Rahu (the seizer) is in Hindu mythology, a Demon who seizes the sun and moon, causing eclipses. It is also the name for eclipses. Rahu has four arms, and his body ends in a dragon’s tail. When the gods and Demons were fighting for the Amrita, the water of life, at the Churning of the Ocean, Rahu disguised himself and drank some of the Amrita.

When the sun and moon saw what he had done, they told the god Vishnu, who then cut off Rahu’s head and two of his arms. Rahu, however, had gained immortality by drinking the Amrita, and his body was placed in the heavens. The upper part is represented by a dragon’s head, the ascending node, and the lower part, the descending node.

The Vishnu Purana, one of the 18 Puranas, tells how “eight black horses draw the dusky chariot of Rahu, and once harnessed are attached to it for ever. . . . Rahu directs his course from the sun to the moon, and back again from the moon to the sun.” Rahu is also called Abhra-pisacha (the Demon of the sky) and Kabandha (the headless).


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante