During the South Indian marriage ceremonies of Hindus, you get to see a ritual where the groom takes the bride to show her the couple stars from the Saptarshi Mandal. We know these stars as Vashistha and Arundhati nakshatra. Do you know why the husband shows the Arundhati star to his wife? Because it symbolizes marriage, Vashistha and Arundhati were a doted married couple. They are ideal and symbolize marital fulfilment and honesty. This ritual takes place immediately after the Saptapadi / Saatphere ritual.
The secret behind watching Arundhati nakshatra
We all know about the Saptarshi Mandal (Ursa major). There are seven stars – Kratu (Dubhe), Pulaha (Merak), Pulastya (Phecda), Atri (Megrez), Angiras(Alioth), Vashistha(Mizar), And Marichi(Alkaid). One of the stars, Vashistha, has another star close to it called Arundhati (Alcor). They stay intimate with each other and are husband and wife. The priest asks the married couples to look towards the constellation that symbolizes conjugal love and affection. It teaches both husband and wife to do everything in sync. It also describes that husband must look after everything happening around his wife and vice versa.
Who was Arundhati?
Arundhati nakshatra gets it’s name from a folk-tale. According to the Puranas, Arundhati was the daughter of Kashyapa and sister of Narada and Parvata. She got married to Vashishtha Muni and was leading an ideal marriage. They were very loyal and devoted to each other. Arundhati was one of the pativratas and depicted as a symbol of wifely devotion and chastity. She was exceptional in providing service to her husband. She was a well worthy lady and followed by other women. The Sanskrit meaning of the word Arundhati means ” wiped from the sun rays”.
The story behind showing Arundhati nakshatra
Once lord Agni wanted to copulate with the wives of the Saptarishis. His wife Saha got to know about it. She took the forms of Rishi’s wives and made love with Agni. She assumed herself to the six forms of the Rishi’s wives but failed to get the form of Arundhati, as Arundhati’s dedication and devotion towards her husband was pious. When all the seven rishis got to know about the situation, they doubted their wife’s purity. They got separated from them besides Vashishtha. He had full faith in her wife, and they were loyal to each other. Thus, the husband shows the Arundhati star to his wife and wishes to remain loyal and devoted to each other like Vashishta and Arundhati.
There is an astronomical truth behind Arundhati Nakshatra as well. The astronomical names of Vasistha and Arundhati were Mizar and Alcor, respectively. Both are next to each other in the Ursa Major constellation or Saptarshi mandala. It is also known as Big dipper. If you take a telescope and look into these stars, you can find Alcor as a small dot near Mizar. They are sometimes called horse and rider. According to Giovanni Battista, Mizar was a double star.
But Galileo spotted it and claimed that both the stars are moving together in proper motions. In binary star format, we find two or more stars are present in the outer space, where one remains constant, and the other revolves around it. But in this case, both have the same centre of mass of their own. They take orbit through the cosmos. So, this twin star symbolizes the bond of a husband and wife.
It portrays that one must support others to reach a common goal together, instead of overpowering one another. As it is slightly visible, we see the Arundhati star in steps. First, we find all the brightest stars, then the faint Arundhati star with the Vashishta star.