Nakshatra – A term for Lunar Mansion in Hindu astrology
Nakshatra (Devanagari: nákṣatra) is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology. A nakshatra is one of 27 (sometimes also 28) sectors along the ecliptic. Their names are related to the most prominent asterisms in the respective sectors.
The starting point for the nakshatras is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the star Spica called Chitrā in Sanskrit (other slightly different definitions exist). It is called Meshādi or the “start of Aries”. The ecliptic is divided into each of the nakshatras eastwards starting from this point. The number of nakshatras reflects the number of days in a sidereal month (modern value: 27.32 days), that the width of a nakshatra is traversed by the moon in about one day. Each nakshatra is further subdivided into quarters (or padas) These play a role in popular Hindu astrology, where each pada is associated with a syllable, conventionally chosen as the first syllable of the given name of a child born when the moon was in the corresponding pada.
The nakshatras of traditional bhartiya astronomy are based on a list of 28 asterisms found in the Atharvaveda (AVS 19.7) and also in the Shatapatha Brahmana. The first astronomical text that lists them is the Vedanga Jyotisha.
In classical Hindu mythology (Mahabharata, Harivamsa), the creation of the nakshatras is attributed to Daksha. They are personified as daughters of the deity and as mythological wives of Chandra, the moon god, or alternatively the daughters of Kashyapa, the brother of Daksha.
Each of the nakshatras is governed as ‘lord’ by one of the nine graha in the following sequence: Ketu (South Lunar Node), Shukra (Venus), Ravi or Surya (Sun),Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Rahu (North Lunar Node), Guru or Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury). This cycle repeats itself three times to cover all 27 nakshatras. The lord of each nakshatra determines the planetary period known as the dasha, which is considered of major importance in forecasting the life path of the individual in Hindu astrology.
In Vedic Sanskrit, the term nákṣatra may refer to any heavenly body, or to “the stars” collectively. The classical sense of “lunar mansion” is first found in the Atharvaveda, and becomes the primary meaning of the term in Classical Sanskrit.
Hindu given names
Hindu astrologers teach that when a child is born, they should be given an auspicious first name which will correspond to the child’s Nakshatra. The technique for deducing the name is to see which nakshatra the moon is in at the moment of birth; this gives four possible sounds. A refinement is to pick one sound out of that four that relates to the Pada or division of the Nakshatra. Each Nakshatra has four Padas and four sounds and each Pada is of equal width. The Moon remains in each Nakshatra for approximately one day.
A further refinement or opportunity is to instead use the Nakshatra that the ascendent resides in at birth. The same broad choice of sounds and Padas apply, but now the sounds change roughly every 15 minutes. The ascendent passes through all 27 Nakshatras every 24 hours, being in each one for 53 and a third minutes of time, and is in a Pada for 13 and a third minutes of time. By using the ascendent’s nakshatra, instead of the moon’s nakshatra leads more to comfort of the Self, rather than comfort of the mother. This second approach is only really applicable if intuitively the moon approach does not feel right.