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There has two confusing word in Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads etc. These are 'Graha' and 'Nakshatra'. In Vedas Surya(Sun) and Soma/Chandra(Moon) is Graha(planet). But we know that Sun and Moon are not actually planet. And also the word Nakshatra not actually mean Star/Asterisk. So what is the actual meaning of these words according to these books?

  • See, "Graha" does not mean planet of english. In English there is no word for Graha, so they use the word planet for "Graha" (since out of 9 Graha, 5 are planets, so it is just a convention) – user12826 Feb 13 '18 at 10:08
  • @AnuragSingh Therefore I asked this question to know the actual meaning. – Curious learner Feb 13 '18 at 10:30
  • Well, see "Graha" means anything that takes over any other thing. In the sky, the stars are static, they never go forth any other star, or lag behind others. But these 9 entities NavaGrahas are not static, they have motion in sky. So when you see sky sometimes moon is ahead of Jupiter, other times Venus is behind Mars, and times Jupiter is ahead of all. So these 9 bodies when seen from earth in sky, seem to take up the others and at times remain behind. This is why they are called Graha. – user12826 Feb 13 '18 at 11:50
  • "Graha" is not equivalent to Planet. "Planet" is a term to define an object which is very big and revolves around sun. "Graha" is a term to define those sky bodies which are moving in sky (and not static like the stars in sky). Now, of course sun does not move relative to solar system, but when you see Sun relative to earth, on the sky map of stars, then sun changes position on the sky star map. The star map is static, and only these 9 objects, seen from earth move on the sky map. – user12826 Feb 13 '18 at 11:55
  • @AnuragSingh Yeah! That is the fact. But what about the word 'Nakshatra'? Hmm. – Curious learner Feb 13 '18 at 14:13
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 what-is-the-vedic-puranik-meaning-of-graha-and-nakshatra.?

 what is the actual meaning of these words according to these books?

We find mention of the words Grahas , Nakshatras etc. in almost all the scriptures including Vedas and Puranas.

Shreemad Bhagvtam in Skanda 5 - Chapter 23 - Shloka 3 (The Sisumara Planetary Systems ) is calling Stars ,Planets and constellations together as "Joytirganas" , ज्योतिर्गणा . Meaning the illuminating ones.

नभसि यथा मेघाः श्येनादयो वायुवशाः कर्मसारथयः परिवर्तन्ते एवं
ज्योतिर्गणाः प्रकृतिपुरुषसंयोगानुगृहीताः कर्मनिर्मितगतयो भुवि न
पतन्ति ॥SB 5.23.3॥

nabhasi yathā meghāḥ śyenādayo vāyu-vaśāḥ karma-sārathayaḥ
parivartante evaḿ jyotirgaṇāḥ prakṛti-puruṣa-saḿyogānugṛhītāḥ karma-
nirmita-gatayo bhuvi na patanti

These planets float in the air within the vast sky, just as clouds with hundreds of tons of water float in the air or as the great syena eagles, due to the results of past activities, fly high in the sky and have no chance of falling to the ground. SB 5.23.3


In Vayu Purana Part 2 - chapter 66- Verse 37. We also can find Stars and constellations both are termed as Nakshatras. And is mentioning that these 27 constellations as 27 maidens / daughters Daksha bestowed on Soma (moon).

अहोरात्रविभागचश्र नक्षत्राणि समसता: |
मुहूर्ता सर्वनक्षत्रा अहोरात्रविद्स्तथा || Vayu Purana 66.37||

I shall mention the division of days and nights , the constellations quite briefly , all the muhurthas and all the planets appearing during days and nights.


सप्तविंशतु या: कन्या दक्ष: सोमाय ता ददौ |
सर्वा नक्षत्रनामम्न्यस्ता ज्योतिषे चैव कीर्तिता ||
तासामप्त्यान्यभवदिप्तान्यमिततेजसा || Vayu Purana 66. 53||

Twenty seven maidens (constallations) that Daksha Bestowed on Soma (moon god) are glorified as Nakshatras or planets well known in the science of Astronomy . There progenies are refulgent ones having indefinite splendor.

Note that here in the above verse the purana is symbolically calling 27 Nakshatras as daughters of Daksha and also calling them as illuminating ones as said in Bhagvat Purana.


Brahmanda Purana Book 4 - Chapter 1 - Verse 57. calls the planets as Para gods.

57 Aisvara, vaku , Vamsa, Rahu and (other eight ) grahas (planets) should be known as paras . Understand the others


In Vedas

The Atharva Veda 19.7-8 Nakshatra Suktam is defining the Nakshatras as the illuminating ones , who are constantly in motion with high velocity and who's shape remains constant.

चित्राणि साकं दिवि रोचनानि सरिस्रूपाणि भुवने जवानि |
तुर्मिशं सुमातिमिच्छमानो अहानि गीर्भि: सपर्यामि नाकम् || AV 19.7.1||

We all expect superior intelligence (Buddhi) ,which removes the obstacles , and with which we pray to the Nakshatras , who dwell in Dyuloka , whose shape remains constant , which are shining with strange hues and which are constantly in motion with high velocity


It seems that the vedas are also Symbolically or indirectly referring the Planets ,Stars and the constellations. i.e Grahas , and Nakshatras. we can see the planets as the form of soma cups ,Sura cups as mentioned in Shukla Yajurveda Samhita.


Conclusion - In an comprehensive article called Planets in Vedic literature David Frawley is mentioning everything related to Planets , stars and constellations . He writes.(Page 497)

The Term Nakshatra Originally Included The Planets ,along with the Sun and Moon Nakshatra probably originally meant Star or heavenly body . Which would naturally include planets.We should note that all cultures originally included the planets among the stars and discriminated between fixed and moving stars , the later being planets .


Note - Its very difficult to find the precise definition of the terms as vedas and Puranas ,as they are are not Astronomical texts. So the words are often used in context of Mythological stories symbolically and for planetary bodies.

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