Animal Symbols of the Nakshatras

Komilla Sutton
Komilla Sutton

by Komilla Sutton

The animal symbols of the nakshatras are full of deep meanings and esoteric significance. In most books, the animal symbols are only given in connection with the sexual compatibility of the nakshatras in the kuta system of relationship compatibility.

But if you really think about their deeper significance, you start unravelling a fascinating picture, not just about the nakshatras but also of their behaviour pattern. The animal connected to the nakshatras will give indication of the personality, behaviour pattern, and relationship with other nakshatras not just from a sexual point of view, but the more spiritual connection.

The nakshatras are divided into female and male animal energies. The male nakshatra is the more dynamic nakshatra; the female nakshatra is passive one. The purpose of this article is to look beyond the sexual comparisons that most of the text use the animal symbols and study the deeper meaning of the animal symbolism of the nakshatras.

In ancient texts, the explanation were kept short or just basic as the writers presumed that these books were studied with the help of a teacher and it was left to the teachers to unlock the deeper meanings. The texts were used as guides to the teachers so that they covered the whole thing.

In this way, the seers protected the sacred knowledge from falling into the wrong hands. There is a lot written about the nakshatras, their symbolism, gunas, doshas etc., but most of it is unexplained.

Here we will try to decipher what the seers meant by linking each nakshatra to a particular animal sign. The aim of this article is to open the minds to understanding the depth of knowledge a keyword word expresses.

Please note, I am not suggesting that this is the way, the seers would have expressed it, but giving my interpretation of what these animal signs indicate- but to guide you towards spending time and looking more intuitively at each of the meanings of the nakshatras.

The nakshatra animal signs are:

Ashwini: Male Horse

Horses in Vedas are always connected to the Sun. The dynamism of the male horse carrying the Sun to a new dawn indicates the connection to light. The horses will tow a chariot, carry a warrior, carry the Sun. This gives importance to Ashwini nakshatras.

The Sun is exalted here and the horse is the preferred transport of the Sun god. The Horse helps the Sun God to bring light where there was darkness. The Sun fulfils its mission to enlighten soul to their new path of life. Sun’s exaltation in Ashwini is a reminder to the soul of their eternal connection.

Also when the Sun is searching for his wife he takes the form of a horse – again highlighting great importance that has been given to the horse in the Vedas.

Ashwini is connected to the Sun – the keyword or the symbolism of the horse should immediately alert the student of the strong solar connection of Ashwini and the Vedic symbolism of dawn. The Sun stands for purity, soul, fire and eternity – all factors that are connected to Ashwini. The horses as the harbinger of a new day explain Ashwinis need to search for new beginnings.

Characteristics connected to the male horse: The qualities of independence, beauty, and wildness are all expressions of Ashwini. The horse is difficult to tame, it values its independence, and it is usually extremely beautiful.

Bharani: Male Elephant

Bharani is usually linked to excessive sexuality and the sensuous nature. Bharani’s animal symbol is the Elephant. Elephant is worshipped in India as an image of the Ganesha. Bharani’s connection to Ganesha shows another side of Bharani.

Saturn is debilitated in Bharani and this debilitation is directly connected to the myth of the birth of Ganesha. When Ganesha was born, all the planets went to see this beautiful child of Shiva and Parvati. Saturn refused to see the new born child. Parvati urged Shani to see her child.

Shani refuse saying that his aspect can destroy the child. Parvati did not believe him and urged him to look at her child. The moment Shani looked at the child, his head was destroyed. Shiva went and found the head of the first living being, which was an elephant and this is how Ganesha has a head of an elephant.

This myth shows why Saturn is debilitated in the nakshatra where Elephant/Ganesha is the symbol. So the key word of the elephant would immediately alert the teacher that Shani would not be well placed in this nakshatra.

Bharani’s connection to Ganesha indicates there is more to Bharani than intense sexuality. Bharani has the capacity for greatness, if they learn to control their sexuality.

Also the elephant can go into a state of must or extreme lust which is strongly connected with Bharani. Bharani weakness for sex can take them to a stage of Must which can lead them to destroying not just themselves but others.

Elephants symbolism also shows Bharani being larger than life, respected by others, strong personality. Elephants usually work for others. They are strong beautiful animals who do not recognise their own beauty. They are also vegetarians – showing a sattvic nature that forms part of the elephant/bharani psyche.

Krittika: Female Sheep

Sheep like to be in herds. They are fickle, frisky with a very nervous temperament. The sheep hardly ever fight for their mate. Kritikka is considered the nakshatra where power is born. The passivity of this nakshatra represents their ability to nurture power. Power in itself does not know how it will be expressed. Power can be used both for good and bad. Krittika being a female nakshatra suggests passivity, indicating that Krittika needs outer energy or life circumstance to activate their power. They will be naturally be peace loving, unless circumstances or their environment forces them to access their outer power. Planets in Krittika activate its passive energy.

According to the Skanda Purana, Daksha Prajapati had a great Yagya where he did not invite Shiva, who was married to his daughter Dakshayani as he felt his son-in-law did not give him due respect. Shiva being slighted, he threw a lock of his matted hair in anger from the Sacred Mount Kailash. From this lock emerged Vidharbha- a formidable person of three eyes and a thousand arms. He with other Shiva worshippers created havoc to the yagya. Daksha was beheaded. Brahma who was Daksha’s father intervened.

Shiva wanted to give back Daksha his life but Vidharbha had thrown Daksha’s head into the fire. So a Sheep’s head was given to Daksha. Kartika (another name for Mars) was born from Shiva’s semen and nurtured by the Krittikas. Kartika has a strong connection with the nakshatra Krittika. This legend indicates the connection between Daksha Prajapati – the celestial architect and Kartika. Krittika have within themselves an immense capacity for destruction but also the ability to rebuild.

The Moon is exalted in Krittika. Moon God – Soma – was also married to Daksha Prajapati’s 27 daughters (the nakshatras), staying with each of his wives for one day. Again the moon’s exaltation connected to both Shiva and Daksha. A powerful Moon signifying a strong mind can both build (Daksha) and Destroy (Shiva).

The sheep are usually never given importance for their individuality. They tend to live for others – giving wool for warmth and meat for sustenance. This translates to Krittika being there for others. However powerful they may be, they always recognise the need to serve others and are rarely ever aware of their own individuality. Through service to other can they find themselves. They have a strangely passive quality about them. They appear docile and placid, but can become suddenly aggressive.

Komilla is chair of BAVA and can be contacted via her website