The purpose of moon-eating heads
A reply on Ananta Prabhu's article
Posted June 5, 2005
I surely hope that we don't base our intellect on the faith that everything in Bhagavatam is literally true with the simple idea that Srila Vyasadeva would not have time to write stories. Why wouldn't he have written stories? After all, the public at the time was slightly different that the public now. Regarding my example of Rahu, we know that it's not a giant head eating the sun or moon. Indeed, the sight of a lunar or solar eclipse must have been extremely frightening for our ancestors. They were much more in touch with nature, the cosmos, and thus too, the sun, moon and other planets. They depended on the sky for their lives, it gave order.
Thus we can only imagine what chaos happened when they observed an eclipse. Why wouldn't Srila Vyasadeva give it a religious twist? After all, that was the way society functioned. Everything was geared toward religion. So give the people an anecdote of God being victor over evil, and that's settled. Even today there are those who still attach ancient superstitions to an eclipse. There are few because we know now what causes lunar and solar eclipses. And although it may seem as a disappearing act by the Moon, we know how the "magic" works, but we can still appreciate the beauty of God's creation.
There are actually several type of lunar eclipses, total, partial and penumbral. The upcoming eclipse is a total lunar eclipse. This kind can only take place when the Earth passes directly in front of a full Moon, thus casting its shadow on the Moon's surface. But this is just one example of something written is Bhagavatam that doesn't stroke with reality. But is it the purpose of the Book? My issue is this story and other myths in Bhagavatam have a purpose. Reading it we can comprehend how vedic society worked.
Today, Bhagavatam has a different purpose. We don't need such stories to believe in God. We can believe in God even just observing space, nature etc. Someone must have created all this. But please, not when we don't understand something even nowadays, that we have to knit another fabricated myth to it in order to be able to have faith. That is sad. And insulting to our intellect while we are at it. We shouldn't hang on to something that was fabricated for people 5000 years ago too.
To answer Ananta Prabhu on his statement: 'What
audacity do I have to say they are not true, but only
myths written by some uneducated people from times
gone by.' I don not think the myths were written by
uneducated people. I think Srila Vyasadeva was pretty
smart to write up such things. It geared people toward
praying and depending on God. It's genius!