nakṣatra

(‘star’, ‘constellation’)

In Hindu astronomy and astrology nakṣatra is an important subject. It (the lunar mansion) is the name of 1/27th part of the path of the moon round the earth (13.33 degrees of the sky). The period of sidereal revolution of the moon is a little less than 27 days and 8 hours. Thus the moon travels through a little less than one nakṣatra (cluster of stars) every day. The day itself can be named after the nakṣatra occupied by the moon on that day. This system of naming seems to be very ancient since there are references to it even in the Vedas (vide Ṛgveda 10.85.13).

The Atharvaveda (14.7) and the Maitrāyaṇīya Saṁhitā (2.13.20) give the names of 28 nakṣatras beginning with Kṛttikā and in this list is mentioned Abhijit also which disappears from the lists of later periods.

The purāṇas consider the 27 nakṣatras as the daughters of Dakṣa and married to Candra (Moon).

The nakṣatras are: Aśvinī, Bharaṇī, Kṛttikā, Rohiṇī, Mṛgaśiras, Ārdrā, Punarvasu, Puṣya, Āśleṣa, Maghā, Pūrvaphālgunī, Uttaraphālgunī, Hastā, Citrā, Svātī, Viśākhā, Anūrādhā, Jyeṣṭhā, Mūlā, Pūrvāṣāḍhā, Uttarāṣāḍhā, Śravaṇā, Dhaniṣṭhā, Śatabhiṣa, Pūrva-bhādrapadā, Uttara-bhādrapadā, Revatī.

These nakṣatras are related to the rāśis (the twelve zodiacal signs).

Astrological works classify the nakṣatras as male and female and also as puṇya (beneficent) and pāpa (malefic).

In naming a new-born babe, the nakṣatra in which it was born, is taken into consideration.

See also RĀŚI.