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Waxing and Waning of the Moon: Mahabharat Katha

Ever won­dered why the moon wax­es and wanes as we observe it from the earth or why does he spend equal time in each of the con­stel­la­tions? Here is a sto­ry in the Mahab­hara­ta that gives to rea­son. The sto­ry is nar­rat­ed by Vaisham­payana to Janame­jaya in the Shalya Par­va where the for­mer talks about the sig­nif­i­cance of Prab­hasa (cur­rent­ly Som­nath in gujarat) which was vis­it­ed by Balara­ma dur­ing his thirtha yatra.

Dak­sha Pra­jap­ati had 27 daugh­ters who were all mar­ried to the Moon. These 27 daugh­ters helped man on earth to cal­cu­late the time and change of sea­sons. As it hap­pens with sev­er­al mar­riages, Soma (moon) was so fond of Rohi­ni (one of the 27 daugh­ters) that he spent most of his time with her. Dis­turbed by this, the oth­er daugh­ters went to Dak­sha and cried that Soma hard­ly pays any atten­tion to them and lives most­ly with Rohi­ni. Angered with this, Dak­sha cursed the Moon to con­tract an incur­able dis­ease. As a result the moon start­ed get­ting ema­ci­at­ed. As a con­se­quence, all crea­tures depen­dent on the moon too start­ed decay­ing. Only a small por­tion of the moon was vis­i­ble. When the celes­tials went to Daskha request­ing him to revoke the curse, Dak­sha men­tioned that the curse is dif­fi­cult to revoke. How­ev­er, he added that Soma will regain his lus­tre and size once he bathes in the Prab­hasa and spends equal time with all wives. He would wax for half a month and wane for half a month. Thus, Soma regained his lus­tre by tak­ing a dip in Prab­hasa and now we have the phas­es of the moon. He spends about 1 day in each con­stel­la­tion (naksha­tra) i.e about 13.20 degrees there­by cov­er­ing 360 degrees. The Naksha­tra where the moon is locat­ed on a par­tic­u­lar day is the birth star of the per­son accord­ing to the Hin­du cal­en­dar.

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