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ASTRONOMICAL DEFINITIONS OF GRAHAS AND THE ZODIAC
1.1. The Earth’s Equator (Vishvarekha) This is an imaginary line running around the earth in the exact middle between the south and north poles. This divides thre Earth into a northern and southern hemisphere. The difference between the two is especially visible in the changes of the seasons (determined by the yearly motion of the Sun). In June for example we have summer in the northern hemisphere but simultaneously winter in the southern hemisphere. Therefore the location of the nativity (place of birth) will be a determinant factor in the astronomical calculations that we carry out. Therefore it is necessary to be able to determine the location by certain measurements. To ascertain a point on the earth globe, we will need two coordinates: the latitude and the longitude of the place. 1.2. The Latitude (Akshamsa) This is the angular distance of the place from the Equator towards the North or South. It is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds of arc. The equator is the 0° point, and the poles are at 90° to the south and the north. The southern or northern latitude of the nativity will determine the time of sunrise and sunset and the duration of the day and night, which have an important role in a number of calculations in Jyotish. 1.3. The Longitude (Rekhamsa) The longitude is the vertical measurement of degrees. The earth can be divided into 360 longitudinal meridians, each of the extent of 1° . Now the choice of the beginning point, or 0° is not determined astronomically. In the ancienc India the 0° meridian was the one intersecting the ancient town of Ujjain, where one of the Jyotirlingas (Lord Shiva’s manifestation in a glowing stone) is situated. This Jyotirlinga is called Mahakaleshvara, and as astrology is the science of the measurement of the quantity and quality of time (Kala), this was naturally taken as 0° . In modern times the latitude is better known as the angular distance from Greenwich, where the officially accepted 0° meridian runs. Thus a place may have either eastern or western longitude from Greenwich and either southern or northern latitude from the Equator. For example New York lies at 74° West of Greenwich and at 40° 43’ north of the equator. This is usually indicated thus: 74W00, 40N43. Paris is located at 2E20 and 48N52. The longitude will influence which planets will be above the horizon, and which ones will be under the horizon. For example while there’s noon in New York, there will be night in Delhi. So in one chart the Sun is above the horizon, while in another it’s under it, although the natives were born at the same time cosmically. So the latitude determines, where the Lagna (ascendant) will be, i.e. which sign or nakshatra will be rising on the eastern horizon at the time of birth. 2. THE DIVISION OF THE SKY GLOBE We can look at the sky above us as a globe around the Earth. Thus for determining positions in the sky we will again need two coordinates. 2.1. The Celestial Equator (Nadivritta) The celestial equator is the extension of the Earth’s equator in the skies, and it divides the sky globe into two halves. 2.2. The Declination (Kranti)
2. and the exact middle of Chitra Nakshatra. again. The planets never get very far away from the ecliptic. this star is no longer visible as much. The Tropical (Sayana) and Sidereal (Nirayana) Zodiac The above statements reveal that the zodiac used in Vedic astrology is linked with the stars. and coming to the point of autumn equinoxe. THE CIRCLE OF THE ZODIAC 3. called Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. There are further submeasurements like para. Each degree has 60 minutes (kala) and each minute has 60 seconds (vikala).2 This will be the angular distance of a heavenly body from the celestial equator. Thus the full extent of the zodiac may also be expressed as 21 600 minutes or 129 600 seconds of arc. therefore they are always within this belt. It will be either negative if the planet is above the northern hemisphere.3. and is immovable in comparison to them. and the beginning of Ashwini Nakshatra also. It is negative if the planet is to the north from the ecliptic and is positive if it is to the south from it. The Sun reaches the southest point of its trajectory at the time of the winter solstice (Dec. After that the declination begins increasing from the lowest negative degree. 2. as it was in Parashara’s times.3. The Celestial Latitude (Kshepa) This is the angular distance of a planet from the ecliptic (the Sun’s path). or positive. we should select an arbitrary point in the skies as the beginning of the zodiac. As the circle has no beginning. 3. 3. which forms a curved line. The Zodiac (Bhacakra) This is a broad band in the sky extending 9 degrees on either side of the ecliptic and comprised of different constellations (nakshatras). paratpara and tatpara. However. which will be determined by the placement of certain stars (nakshatras). 23) and from there it begins travelling north. thus its declination gradually decreases.4. The declination is also called Ayana. Then it proceeds towards the northern hemisphere up until the point of summer solstice when the Sun is above the northest point of the Earth and we have the longest day in the northern hemisphere and the shortest night. The Ecliptic (Ravimarga) The ecliptic is the Sun’s above described path.1. as in the case of the terrestrial longitudes. therefore we can determine the exact middle of the zodiac (180° ) by the position of the star Spica. which once a year touches the Tropic of Cancer (during summer solstice) and also once the Tropic of Carpicorn (during winter solstice). On the other hand. The 0° of the Zodiac This point is determined on the basis of the placement of the star which is known as Zeta Piscium in the west. and the rest of the bodies is fixed. 2. Thus the Sun’s yearly movement is divided into two parts. and it keeps increasing positively till the point of winter solstice again. This is taken as the 0° of Aries. since Parashara gave the definition that only the grahas move. The zodiac consists of 360 degrees of arc (rekhas). and crosses the equator twice a year at the time of the equinoxes. It crosses the equator at the time of the vernal equinoxe (March 21) when on the whole Earth the duration of day and night is equal. in case the planet is above the southern hemisphere. This will also indicate the 0° of Libra. 3. At this time the declination of the Sun equals 0 again. observation confirms that the Sun’s yearly cycle on the Ecliptic does not fully coincide with it’s making a .
3. Also the value of the ayanamsha is not linear but cyclical. i. THE DIVISIONS OF THE ZODIAC 4. There is also a 28th nakshatra called Abhijit. This is an intercalary Nakshatra. So it will be somewhere around 6 degrees of Pisces. There are also different opinions regarding the yearly value of precession. it extends from 276° 40’ to 280° 53 1/3’ of the zodiac. Thus there are 27 nakshatras beginning from Ashwini and ending with Revati. The Divisional charts (Amsas or Vargas) . the Lahiri or Chitra Paksha Ayanamsha stands out as the most accurate. i. when the 0 degrees of both zodiacs exactly coincide. there’s a certain cycle to it. it does not have any own extension. this is recommended for calculations. Therefore we could divide the zodiac into 12 Rasis or signs. Lahiri Ayanamsha is verified on the basis of the placement of the above mentioned star Spica. The Nakshatra Chakra As we have mentioned earlier. These signs will have an extent of 30° . Although authorities differ on this.3 complete circle relative to the stars. although testing with divisional charts indicates that even this may be inaccurate for a couple of seconds of arc. 3. but the former is a bit shorter. and thus it’s called the movable (sayana) zodiac. 4. Varaha Mihira states that it’s approximately 50 1/3 vikalas or seconds of arc. in which the Sun will spend one month each. Then there is a certain date of coincidence. The tropical zodiac is fixed to the Sun’s movement through the ecliptic. But until a more exact Ayanamsha value is suggested. the most widely accepted opinion is that the last coincidence was at the vernal equinoxe in 285 AD. The Ayanamsha Value Out of the number of suggested precessional values. 4. The division of Nakshatras is based on the Moon. Thus there will be 12 months within one year. Thus the zodiac will have 108 Nakshatra Padas. and during this he meets the Moon 12 times. so the vernal equinoxe is pushed back to Pisces. the basis of the division of the zodiac is the placement of different constellations in it. but a little less than that.1. The Rasi Chakra There other main method for the division of the zodiac is based on the Sun. which are also called Navamshas (1/9th of a sign).2. as it describes the change of the position of the ecliptic towards the celestial equator. Every Nakshatra may be further divided into four quarters (Padas) 3° 20’ each. then Aquarius etc. each of which covers 13° 20’ of the whole zodiac.e.3. The Precession (Ayanamsha) As the two zodiacs are rotating compared to each other. Of course the precession has a negative value. This means that the Sun will this much fall behind the 0° of Aries of the sidereal zodiac at the time of the vernal equinoxe. This is called precession.e. The Moon spends approximately one day in each Nakshatra. which makes a complete cycle in the zodiac within one month. which forms the exact middle of the Chitra Nakshatra. The constellations are divided into areas in the sky. This in other words means that the Sun at the time of the vernal equinoxe will not come back to the same point of the sidereal zodiac. According to this system. over the years. rather it ocuppies the last quarter of the Uttarashadha Nakshatra and the first 1/15th part of the Shravana Nakshatra. The Sun travels through the zodiac within one year. 4. the Ayanamsha value at the present time is 23° 52’40".4. which is 25 870 solar years long.5.
as this is the most determinant time point in his life. Dwadasamsa (D-12). This is true for all branches of Jyotish. Saptamsa (D-7). but at this time the body of the child is completely separated from the body of the mother. The Time of Birth Astrology is the science that examines the quality of time. Maharishi Parashara and other Jyotish authors have specifically mentioned the following subdivisions of the signs: Hora (D-2). In Tajaka astrology we are interested in the transit fo the planets at the time of the native’s birth day. In horary astrology (Prashna) we are interested in the transit of the planets at the time of the native’s putting his question to the astrologer. as it is based both on the division of the Sun and the Moon. Dasamsa (D-10). Shodasamsa (D-16) Vimsamsa (D-20).2. Ashtamsa (D-8). Dwadasamsa-Dwadasamsa (D-144) and Nadiamsa (D-150). with the help of which we are able to calculate the position of planets and other significant points of the chart at the time of birth. This is also the point of interest in electional astrology (Muhurtha). Khavedamsa (D-40). Drekkana (D-3). or also its position in the Nakshatra Padas and the divisional charts. The most important divisional chart is however the Navamsha. Shashtyamsa (D-60). Sashthamsa (D-6). 4. Ashtottaramsa (D-108). Panchamsa (D-5). Trimsamsa (D-30).1. which is counted from the beginning of Aries. In natal astrology (Jataka) we are interested where the planets were transiting at the time of the native’s birth. Kolkata). etc.4. Nakshatramsa (D-27). After all. ASTRONOMICAL CALCULATIONS IN JYOTISH 4. it is called Universal Time) the planets and the ascendant are . Rudramsa (D-11). The exact time of birth is usually taken as the time when the umbilical chord is cut. Therefore besides ascertaining the time of birth. For purposes of an astrological reading we utilize certain toools of astronomy. In Dasa analysis we are interested in the transit of planets at the time of dasa-pravesa (setting in of a period). Let’s take as an example the time of birth for Rabindranath Tagore (May 7. Local and Zonal Time Time is a phenomenon which is inseparable from space. 4. Sometimes the degree of the planet within a sign is indicated. 4. we also need to know its location.4 The signs of the zodiac may be further divided into subparts. because at the same point in time (if it is independent of location. while astrolomy is the science that calculates the quantity of passing time. although there are some other opinions as well.02 am LMT. Akshavedamsa (D-45). In Gochara (transit analysis) we are interested in the transit of the planets at the time of a certain event. Therefore the astrologer should be able to ascertain the position of the planets within the zodiac at a certain given point in time. Navamsa (D-9). in Jyotish we are always interested in the position of the planetst at the time of a certain event. Caturthamsa (D-4). The Celestial Longitude (Sphuta) The position of the planets in the zodiac is expressed through the celestial longitude. Siddhamsa (D-24). 1861.
4. Let’s say if we take a city which lies at 80 degrees 22 min east. may create problems when more distant places develop communication with each other. One ghatika thus equals 24 minutes of the western calendar. although very exact astronomically. because the Sun crosses that place earlier. and this means that there will be a certain point in time every day when the Sun will exactly cross the longitudinal meridian of a certain nativity. which is at 88 degrees 22 minutes of arc to the east of Greenwich. After ascertaining which point in local time (or universal time) corresponds to the reported birth time. and therefore the zonal time is identical in the whole country. and part of Western Europe the zonal time is identical with the local time in Greenwich. When the pot was filled with water. therefore they have measured it with the help of the motion of the planets. The zonal time is actually the locan time of a certain meridian within the zone. So astronomically tha time of an event may be identified by saying how much time have passed since local noon at that meridian. Local time is usually indicated as LMT (Local Mean Time). The local time at 15° east from Greenwich is 1 hrs more than there. There are still several Sun-dials existing in different parts of India.3. which is extended to the whole of it. like GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). in the beginning of the XX. within which the time would be identical. So in modern times the watches usually go by the zonal time. Since the Earth is divided into 360 longitudinal meridians. cetury it was decided that the countries of the world would be divided into time zones. local noon will occur 8*4=32 minutes later than in Kolkata. the Sun traverses over one degree within 1/6th of a ghatika. The Sun needs exactly one day to make a circle around the globe of the earth (at least apparently. and one vighati into 60 palas. This means that most of the smaller countries are situated within one time zone. CET (Central European Time). This measurement of time. many people are born during the night.5 situated differently above different parts of the globe. it took exactly 24 minutes for the water to flow out of it. Other time zones also have their abbreviations. the relationship between time and space is inseparable. This method however is limited to the time when the Sun is up and visible in the skies. especially the Sun. plus in some countries one or two hours are added as summer time. if we look at it from the point of view of the earth). Undoubtedly. . Local time is calculated according to the movements of the Sun. One ghati is also divided into 60 vighatis. which is assigned to be at the zero degree longitudinal meridian. and therefore we also need to know the time zone of the nativity. we may proceed to the calculation of the position of the planets. Tagore was born in Kolkata. so we also need to have a way to measure time when the Sun is not visible. which is divided into 60 ghatikas in Jyotish. exact up to the second. because the Sun travels from east to west. This is where the word "ghati" comes from. Divisions of Time An interesting question is how did the ancients measure the passing of time? As we have stated. This time is called local noon. It means an earthen pot of a certain size with a spout of a certain diameter. The time interval between two points of local noon is exactly one day. Thus with the setting in of the telecommunication era. which is four minutes. although their mutual disposition is the same. IST (Indian Standard Time) etc. Therefore local times at different longitudes are different by four minutes each. For example in the whole of England.
you need to know the exact ayanamsha value. and those informations serve as a basis for calculating the ephemeris positions for the planets. The two luminaries. Rahu and Ketu also ocuppy an important role.5. They are called shadowy planets. the next task is to detemine the position of the planets. By making astronomical observations. This is not because the ancients were unfamiliar with the rest of the planets. However in Jyotish another set of planets appears. Therefore nowadays this is the most popular tool used for astronomical calculations. Saturn. i.e. monthly etc. These tables of ephemeris are available both in India and the West.4. with which the tropical zodiac is shifted from the sidereal one. that motion is called vakra. weekly. which would represent all the colors of the spectrum. i. with the help of which. or retrograde. plus ultraviolet and infrared. etc. i. Besides that the lunar nodes. The planets move within the belt of the zodiac with a different average of speed. It is said that in the Rig Veda one can find certain mantras. 4. Mercury.) which means that in the majority of the cases we need to know how far is the point of birth from the closest time indicated in the ephemeris. which translate into astronomical equations. If it is a western astrology ephemeris. the Sun and the Moon have steady and direct motion. which usually give exact planetary position for any specified time. similarly to the seven colors of the rainbow. Venus. and after calculating the difference. Mars. Ths can be done in several ways: By applying certain astronomical equations. or chaya-grahas. Jupiter. which actually signifies the Earth) completes one circle of the zodiac within one day. while for the Moon it’s one month. All of the above methods are combined in the different Jyotish software available. By using an ephemeris (Panchanga) with precalculated planetary positions. Therefore adding new heavenly bodies will not enhance the system of predictions extrapolated by the ancient Maharishis. The luminaries move with the same angular speed at all times. However these rules are quite obscure nowadays. Movements of the planets Vedic astrology deals with seven grahas. These secondary planets will be explained in a later issue.e. Moon. Astronomical observations are made regularly in different parts of the globe.e. Sun.6 4. Therefore when any planets move in the opposite dirtection to the luminaries. which means from Aries to Taurus to Gemini. For the Sun it takes one year to complete a circle. the planetary positions for any moment in time may be calculated. The trans-Saturnian planets are not taken into consideration when erecting a Vedic chart. which is called upagrahas. As the Lagna (ascendant. but rather because these seven visible planets and the lunar nodes represent the whole spectrum of energies. The ephemeris usually gives the exact positions of the planets for certain ponts of time (daily. we should also calculate how much do the different planets move within this time. these three will from the tripod of life . Determining Planetary Positions After finding out the time and place.
and thus they perform sinful activities and block their own advancements. who most of the time try to follow dharma. Planet Sun (D) Moon (D) Mars (↔ ) Mercury (↔ ) Jupiter (↔ ) Venus (↔ ) Saturn (↔ ) Rahu (R) Ketu (R) Av. Moon-mind. always upholding dharma and leading people on the path of righteousness. because after all the role of karma is also to teach us where we went wrong. Retrograde planets . The luminaries are said to be the two eyes of Lord Vishnu with which He maintains and oversees His creation. but at times they fall under the influence of adharma. although their endeavour is not steady. also with a regular angular speed. however are the separated body and head of a demon called Rahu. and therefore the greatest angular distance of Mercury from the Sun is 27° . but at times they fall into a retrograde cycle. which means that at different angular distances from the Moon they move at a different speed. they revolve around the Sun and pass between the Sun and Earth. The nodes need 18 2/3 years to complete one circle of the zodiac and they stay one and a half year in every sign. Thus the nodes will represent karmic reactions which are the result of not following dharma and performing sinful activities. who rebelled against dharma. while for Venus the same is 47° . Rahu and Ketu represent rakshasa-gana or demons. This resembles human beings. although Ketu may be considered a benefic towards dharma. Their movement is not regular. The rest of the planets. thus encouraging detachment from sinful life. a month and a year) On the other hand. i. Rahu and Ketu always move in retrograde direction. Daily Motion 0° 59’ 13° 10’ 0° 31’ 4° 5’ 0° 5’ 1° 36’ 0° 2’ 0° 3’ 0° 3’ Time spent in a sign 1 month 2 1/4 days 1 1/2 months 27 days 1 year 28 days 2 1/2 years 1 1/2 years 1 1/2 years Duration of a cycle 1 year 1 month 18 months 1 year 12 years 1 year 29 years 18 2/3 years 18 2/3 years 4. Mars. Sun-soul) and determine by their movements the three basic units of time (a day. the rest of the planets will represent manushyagana or human beings.6. the approximate time they spend in one sign and the approximate time they need to complete a full circle in the zodiac. i. Therefore they are always against progress.7 (Lagna-body.e. Venus and Saturn most of the time move in the direct way. The symbols in the brackets indicate the direction of their movement. The nodes. the lunar nodes.e. Mercury and Venus are inner planets. Thus while the luminaries represent deva-gana or godly beings. The following table represents the average daily angular motion of the planets. Jupiter. Thus they revolve around the zodiac in the company of the Sun. Mercury.
7. retrograde motion indicates the destructive and obstructive forces of karma. Every planet gets retrograde when it is at a certain degree from the Sun.8 As we have said. and proper remedial measures should be undertaken. The planet’s power increases when it is retrograde or stationary (state of planet just before and after retrogression). The following table shows the degrees and durations of retrograde and stationary motions: Angular Distance from Sun Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn 228° 14-20° 245° 29° 251° 132° 17-20° 115° 26° 109° 3 1 5 2 5 80 24 120 42 140 4. which revolves in the opposite direction. In this case the areas lorded and influenced by the combust planet become inactive. However the lunar nodes do not get combust. The same thing occurs when the planet ends its retrograde cycle. If at the same time the Sun and the Moon are conjunct or in opposition (i. At the time of new moon even a visible solar eclipse could occur. The only exception is Venus. if any planets are retrograde in the chart. The Sun is the strongest planet and its rays burn up the rays of the other planets. At this time the planet gives a very strong and steady effect. when the Moon gets closer than 12° to the Sun. Therefore.e. When they are exactly conjunct with the Sun. However we should note that the planets will get combust only when they approach the Sun during direct motion. At the same time. we may expect that a strong desire is connected to that planet. The rest of the planets become combust when they get closer to the Sun than a certain orb. The degrees of combustion for the different planets are the following: . as well as at the time of full moon a visible lunar eclipse. especially on the last day of decreasing Moon. After ascertaining what role does the given planet play in the chart. Thye will bear very meager results. and remedial measures should be performed. Thus the phenomenon of combustion does not occur. because in this case they pass behind the Sun. then the Sun completely burns up their rays. but the results get delayed. coming from previous life. The degree of combustion depends on the proximity of the combust planet. Birth during eclipses is considered to be inauspicious. it also becomes very inauspicious. Before retrogression occurs. Combustion Combistion occurs when the planets get too close to the Sun. then the nodes eclipse both the luminaries. at the time of new Moon or full Moon). rather the planet gains more strength from the Sun. and the native will experience strong oppression from some superior force in certain areas of his life. become disturbed. while during retrograde motion they pass in front of the Sun. thus it will get combust while retrograde. and thus they are unable to function. the planet gets stationary for a certain period of time. we may understand that the native has some unresolved problems or unfulfilled duties in that area. but rather they will eclipse the Sun and the Moon if they get closer than 5° to the luminaries. krishnacaturdasi. and will not get so while direct.
Venus Saturn Degree of combustion 17° 13° 11° 8° 15° 4. the following will win the war: One which passes to the north of the other (which has higher latitude). While during combustion the Sun suppresses the influence of the combust planet. Of the two planets. The Moon is very friendly. One which has a more favourable appearance. One which has bigger size. brightness and steadiness.8. However. Planetary war Planetary war (graha yuddha) occurs when two planets come closer than one degree to each other in longitude. animals etc. The effect of planetary war is significantly different from that of combustion.9 Planet Mars Mercury Jupiter Retr. One which has more strength from other sources. The nodes are so subtle that they cannot be caught. So the winner will act as the lord of the houses lorded by the loser.∗ . The Sun will burn off any planets getting close to him. people. and ocuppy its natural karakatwas also. This is like in a war the winner takes over the land. they tend to eclipse and thus negatively influence any planet with which they get into close conjunction. the winning planet takes over the influences of the loser. treasures. of the loser and exercises control over them. so she will avoid fight. at the time of planetary war. One which is direct and more distant from the Sun. We should note that only the five above mentioned planets may get into a graha yuddha.