Symbolism of the Moon in Hinduism

The Moon

by Jayaram V

Summary: As a source of light in the night, the moon offered solace to the ancient people, while they feared the night and the dangers that lurked in its dark corners. People worshipped all forms of light, including the moon. However, unlike the sun, the moon did not shine as brightly. Besides, it also regularly disappeared from sky, while its body also waxed and waned with certain regular and recurring rhythm, thereby adding mystery to the puzzled minds. Find here the archetypal meaning, cultural significance and symbolism of the moon (Chandra) in Hinduism.

To the ancient people the earth, the moon and the sun were the most immediate and visible aspects of the cosmos. They influenced their thinking and fueled their imagination to think beyond this world and this life. No wonder, Vedic people were inspired by the sight of the Sun and the Moon. they used them to symbolize their view of the cosmos, life and death.

They envisaged a four tier world, consisting of the earth, the mid-region, Indra's heaven, and the higher heaven of the immortals. Apart from them, they recognized the importance of celestial bodies such as the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, directions and phenomena such as the clouds, the rain, thunder, lightning, etc.

The Vedas contain descriptions of them either as divinities or their aspects. The Vedic people noticed that the moon suffered from regular waxing and waning, while the sun remained constant. Hence, for them the sun symbolized permanence and immortality while the moon represented recurrence, repetition, rebirth and the world of ancestors, to which souls that were destined for transmigration went.

Thus, in Hinduism the moon has a great significance. It represents many aspects of creation, life, and mortal existence. It also symbolizes many aspects of Hinduism such as the Vedic deities Soma and Chandra, the dream state, the soma ritual, the ancestral world, a planetary god (graha) by the same name, the eye, the mind, rebirth, a king, time, a jewel adorning the head of Shiva, and most importantly decay and impermanence.

The Vedas describe the moon as a vessel, which contains the mysterious Soma drink. It was drunk by the worshippers pm specific occasions to enter altered states of consciousness and communicate with gods and celestial beings. Vedic people compares him to king Soma, the lord of the Soma Juice. He is extolled as the companion of Indra, beloved of the soma sacrificers and lord of the heaven. In Hindu literature and folklore, the moon is associated with romance, loneliness, friendship, pleasant nights and kinship.

For children in India, the moon is a close relation from their mothers' side and called Chandamama. His assuring presence in the night sky serves as a soothing distraction for the disturbed children. Depending upon its size and position in the sky and among the planets, the moon is viewed as auspicious or inauspicious. The waxing moon is considered beneficial whereas the waning moon, harmful.

On certain auspicious occasions, the light falling from the moon is believed to contribute to good health and longevity, whereas on certain days it is not to be viewed at all,. For example, watching the moon is considered harmful at the time of lunar eclipse, and on the day of Ganesh Chathurthi, the Hindu festival. The moon shares a close relationship with Shiva. He adorns his head like a jewel. According to legends, he was once cursed by Prajapathi, his father-in-law, for neglecting his daughter. As a result he began to wane and lose strength. Shiva took pity upon him and gave him the power to wax and wane alternately so that he could not only honor the curse of Prajapathi but also save the moon from its destructive spell.

As in many cultures, Hindus believe that the moon has an inexplicable connection with the human mind and exerts an adverse influence upon people on the full moon day, making them mentally and emotional unstable.

In Vedic astrology the moon is associated with mind and emotions. Hence, its position in relation to other planets is believed to influence the mental, emotional, and romantic destiny of individuals.

Many rituals and beliefs are associated with the full moon, half moon and new moon days. The new moon day is traditionally considered auspicious. On that day, in some parts of India people make offerings to their ancestors. However, some people consider it inauspicious and do not begin any new work or travel to another place on that day. In Hindu lunar calendar, each month begins and ends on a new moon day.

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