Comets: Shakespeare also believed Hindu Views (Post No.4218)

Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 16 September 2017


Time uploaded in London- 18-48


Post No. 4218


Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.



In Sangam Tamil literature and Hindu epic literature lot of references to comets (dhumaketu) are vailable.; all those references fear the evil effect of the comets. Ancient tamils used both Sanskrit word Dhumam (smoke) and the lieral translation of Dhema Ketu + Pukaik kodi in Purananuru.

Shakespeare also had the same belief about comets in his drama Julius Caesar, Calpurnia says

“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes” Julius Caesar 2-2-30/31



Calpurnia, wife of Julius Caesar, begs her husband not to venture out on this morning, the ides of March. Caesar has spent a restless night and there is a wild storm raging. Calpurnia has had disturbing dreams, as well; crying out three times in her sleep, “They murder Caesar!” She begs him to stay home. Caesar sends word to the priests and they, too, return a warning that Caesar must stay home. Calpurnia is very upset , especially because of the strange events of the preceding evening: reports that a lioness was seen giving birth in the streets of Rome, the dead rising from their graves, warriors fighting in the clouds, reports of horses neighing and dying men groaning, ghosts shrieking. Comets were seen during the night, which Calpurnia interprets as a prophecy of the death of a prince.


Shakespeare had similar views about eclipse which is also in Tamil and Sanskrit books.

Tamil Belief

Meteors: Kudalur Kizar (Puram 229) described the effect of a meteor he and his colleagues saw in the sky. They predicted that the Chera King Mantharan Ceral Irumporai would die in seven days time and it came true.

Comets: Like any ancient community Tamils were also afraid of the comets. They used the Sanskrit word ( Dhuma ketu) and Tamil word (Pukai Kodi) for it. Reference: Puram 117and 395 Also in post- Sangam Tamil epic Manimekalai 6-64, 7-74, Silappadikaram 10-102


Tamil Poet Bharati On Halley’s Comet
1.Like a palm tree set on a millet plant,
With a growing tail on a little star,
You blaze forth in kinship with eastern moon
Oh, lustrous comet! I bid you welcome

2.You range over countless crores of Yojanas
They say your endless tail wrought of gas
The softness of which is indeed peerless

  1. They say that yourtail touches the earth too
    An you fare forth with no harm to the poor;
    The wise talk of your myriad marvels.
    ( I have given only 3 stanzas from 7 stanzas of translation by Dr T N Ramachandran)

Varahamihira on Comets:


  1. Dhumaketu | Tamil and Vedas

Posts about Dhumaketu written by Tamil and Vedas. … is considered as Dhumaketu – a portentous comet … //



  1. ISON comet | Tamil and Vedas

Posts about ISON comet written by Tamil and Vedas. … Dhumaketu in Sanskrit means Lord Ganesh and the … // …




Comets in Brhat Samhita!

Written by London swaminathan

Research Article No.1861; Dated 13 May 2015.

Uploaded in London at 10-38 am

It is amazing to read about the chapter on Comets in the Brhat Samhita which Varahamihira wrote 1500 years ago. No modern astronomer can appreciate it with today’s knowledge of comets. But if you consider the knowledge that existed 1500 years ago, Varahamihira’s knowledge was far better than others. He quotes his predecessors who might have lived at least a few hundred years before him. First let us look at what today’s scientists say about the comets:-

Comet Halebopp

What is a Comet?


Comets are essentially piles of rock, gravel, and dust held together by various kinds of ice – essentially water and carbon dioxide ice.

As the comet nears the sun, its icy tail turns into a gas and blows away – due to pressure from the solar wind and sunlight.

They also release dust and gravel which tend to follow the comet around the sun – and if the Earth’s orbit intersects this material, it results in annual meteor showers.

According to the latest count there are over 5000 comets.

Varahamihira’s Chapter on Comets:

Varahamihira wrote over sixty couplets about comets. He did not have the modern facilities like Telescope or other electronic equipment. He says that sages Garga, Parasara, Asita, Devala and others had already written about the comets. They must have observed the sky for hundreds of years to write so much about it.

Now scientists are warning about Dark Comets crashing on to earth which would not glow because they lost its ice. This means that our knowledge is growing slowly with all the modern equipment. Two centuries ago astronomers thought that there are only 500 comets. But Garga told us that there are 1000 comets!

I will just summarise the ancients’ thoughts on Comets:

1.It is not possible to determine by calculation the rising or setting of the comets. (It is true even today. Now and then amateur astronomers discover new comets and now there over 5000 comets. Unless we know the orbits, we can’t say whether it will come back to earth or not. Halley’s Comet is a regular visitor which appears every 85 years).

2.There are three categories of comets as celestial, atmospheric and terrestrial (It would not make any sense in modern astronomy).

3.The atmospheric Ketus (Dhumaketu=comet) are those that are sighted on flagstaff, buildings, trees, horses elephants and other animals. The celestial ones are seen amidst the constellations, and the terrestrial ones are those that do not come under either of the two categories (I honestly don’t know what Varahamihira means by these three categories).

Comet Mcnaught

4.Some sages like Parasara speak of 101 Ketus (comets), while others such as Garga of 1000 Ketus (comets). However sage Narada declares that there is only one Ketu which appears in many forms and places (Probably Narada means to say that all comets are made of same materials).

5.Next Varahamihira gives his opinion: “What difference does it make whether there is a single Ketu or many? Under any circumstance, its effects ought to be declared through the positions of its appearance and setting, contact with planets or asterisms, smoky mantle and colours.

Halley’s Comet

6.The effects of Ketu (comet):- The effects of comet (Ketu) would be felt for so many months as the number of days during which it remains visible. Similarly its effect would last for so many years as the number of months during which it remains visible. However the effects in all cases would come to pass only after the first three fortnights of its appearance (This verse has got different interpretations from Bhattotpala. Al Biruni also commented on this verse)

7.All Ketus are not evil. There are some which augur well for the world. If a Ketu be short, slender, clear, glossy, straight, white and visible and if its appearance is followed by rain, there would be abundance of food crops and happiness.

8.A comet whose form is contrary to what has been described above, is considered as Dhumaketu – a portentous comet – that has risen; and it is disastrous in its effects, all the more so when resembles the rainbow or is possessed of two or three crests.

My comments: These couplets show that the Hindus have been observing comets for several hundreds of years or thousands of years before 500 CE. Otherwise they could not write about different colours and different types. It is scientifically true that comets appear in different colours and shapes. But its effects are not proved scientifically. Tamils also believed in its effects. Sangam Tamil Literature confirmed the death of a king within seven days of the appearance of a comet. I have already given the full details from Purananauru verse in one of my articles.

Comet Lovejoy seen from Japan.

  1. Varahamihira introduces a new element in to the Study of comets. He had written about the effects of comets appearing in different directions from East to North

10.He described the types of comets in many verses which would not be understood by modern astronomers (Please see the charts).

  1. It requires lot of research by astronomers to see whether any of the information given by Varahamihira is useful today. We must appreciate that he had summarised the ancient Hindus’ knowledge in over 50 couplets 1500 years ago. The world was without much knowledge about comets at that time. Comets only created fear among the public in the ancient past.

I have followed Brhat Samhita translated in to English from Sanskrit by Prof. M Ramakrishna Bhat.

Comet Chart 1

Comet Chart 2.