Friday, January 21, 2011

Zodiac with 13 signs – what does it mean to Vedic astrology?

The last one week was abuzz with talks of shifting zodiac and the inclusion of 13th constellation, Ophiuchus. It all started with an interview by a Minnesota based astrologer who spoke about a shift in the zodiac. This created a flutter among the people making them wonder whether their sun signs are the same or had changed. The new zodiac signs showed a shift. Not only that, it was also told that the earth's path now covers an additional sign called Ophiuchus. This post aims at giving information and explanation about what all these mean to Vedic astrology.

First of all, we must know that this information on shifting zodiac was doing rounds for some time. An article on this already appeared in the month of July, 2010 in Times of India. It can be read here:-

What is known from the reports is that the shift is not about the precession of the equinoxes. It is about the entry of the sun into specific signs. In Vedic astrology we meticulously follow the entry of the Sun into each sign because that is a major factor for predicting events of the land. The western astrology depends on the Sun sign for everything. But Vedic astrology has clear cut rules for what to follow and for which purpose.

We follow the Sun sign for predicting world events. The entry of the Sun into Aries (New Year) is a determinant for a variety of happenings including the rainfall, the agricultural output, price level, prices of dear metals, gems and different kinds of consumable liquids, war clouds etc. We do sun sign prediction for determining the Navanaayaks which will be written in yearly Panchangas.

For an individual, we follow three-some procedure based on lagna (ascendant), the moon and the sun. The lagna based interpretation tells about the life of the person. The moon based interpretation tells about how the mind perceives and experiences the events of life. The sun based prediction is used to decide the events of the year under consideration. This method is known as Tajaka.

According to this method, the degrees at which sun is posited at the time of birth is noted. Taking that degree as the basis, we prepare a chart every year when the sun enters the same degree. The chart thus made is applicable for a year only – that is, until the sun re-enters the same degree next year. This sun degree principle is the basis of Western astrology. They have based their astrology on this one point alone. So the sun's position – if found changing contrary to what they have been following - will put their system into trouble. That is what has happened now.

As far as Vedic astrology is concerned, we follow many factors meticulously in addition to sun's movement. Sun's entry into each sign is of importance to us for muhurtha astrology and for performance of pithru-oblations. Surya sankramana in every sign has specific connotations for specific predictions. We observe the sun's entry and record it in the almanac year after year. Western astrology had not done that all these years!

For example, this year the sun entered Capricorn (Makar sanakaranthi) on the 15th of January. At times this had happened on the 14th also. The location from which you are observing the sun also matters. At the most there will be difference of one day around the globe. So from where you are seeing the Sankaranthi, matters. Vedic astrology takes into consideration how it is seen from a place for an observer.

This entry into Capricorn was marked at 22nd  December in Western astrology for all these years! Now the scientists have said that it happens on 20th January! Note that this date is close to our date of Makara sankramana. Here again, from which location you see this entry matters. When seen from India, it happened on 15th January this year.  But the scientists have said that the entry is on 20th January. In my opinion, this difference is possible if the scientists have taken a different point of Capricorn as the starting point.

This brings us to the next issue on signs. The length of a sign is not the same in Vedic astrology and Western astrology. We divide the 360 degree zodiac into 12 equal parts of 30 degrees each. In the West they divide on the basis of the length of constellations. That is why they get Ophiuchus now and something else later!

Certain constellations such as Aries are short and certain constellations such as Virgo are long. We don't depend on the length of the constellations. In fact the stars also are not treated on the basis of specific entity as a star. In our system a star means the part of the sky that is 13 degrees- 20 minutes long. We divide this span into four sub-divisions called padas and attribute certain characteristics to each of them also. The entire stretch is known by the name of the prominent star in that location. In that way, Aswini are Bharani are very close to each other whereas Krittika is by itself another galaxy! Chithra (Spica) is part of Virgo whereas Swathi does not come in the exact path of the ecliptic but lies adjacent to Chithra. So the span is important and naming comes due to prominence in the sky.

That is why we never consider Ophiuchus as a sign. There are 88 constellations so far identified in the sky. We don not give importance to all of them. Vedic astrology takes into consideration only those constellations or stars which have relevance to HUMAN LIFE! Astrology is about relationship between the celestial bodies and the human life or any life on earth. Vedic astrology takes into account only those which have an influence on life on earth.

Zodiacal signs are of equal length whereas the zodiacal constellations are not equal in length. That is where the confusion comes in Western astrology. We find that the constellations stretch out to the next sign also. That is why we have quarter, half, three-quarter of the stars split between signs. They end up only at 3 places in the sky – one at the end of cancer, the second at the end of Scorpio and the third at the end of Pisces. These areas mark the end of continuing constellations. We call these junctions as gandanthaas. These junctions bear importance in muhurtha astrology and other places. 

Western astrology does not make such compartmentalization and instead depends on the span of the constellations. The span of each constellation is not the same for all constellations. That is why there is difference in the length of the signs and the duration, depending on the entry of the Sun into those signs.

The current change into Capricorn on 20th January must be about the entry of Sun into the constellation of Capricorn. In Vedic astrology, Sagittarius stretches into Capricorn with ¾ of Uttrashada falling in Capricorn. However we stop with 30 degrees of Sagittarius and begin Capricorn after that, even if it means part of previous constellation stretches into that. On the other hand Western astrology begins and ends with the exact span of a constellation.

Signs and stars are not taken into reckoning in Vedic astrology without a basis.

I will give an example for this. The star Canopus is called as Agasthya in our system. It does not lie on the path of the ecliptic. From South India it is seen in the southeastern sky. Near the South Pole it is seen throughout the year. At present it can be seen after sun set lying southeast to Sirius. This star can not be missed as it is the second brightest star after Sirius.

This star is not in the reckoning for horoscopic predictions. But it has an important place in Vedic astrology for bringing rains!! The heliacal rising of this star before sun rise was an important event in India in olden days. The first sighting is important in that, this star must be seen clear and bright. The clear sighting assures good rainy season. Paripadal -11 makes a mention of this heliacal rising of Agasthya and connects it to the ushering in of good rains.

Starting from the first day of sighting until the 7th day, people used to offer water oblations (arghya) to this star before sun rise. Matsyapurana says that that this offering must be done for 7 times on any day within the first 7 days of sighting. There are Vedic hymns to do this offering. It is also ordained that all people must do this in the spirit of Nithya karma. The princes were ordained to do this offering. One who does this offering for 7 years will become the sole ruler of earth, it is said. A sick person who does this offering for 7 years will get rid of severe illnesses. Such kind of an importance is given to this star, but we don't take up Carina (the name of the constellation where Canopus / Agasthya is posited) as one of the zodiacal signs!

Western astrology is based on Ptolemy's views. For us, astrology was given by gods and rishis. Vedic astrological views are not man made. Any astrologer who had written his book used to quote the lineage of teachers from whom this sastra was got. Invariably these lineages begin from either Surya or Pitamaha (four-faced Brahma). The famous Siddhnatha grantha called Surya Siddhantha was so called because it was rendered by none other than Lord Surya. There are 18 pioneers in Vedic astrology who are all rishis. This 18 includes Surya and Pitamaha – the only 2 celestial entities from whom the rishis received the knowledge of astrology as upadesa.

Astrology was not called as Jyothisha initially. It was known as Nakshathra darshana or Nakshathra vidya (Chandogya Upanishad). The Nakshathras or stars are the manifestation of Gods themselves (Purusha sookhtham). Everything we see on earth, our own body and things all around us were once part of the nakshathra called the Sun which was once part of a Super nova – another sun in its old days. That came from the previous beginnings and thus goes our connection with all that is celestial and remote. We share the same body parts with certain stars of which our sources shared a commonality. That is how we get an alignment or repulsion with certain celestial bodies and certain items of the earth such as grains, trees, animals, gems etc. Such connection is facilitated by the light rays emerging from the stars or the light reflected by celestial bodies. That is where Vedic seers have formulated the effects of conjunctions.

Western astrology sees through the telescope and brings in planets not seen by naked eye. But we have clear rules that state that only those planets which can be seen by the naked eye are capable of affecting our life through the light they emit (the light that reaches us). The same western astrology has failed to see the light that comes from the stars. In my younger days I have read a report that the light from the star Arcturus (Swathy) which takes 40 years to reach the earth was tapped to light a trade fair in the US. Westerners had tapped or trapped the light from the stars but not known what star-light does to our body or psyche.

Vedic astrology which sees astrology as the science of stars / Gods gives utmost importance to stars. We make predictions on the basis of the star in which a planet is posited whereas many such detailed analyses are not known to western astrology. I am not saying this to cast aspersions on western astrology, but saying to convey that Vedic astrology is far advanced and well laid that no 'invention' by scientists can have any adverse effect on it. On the other hand, scientists can draw inspiration from Vedic astrology.

For instance Agasthya, the star Canopus which I explained above has a great relevance for a science research. There is a story on Agasthya and Vindhya mountains. That story says that once Vindhya mountains started growing in such a way that people to the north of it could not see the sun. Sage Agsthya was sent to control the Vindhyas. When the sage crossed the Vindhyas the mountain lowered in obeisance. Agasthya ordained that it must remain so until he returned and he headed for the South. But he never returned from the South as he chose to remain there. As a result Vindhya did not grow and remained as it was. In that position it did not hide the Sun for the people residing to the north of it.

At the outset this would look like a fictional story. But the importance given to the helical sighting of Agasthya shows a different meaning to this episode. Presently the star is seen only upto 37 degrees North. The sages have mentioned the time of heliacal rising of Agasthya for different regions in India. These regions fall in the north of Vindhyas. The tropic of cancer passes through India in the north of Vindhyas. Tropic of Cancer marks the northern most sojourn of the Sun. Beyond that the sun does not shine overhead.

As per the story there was a time when the sun was hidden by the Vindhyas. That could mean the tropic of cancer was a little south of the Vindhyas. In that situation those in the north of Vindhyas could have never had the sun shining over their latitudes. This could happen if the earth's axis was more tilted than it is now. At present the tilt is 23-1/2 degrees. According to scientists, this angle has varied from 25 degrees to 22 degrees. When the tilt is more, the northern most point of sun's movement will fall south of Vindhyas. In such a situation, Canopus can not be seen!!

When the tilt came down to 23 /1/2 degrees as it is now, the sun moves beyond the Vindhyas. In other words, the Vindhyas had lowered a little so that the people living in the north of it could see / experience the sun in their latitudes. From there, Canopus can be seen. The areas from where Canopus is seen are the areas which depend on seasonal rainfall. Heliacal sighting of Canopus marks the arrival of rains.

This story tells about times when the angle of earth's tilt was different. That was the time when seasonal / monsoon rainfall was not experienced in the areas north of the Vindhyas. So one can calculate when such a condition existed that gave rise to this story.

According to the current level of scientific understanding, the tilt varies from 22 to 25 degrees in 41,000 years. Depending on the tilt, ice sheets build up leading to the setting in of the Ice age. At 23-1/2 degrees at present we are in the middle of 2 Ice ages. Scientists will be able to calculate the angle of tilt when the north of Vindhyas did not see the overhead sun. It is possible to calculate the time period when such a scenario occurred. That must be before the end of last Ice age which is supposed to have occurred anytime around 13,000 to 17,000 years ago. That was the time Vedic culture existed and waited to see Agasthya to offer arghya. Tamilnadu was not outside this Vedic culture for, we have reference to heliacal sighting Agasthya in Paripaadal.

At present one can see Agasthya in the sky after sun set. Just look eastward and locate Orion. To the North of Orion 2 distinct bright stars can be seen. They are Punarpusam and poosam (Pushya) – they look like twins and are close to Gemini. On the far south of Orion – opposite to the twins, one can locate Canopus. It is in the south east direction from South India. It will be interesting to know that Paripadal -11 says that Agasthya went across his region and attained Gemini (பொதியின் முனிவன் புரைவரைக் கீறி மிதுனம் அடைய). A look at the skies shows that Agasthya had crossed the celestial equator (at location of Orion) and was positioned parallel to Gemini.

Agasthya and Vasishta are the co-borns according Hindu stories. The Dravidian chauvinists used to speak of their birth in a vulgar tone. But looking at the sky, their story also gives a surprising fact of Nature. Agasthya is to the South as Vasishta is to the North. They are fixed stars seen throughout the year in the respective Polar Regions!

It is as though these two stars (rishis) are holding the pot like earth in between themselves and protecting it. From Canopus to Vasishta, runs the axis of the earth.

I think I am straying out of the topic, but the moment I start thinking about the stars and their relevance, I keep going from one topic to another. All these are connected to one another.

Coming to the issue of the shifting zodiac, we in Vedic astrology keep a track of entry of the sun in each sign. This is marked as Surya sankramana. It can be referred from the almanacs. There is no confusion about the dates of entry as told for each year.

The 12 sign zodiac is of relevance in astrology. We see the zodiac in the backdrop of the stars and mark the occasions of conjunction of the stars and sun and the moon. For example, we call the Full moon of Chithrai as Chithra Pournami because sun, moon and the star Chithra of Virgo conjunct on that day. The names of lunar months are based on the conjunction of the moon with the star in the sky. These conjunctions do not change in a few thousand years. The discrepancies arising from lunar movement are corrected every 2-1/2 years, by adding one adhika masa.

Vedic astrology is not based on man made theories. The basic theories are enough to interpret them to answer problems of the modern world. The Western astrology is in fact an off shoot of solar astrology of Vedic seers. It was given to Mlechchas and Yavanas by Vasishta when they helped him in a war against Vishvamitra over the possession of the Holy cow, Sabala.

The mlecchas and yanavas were none other than the descendants of king Yayati. In the war explained in Rig Vedas and in Mahabharata, the 5 sons of Yayati were on war with each other. In the end the 2 sons, Turvasu and Anu were driven out of the Saraswathy plain. The sons of Turvasu were called as Yavanas and the sons of Anu were called as Mlecchas. ( They did not follow the Vedic way of life. They settled in Persia and North west India in Kandahar. Vasishta was present at that time. He later requisitioned their services in the war against Vishvamitra and won with their help. As a kind of remuneration, he had taught them the astrology which had its origin in Vedas but not followed by Vedic people. That astrology was known as Yavana astrology. Yavana astrology traces its origins to Vasishta only. The details of this can be read in

Yavana astrology was sun sign astrology. With the passage of time, the Mlechchas and Yavanas lost contact with Bharat. Moreover they were not accepted in Bharat in that remote past. Over the years, that astrology was developed with whatever was in their memory and from their own research. It found a new lease of life in Ptolemy. From what he has given, the present day western astrology was developed.  This is the background of western astrology.

So the current squabbles over shifting zodiac are a problem of Western astrology and not Vedic astrology. In this post I have used the term Vedic for our system of astrology. Generally people think that Vedanga Jyothisha is the only Vedic astrology and consider the astrology practiced in our country as a borrowed one from the Greeks. They are wrong. Vedanga Jyothisha is similar to what Panchangas (almanacs) are to us. They record the tri-prasnas (dik, desa, kala) and help in identifying the right time for yajnas. The present day metamorphosis of that is the almanac.

The huge volumes of astrology that is used for prediction and other purposes also existed along with Vedanga Jyothisha. They were given by 18 sages during different times. They have been neatly compartmentalized from the times of Narada. Since they were all taught by Vedic sages, the entire body of Hindu astrology is fit to be called as Vedic astrology.

Basic introduction to Vedic astrology.

There are ways of classification of astrology.
One way is to divide it into two namely, Siddhantha bhaga and Phala bhaga.
Siddhantha bhaga is further sub-divided into Siddhanthas, Tantra and  Karana.

Siddhantha deals with Maha kala starting from Creation onwards. It is in that we come across mention of years in lakhs attributed to yugas. Such yugas are with reference to the movement of the Sun around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. People confuse this with yugas mentioned in Ithihasas. The Yugas at human level are different and I will be giving an outline of it in my next post where I want to discuss why I must talk about the political situation also if I am concerned about Sanatana Dharma.
One can easily identify a Siddhantha by what it speaks. If there is description about time scale from creation onwards such a book is a Siddhantha. Surya Siddhantha is a popular Siddhantha grantha.

Tantra begins from the Yuga in which it is written. Arya Bhatteeya is a Tantra book.
Karana begins with the Saka years – the 100 years under consideration. Karana kuthoohala is a Karana grantha.
Apart from these there is Kosthuka and Yantra coming under Siddhantha bhaga.

The Phala bhaga deals with predictive part of astrology. It contains Hora, Muhurtha astrology, Tajaka, Prasna, Medini (mundane), Samhitha etc.

Narada samhitha gives 3- part classification of astrology.
They are Siddhantha skandha, Samhitha skandha and Hora skandha

There is another way of classification called Pancha Skandhas which most astrologers have done. They also take into consideration the above parts but classify them differently.

They are Siddhantha skandha, Samhitha skandha, Hora skandha, Prasna skandha and Sakuna skandha.

The last two are based on the moment of asking or happening. It is based on the assumption that every moment contains an experience or an incident which can be known through certain methods. When a person is propelled by an inner thought to ask a question, Nature around us has an answer to it. That is what Prasna astrology taps. Such an incident vibrates some energies which are sensed by the beings (animals, plants and even the way air blows or water passes off) around us. That is what Sakuna is all about.

These basic divisions of astrology show how vast and detailed our Vedic astrology is. To say that such a vast ocean of knowledge is imported from Greeks is nothing but an exhibition of stupidity. The kind of knowledge that we get from Vedic astrology is incomparable with western astrology. Vedic astrology can never fail, never be found wanting. Its followers can remain assured that the recent revelations on shifting zodiac etc are irrelevant to Vedic astrology.


E.Chandramouli or ECM from CEG-65, Guindy said...

Thank you and a good and informative analysis.All the best and good wishes.

rk said...

Fantastic article!!Cudos

jayasree said...

Thanks Mr Eswara and Rama

Kudanthaiamudhan said...

good article with highly informative. appreciate the efforts of author. kindly visit the website of mine to know how grahas are connected to sri vishnu temples- written totally for 5 grahas : sani-tirumala, guru-kanchi varadharajaperumal, sukran- srirangam, sun- sarangapani temple kumbakonam, chandran- Thirumaliurmcholai. All above articles have been published in sriranganatha paduka, a vaishnavite journel of monthly edition. Totally 8 articles on chandran -Thirumaliumcholai and 4 articles on Suriyan- thirukudanthai sri sarangapani temple( including charkarapani) remaining each one for sani, venus and guru.Those readers of vedic astrology this website will be of interesting-

jayasree said...

My namasakram to Sri Kundanthaiamuthan.
The first time you left a comment in my blog, I visited your blog and read all the posts. Very useful articles. Every now and then I used to visit your blog to see if you have posted anything new. Please share your knowledge for our benefit.

Jithendra said...

excellent article. i liked to understand how western astrology got its origin from vedic astrology. It was a very good information and knowledge sharing for all of us. Thanks a lot jayasree. Im following your blog since an year to update my knowledge and learn something new every time. Keep up the good work!

Jithendra said...

excellent article. I was delighted to know many facts from this article like yanava astrology, earth's tilting and ice age, and info abt constellations. I am a regular follower of your blogs and your sharing of knowledge in such open forums is highly appreciated. Kepp up the work, i am blessed to follow a blog like yours..thank god and you!

jayasree said...

Thanks for the encouraging words Mr Jithendra. I have quoted my previous research article in this post.

You will find a comparison of yavana astrology and Vedic astrology in this article and how it has been incorporated in Tajaka.

About 2000 years ago, 3 systems of prediction were there in Bharat - Parashara, yavana and Jaimini. Today what most astrologers follow is Parashara system. Yavana was patronized by Jain astrologers and prasna astrologers. Today it is totally gone. Translation of Yavana Jataka is available on net.

Pannalal said...

A good post with a new approach on interpretation.

You have mentioned about Anu & Turvasu, both sons of rise to Mlechcha & Yavana. Don't you think it will be more appropraite to interpret the 'Yayati's sons' as 'Yayati's subjects (some tribe here)' ? Like Anga/Vanga/Kalinga (three rehions) being sons of a Danava ?



jayasree said...

//Don't you think it will be more appropraite to interpret the 'Yayati's sons' as 'Yayati's subjects (some tribe here)' ? Like Anga/Vanga/Kalinga (three rehions) being sons of a Danava ?//

No. It can not be so. Yayati had 5 sons and the fight between them is the infamous Arya-dasyu fight that Max Muller thought was fought between Aryans and Dravidians.

There is abundant literature on them and if you can read Tamil, please read my Tamil blog on whether Tamils are Dravidans.

I have given a detailed analysis of them in articles numbered 30 and 31 in that blog.

The sons had their people and well wishers. The Anus settled in Iran, Sumeria. The Avesta is their heritage only. The Druhus moved towards today's Afghanistan and went upto Caspian sea.

You can see a similar exposition by Kazanas also whose lecture links I have posted in this blog recently.

Anonymous said...

Great article.