Nakshatra the term popularly used is a sanskrit term for a constellation of stars. The meaning : naksha, 'approach', and : tra, 'guard') or lunar mansion is one of the 27 divisions of the sky. Each nakshatra represents a division of the ecliptic similar to the zodiac (13°20’ each instead of the 30° for each zodiac sign). The orbit of the moon is 27.3 days, so the Moon takes approximately one day to pass through each nakshatra. The starting point for the nakshatras is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the star Spica called Chitrā in Sanskrit. It is called Meshādi or the "start of Aries". The ecliptic is divided into each of the nakshatras eastwards starting from this point
In Hindu mythology, the Nakshastras were created by Daksha and are personified as daughters of the deity and as mythological wives of Chandra, the moon god. Some even make them the daughters of Kashyapa, the brother of Daksha. Each of the nakshatras is governed as 'lord' by one of the nine graha in the following sequence: Ketu (South Lunar Node), Shukra (Venus), Ravi or Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Rahu (North Lunar Node), Guru or Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury). This cycle repeats itself three times to cover all 27 nakshatras. The lord of each nakshatra determines the planetary period known as the vimshottari dasha, which is considered of major importance in forecasting the life path of the individual. In astrology Nakshatras are used for determining:
Traditional Hindu names
When a child is born, they should be given an auspicious first name which will correspond to the child's Nakshatra. It is claimed that the benefit of this naming is that when the child hears this sound it generates the feeling of wholeness within the child. The child gains the feeling of comfort 'that mother is at home', whereas the wrong name can lead to feelings of isolation or alienation. The Moon is associated with mother, so using this sound gives the child that comfort feeling of mother. Each birth star has corresponding Sanskrit sounds which would belong at the beginning of such a name. These are available under each Nakshatra. The principle technique for deducing the name is to see which nakshatra the moon is in at the moment of birth; this gives four possible sounds. A refinement is to pick one sound out of that four that relates to the Pada or division of the Nakshatra. Each Nakshatra has four Padas and four sounds and each Pada is of equal width. A further refinement or opportunity is to instead use the Nakshatra that the ascendent resides in at birth. By using the ascendent's nakshatra, instead of the moon's nakshatra leads more to comfort of the Self, rather than comfort of the mother.
Use in electional astrology
Constellations are grouped on the basis of their nature, type of their face, degree of their beneficence, their quarters in different signs, with reference to the constellation occupied by the Sun, with reference to the birth constellation (Janma Nakshatra), their caste, etc. The current constellation occupied by the Moon, and its nature forms the fundamental of Vedic system of electional astrology (Muhurta). Some of the activities and works which are associated with the Nakshatras are given below
Based on their fundamental nature:
Fixed (Dhruva, Sthira) constellations:
Rohini, Uttara Bhādrapadā , Uttra Falguni, and Uttara Ashada
Fixed and permanent nature – Used for muhurta which are of permanent nature like house, village, temple, entering in new hose-city-temple, religious works, rites for getting peace, propitiation of portents, Vi nayakaShanti, coronation, sowing of seeds, planting of small garden, starting of vocal music, friendship, sexual works, making & wearing of ornaments & clothes may be auspiciously begun / effectively performed. Works allocated to delicate & friendly (Mridu) asterisms may also be performed.
Movable (Chal , Char) constellations:
Punarvasu, Swaati, Sharavana, Shatabhishā & Shravishthā
Related to motion & movement – Used for muhurta which are moving in nature like riding on a vehicle or elephant, opening of shop, walking first time, walking in garden, sex, making jewellery, learning of a trait. Things performed in Small (Laghu) constellation are also effectively performed in the Movable constellations.
Cruel (Ugra, Karur) constellations:
Magha, Bharni, Porva Falguni, Poorva Shada, & Poorva Bhadra.
The above Nakshatras are selected as Muhurta for performing cruel activities like Ambush, burning, poisoning (self & others), making & using weapons especially related to fire, cheating / deception / wickedness / craftiness, cutting & destroying, controlling of animals, beating & punishing of enemy. Works allocated to Sharp / Horrible (Darun) asterisms are also successfully done in these asterisms.
Mixed (Mishra & Sadharan) constellations
Vishakha & Krittika.
These Nakshatras are selected as Muhurta for Fire works, burning of sacred fire (Agnihotra), using poison, fearsome works, arresting, adulteration (mixing), donation of ox to get one’s desires fulfilled (Vrashotsarga). Works prescribed under cruel (Ugra, Karur) constellations may also be performed. Sweet / delicate & friendly (Mridu & Maitri) constellations can also be included.
Small (Laghu & Kshipra) constellations
Hasta, Abhijit, Pushya, and Ashvani.
These Nakshatras are selected as Muhurta for Selling, medical knowledge, using & handling of medicines, literature-music-art, the 64 Kala Shilpa (various arts, sculpture etc.) jewellery making & wearing, sexual intercourse. And the works prescribed for Movable (Char) constellations. Though Abhijit is included in Small group of asterisms, but is rarely referred in the Muhurt prescriptions.
Sweet/Delicate & Friendly (Mridu & Maitri) constellations
Mrigashīrsha, Chitra, Anuradha and Revati.
These Nakshatras are selected as Muhurta for Starting & learning singing of songs, clothes & jewellery making & wearing, Manglik works, matter related to friends, female company, enjoyments, sexual passions.
Sharp & Horrible ( Teekshan & Darun ) constellations:
Jyeshta, Ardra, Ashlesha, and Moola
These Nakshatras are selected as Muhurta for creating charm or spell causing disease or death, hypnotism, sorcery; ghost, ambush, horror, murder, capture, matters related to secrecy, backbiting, starting of quarrel, separation, matters related to friendship & breaking thereof, training & tying of animals, pleasure works, playing games, getting made & wearing of new dress & ornaments, starting & learning singing of songs, entering into village / city, peaceful & developmental works.