The planetary ruler of Ashlesha Nakshatra is Mercury. Mercury, through its communicative abilities, is the one who gets the job done. If you’ve ever met general practitioners, salespeople or anyone who has a certain gift of gab, their role, if you will, is to communicate in order to get the job done. They’re not there to be your lifelong friend but they are there to ease your temporary woes, to solve your temporal problem and to ensure that you hopefully understand the right cause of action at a particular point in time.
This is not easy. We humans don’t listen. Your dentist tells you to floss, but you don’t listen. The salesperson recommends a certain product or service, but you think you know better.
One can hope that it is our intellect that guides our thinking. We hopefully use reasonable means to draw reasonable conclusions. In Ashlesha Nakshatra, the soul seeks to develop its consciousness through its intellectual prowess.
You could safely say that the intellect is somewhat emotionally distant. It works with observable facts and ‘realities’ to arrive at certain conclusions. It tries to ascertain how many times certain phenomena will repeat itself through the rivers of time and whether or not it will repeat itself.
The nakshatra of Ashlesha is wholly and entirely in Cancer, the 4th constellation of the zodiac. In Ashlesha, the Lunar and Solar zodiacs meet.
It is like the clock striking a certain hour.
On 21 September 1995, a worshipper at a temple in New Delhi made a milk offering to a statue of Ganesha. When a spoonful of milk from the bowl was held up at Lord Ganesha’s trunk, the liquid disappeared as it was consumed by the deity. Through word of mouth, the news spread like wildfire and by mid-morning it was found that statues of the entire Hindu pantheon in temples all over India were drinking milk.
I was in primary school at the time and I remember the incident well. I stood in a line for hours on end and waited for my turn. When I finally arrived at the temple, Lo and Behold, the statue did indeed drink milk.
It was truly a miracle. I even witnessed and experienced it for myself.
How would we explain it, though? What exactly had happened here?
The ‘rational’ explanation that was eventually offered regarding why the Ganesha statues around the world started drinking milk was… drum roll… due to a conspiracy between the priests and the politicians.
Not an unpredictable conclusion.
The Cross Junction
What have you chosen to believe? I mean, you can believe whatever you want regardless of the evidence that is presented to you. That’s what makes us human, you could say. The power to choose who and what we want to believe in.
Coming back to Ashlesha, the deity associated with the Nakshatra are the Nagas: snakes who are endowed with power and immense treasures. Ashlesha, being at the junction of the Solar and Lunar zodiacs shows the ending of one cycle of life and the beginning of another. This requires us, not so much ‘to meet’, but instead, to go our separate ways.
The process of shedding the old is always painful. For those who are living, it relates to a phenomena where our minds and our lives are transformed completely. It is about human consciousness evolving. And sometimes, we really do need a miracle to change the way we think.
Anyways, since this nakshatra is about Mercury, I’m going to give you a bit of a scientific explanation.
The oldest snake fossil on record looks almost like a modern snake, except for one major difference. It has four feet, each with five digits. It is believed to have most likely evolved from terrestrial-burrowing creatures, and was a transitional animal that lived during the shift from ancient lizards to modern-day snakes.
The Naga Race
The Naga, as they were conceptualised in Vedic thought, are not the same serpents or snakes that we see slithering around today. This is only fitting, as thousands of years have passed since those texts were written and conceptualised. The natural world has undoubtedly changed since then.
Perhaps what the texts are referring to are either a group of ‘supernatural serpents’ or the ancient ancestors of the modern snake. The Nagas are said to possess similarities to the snakes that currently inhabit planet earth. They have scales, forked tongues and possess powerful venom that can both harm as well as heal.
But unlike the snakes on earth that we are presently familiar with, the Naga–as a race of supernatural serpents–possess many heads, creative abilities and are even said to possess the ability to shape shift into human form at will.
Sounds rather incredulous by what we can observe? Does it mean that it did not exist once upon a time and a long time ago? Until we find another fossil to confirm or refute our posthumous findings, your guess is as good as mine.
In some traditions, the Naga have been referred to as a race of dragons. Every mythology in the world has stories about dragons, but no one living has ever seen them. Are we speaking of a species that has gone extinct? Or did we concoct this creature with the human mind and through our imagination? To me, the former explanation makes more sense. Everything must come from something.
The Naga, as a serpentine mythological race, inhabit and rule over a unique aspect of the Universe. They reside within the deepest of the deep. They are said to dwell in caves and grottos where there are many jewels. Unlike other supernatural beings, serpents have always had a strong bond with the physical and tangible world. It is seen by some as either hoarding wealth or guarding it. Some myths say that they want the wealth for themselves, while other myths depict them as the source and the impulse behind all creation.
Vasuki is the King of the Nagas. Some believe Vasuki is none other than Rahu, the North Node of the Moon. I used the word ‘possess’ many times entirely intentionally; for the Naga’s role in Cosmic Law is to possess and to protect vast treasures. And many of them–but not all of them–will use seduction, deception and cunning to get what they want.
The mythology of the Naga as a race of beings is meant to teach us an important lesson about the moral conundrum with which we choose to make our decisions. Ahir Budhnya, in particular, is a powerful member of the Naga race and very unlike the rest of its peers. But that is another story for another day and another Nakshatra.
From the scientific perspective, however, even subsets within a species can be different to one another. Therefore, we shouldn’t conclude that just because most of the snakes of the Naga Race succumbed to seduction and temptation, that all snakes did.
Anyhoo, the story of the snake cannot exist without the story of the eagle. In the myths, Garuda, an eagle-like deity, was born into slavery due to the deception of the Naga Race. He had developed a deep hatred towards the serpents as a result. He longed for freedom, which was his birthright. Eventually, he demanded his freedom. He wanted to be released from servitude to the Naga.
As usual, the Nagas succumbed to trickery and deception so that Garuda would not be freed. In the end, Shiva or Vishnu would have to intervene to set things right. You simply cannot trust the Naga to do the right thing of their own accord. They are simply not wired that way.
But before we conclude that all snakes are evil, I’d like to once again mention that not all Naga were the same. There were small subgroups within the Naga race that rejected succumbing to deception and deceit to get what they wanted. They had chosen to remain solitary instead of getting involved in power plays and struggles.
They had walked away from the rest of the Naga race to start anew. The lesson here is that the process of rebirth begins by choosing what you are not going to do. For the Naga, it meant that while most of them were up to their same old tricks, others…well, let’s just say that they found a better path and a better destination.
The Science of It All
Did I offer you a scientific explanation? Why did Ganesha start drinking milk? And why did it stop? Are you going to give me a conspiracy theory of some sort?
Our planet has hosted many species that no longer exist, not because they have never existed, but because they have gone extinct. Perhaps the Nagas once existed and perhaps they didn’t.
Well, if science is about the intellectual, practical and systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the natural world through observation and experiment:.. Then, unless we are able to recreate the age of the Nagas, we are doomed to say it never happened or doubt the validity of the fact that it perhaps once existed.
But one thing is for sure… I definitely don’t buy conspiracy theories.