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Rahu Ketu: Why These Planets Are Called Shadow Planets

Rahu Ketu is the name given to the Nodes of the Moon. Rahu is the North Node and Ketu is the South Node. They are points on the ecliptic where the Moon aligns with the Sun and the Earth.

Astro Pulkit s Astro Pulkit s Dec 16, 2022

Rahu Ketu is the name given to the Nodes of the Moon. Rahu is the North Node and Ketu is the South Node. They are points on the ecliptic where the Moon aligns with the Sun and the Earth. They indicate the precise moment of harmony with the three most important influences in our life- the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon. This relationship plays an integral part in the enfolding of individual consciousness.

Their role as Karmic indicators of our life is connected with their power to cause eclipses. The eclipses occur in the vicinity of Rahu Ketu during the Full Moon and the New Moon. (During New Moon, when it is +/- 18 degrees from Rahu Ketu, the Solar eclipse occurs.

The Lunar eclipse occurs at the full Moon +/- 11 degrees 15′ from the nodal position.) As they symbolically eclipse the Sun (consciousness) and the Moon (the Mind), they significantly darken our perspective to bring new light. They deal with death and re-birth, transformation, and regeneration. During eclipses, the light from the Luminaries is dimmed. The energies created are powerfully psychic, pregnant with new information, and occult power.

The period after the eclipse is considered a rebirth of the Sun and the Moon. The role of Rahu Ketu in this powerful alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth gives them the part of ultimate controllers of destiny.


The prime importance given to Rahu Ketu in Vedic Astrology is one of its key features. They have been given the status of Planets to emphasize their significance and the importance placed on eclipses. They are known as Chayya Grahas (shadow planets). They have no substance and are physically non-existent. Yet their influence is full of potency and spiritual significance.

They work in unison 180 degrees apart, two opposite points in the zodiac with a mission to churn our lives to externalize hidden potential and wisdom. In keeping with their shadowy nature, they work on a psychological level. It is always difficult to gauge their effect because their main concern is our emotional makeup. They affect us internally. We are unaware of what exactly is happening to us at the time.

Vedic Astrology’s concept of the Soul’s journey through different lifetimes is central to it. The final goal of the soul is to break this cycle of life and death. Like the beads on a necklace, various lifetimes are joined together to form a chain, each life being different but interconnected by an invisible thread.

The invisible line is Rahu and Ketu. The soul’s purpose in this life is to act out his given Karma, destroy the illusions of the worldly life and move towards self-realization. To live on the astral planes where pleasure and pain cannot hurt, the mind is still and at peace. The position of Rahu and Ketu indicates the soul’s journey in a particular lifetime and its connection with eternal life. Ketu deals with the past Karma and Rahu with the future.

The five instincts that keep us attached to the materialistic purpose of life are Kaam (Desire, passions), Krodh (Anger), and Madh (intoxicants- drugs, alcohol, etc.) Moh (Attachment), Lobh(Greed), and Matsaya(Jealousy). We need to control our instincts rather than allow ourselves to be controlled by them. Rahu and Ketu can keep our minds focused on these instincts- by exaggerating and obscuring or blocking.

We are tied to the cycle of unhappiness and dissatisfaction as we cannot break away from our lower selves. We are born again and again to experience the pleasures and pains of earthly life until we recognize them to be the illusions that they are. On a subconscious level, we are afraid that we will lose out if we give up these desires.

Once we start understanding the principle of letting go and enjoying what life offers but not getting attached, we can grow spiritually. Rahu Ketu deals with the inner fight within us, the moral and the social choices we must constantly make, and the internal dilemmas.


The Mythology related to Rahu Ketu

There are many Myths and legends attached to Rahu Ketu. The most well-known one is of Rahu Ketu as the Naga Vasuki- the ruler of the Patala Loka (the nether regions of the earth). Nagas in Vedic literature are not ordinary snakes but Serpents with much-hidden knowledge and wisdom.

There was a great war between the gods and the demons for the control of the universe, and at the center of it was the ocean, which was being churned to find the hidden treasures and the Amrita- the nectar of immortality. Vasuki helped the gods in their mission. He was the rope tied around the spiritual mountain Mandara, the rod used by the gods to churn the ocean.

When the Amrita was found, the gods wanted to keep it for themselves as they felt the demons would use it for the wrong purpose. Vasuki being a demon, his instincts were for personal glorification and materialistic happiness rather than universal good. (Sacrificing self for others is considered a religious impulse). Vasuki was more intelligent than the other demons. He was not willing to be distracted by the gods. He drank the nectar of immortality secretly.

The Sun and the Moon complained to Lord Vishnu, the creator of the Universe, who was very angry at this deception. In anger, he threw the Sudharshan Chakra at Vasuki and cut him into two. Vasuki had drunk the Amrita and was immortal, therefore could not be killed. He remained in the skies as Rahu(the head) and Ketu (the lower half), a permanent reminder to the other planets(gods) of the darker side of life, which we have to defeat in the pursuit of immortality.

Rahu Ketu is considered a great enemy of the Sun and the Moon because they told Lord Vishnu about them. They symbolically swallow the two luminaries during eclipses. Their capacity to darken the Sun and the Moon makes Rahu Ketu the most potent Zodiac influence.

The Sun, around whom the other planets and the solar system revolves, and the Moon, which controls life on earth, are obscured by Rahu Ketu during eclipses. Rahu Ketu represents Cosmic Law which everyone, including the Sun and the Moon, has to obey.

This allegory has to be understood as life. The Gods, without the help of Vasuki (Rahu Ketu), could not find the secret of immortality. In the same way, we as humans cannot find our higher selves without understanding the lessons of Rahu and Ketu.

They represent the darker side of our nature which we need to overcome. Our inner emotions are like the ocean being churned. Within this ocean lie several treasures as well as poisons and nasty things. We have learned to recognize the precious from the trash and finally find Amrita- the secret of immortality or actual happiness.

The conflict between our attachment to materialistic achievements (this gives us momentary pleasure, which is a fantasy as it has no factual basis, the domain of Rahu) and liberation of the soul, finding bliss and tranquillity which is eternal (Ketu is the Moksha karaka significator for spiritual realization). The gods needed the help of Vasuki in the Amrita Manthan; in the same way, we need the knowledge provided by the wise nodes to give direction.


Understanding Rahu Ketu in our Natal Charts

To understand the influence of Rahu Ketu in our chart, we must learn about their shadow nature. This is the most crucial factor when dealing with the power of the nodes. They are only points in the Zodiac. Therefore, they cannot enact their effect on their own. The nodes take on the characteristics of their disposition as they have no substance. Studying the depositor’s sign, position, and placement is essential.

Here it is necessary to understand that although the nodes are influenced by their depositor, the depositor carries forward the influence of the nodes. The preliminary results of Rahu- Ketu are modified by their location in your chart. The signs/ houses they are placed in.

The aspects they receive and the parts they throw out. Also, if they are in conjunction with another planet (note in Vedic Astrology, a world in the same house is considered conjunct. The closer the confluence, the more substantial the influence.), they will throw out its power. For example, if Rahu is in conjunction with Mars, it will throw the aspect of Mars along with that of its depositor.

Rahu Ketu is the personal eclipse point. Therefore they are areas where you need to work out your Karma, past as well as future. They are our Karmic responsibilities. We must learn to look beyond the momentary darkness that Rahu Ketu represents. They highlight the negative side of our nature, which we need to overcome to move towards spiritual growth. They work psychologically.

Therefore it is hard to pinpoint their effect. They are the axis of life that indicates the path of spiritual growth from a past life ( Ketu) to the Future (Rahu). Knowledge of the past and present is needed to properly understand life. The past shapes the personality we are now, the negative and the positive Karma we will experience. It shades our psyche to how we are going to tackle the present.

The future is always uncertain; therefore, it can seem like darkness and carry fear and uncertainty. We have to come to terms with our past to be able not to get afraid of the future. Rahu is showing this direction, and Ketu is sometimes blocked due to our actions of the past.

Rahu Ketu has twin purposes, one in the mundane life and another in the spiritual life, but it is intertwined, like their shadowy nature. Their actions in the material realm are meant so that we change our thoughts and ideas about what we want and desire. What is darkness to a person entangled in materialistic ambitions can be powerful spiritual energy for those on the path of Moksha and spiritual enlightenment?

The nodes always serve opposing purposes- good and evil, lots and nothing, give and take. Rahu gives, and Ketu takes back. The are no straightforward rules about them. They operate in many different colors, leading you to the highest spiritual pinnacle to the greatest financial achievements or vice versa. They can give contrary results. You can never give predictions dealing with surety.

They can create fear of the unknown. They can create sudden and unexpected results.

The saying is that Rahu Ketu always takes away what they give because they have a special reason for granting you your wishes. To realize that what they give is not necessarily what you want once you have achieved it. They highlight dissatisfaction within ourselves.



Vedic Hymn to Rahu

‘Rahu is snake shaped, born of a lioness and a devourer of the Sun and the Moon.

Rahu is the head part of the celestial snake. This hymn refers to Rahu being snake-shaped. Snakes are given great importance in Vedic mythology. Lord Shiva has a snake around his neck, and Lord Vishnu’s throne was Shesh Naga – the Eternal Serpent. Shesh Naga represents the cycles of time and space, which is the seed of cosmic creation. The Nagas are shaped like snakes but stand tall.

The Nagas are highly evolved beings. They are wise, but their wisdom can be used for both good and bad. The Naga sheds his skin; this symbolizes transformation and rebirth. The snakes in Vedic literature remind people of their mortality.

The ‘devouring of the Sun and Moon is when Rahu eclipses the luminaries. This shows the important part Rahu has to play in changing the course of our life. The Sun and Moon are Royal planets under whose dictates the universe and life on earth revolve. But Rahu can darken this light. Therefore, it controls the process of life. The Sun is the Soul and Moon the Mind; when they are eclipsed, they go through regeneration, transformation, and death.

Rahu takes people off their Dharmic past path to tempt them to the road of self-destruction. But Rahu has a very definite purpose in doing so. It wants you to learn, taste, and feel everything so that from the full satiation of your senses, you turn a new leaf on the path of self-realization and find its true enlightenment.

Rahu on a physical plane gives you an insatiable desire to achieve, to conquer. Once you have reached the pinnacle of achievement, you realize this success has not brought happiness because you were, in fact, chasing an illusion. Many cults in India preach satiation of all your mundane and carnal desires so that we can learn the important lesson that fulfilling all your desires does not give you true happiness.

Rahu signifies foreigners in all fields- people, countries, and tastes.

Rahu behaves like Saturn. It deals with drugs, poisons, over-ambition, power play, hidden knowledge,

Rahu’s element is air. It deals with all aspects of air-related activities, air travel, Air accidents, Aviation, Pilots, etc. Other significations of Rahu include students of Astrology, metaphysical knowledge, witchcraft, skin diseases, smallpox, deception, politics, political maneuver, inventions, scientists, execution, diseases, disenchantment, etc.


Rahu and the Nakshatras

Rahu Ketu rule 3 Nakshatras (fixed stars) each. Rahu rules Ardra ( 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00′ Gemini), Swati ( 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00′ Libra), and Shatabishak (6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00’Aquarius), all in the Air triplicity. Mercury, Venus, and Saturn represent intellectualism, pleasure, and righteous behavior. Rahu has the capacity to bestow in all these areas.

As the ruler of the fixed star Ardra( 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00′ Gemini), Rahu represents the highest thinking. Ardra is the Nakshatra, where we begin learning about nature’s law. Ardra is in 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees Gemini, a sign ruled by Mercury.

  • At the cosmic stage of Ardra, there is conflict on the outer level where we are dissatisfied with our present surroundings, so we start looking for answers. This can be through knowledge, occult, and communication.
  • The duality of Gemini and the celestial powers of Mercury are present. Ardra’s symbol is a head or a single jewel. Both symbolize ideas, minds, and thinking. Rahu is always about matchless ambition, and in Ardra, it combines it with the capacity for knowledge.
  • Planets in Ardra get motivated towards greater occult learning. Rudra, the God of Destruction, is Ardra’s presiding Deity… Rudra is a form of Shiva. Rudra’s mission is to destroy ignorance; therefore, he directs the consciousness towards knowledge and finding the answers for ourselves about this manifestation.
  • At Ardra, we start to study or learn about the Law of Nature. The first time we become dissatisfied with the materialistic nature of our lives and start towards expanding the horizons of our spiritual selves…
  • The Second Nakshatra ruled by Rahu is Swati ( 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00′ Libra) Planets in Swati indicate the depth of the soul’s involvement in Materialism. The indicator of the soul in our chart, the Sun, is debilitated here, and Saturn, the worker of the Zodiac, is exalted here.
  • Under Swati, the impulse is all about material gain. Venus rules the earthly needs of an individual. Combining it with Rahu furthers the desire for success, wealth, and finance. Many millionaires are born with their Moon or Saturn in Swati. The presiding deity is Vayu (air).
  • The Symbol is Coral. The location of this Nakshatra in Libra indicates that the experience of full involvement in earthy, materialistic pleasures will bring with it dissatisfaction because the scales will be heavy to one side.
  • Once success is achieved, we feel empty, alone, and dissatisfied with our achievement, many try for more success, but the correct thing would be to look towards your higher self at this time. Libra is a stage of life when we start thinking about the spiritual meaning of life, but only once the other urges have been fulfilled.
  • Shatabishak( 6 degrees 40′ to 20 degrees 00’Aquarius) is the final Nakshatra ruled by Rahu. Saturn rules Aquarius, and Rahu’s rulership of the Nakshatra makes a very difficult combination where life has to have a purpose, and the total direction is about learning lessons. Rahu gives results like Saturn but on a psychological level.
  • This double Saturnine influence on planets placed here is difficult to handle unless our activities are directed towards service to humanity. Here both Rahu and Saturn are concerned about changing our purpose in life, giving us the final answers. Rahu on the internal level and Saturn on an external level offer restrictions, obstacles, and transformation.
  • The need to understand the final lessons of life and the duty to others are two of the important aspects of Shatabishak. Its symbol is the thousand-petalled flowers; Shatabishak is where the Kundalini flowers and we reach towards the full awareness of our consciousness. This is the stage in life where we activate the Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra.
  • Rahu brings forth its full power as the teacher of cosmic law. When the Moon is in Shatabishak, its materialistic tendencies are shed completely, and we move toward the true purpose of life. We are ready to transcend to the next phase of spiritual development.
  • Jupiter and Saturn, the significators of spirituality and occult initiation rule all the quarters of Rahu’s Nakshatra. They are Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Each pada (quarter) represents the ninth harmonic of the natal chart.
  • Together these four signs represent the final stages of spiritual development. As the Rahu Nakshatras represent a point in a life cycle where we are starting to change, these padas further indicate that life on an internal level remains the same again.
  • Sagittarius is the level at which man learns to control the base emotions and changes from animal to human; at Capricorn, we learn about the duties and responsibilities to others, and Aquarius represents the stage of development where we are now privy to full knowledge. At Pisces, we are able to make the final change and sow the seeds for future growth.
  • So although the stages of the soul’s journey are different in Ardra ( Gemini), Swati ( Libra), and Shatabishak( Aquarius), the underlying urge, represented by the quarters, is still the same- to evolve. The ending of one way of life and the beginning of another.




Vedic Hymn to Ketu

Decked with silk, flowers, garlands, sandal paste, and an umbrella, of variegated color, born of Jaimini’s family under Abhijit Nakshatra….’

Ketu is the lower part of the celestial snake.

  • This hymn shows the main difference between Rahu and Ketu, Rahu is dark in color, but Ketu has a variegated color. Therefore it has the capacity to shine a light on you suddenly and bring about enlightenment.
  • Ketu is born to the Jaimini family, who followed the Mimasa school of philosophy. Their main concern was the correct interpretations of the Vedic rituals and settling any controversies about the Vedic texts.
  • Ketu himself is guiding towards meditation of the nature of creation, intuitiveness, the true understanding of the universe, and the soul’s guidance towards its final salvation or Moksha.
  • Ketu causes great impediments in your paths. It sets up roadblocks, traffic jams, and boulders in your life journey. It causes pain. It wants to change your psyche.
  • You learn to leave your excess baggage of past Karma behind. Travel lightly into this existence so that you can understand there are areas of your life that need to be addressed and some left behind.
  • Those unable to harness the power of Ketu or understand its karmic path can lead a sorrowful existence. Sometimes it is difficult for anyone to stand in the way of Ketu’s power. We need to accept and understand the divine plan, which is part of our destiny, and Ketu is doing its work to produce in you the enlightenment which would lead to true enlightenment and honor.
  • The effect of the Ketu problems is like going through the ritual of fire, from which one comes out stronger and more powerful to be able to take on the problems thrown at us.
  • Ketu will act like Mars, and so will its disposition. Fiery, in nature, signifies accidents or injury, especially due to fire.
  • Ketu rules for seven years in the planetary life cycle. Ketu always has a sting in its tale. So the ending of Ketu Maha Dasha has to be very unexpected happening.
  • Ketu is considered the keeper of the book of our life- past and present Karmas.
  • Ketu is known as Dhwajah- flag. Its association with dignity with a planet has the capacity to boost its capabilities- good or bad beyond recognition for lotteries and windfall. In conjunction with a benefit, Ketu can give beyond your wildest expectations.
  • Ketu’s significations are Ascetics, assassinations, trouble through cats, clairvoyance, contemplation, desire for knowledge, deep thinking, imprisonment, poison, intrigues, magical powers, poverty, mysticism etc.



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