The Vishnu Purana, translated by Horace Hayman Wilson, , at sacred-texts.com
Description of the moon: his chariot, horses, and course: fed by the sun: drained periodically of ambrosia by the progenitors and gods. The chariots and horses of the planets: kept in their orbits by aerial chains attached to Dhruva. Typical members of the planetary porpoise. Vásudeva alone real.
PARÁŚARA.--The chariot of the moon has three wheels, and is drawn by ten horses, of the whiteness of the Jasmine, five on the right half (of the yoke), five on the left. It moves along the asterisms, divided into ranges, as before described; and, in like manner as the sun, is upheld by Dhruva; the cords that fasten it being tightened or relaxed in the same way, as it proceeds on its course. The horses of the moon, sprung from the bosom of the waters 1, drag the car for a whole Kalpa, as do the coursers of the sun. The radiant sun supplies the moon, when reduced by the draughts of the gods to a single Kalá, with a single ray; and in the same proportion as the ruler of the night was exhausted by the celestials, it is replenished by the sun, the plunderer of the waters: for the gods, Maitreya, drink the nectar and ambrosia accumulated in the moon during half the month, and from this being their food they are immortal. Thirty-six thousand three hundred and thirty-three divinities drink the lunar ambrosia. When two digits remain, the moon enters the orbit of the sun, and abides in the ray called Amá; whence the period is termed Amávásya. In that orbit the moon is immersed for a day and night in the water; thence it enters the branches and shoots of the trees; and thence goes to the sun. Consequently any one who cuts off a branch, or casts down a leaf, when the moon is in the trees (the day of its rising invisible), is guilty of Brahmanicide. When the remaining portion of the moon consists of but a fifteenth part, the progenitors approach it in the afternoon, and drink the last portion, that sacred Kali which is composed of ambrosia, and contained in the two digits of
the form of the moon 2. Having drank the nectar effused by the lunar rays on the day of conjunction, the progenitors are satisfied, and remain tranquil for the ensuing month. These progenitors (or Pitris) are of three classes, termed Saumyas, Varhishadas, and Agnishwáttas 3. In this manner the moon, with its cooling rays, nourishes the gods in the light fortnight, the Pitris in the dark fortnight; vegetables, with the cool nectary aqueous atoms it sheds upon them; and through their developement it sustains men, animals, and insects; at the same time gratifying them by its radiance.
The chariot of the son of Chandra, Budha or Mercury, is composed of the elementary substances air and fire, and is drawn by eight bay horses of the speed of the wind. The vast car of Śukra (Venus) is drawn by earth-born horses 4, is equipped with a protecting fender and a floor, armed with arrows, and decorated by a banner. The splendid car of
[paragraph continues] Bhauma (Mars) is of gold, of an octagonal shape, drawn by eight horses, of a ruby red, sprung from fire. Vrihaspati (Jupiter), in a golden car drawn by eight pale-coloured horses, travels from sign to sign in the period of a year: and the tardy-paced Śani (Saturn) moves slowly along in a car drawn by piebald steeds. Eight black horses draw the dusky chariot of Ráhu, and once harnessed are attached to it for ever. On the Parvas (the nodes, or lunar and solar eclipses), Ráhu directs his course from the sun to the moon, and back again from the moon to the sun 5. The eight horses of the chariot of Ketu are of the dusky red colour of Lac, or of the smoke of burning straw.
I have thus described to you, Maitreya, the chariots of the nine planets, all which are fastened to Dhruva by aerial cords. The orbs of all the planets, asterisms, and stars are attached to Dhruva, and travel accordingly in their proper orbits, being kept in their places by their respective bands of air. As many as are the stars, so many are the chains of air that secure them to Dhruva; and as they turn round, they cause the pole-star also to revolve. In the same manner as the oil-man himself, going round, causes the spindle to revolve, so the planets travel round, suspended by cords of air, which are circling round a (whirling) centre. The air, which is called Pravaha, is so termed because it bears along the planets, which turn round, like a disc of fire, driven by the aerial wheel 6.
The celestial porpoise, in which Dhruva is fixed, has been mentioned, but you shall hear its constituent parts in more detail, as it is of great efficacy; for the view of it at night expiates whatever sin has been committed during the day; and those who behold it live as many years as there are stars in it, in the sky, or even more. Uttánapáda is to be considered as its upper jaw; Sacrifice as its lower. Dharma is situated on its brow; Náráyańa in its heart. The Áswins are its two fore feet;
and Varuńa and Áryamat its two hinder legs. Samvatsara is its sexual organ; Mitra its organ of excretion. Agni, Mahendra, Kaśyapa, and Dhruva, in succession, are placed in its tail; which four stars in this constellation never set 7.
I have now described to you the disposition of the earth and of the stars; of the insular zones, with their oceans and mountains, their Varshas or regions, and their inhabitants: their nature has also been explained, but it may be briefly recapitulated.
From the waters, which are the body of Vishńu, was produced the lotus-shaped earth, with its seas and mountains. The stars are Vishńu; the worlds are Vishńu; forests, mountains, regions, rivers, oceans are Vishńu: he is all that is, all that is not. He, the lord, is identical with knowledge, through which he is all forms, but is not a substance. You must conceive therefore mountains, oceans, and all the diversities of earth and the rest, are the illusions of the apprehension. When knowledge is pure, real, universal, independent of works, and exempt from defect, then the varieties of substance, which are the fruit of the tree of desire, cease to exist in matter. For what is substance? Where is the thing that is devoid of beginning, middle, and end, of one uniform
nature? How can reality be predicated of that which is subject to change, and reassumes no more its original character? Earth is fabricated into a jar; the jar is divided into two halves; the halves are broken to pieces; the pieces become dust; the dust becomes atoms. Say, is this reality? though it be so understood by man, whose self-knowledge is impeded by his own acts. Hence, Brahman, except discriminative knowledge, there is nothing any where, or at any time, that is real. Such knowledge is but one, although it appear manifold, as diversified by the various consequences of our own acts. Knowledge perfect, pure, free from pain, and detaching the affections from all that causes affliction; knowledge single and eternal--is the supreme Vásudeva, besides whom there is nothing. The truth has been thus communicated to you by me; that knowledge which is truth; from which all that differs is false. That information, however, which is of a temporal and worldly nature has also been imparted to you; the sacrifice, the victim, the fire, the priests, the acid juice, the gods, the desire for heaven, the path pursued by acts of devotion and the rest, and the worlds that are their consequences, have been displayed to you. In that universe which I have described, he for ever migrates who is subject to the influence of works; but he who knows Vásudeva to be eternal, immutable, and of one unchanging, universal form, may continue to perform them 8, as thereby he enters into the deity.
238:1 So is the car, according to the Váyu. The orb of the moon, according to the Linga, is only congealed water; as that of the sun is concentrated heat.
239:2 There is some indistinctness in this account, from a confusion between the division of the moon's surface into sixteen Kalás or phases, and its apportionment, as a receptacle of nectar, into fifteen Kalás or digits, corresponding to the fifteen lunations, on the fourteen of which, during the wane, the gods drink the amrita, and on the fifteenth of which the Pitris exhaust the remaining portion. The correspondence of the two distinctions appears to be intended by the text, which terms the remaining digit or Kalá, composed of Amrita, the form or superficies of the two Kalás. This, the commentator observes, is the fifteenth, not the sixteenth. The commentator on our text observes, also, that the passage is sometimes read ###, Lava meaning 'a moment,' 'a short period.' The Matsya and Váyu express the parallel passage so as to avoid all perplexity, by specifying the two Kalás as referring to time, and leaving the number of nectareous Kalás undefined: 'They, the Pitris, drink the remaining Kalás in two Kalás of time.' Col. Warren explains Kalá, or, as he 'writes it, Calá, in one of its acceptations, 'the phases of the moon, of which the Hindus count sixteen.' Kála Sankalita, 359. So the Bhágavata terms the moon, and the Váyu, after noticing the exhaustion of the fifteenth portion on the day of conjunction, states the recurrence of increase or wane to take place in the sixteenth phase at the beginning of each fortnight.
239:3 The Váyu and Matsya add a fourth class, the Kavyas; identifying them with the cyclic years; the Saumyas and Agnishwáttas with the seasons; and the Varhishads with the months.
239:4 The Váyu makes the horses ten in number, each of a different colour.
240:5 The Matsya, Linga, and Váyu add the circumstance of Ráhu's taking up, on these occasions, the circular shadow of the earth.
240:6 The different bands of air attached to Dhruva are, according to the commentator, varieties of the Pravaha wind; but the Kúrma and Linga enumerate seven principal winds which perform this function, of which the Pravaha is one.
241:7 The four last are therefore stars in the circle of perpetual apparition. One of these is the pole-star; and in Kaśyapa we have a verbal affinity to Cassiopeia. The Śiśumára, or porpoise, is rather a singular symbol for the celestial sphere; but it is not more preposterous than many of the constellations of classical fiction. The component parts of it are much more fully detailed, in the Bhágavata, whence it has been translated by Sir Wm. Jones. As. Res. II. 402. The Bhágavata, however, mystifies the description, and says it is nothing more than the Dhárańá, or symbol, by which Vishńu, identified with the starry firmament, is to be impressed upon the mind in meditation. The account of the planetary system is, as usual, fullest in the Váyu, with which the Linga and Matsya nearly agree. The Bhavishya is nearly, also, the same. They all contain many passages common to them and to our text. In the Agni, Padma, Kúrma, Bráhma, Garud́a, and Vámana descriptions occur which enter into less detail than the Vishńu, and often use its words, or passages found in other Puráńas. Many intimations of a similar system occur in the Vedas, but whether the whole is to be found in those works is yet to be ascertained. It must not be considered as a correct representation of the philosophical astronomy of the Hindus, being mixed up with, and deformed by, mythological and symbolical fiction.
242:8 Only, however, as far as they are intended to propitiate Vishńu, and not for any other purpose.