If you have been to a Hindu marriage you’ll notice that the to-be married couple are taken outside the wedding hall and are made to point at the sky together, I was clueless at first “why are they pointing at the sky”, “what is going on here?”,” Did I Miss something here?”, all these thoughts were flowing in my head unable to comprehend the ritual. I later learnt the couple is pointing to the binary star system which consists of Alcor and Mizar which is a part of the Ursa Major or as it’s known by its Indian contemporary name, Saptarishi.
What makes this star system unique compared to other binary star systems is the way it rotates, normally binary stars have one stationary star and the other star revolves around it. But this binary star system doesn’t have a stationary star, both stars revolve around each other at similar speeds without colliding with each other, it represents harmony, mutual cooperation, synchronicity, and equality. There is a fantastic story in our Indian mythology about these two stars and why they are called so. It is a tale of unwavering love, devotion and respect between married couples.
Arundathi and Vashishta were teachers in their gurukul teaching Vedas to students, Vashishta was a Saptarishi, a mind-born son of Brahma. He was a prodigious expert in the three Vedas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda. Numerous great people have learnt from him. Arundathi even as a young girl was a keen learner and she continued to listen to his teachings along with the other students as soon as she was done with her chores, she would listen to her husband with a keen interest in whatever he was teaching.
One day Arundathi asks her husband if she could teach, this was an unusual request but he complied, he was surprised when she explained the concept of dharma to his students effectively. After the class, Vashishta complimented her and said “you understood all my teachings, you truly are my better half, and from now on you will help me with teaching the students”.
Lord Brahma was very pleased with this development and sent the divine cow, Nandini so it can help Arundathi with chores around the gurukul and at the same time, she can dedicate more time to the teaching and pursuit of knowledge. After spending a lot of time with them, Nandini returned to Brahmaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. Meanwhile, Vashishta, along with his students had gone to the Himalayas for penance and Arundathi stayed back in the ashram with some students.
While Vashishta was away, a famine struck the kingdom, he found out about this through his yogic powers and prayed to lord Shiva to protect his wife while she fights alone in the ashram. Arundathi too had similar fears and prayed to Lord Shiva to protect her husband and pray for his safe journey from Penance. Both of them prioritize each other over their own safety showing the immense love they have for each other.
One fine day, a little boy comes into the ashram seeking sage Vashishta, Arundathi tells that he is away and in penance, the boy despairs “I have no family and I have come all the way from the Himalayas to find sage Vashishta and learn the Vedas from him but alas he is not here what do I do?”. Arundathi feeling sad over the plight of the boy consoles him, tells him he can stay here until the sage arrives and offers him whatever little food she has. So the boy stays in the ashram and learns the Vedas from her. She continues to pray every day for her husband’s safe return.
Vashishta returns from penance and Arundathi is elated to see her husband in good health and he too feels the same happiness for her well-being. Vashishta spots the boy and asks her about him. As she finishes narrating the entire ordeal of the boy, the boy transforms and manifests as Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva had heard their prayers, Shiva smiled at Arundathi and says “I am privileged to have learnt the Vedas from you. Your love cannot be measured by any mortal standards. In time you will become a star in the sky, along with your husband. You will be an everlasting example for humans everywhere, and every married couple will look up to you” he turns to Vashishta and says “Arundathi is your true companion, may the gods bless both of you” after saying all this Shiva disappeared.
Even today in our culture Arundathi is synonymous with devotion, chastity and happiness in a marriage. We need to understand marriage as an institution where both the husband and wife are equal and neither is one above the other. Just like the stars which revolve around each other. People may fall in love by happenstance, but it takes choice and grit to stay in love with a person. The trial of love is not tested when you have everything, it is tested in the flames of adversity.