Panini’s Interesting Titbits on 27 Stars (Post No.7900)


Post No.7900

Date uploaded in London – 29 April 2020   

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Panini in his grammatical treatise ‘Ashtadhyayi’ gives very interesting information about the 27 stars in Hindu astrology/ astronomy.

He gives some rules regarding naming people after stars.

During epic period we see many star names. Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu married Uttara, a star name . Rohini was Balarama’s mother and Revati was his wife. Both star names. Revati may be derived from her father Raivat’s name as well. But even before this, Revati was one of the 27 stars.

In the Sapta Rishi mandala/ constellation we see the seven names of Rishis and a woman Arundhati and there is Pole star named after the boy Dhruva.

Sangam Tamil Literature

In Sangam Tamil literature we read about the marriages celebrated 2000 years ago. The marriages were celebrated on Rohini star day according to Aka Nanuru verses 86 and 136. One Tamil verse says the Seven Stars were worshiped by the Tamils. We have got many references to Arundhati in the Ursa Major constellation in Tamil. We have Agastya star, Canopus, Trisanku, the Southern Stars, in our Puranas. Karthikai is a woman’s name in Tamil epic Silapaadikaram. Six Krittika women who raised Kartikeya (Skanda/Murugan) are also found in Tamil literature.

A person is named after the star under which he is born.

Apastamba  gives information about secret star name. in Egypt and India, kings had three names. What we know is the Abisheka nama, name given on the coronation day. That is why Egypt has 13 Ramesses and India has scores of Vikramadityas and Bhojas.

Panini deals at length with names derived from stars in sutras 4-3-34 to 37. The Grihya sutras refers to the Nakshatra/name (star name) in addition to the personal name. According to Apastamba the star name was kept a secret; Gobhila says that the teacher was to give his pupil a Nakshatra name which he used in bowing to him (in the Abhivadaye Mantra which is recited when one bows to elders). Four other Grihya sutras also agree with him. Some used Gotra and star names together (E.g) ‘mogallana tissa’.

In Panini’s time, stars were regarded as deities to whom regular worship was shown. Stars are known to Vedic people but names with stars were unknown in Vedic literature.

Panini gives a long list of star names from Asvini to Abhijit and their various derivations.



A man was asked both his personal name and gotra name. in Virata Parva of Mahbharata, Virata was asking Yudhisthira his gotra and nama/name. Buddha bikshus also used both gotra and personal names.

In Sangam Tamil literature scores of poets have both gotra and personal names. Most famous Tamil commentator Nacchinarkiniyar boasts that he belongs to Madurai and Bharadwaja gotra .

Some names typical in Panini but rare in Vedic literature had the endings Mitra, Sena, Datta, Sruta, Karna, Sringa or were prefixed by Upa.

In Mahabharata, my rough counting sows 24 names have SENA as suffix. Other suffixes-

Datta -6,Ketu – 9,Pati/ Vati- 11+3’Varman – 13,

Vasu – 5,Dyumnan – 6, Deva -8,Ratha -5,Mana – 3,Ayudha/yuddha – 3,Ashva – 6,Jaya – 6,Wana – 2

If we compare these names with names in Ramayana and the Vedas we may know the names used in different periods.

Panini shows also Nakshatra names are used with

Sena suffix.


What is a Nakshatra ?

Panini analyses Nakshatra into na- kshatra 6-3-75, a derivation also found in Satapata Brahmana , 2-1-2-18, ‘no light’ , explained with a legend.  The

Nirukta , although cites Brahmana derivation, prefers to derive from ‘naksha’ – to come near – . Panini followed Satapata Brahmana.


The Vedic List of stars egins with Krittikaa

According to Hopkins as late as Yajnavalkya’s law book 1-267, the Pleiades / Krittika hold this position as opposed to the still later scheme – 490 CE – beginning with Asvini .

Upto Patanjali’s time Krittika headed the list.

In mentioning a list of about ten stars Panini opens the list with Sravishta / Avittam in Tamil

Sravishta – Phalguny- Anuradha – Svati – Tishya – Punarvasu – Hasta – Vishaka = Ashada – Bahula – luk 4-3-34

What does it indicate ?

Now the list of Vedanga Jyotisa also commences with Sravishtha and Garga says that Krittikas are the first asterism for the ritual, while Sravishtha is the first for ordinary reckoning.

Hopkins points out in Mahabharata there are two beginnings-

1.With Dhanishta/ Sravishta/ Avittam in Tamil as in the Vana Parva 230-10

2.with Sravana as in the Asvamedha Parva

Fleet shows another passage in Adi Parva

‘Pratisravana purvani nakshatrani – Adi Parva 71-34

So two passages of Mahabharata show that Sravana is the first star.

This shows that the winter solstice had travelled westwards from the first point of Sravishtha , which was preserved by Vedanga Jyotisha (1400 BCE).

Panini’s mention of Sravishtha at the head of his list is evidently in conformity with the Vedanga Jyotisha. This is important to find out the time of Panini.


Single name Devadatta could appear in 11 forms-

Devadattaka, Devika, Devila, Deviya, according to Panini.


Datta according to the later rules in the Bhasya.

Source – India as known to Panini , V S Agrawala, University of Lucknow . 1953.

With my inputs from Mahabharata and Tamil Literature


tags — 27 Stars, Panini, order of stars, 27 Nakshatras, personal names

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