pole star. So I would say that the sages have woven the Trishanku myth by combining the star that existed as the pole star in the south with the Sanatanic moral of leaving off the three ruNas. Every time one looks at the star or thinks of Trishanku, one must remember the three blemishes and work towards removing them by thinking of Trishanku who was helped by the Friend of Vishwam.

To reply to your question, the new data adds credence to Vedic theories of Lunar path in the direction of Great Attractor, absence of Vaishvanara in the south and perhaps Arrowhead cluster as the surging Mriga (Mrigashira) to be discovered some time in future as the direction our Universe is surging. Somewhere in between these I stumbled upon Trishanku as the southern pole star. I have proposed the candidature of Agasthya (Canopus) as a pole star at one time and also Vasishta as a northern pole star at one time based on the myths. I have sent this article to Dr Naraahri Achar, Prof R.N. Iyengar, Dr Subhash Kak, Dr David Frawley and Sri Stephan Knapp. Let me see their response.

Already Dr Sandhya Jain replied that there is "so much in line with Hindu memory what we call myth.."Dr Arun Upadhyay also had responded which I will be posting here.

jayasree said...

Thank you Mr skm.

jayasree said...

Dr Arun Upadhyay wrote:-

Śanku and Tri-śanku has several meanings.

Śanku = (1) 1013,
(2) Cone,
(3 Cone shaped gnomon (to measure shadow of sun etc for finding time, latitude),
(4) Curves generated by plane sections of a cone. Cone is an infinite figure formed by rotation of a right angle triangle around its perpendicular. Hypotenus and axis are extended to infinite in both directions.

By section with a plane. 3 curves are formed-(1) Perpendicular to axis-Circle, slightly inclined plane-ellipse
(2) Plane parallel to axis-Hyperbola with 2 parts. Plane exactly passing through axis-2 intersecting lines.
(3) Plane parallel to side-Parabola
Any cosmic object moving in a gravitational field will move in a one of the conic sections-If it is unable to escape gravitational pull, then ellipse ( or circle as special case), (2) If it can just escape, then parabolic orbit-very long ellipse like orbit of comets, (3) Hyperbola if velocity is more than escape velocity.
Thus, all cosmic bodies are held by Śanku (or its plane sections)-
शङ्कु भवत्यह्नो धृत्यै यद्वा अधृतं शङ्कुना तद्दाधार (ताण्ड्य महाब्राह्मण, ११/१०/११)

As a number, Śanku = 1013. Size of Kūrma which encloses galaxy is hundred thousand times Śanku (1018) yojanas. Starting from earth (diameter defined as 1000 yojana-1000 petalled lotus), solar system (gravitational zone called earth) and galaxy are successively 107 times bigger. Thus, galaxy = 1000 x 107 x 107 = 1017 Yojana. Thus, Kūrma (1018) is 10 times bigger than galaxy. Since this does work (of creating galaxy), it is called Kūrma. It is zone of light, so it is called Golok in Brahma Vaivarta Purāṇa. In Ahargaṇa units (2 power n-3 of earth radius, n = ahargaṇa unit), its measure is 56 = Śakvarī Chhanda of 14 x4 letters.
ब्रह्मवैवर्त पुराण, प्रकृति खण्ड, अध्याय ३-अथाण्डं तजलेऽतिष्टद्यावद्वै ब्रह्मणो वयः॥१॥
तन्मध्ये शिशुरेकश्च शतकोटिरविप्रभः॥२॥ स्थूलात्स्थूलतमः सोऽपि नाम्ना देवो महाविराट्॥४॥
तत ऊर्ध्वे च वैकुण्ठो ब्रह्माण्डाद् बहिरेव सः॥९॥
तदूर्ध्वे गोलकश्चैव पञ्चाशत् कोटियोजनात्॥१०॥नित्यौ गोलोक वैकुण्ठौसत्यौ शश्वदकृत्रिमौ॥१६॥
शतपथ ब्राह्मण (७/५/१/५)-स यत्कूर्मो नामा एतद्वै रूपं कृत्वा प्रजापतिः प्रजा असृजत, यदसृजत अकरोत्-तद् यद् अकरोत् तस्मात् कूर्मः॥
नरपति जयचर्या, स्वरोदय (कूर्म-चक्र)-मानेन तस्य कूर्मस्य कथयामि प्रयत्नतः।
शङ्कोः शतसहस्राणि योजनानि वपुः स्थितम्॥
ताण्ड्य महाब्राह्मण(११/१०) शङ्कुभवत्यह्नो धृत्यै यद्वा अधृतं शङ्कुना तद्दाधार॥११॥
तद् (शङ्कु साम) उसीदन्ति इयमित्यमाहुः॥१२॥
ऐतरेय ब्राह्मण (५/७)-यदिमान् लोकान् प्रजापतिः सृष्ट्वेदं सर्वमशक्नोद् तद् शक्वरीणां शक्वरीत्वम्॥
Thus, Tri-Śanku = 3 x 1013.
In Uṣā sūkta, yojana = half degree of equator = 55.5 kms.
सदृशीरद्य सदृशीरिदु श्वो दीर्घं सचन्ते वरुणस्य धाम ।
अनवद्यास्त्रिंशतं योजनान्येकैका क्रतुं परियन्ति सद्यः ॥ (ऋक्, १/१२३/८)

It is stated that Uṣā moves 30 Dhāma ahead of sun in west (direction of Varuṇa). These, Dhāmas will have varying length on each latitude, it will be largest at equator. Indian convention is that Uṣā is 15 degrees west of sunrise (western convention for higher latitudes of Europe is 18 degree). So, 1 Dhāma yojana = ½ degree on equator. In this scale, distance of Tri-Śanku star is 3 x 1013 yojanas
= 55.5 x 3 x 1013 Kms
= 55.5 x 108 light seconds
= 55.5 x 108/(86400 x 365.5) Light year
= 175.87 Light years. This is approximate distance of Tri-Śanku star.

jayasree said...

Dr Upadhyay has given some insights into Shanku and Trishanku. One of the meanings of Shanku is 10 billion. By trishanku it must mean that Trishanku must be 30 billions away from us. Though the Arrowhead super cluster may fit with this, it must be away in terms of millions of light years only. More over with observable star light going up to 13+ billion years, it is illogical to speak about a star at distances far beyond that and claim our sages have spoken about them. As Trishanku story speaks about Southern sapta rishi mandala going round this star, the clue is very much available that the story speaks about the pole star in the southern pole.

The distance of 175.87 light years for Trishanku does not fit Alpha centauri which is only 4+ light years away. It does not fit with Arrowhead cluster either as that must be millions of light years away. The Virgo super cluster is 65 million light years away. Arrowhead which is beyond that must be more than that distance.

Unknown said...

Stunning, beyond scaling , size, if we think, makes whole cosmos inside us.