My First Constellations

The first constellation I had taught myself to recognize was Ursa Major. The seven stars making the big dipper are called the seven sages (saptarishi) in India. I remember that the Pole Star used to be right in the middle of the space close to the roof of Singh Sahab’s house. Around that fixed axis used to revolve the big dipper. After the bear, I learnt to recognize the dog: Sirius in Canis Major, the brightest star in the night sky. Recognition of Orion and Leo followed the recognition of the dog star. I have placed only the image of Orion below because I feel attached to the constellation in some way: in a way that even I don’t understand. And it has nothing to do with its being the warrior.



I remember the thrill of locating Sirius first and then Orion (then I knew the names of Betelgeuse and Rigel only) in the sky. It was through the help of an old book I had borrowed from the library that I had started recognizing constellations. Ah, the thrill of being able to make the copy book shapes in the sky by and for myself!

In my star gazing days I used to reach my roof top early in the evening. Then I used to try locating the constellation about which I  had read in my book. I got some and some I couldn’t. The journey was fun. Being in it was pure bliss, like that of connecting the ball on bat. Our roof top functioned as a telescope-less observatory from where I, amateur star gazer, used to look at the sky 360 degree. From the ghats, that gave an open access to the east, the view was completely blocked towards the west, and towards half of the north and south directions.

When I left Kasi, my book stayed there. In the quarters where I used to live in Dimapur they had sloping tin roofs, so no question of my using it as an observatory. By the time I left for the flat roofed states of India my hobby had burnt itself. Now, when I try to locate even Orion from where I live, I don’t have free line of vision most of the time. Haven’t seen my old friend, the bear, for a long time now; same for the lion and the dog.

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