Arundhati is also known as Goddess Sandhya, the mind-born daughter of Brahma in a previous birth according to the Shiva Purana. Thus Sandhya and Arundhati are interchangeably referred. Arundhati means Goddess of the Night, Sky and the Stars. According to the Bhagavata Purana, Arundhati is the eight of the nine daughters of Karmadeva and Devahuti. She is said to be the grandmother of Parasha and Vyasa Muni. How is Arundhati linked to Sandhya? According to the Shiva Purana, the sage Narada questions Lord Brahma as to Shiva-Sati marriage. Sandhya-Arundhati link forms a preface to the answer given by Brahma. It is sort of part of his autobiography!
Sandhya and Manmadha are his ‘manaseeka’ (manasic) mind born children, Brahma said. They were astral creations without physical connections to him. He gets infatuated with the beautiful Sandhya and pursues his lustful ends. She seems to have given in without protest. Lord Rudra chastised Brahma for this incest. While acknowledging the ill-deed, Brahma contemplates that, Rudra, some-day soon would become a victim of passion also. ‘Rudra is not beyond kama’ he said. Meanwhile Sandhya could not overcome the feeling of shame caused by Brahma and does penance under the tutelage of Medatithi. She goes to the Candrabhaga mountains and prays to Lord Siva, chanting 'Om Namo Shankaraya Namaha' for thousands of years.
According to Sthala Purana, the place where she did tapasya is known as Sandhyachaal. Sthala Puranas are texts of the origins and traditions of Shiva temples and shrines, 275 sthalams in total. Majority of Sthala puranas are in the Tamil vernacular. They are also called Siva-sthalams. Now, Lord Siva does not respond, so Sandhya prepares to enter the Agnikunda – fire pit of a yagna performed by her guru Medatithi. Knowing this, Lord Siva would not wait anymore and appeared before Sandhya, offering boons.
Sandhya desired that none in her clan should become a victim of lust and that she would be stated to be the example of a chaste woman, whose husband never casts an evil eye on another woman. “Lord”, she says, “creatures should not be sexually aroused at their birth; they should have the desire only when they are grown up. The three worlds must know that I am chaste. In all my births, I should not look at anybody except my husband with sexual desire. The man who looks at me with sexual desire should lose his manhood and a hermaphrodite.” Some accounts state that it was Lord Vishnu who granted her the boons.
Even Lord Brahma grants her a boon saying ‘tapaste vardhtansada’ meaning ‘may your tapasyas – austerity always find greater heights’. With Siva’s blessings she enters the Agni kunda only to be reborn as Vashista’s wife in her next birth. Thus she was born to Daksha Prajapati as Sati and thereafter as Himaraja’s daughter Girija Devi. Sandhya had not known that Medatithi was actually the Sage Vasistha himself! Upon entering Agni, Sandhya’s prana vayu or vital air was carried to the Solar system and absorbed by the Sun God to be transformed as Pratas Sandhya – morning; Madhyanika – afternoon and Sayam Sandhya – evening times of the day. Hence one has Sandyavadhanam, the morning prayers.
Sages were awe-struck when Sandhya, as Sati, was reborn in the Agni kunda as Arundhati. The child becomes famous in the three worlds as she stood for the principle that on no reason whatsoever will righteousness be obstructed. In that sense Arundhati means ‘one who cannot be obstructed.’
The agni child, Arundhati, was entrusted to Savitri, the wife of the Sun God. They lived in Manasa lake with Savitri, Gayatri, Saraswathi, Draupadi and other celestial women. There she learns the arts and scriptures. Her shining radiance caught Vashista’s attention. Attaining age, Arundhati was married to Vashista Muni. The wedding was graced by the Trinity’s attendance. Seven sons were born, all of them were Brahma rishis: Chitraketu, Procis, Viraca, Mitra, Ulbana, Vasubhrdyana and Dyuman.
There is a postlude to Brahma’s affairs. He tells Narada of his humiliation by Siva and that he wanted revenge. He wanted to show that Siva could also be blinded by attachments. This comes about by his arrangements with Daksha and Mareecha. Brahma manifests the beautiful Rati and Kama with his cupid arrows. Brahma also breathes out the Spring Season. All three, Rati, Kama and Spring, in their beautiful forms interfere Siva’s meditation. Kama’s arrows were shot at Siva. In the backdrop of colourful spring garden, the Lord falls for Sati and His meditation is interrupted. The events leading to her wedding against Daksha's wishes and Sati finally entering Daksha’s agni kunda and Shiva's thandava carrying Sati's body are too well-known for repetition here. It is to be noted that one part of Sati falls in Sandhyachaal to found a Shakti peeth.
Vashista is one of the Saptarishis extolled in the Vedas and Hindu literature. They are the patriarchs of the Vedic religion. In post-vedic texts some of these rishis were recognised as the mind-born sons of Brahma and ancestors of the Gotras. They are believed to be the seven stars named after them; Vashista, Marichi, Puastya, Pulaha, Atri, Angiras and Kratu. Vasishta ashram is the hermitage of Rishi Vasistha. It is in one of the seven Shaktipeeth described in Kalika Purana, where it is present as Tara peeth.
Once, Lord Siva enters Vashista’s hermitage of seven sages. The wives of six sages were smitten by Siva’s beauty and divine charm. Arundhati remains unmoved and steadfast. Seeing her chastity and virtue, Shiva declared that she would be the Arundhati Nakshatram (Star) located next to the Sapta Rishi Constellation and sitting next to Vashista.
In the South Indian tradition, there is a ceremony where the groom shows the ‘Arundhati Nakshtram – the subtle star in the Ursa Major constellation, to the bride. The seven stars in the northern sky are called ‘Sapta Rishi Mandala’. On the night of the marriage, the brides are ceremoniously shown Arundhati star. It is believed that by seeing the Arundhati star, the bride will be as chaste as Arundhati herself. This is all Hindu belief and symbolism for the Hindu person. Humour is part of wedding ceremonies. It enlivens the heart. ‘Arundhati parthiya?’... did you see Arundhati? - the bride would be asked by the elders present, while she looks up. Nearly all brides will say ‘yes’.
Who wants pandemonium to break loose by saying ‘no’ when the family ceremonies are going on in the background with fun and laughter? Also the first-night lurking around the corner, isn’t it? Rasagulla sweetness is waiting on the dinner table also. The domestic dance party would have arrived. Potential brides and grooms are waiting to sing and the old have to start their gossips....God give the brides patience!
So ‘Arundhati parthiya?’ ‘Yes’ is the expected answer when grandma elder is probably pointing to the wrong direction in the sky! After having ‘seen’ (some really do, okay?) Arundhati star, the bride says: ‘Just as the star Arundhati is attached to the star Vashishta, so may I ever firmly be attached to my husband’. And the bridegroom, breathing a sigh that his bride has ‘seen’ Arundhati, paving the way for blissful consummation, says: ‘As the heavens, earth, mountains and universe are permanently stable, so may my wife be permanently settled in our family’ - RigVeda 10.173.4.
Arundhati is also identified as the morning star and Alcor which forms a double star with Mizar identified as Vashista Rishi. Seeing the double star of Vasishta and Arundhati, symbolises marital bliss. Is Arundhati visible to the ordinary eye? It is said to be faintly visible. ‘Arundhati-darsananyayah – is to infer the unknown from which is known. As such Arundhati star is shown in steps, the brightest first and to the faintest Arundhati star. Ladies wishing to avoid early pre-mature widowship, observe fast on the lunar month of Chitra in Arundhati’s honour. Some indeed are fail Arundhati, as onr of the bride may all end up meeting a divorce lawyer for reasons known to them!
Verse 10: “Arundhatyanasooya cha, Saavitree Jaanakee Satee, Draupadee Kannagee Gaargee, Meera Durgaavatee Tathaa: These great ladies must be worshipped as Mother Goddess: Arundhati – wife of Sage Vasishta, Anasuya – wife of sage Atri, Savitri, Janaki, Sati –daughter of Daksha and Consort of Shiva, Draupadi, Kannagi – a chaset women of Tamil Nadu, Gargi – a learned woman of vedic period, Mira – famous devotee of Lord Krishna and Durgavati, the brave Women of Gadha Mandala. This is not to be confused with the Pancha Kanniya list. Hari Om
Yogi Ananda Saraswati