ASTRONOMY OF HOLI…. Satish. S Nayak, Association of Friends of Astronomy(Goa)

Holi Astronomy

* Taditionaly Holi is celebrated after the full moon of the last month of The Indian month, Phalguna. The name of the month itself has deep astronomical significance.

* Phalguna is named after the stars of the constellation Leo, The Lion. The stars Zosma and Denebola represent the tail end of the lion and are called Purva Phalguni and Uttara phalguni respectively. On the full moon day of Phalguna , the moon shines near or between these stars and hence the entire month has been named after these 2 stars as Phalguna.

* Interestingly the vedic symbol of these stars is a bed or swinging hammock . The Holi full moon comes 15 days after Shivratri festival which marks the marriage of Shiva and parvati who are but the male and female energies of creation and life in the Cosmos. Hence The full moon of Holi represents the marriage bed of Shiva and Shakti , thus the significance of spraying water which is the symbol of purity, fertility and  creation of new life.
* Holi coincides around the Spring Equinox falling on 21st march. The equinox heralds Spring which is the harbinger of agriculture, food, fruits, flowers and happiness. This is an extremely powerful symbolism in culture.  It means that only after the Union of the newly married Shiva and Parvati ( male and female principles of nature), on the marriage bed (Uttara and Purva phalguni nakshatras) on the full moon night ( Phalguna purnima) can one officially herald and announce the beginning of new creation and Spring, the next morning.
This is why Holi, festival of joy is celebrated on the next morning of the Phalguna full moon ,with a good dose of colours( Joy of spring) and water ( symbolic of purity, fertility and creation)

* Thus Holi establishes a direct link between religion, culture, stars, constellations, seasons, weather and the moon.

* Around the Konkan coast , Holi is also referred to as Shimaga or Shigmo…..
This has a deep astronomical connotation too
On the night of the full moon, the moon crosses the star MAGHA or Regulus in the  constellation Leo the lion or SIMHA … hence the occurrence is referred to as SIMHA-MAGHA , which in local culture became SHIMAGA OR SHIGMO….

Astronomy ìs so connected to our lives, religion, culture, festivals…
We are not even aware of this.. Mans connection to the Cosmos is even older than science itself…… celebrate with the meaning of this festival and knowledge adds to the joy..


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