Unveiling the Cosmic Dance: Shiva and Shakti in the Inner Milky Way

Dr. Punit Kumar Associate Professor, Department of Physics, University of Lucknow Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Varshney Advisor and Head, International Cooperation (Retd.), Department of Science & Technology, Government of India

2024-04-01 15:47:44

Credit: pixabay.com

Credit: pixabay.com

In a remarkable convergence of ancient mythology and cutting-edge astrophysics, astronomers have unveiled remarkable parallels between the cosmic choreography of Shiva and Shakti and the mysterious proto-galactic fragments nestled within the inner recesses of the Milky Way galaxy. This groundbreaking discovery illuminates the intricate interplay of cosmic forces and offers profound insights into the fundamental fabric of the universe.

In Hindu mythology, Shiva and Shakti embody the divine principles of masculine and feminine energies, encapsulating the dynamic interplay between creation and destruction, motion and stillness. Shiva, the transcendent deity of dance, represents the eternal cycle of cosmic dissolution and rebirth, while Shakti, the primal goddess of energy, embodies the creative force that propels the universe forward in its perpetual dance of existence.


Modern astrophysics is deeply invested in unravelling the origins and evolution of massive galaxies like our own Milky Way. By studying the present-day universe through the lens of our own galaxy, researchers aim to map and understand the intricate distribution of stars based on their age, orbit, and chemical composition. This approach allows scientists to discern when and where stars formed, how stellar material became enriched over time, and which dynamic processes such as mergers or secular evolution shaped the structure of our galaxy. The significance of these processes varies depending on the epoch and the distance from the galactic centre, where they occur.

In a remarkable astronomical revelation, Khyati Malhan and Hans-Walter Rix from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have pinpointed what could potentially be two of the earliest building blocks of our Milky Way galaxy: proto-galactic fragments named Shiva and Shakti. These fragments are believed to have merged with the nascent Milky Way approximately 12 to 13 billion years ago, during the formative stages of galaxy formation in the cosmos. By leveraging data from European Space Agency’s (ESA's), Gaia astrometry satellite in conjunction with information from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) survey, astronomers have uncovered these ancient cosmic remnants, akin to uncovering traces of an ancient settlement that eventually evolved into a sprawling modern city.

At the core of the Milky Way reside proto-galactic fragments, dense pockets of gas and dust that act as celestial incubators for the genesis of stars and galaxies. These fragments, shaped by powerful gravitational forces, engage in a cosmic ballet of fragmentation, merging, and dispersion, echoing the dynamic interplay of Shiva and Shakti depicted in Hindu mythology.

When galaxies collide and merge, a multitude of processes occur simultaneously. Each galaxy carries its own reservoir of hydrogen gas, which becomes destabilized upon collision, leading to the formation of countless new stars within the gas clouds. Additionally, stars from the merging galaxies intermingle, contributing to the stellar population of the resultant combined galaxy. Despite the complexity of galactic mergers, there are ways to trace the ancestry of stars back to their progenitor galaxies. Basic physical principles dictate that stars retain fundamental properties, such as energy and angular momentum, which are indicative of their origin galaxies. By identifying groups of stars with similar energy and angular momentum values, astronomers can discern remnants of galactic mergers. Furthermore, the metallicity of stars reflecting their elemental composition can offer clues about their formation epochs, with lower metal content indicating earlier star formation.

The ability to identify stars that once belonged to other galaxies within the Milky Way has only recently become feasible, thanks to the availability of large, high-quality datasets and sophisticated data analysis techniques. The ESA's Gaia satellite, launched in 2013, has played a pivotal role in revolutionizing galactic archaeology by providing precise positional and distance data for nearly 1.5 billion stars within our galaxy. Gaia's data has facilitated the discovery of various substructures within the Milky Way, including remnants of past mergers and populations of stars formed during the galaxy's infancy. Among these discoveries are the Pontus stream and the central heart of the Milky Way, shedding light on the dynamic history of our cosmic home.


In their current investigation, Malhan and Rix utilized data from the Gaia satellite in conjunction with detailed stellar spectra obtained from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (DR17). These spectra offer comprehensive insights into the chemical composition of stars. Malhan noted, "We observed that within a specific range of metal-poor stars, there was a clustering of stars exhibiting two distinct combinations of energy and angular momentum." Unlike the ‘poor old heart’, which was also discernible in these plots, the two groups of stars with similar characteristics displayed notably higher angular momentum, indicative of star clusters originating from separate galaxies that merged with the Milky Way. Malhan has christened these two structures Shakti and Shiva, drawing inspiration from Hindu mythology, where Shiva represents a principal deity and Shakti symbolizes a female cosmic force often depicted as Shiva's consort.

With their energy and angular momentum values, coupled with their notably low metallicity comparable to that of the ‘poor old heart’, Shakti and Shiva emerge as promising contenders for some of the earliest progenitors of our Milky Way. According to Rix, "Shakti and Shiva could potentially be the initial additions to the 'poor old heart' of our Milky Way, initiating its evolution into a larger galaxy."

Source : Khyati Malhan and Hans-Walter Rix, The Astrophysical Journal 964, 104 (2024).


Recent astronomical observations have unveiled the intricate dynamics of proto-galactic fragments nestled within the inner regions of the Milky Way, revealing parallels to the cosmic dance of Shiva and Shakti. Through advanced telescopic observations and computational modelling, scientists have elucidated the swirling, spiralling movements of gas and dust within these fragments, evoking imagery reminiscent of the divine dance depicted in Hindu mythology.

The identification of phenomena resembling Shiva and Shakti in the inner Milky Way carries significant implications for our comprehension of galactic evolution and cosmological principles. By correlating ancient mythology with contemporary astrophysics, researchers gain fresh perspectives into the interrelation between cosmic occurrences and human consciousness, fostering a comprehensive outlook on reality's essence.

As astronomers persist in exploring the cosmos' enigmas, further investigation into proto-galactic fragments and their celestial dance holds the promise of uncovering novel realms of comprehension. Through the integration of interdisciplinary methodologies and the incorporation of ancient mythological knowledge, scientists embark on an expedition of discovery that transcends cultural barriers and reveals the universe's secrets.

The detection of proto-galactic fragments reminiscent of Shiva and Shakti within the inner Milky Way signifies a notable advancement in our endeavour to decipher the cosmos' mysteries. As humanity delves into the vastness of space, we are reminded of the timeless wisdom encapsulated in ancient myths, offering profound insights into existence's fundamental essence. In the cosmic choreography of Shiva and Shakti, we encounter not only a metaphor for galactic dynamics but also an enduring representation of the eternal cycle of creation and regeneration inherent in the universe's fabric.