Dhruva and the Polestar

Wonderfully praised by the brilliant and resolutely determined boy, the All-Attractive, who is the devotee of his devotees, reciprocated the child’s affections and spoke.

“Royal little boy,” he said, “I know what you are striving for with all your wonderful vows, and I will grant it to you with all my blessings, though it is very rare.

“You wanted to attain the most wondrous place in all the three worlds, beyond what even Brahmā possesses.” Pointing up into the night sky, Viṣṇu continued, “See that very bright star? It doesn’t move, so we call it Dhruva-kṣiti. It is like the hub around which the wheel of the brilliant constellations stars and planets revolve; it is like the central pillar around which bulls walk to turn the tills. No one has ever claimed that star but Dharma, Agni, Kaśyapa, Śukra, and the great forest dwelling sages worship that place by clockwise circumambulation, just like the stars, because it is timeless and persists beyond the end of ages.

“But first, return home. Your father will soon retire to the forest and give you the earth. Rule it under the protection of morality for thirty-six thousand years. Your body will not become old.”

Dhruva would wonder why his father would give him the kingdom, instead of giving it to his elder and favorite son, Uttama. And what about Dhruva’s wicked co-mother?

Hari assured him they would not interfere. “Uttama will be lost while hunting,” he said. “His distraught mother will search for him in the forests, and wander into a forest-fire.”

“I don’t really want a kingdom anymore…” Dhruva might wonder.

So Hari reassured him that his brother and co-mother would perish anyway – the inevitable doom of insulting a good person, and Dhruva would enjoy the kingdom in a transcendental way. “You will use your royal wealth to worship me – the true heart of all ceremonies – and will distribute the fabulous results of such ceremonies in generous charity. This will make you very happy and truly blessed. You will not forget me for a moment, not even at the very end.”

“What will happen at the end?” Dhruva would wonder.

So Hari pointed again to the polestar and said, “At the end, you will enter that respected center of all the worlds, superior even to the stars of the sages. When you enter that gateway, you will attain my own abode, from which you will never depart.”

Comments: Some astronomical and philosophical details can be ironed out from studying this section and considering things carefully.

The first point is that the Earth’s axial precession causes the central hub of apparent stellar rotation to drift in a circular pattern over a c. 26,000 year period. We do not know exactly how many years ago Hari and Dhruva spoke, but we do know that it was an exceedingly, exceedingly long time ago since Dhruva is only three generations descended from Brahmā, the original living entity. What we do know from the text above is that the star Viṣṇu pointed out was particularly bright (bhrājiṣṇu). The current polaris (north star) is not particularly bright (it is the 50th brightest star). The brightest among the stars that take the role of polaris (“north star” – the pole around which other stars seem to revolve) is Vega. The very fascinating and compelling thing about this is that Vega is known as abhijit nakṣatra in Vedic astronomy. Abhijit is the most special nakṣatra and the names itself suggests the term found here in Bhāgavatam describing Dhruva’s star, dhruva-kṣiti —  a  star that cannot be conquered (abhijit).

[Even knowing this, we cannot fix the date of Dhruva’s birth – for abhijit becomes the polestar on a cyclic basis. It’s not a one-time event.]

The second point is that Dhruva does not seem to inhabit the polestar. He inhabits the ancient earth for 36,000 years. Then, when he dies, he enters vaikuṇṭha (“mat-sthānam”) through the abhijit / polestar. If we read the early chapters of Canto Two, we find that it is consistently described that the soul travels through various stellar points (moon > sun > milky way > etc) into the nabha (central point) of the universe (seems now to be the polestar / abhijit), through which it dissolves its material associations by passing through the extra-universal elemental layers and finally reaches Brahman, or, if destined further, reaches “mat-sthāna” Vaikuṇṭha. So, really, what Viṣṇu granted druva was his father’s earthly kingdom for 36,000 years – uninterrupted by any sickness or old age, and full of true happiness which comes from seeing divinity everywhere and always remembering Hari. And, at the end of this, he grants Dhruva entry into Vaikuṇṭha mukti. Additionally he grants that the polestar will be associated with Dhruva as his adhisthāna – just as the deva have the various stars (tāra) and constellations (nakṣatra) associated with them as their adhisthāna.

Essentially, by associating Dhruva with the polstar, Viṣṇu delcares that his realized devotee is greater than the devas (gods), for the polestar symbolizes the supreme stellar object around which all other stellar objects seem to revolve. This declares that bhakti (Dhruva, the bhakta) is superior to all other accomplishments.

Śrī Bhāgavata 4.9.18 ~ 25

Vraja Kishor dās


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