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By Deepak Bhattacharya 1 & P. C. Naik
Edited by Christopher F. Ash

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Celestial aspects of the Nakshetra

The point at which the celestial equator and the ecliptic intersect with the star a Ori at its zenith is an interesting location in the night-sky and, when such a coincidence occurs, it offers a celestial spectacle.

At some point of time in the past…

{ i } Rudra, that is, "Betelgeuse" or "a Ori", could have been aligned on a local latitude, along with the intersection of the ecliptic, offering a very, very rare seasonal celestial spectacle in the night sky. This visible alignment (static Orion, with or without ecliptic) would have occurred for the longest period (approximately 5000 to 6000 years) at latitude 20 degrees north, which is the approximate latitude of the Tropic of Cancer [from +18 degrees to +23.5 and back until +18 is reached, i.e. 10 or 11 degrees in precession in 5500 / 6000 years]. This period would certainly have been long enough for the phenomena to act as a long-lasting celestial guide, and form the cultural inspiration for the identified monuments and rituals.

{ ii } This phenomenon occurs only prior to the advent of the Common Era. When we move to 1 AD, or to the 1st century B.C., we note that a Ori achieves a much lower declination, and the above-discussed seasonal alignment (to the naked eye observer) is no longer feasible at zenithal position on latitude +20 degrees.

Oddly, the mention of Nataraja's prior and first appearance in the forest of TARAKKA ( Mahanadi / Prachi basin ) can be justified if we consider the Puranic version as a valid report of past celestial happenings; this would date such a 1st appearance to Orion's previous precession cycle, roughly 31,000 to 25,000 years ago!

{ iii } This same alignment occurs again on the equator or, more importantly (from the Indian, sub-continental angle) on latitude 10 degrees north - which is the location of the Chidambaram / Kaveri basin and Deccan plateau (the intersecting point of the ecliptic and a Ori ). The phenomena would have been visible here for approx 1000 to 2000 years only. All these might have inspired the ancient observer to note it as "the center of Universe."2 5

However, it is possible that this precession of Orion (which is associated only with Lord Shiva) may have also caused the migration of the faithful - within the tropics - possibly explaining the extensive spatial distribution of Shiva Lingas and Shiva temples within the tropics.

The 1st appearance at Chidambaram ( Kaveri Valley ), or alignment with latitude +10 degrees, is ascribable to Orions’s previous precession into Northern hemisphere ( return from the south ), which occurred between 28,000 and 36000 years ago. The 2nd appearance coincides with Orion's return back to southern latitudes, datable to 21000 to 19000 B C or 21000 to 23000 years ago. The 3rd apearance occured between 2000 and 3000 years ago, between 1000 B.C. and 1000 A D, which is the current cycle.

Archaeological evidence has been recovered at the +10 degree latitude of southern India. This doesn not indicate a prima facie terrestrial Tarakka. Ground surveys and submarine archaeology are still required to clear the issue, but we believe the possibility is good that a south-Indian Tarakka exists. The antiquity of sites of any such terrestrial TARAKKA will then have great relationship with the textual term of “1st appearance” and go some way toward authenticating the authority of the texts. Traditions as current at Chidambaram however push the date of the shrine to eons past. Iconographically, the enshrined deity at Chidambaram is directly dedicated to Nataraj and relates to alpha Orionis.

Comparing the major extant ancient Nataraj sculptures of India , the present Chidambaram variety incorporates many features that are well developed from angle of iconography, considered late by historians. Whereas it is all abstract symbols that have been enshrined at Ekamra ( Bhubaneswar ).

That Orion's up-and-down precession may have lead the faithful of such a school to become accordingly spatially separated is amply supported by the prevalence of orthodox Shiva linga worshippers over the Godavari / Narmada – Saurastra belt of the Deccan plateau in the Indian sub-continent. It may be relevant to note that the Lingayats even today wear in pendants around their necks, or stuck with sacred thread, a small model (mostly made of Gold Or Silver) of Shiva Linga, "Orion's signature." Saurastra infact offers the Orion concept on Ground, not Tarakka, neither Nakshetra.

Further study may indicate that Vedicism may have been synonymous with Orionism, later known as, and identified with Shaivism: a school of thought possibly 100% indigenous to the geographical belt on the Indian mainland, south of the 23rd parallel ( Vindhyachal to Satpura valley / tropic of Cancer). In short, it corroborates the view that none of these philosophies or ways-of-life are imports.

{ iv } The southern archaeology of the cognate group, however, is in contrast with the ancient seat of Kalinga ( our other paper ).

{ v } The very fact that the Chidambaram tradition refers to the happenings in the forest of TARAKKA as the 1st instance, and repeated only then on +10 latitude, underscores the following important possible positions (apart many more permutations):

a ] Astral alignment over the equator is discounted as it was unlikely to have been observed in any way capable of influencing life or thought on the Indian sub-continent + 20 latitude; although this may have happened twice in one precession cycle of Orion. Nevertheless, we find such a precession cycle may have drawn saivaits into S.E. Asian archipelago i.e. they seemed to have followed Orion back and forth .

b ] That post 29,000 B C (i.e after Nataraja's appearance in TARAKKA zone [ 1st appearance]), Orion must have precessed past latitude +10 in its southward precession path only few thousand years later ( around 21000 - 19000 B C ) . This aspect remains obscure as it is not referred to by that very learned society who took ample care to refer to TARAKKA and the 1st instance. This may mean that the Kaveri basin was devoid of any sizable civilization, or that what civilization was present did not identify itself with Orion at the time, as it did later OR it indeed means 21000 - 19000 B C period 7. We are not out to invent history; we are only intent upon the consideration of collateral matters .

c ] That the 2nd observation was noted and termed *the centre of the universe* ( irrespective of date ) also indicates the possible fact that the ability and practice to note in script had by such time evolved, in contrast to the time of the previous appearance ! The various Puranas (ancient religious / mythological texts) that talk about NATARAJA / such astral phenomenon, are very late works, dated between 10th - 17 th A D 7 .

d ] That by such admission it is indicated that civilization identifying itself with Orion did exist in the Central and South ( Indian subcontinent ) ; which again means that existence of such Religio - Civil societies ( saivaits ) may have been a pan-Indian phenomenon, even in such remote times!

e ] While 2 dates are apparent for the 2nd appearance, the texts refer to only one instance; there is no such conflict in the case of 1st appearance .

f ] All this boils down to the possible fact that a section of the civilization was indeed avid star gazers and identified itself and its god with the constellation Orion, and possibly also migrated in reference to it. They are known as Saivaits. It may be relevant to context that Nataraja of Chidambaram is considered as the cosmic aspect of Lord Shiva and has special festivals relating it to Adra / Rudra2.

During the period 36,000 B.C. to 11,000 B.C., or till 8000 BC, the Himalayan Rivers were in glacial phase followed by a deluge phase (Govardhna episode) between 8000 B.C. and 5000 B.C. The banks may have been swept clean by this event. Hence the southern and highland sources and remains survived better.

[The Ekamra vrs Chidambaram comparison is based on the assumption that our identification of TARAKKA geographical zone holds good.

In separate material. Bhattacharya has produced archaeological evidence of Ananda Nataraja, as described in Upa and Sthala Purana (sub and local epics ).].

It is at that point of time ( above ( i ) ) that the tradition of Lord Siva ( Kala Purusha / Orion ) appearing in his cosmic form in the center of the universe, and performing the Ananda Nataraja ( The joyful dancing Lord ? ),6 may have taken genesis in the minds of the faithful. At that point of time (above ( i )) the scheme of Nakshetra settles as a square peg in a square hole ( as does TARAKKA ). The location of the archaeology of the as-yet buried monument of Bhavani Shankar ( Aniruddha e Ori ) indicates good geometric consonance in the scheme of monuments identified in this study as building members of the ground model of Orion but, as said, this monument has yet to be excavated.

(The name of this monument is Bhavani Sankar. It got buried by the earth ramp that was erected during the construction of the great spire of Lingaraj – beta Orionis. It faces North and offers interesting co-relation with astrals) .

Such a central position (i.e. the ancient concept of Nataraja appearing at the the centre of the Universe, preceded only by his previous appearance in the forest of Tarakka2) is computable to only above mentioned celestial timings and is very rare in the whole night sky (for either hemisphere). All other points of intersection are meaningless without Orion (at zenith and a river valley beneath).

In 2002 AD, b Orionis is yet to cross the equator ( whereas a Orionis, being Rudra /Shiva, the focus could not have been any other astral body ), a spectacular phenomenon where planets could be seen coinciding and passing right over Betelgeuse / Shiva / Rudra / the then supreme divinity. Visibility of such a rare celestial spectacle could again have been limited by nocturnal hours, the season (position of ecliptic) and a clear sky (non-cloudy). It may also be for such reasons (profound effect on the faithful mind) that we find Orion to have been fully copied on the ground and forming the hub of the Nakshetra, while a Orionis forms the hub of TARAKKA.

TARAKKA could possibly be the replication of that very picture (above ( i ) ) and that rare celestial phenomena as observed by the ancients. Tarakka was celestially inspired, each part being the part of the other. Tarakka and Nakshetra can be swapped.

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  1. A Coomarswami ; Dance of Shiva - Sunrise Turn Inc, NY - 1924; pp 56 and 57 . In separate communication Bhattacharya has produced archaeological evidence of Ananda Nataraja as described in Upa and Sthala Purana (sub and local epics ).].
  2. The various mythic / religious / literary texts refer to the 2nd appearance as if it had occurred in the distanced past . They do not announce that it ' has happened here and now ' The grammar in neither in present continuous as in Rik Veda nor is the text a commentary on / of celestial happenings .

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