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Rahu (राहु, ราหู)

Sanskrit-Thai. The god of darkness, a legless demon who causes the eclipses of the sun and moon. After the churning of the Ocean of Milk this demon surreptitiously sneaked in the row among the gods and received a portion of the amrita. Surya, god of the sun, and Chandra, god of the moon, uncovered this deceit and reported it to Vishnu who immediately cut the demon in two with his discus -in some texts it is Indra who cut Rahu in two with his thunderbolt- however, the amrita had already taken its effect and both parts lived on separately. As immortal beings they took their place among the stars where Ketu, the lower part of Rahu representing the tail, personifies comets and meteorites and the upper part of Rahu travels through the universe in a chariot pulled by eight black horses. Because he never forgot the betrayal by the sun and the moon he continuously chases them with his mouth open. When he swallows one or the other of them he causes the eclipses, though because he has no underside anymore they keep falling out thus ending the eclipse. Rahu is also one of the nine gods who are worshipped in the Phra prajam wan system of the Hindus (fig.). He is situated on the Southwest, facing South, whereas Ketu the personification of his tail, is placed behind him (fig.). Rahu also creates the darkness of black and ominous clouds to help conceal Ramasoon, the god of thunder (fig.) in order to try and capture the nymph Mekala (fig.). He is often depicted together with Tao Ramathep (fig.). Sometimes transcribed Rahoo. Compare with the Burmese demon balu, especially with the iconographic style balu pan gai (fig.) and with the Sanskrit term kirtimukha (fig.), as well as the Chinese ogre Taotie (fig.). See also Wat Samaan Rattanaraam, a temple that houses a gigantic statue of Rahu, said to be the largest in Thailand (fig.). Rahu is sometimes referred to as Bhayanaka and as the god of change. His consort is known as Karali.