Apparently there is a school of thought in some Indian traditions that not only are the 12 signs tropical (anchored to equinoxes and solstices), but the nakshatras are as well. Here is a paraphrase of their outlook that I was sent by a member of this school of thought, along with my critique (kṛttikā).
“The word ‘Nakshatra’ means a division of the zodiac, not a star.” Stars are called ‘Taaraka’ in Samskritam.
What etymology allows for this definition? I do not know of any linguistic way to derive the meaning “division of the zodiac” from the word “nakṣatra.”
The prevailing etymology of the word is na+kṣa+tra. “Kṣa” means to disintegrate. The prefix “na” negates it. The suffix “tra” is like the english “-er/-or.” So the primary definition of the word is, “creator of the unchanging.” The term “unchanging” is a common reference to the heavens and stars.
Besides etymology, the way the term Nakṣatra is used in jyotiṣa texts is in reference to “jyoti-biṁba” (points of light in the sky, stars). And the way the nakṣatras are defined in the classic texts is via “tāraka” (stars).
PS – the term aṁśa is the actual word that has the meaning you try to ascribe to nakṣatra. Zodiac signs are divided by their amśa (navāṁśa, dāśāṁśā, and so on). No classical text refers to the nakṣatra as aṁśā of the raśī. Nor does any classical text define an aṁśa which does not entirely fit within a single sign [in the bound-rāśī-nakṣātra theory, 2.25 nakshatras fit in a sign – demonstrating that nakshatras are NOT divisions of signs at all. That is what the aṁśa are.].
The Vedas declare Krittika to be the first nakshatra – Krittika means to ‘cut’. What is being cut here? This is the ecliptic cutting the celestial equator.
There IS evidence that the Vedic seers considered how the intersections and midpoints of the ecliptic and equator (i.e. solstices and equinoxes) interacted with the nakṣatras. However, the argument you present here is very weak. The argument is:
(1) Kṛttikā means to cut.
(2) Cutting means intersecting the equitorial plane, i.e the equinotical point.
THEREFORE: Kṛttikā is eternally bound at the equinox.
This is a very weak argument because borth premises are weak.
(1) Kṛttikā doesn’t literally mean “to cut” as much as it literally means “to initiate.” Cutting is the means of releasing energy from a container, so the word is sometimes used with the connotation of cutting.
(2) To say that cutting means intersecting the equator is a stretch. Cutting can mean a million things, and this is hardly the first thing that comes to mind.
So, it is a small stretch to get “cut” as the meaning of Kṛttikā, and then a much larger stretch to get “equinox” as the meaning of cut. Therefore the conclusion (That Kṛttikā should permanently reside at the equinox) is very over-extended, and thus weak.
A weak conclusion in this particular case is very unacceptable. Your conclusion would have to be extremely strong and sound to be acceptable, because it directly contradicts the established definitions of nakṣatras in jyotisha hora and jñānika texts, that clearly establish the nakṣatras as jyoti-bimba (points of light) and tāra (stars).
“At some point of time in the past, the Nakshatraas and the Tarakaas were aligned to each other and the nakshatra divisions were named after the fixed star that occupied them, this is no longer the case and hence the confusion.”
This argument is weak because they symbolism of the nakṣatra is based on the visible appearance of the yoga-tāra stars. For example, the pleadies look explosive and new (kṛttikā). Mūla is literally at the bottom (south) of the nakṣatras. The chāla (moving) nakṣatras are literally far northern stars. The reddish stars are passionate. Hasta is shaped like a hand. Punarvasu has two significant stars. Etc. Etc.
The nakṣatra are fields that are permanently bound to their defining stars. The rāśī (zodiac signs) are fields permanently bound to the equinoxes and solstices. The two drift in relation to one another and thus change their relationship. The confusion lies in wanting to understand the nakṣatra as a combination of rāśī and aṁśa instead of understanding them on their own terms, as stars in svārga which are the domain of the gods (“nakṣatrānī vai devānām gṛha”)