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Dashas - A Primer

by Rohini Ranjan

The body of jyotish depends squarely on the epic texts known as Brihat
Parasara Hora Sastra (BPHS) which are essentially a comprehensive
transcript of the dialogues between Muni Parashara and his acolyte
Maitryaya. In 100 chapters, Parashara has captured nearly all of what
traditional Jyotish is. There have been embellishments and additions and
in some cases subtractions and variant opinions that have been provided
by other doyens and even a significant portion of Parasharas teachings
have been attributed to what is known as Jaimini System. Jaimini system
builds upon and elaborates a portion of the discourse. Without entering the
quagmire of who came first and who adopted whose writings and similar
never-ending controversies, most jyotishis would serve themselves better
by avoiding getting embroiled into such debates and gratefully gain what
they can from the writings of all of these great former astrologers; many
of them being saints.

Phalita Jyotish or predictive astrology (that which shall fructify, or in


other words bear fruit) deals with the important factor of karma which
creates our destinies and also allows us to reverse the wrong-doings of
earlier times through charity, penance, worship etc. Essentially, through
developing right actions and right mental attitude. While the horoscope
itself is essentially a snapshot of the heavens as viewed from the
birthplace at the epoch of birth and holds important attributions and
signatures of the incarnating soul, the planets do not stay frozen for our
entire lifetime. Thus we incorporate two types of movements of the
planets. One type is the direct movement which is studied as transits
or gochara. The other type is a projected or progressed movement. These
essentially are what is termed in Jyotish as dashas. These have been
interpreted both as Dasha (surrounding conditions and states) as well as
Disha (directions; the optimum plan of action).

One or Many
If one were to browse through BPHS one would see a few categories.
There are dashas which are calculated based on the nakshatra such as
Vimshottari, others are based on the rashis such as Chara dasha, while
another popular dasha Kalachakra incorporates both the nakshatra and
rashi. Aside from this classification, Parashara has indicated that some of
the dashas can be utilized as general purpose and applicable to all,
whereas other dashas are utilized when certain conditions are met with in
a horoscope. For example, Panchottari dasa is utilized when someone is
born in karka lagna and also has karka dwadashamsha rising in lagna.

Udu Dasha
Udu means the flying as in a bird. The term is also utilized for
nakshatras. Puristically, all nakshatra dashas are udu dashas, however,
generally speaking vimshottari dasha is considered as the udu dasha.
Vimshottari has been the primary staple dasa used by jyotishis in general.
A minority of jyotishis have utilized other dasas too quite successfully and
in recent times, Professor B. V. Raman, Mr. K.N. Rao, and more
prolifically Sri Sanjay Rath and his disciples have been very instrumental
in producing large bodies of work dealing with different dashas. In the
case of many of the dashas, there are variant calculations prescribed and
this then compounds with the other two uncertainties: which ayanamsha,
which dasha year duration and the situation becomes very complex. In
astrology there is a major role played by what is known as the Law of
Diminishing Returns. I have seen beginners and even more advanced
jyotishis to use too many factors and techniques which make it very
confusing for most. The illustrated cases are very impressive but when the
same dasha or principles are applied to a few more randomly selected
charts, the solid platform risks becoming a floating barge in the Jyotish
Baitarini!

Kiss
This stands for the ancient multicultural principle of Keep It Simple
Santon! Since these articles are aimed at beginners, it would be more
useful to learn a few dashas rather than a whole bag-full that would only
cause mental indigestion. I have found two dashas, both belonging to the
udu dasa group most useful. When the birth is in suklapaksha (bright half
of moon, shukla prathama to poornima) vimshottari dasa must be used
whereas if the birth is in krishnapaksha (Krishna prathama to amavasya)
then ashtottari must be used. This is not to say that dashas such as chara,
sthira, yogini, chakra, kalachakra and the rest of 32 dashas described in
BPHS are to be ignored. But these must be taken up after gaining some
confidence in vimshottari and astottari. Also, one must not rely on just
articles in magazines or on the internet to consider themselves astrology
literate. Internet articles in particular can be of the highest quality or
questionable, therefore some prudent caution would not be out of place.

In subsequent articles we will go into more details about the methodology


and other considerations and try to reduce if not eliminate the mystery
around these very useful tools for timing of events.

Fundamental Basis
The basic premise behind dashas is simple and straightforward. Life is
segmented into sections or periods which are represented by planets in the
horoscope (nakshatra dashas) or the signs (rashi dasas). The orientation
point for the nakshatra dashas (udu) is the natal moon. If we visualize that
starting at moment of birth, the moon is progressing through the rest of the
zodiac (at a speed lot slower than in transit, i.e., 2.5 days per sign) and as
it passes through the different nakshatra, the planetary rulership changes.
The planetary ruler is then considered to be the primary planet indicator
during that period. Some of the dashas such as vimshottari and ashtottari
have very long total duration, 120 and 108 years respectively and most
individuals do not complete the full cycle. Others dashas such as yogini
are shorter and one can have more than one cycle during a typical lifetime.

Vimshottari and Nakshatras


Vimshottari is related to the quantity '120' and the entire dasha cycle spans
over 120 years. The two luminaries, five planets and the two lunar nodes
that are considered by Vedic astrologers in delineations, rule over periods
varying from 6 to 20 years each during the 120 years in this order: Ketu
(S. node of Moon), Venus, Sun, Moon, Mars, Rahu (N. node of Moon),
Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury. These rule for 7, 20, 6, 10, 7, 18, 16, 19 and
17 years respectively. Nowhere in ancient texts does one find the rationale
behind the assignment of this order (other than saying that the order
follows the order of nakshatras or lunar asterisms, on which the dasha
system is based) nor are the individual durations rationalized. These
'periods' are different from the ones that are attributed to Ptolemy and
Babylonian astrology, and therefore must be of a different origin and the
product of a completely different line of thinking and derivation. Some
experts have tried to group the different dasha periods by drawing the
dividing line after the Moon (which being the satellite of earth is
considered the nearest body to earth and the orienting point in the scheme)
in the vimshottari dasha sequence, thus giving us two groups, constituted
by:

a) Mars, Rahu, Jupiter and Saturn, their periods totaling to


(7+18+16+19=) 60 years, and
b) Mercury, Ketu, Venus, Sun and Moon, their periods totaling to
(17+7+20+6+10=) 60 years.
The above scheme places the 'outer' planets in the first group and the
luminaries (sun and moon) and the "inner" planets in the second group,
with each group containing one of the two lunar nodes. The vimshottari
order is preserved, as well if the two groups are joined together (mars,
rahu, Jupiter, Saturn, mercury, ketu, sun and moon being the order of
vimshottari dasas!). The rationale behind the assignment of individual
period durations in the vimshottari scheme is not known, but this sequence
is interesting and intriguing, at the very least.

In vimshottari dasha the sidereal asterismal position of natal Moon


determines the point at which one enters into or starts the 120 year cycle.
The 360d zodiac is divided into 27 asterisms, each 13d 20m long. The first
13d 20m starting at sidereal Aries 0d, is ruled by Ketu with Venus, Sun,
Moon, Mars, Rahu, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Venus following in the
same order as that followed in the rulership assignment in the vimshottari
dasha.

Each vimshottari dasha period (mahadasha) is subdivided into nine sub-


periods, also known as antardasha or bhuktis. The first bhukti in any
dasha is ruled by the dasha lord itself and is followed by the bhuktis of
other planets. The first bhukti in the dasha of Sun would be ruled by Sun,
followed by the bhuktis of Moon, Mars, Rahu, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury,
Ketu and Venus. Each sub-period can be further divided proportionately
intoantaras, pratyantaras, sukshmas etc. However, given the
controversies regarding the most 'accurate' values for ayanamshas
(precessional corrections for converting tropical longitudes into sidereal
longitudes) and inaccuracies in reported birth times, the practical
usefulness of finer sub-periods may be questionable.

Is Vimshottari a Progression?
Those who are familiar with western astrology would perhaps know that
in that system the primary progression is based on a degree a year
progression. Planets are considered as moving one degree ahead each
year, thereby completing 120 degrees in 120 years. If you think for a
moment, vimshottari is based on the moon moving through a set of
nakshatras (120 degrees) in 120 years! However, in the finer Jyotish
system of dasha, it is the moon that we consider as progressing at unequal
rates through the zodiac. For example if at birth moon was at the
beginning of Ketus nakshatra, the nativity will experience 7 years of ketu
followed by 20 years of Venus dasha (moon is moving through Venus
star). So although in longitude (degrees) the star of Ketu occupies the
same segment in the zodiac (13d 20m or 800 minutes) as does the star
ruled by Venus, the moon moves through the two at very different speeds,
thus giving the different durations of the dashas. The following table will
help clarify:

Asterism beginning at the following sidereal longitudes of Moon:

Deg min Deg min Deg min Asterism ruled by


000 00 120 00 240 00 Ketu
013 20 133 20 253 20 Venus
026 40 146 40 266 40 Sun
040 00 160 00 280 00 Moon
053 20 173 20 293 20 Mars
066 40 186 40 306 40 Rahu
080 00 200 00 320 00 Jupiter
093 20 213 20 333 20 Saturn
106 40 226 40 346 40 Mercury

Understanding the Alphabet Nakshatras


Nakshatras are very useful in delving a bit deeper in the charts. Without
understanding these, ones handling of udu dashas would be shaky. There
are many different ways in which these have been used, including, the
presentation of effects experienced by those born with moon (and
ascendant) in the different asterisms. Typically, the 360 degrees of zodiac
can be divided into 27 segments which coincide pretty closely to the daily
motion of the moon (or more accurately, the daily motion of the moon
through a tithi. Each tithi is the time during which moon travels 12
degrees away from the sun, and since the sun is also moving through
nearly a degree during the same period, the moon needs to move
approximately 13degrees in order to maintain the 12 degree difference
from sun.) The nakshatra is a segment that is 13d 20m long. There are
27 nakshatras in the zodiac. For muhurta(electional horoscopy) a sub-
segment known as Abhijit is used by some jyotishis. Each nakshatra is
associated with a fixed star (or two) and is listed in Dr. Raman's book for
beginners. Each nakshatra has four divisions, each 3d 20m long. These are
known as padas and these quarters are identical to the navamshas, and are
108 in number in the zodiac. 108 Is a very special number that appears in
Hindu practices in more than one way (for mantra repetitions and other
rituals, etc.).

Nakshatras and Dashas


Nakshatras also have a special connection with planets. Each nakshatra is
ruled by one planet in the order of vimshottari dashas. The first nakshatra
beginning at Aries 0, known as ashwini, is ruled by Ketu. The next
one, bharini, is ruled by Venus (whose dasha follows that of ketu), next
come krittika ruled by Sun, rohini ruled by
Moon, mrigashirsha (Mars), ardra (Rahu), punarvasu (Jupiter), pushya (S
aturn) and ashlesha (Mercury). The cycle then repeats in two sets, the next
set of nine stars ruled by the planets ketu to mercury being: magha, purva
phalguni, uttar phalguni, hasta, chitra, swati, vishakha,
anuradha and jyeshta, and the third set comprising moola, purvashadha,
uttarashadha, sravana, dhanishta, shatabhisha, purvabhadrapada,
uttarabhadrapada and revati. Each set spans four signs, beginning with a
fire, then earth, air and water sign.

Each set of nakshatra, therefore, contains all four elements.

Nakshatra lordship and dispositorship is important and gives rise to a


scheme whereby each planet is associated with another planet through a
body or soul (essence) relationship. This sharira-jeeva relationship is
described in details elsewhere in this manual. The intrinsic elemental
nature or guna of a planet in a horoscope must be kept in mind as being
associated with not only the sign but also the nakshatra it is in. The
nakshatra rising in the east (lagna nakshatra) also adds a significant extent
to the personality of an individual in addition to the sign rising and must
be paid attention to. Similar considerations must be noted for the lunar
asterism and the different nakshatras that the karakas or significators.

Other Building Blocks


Combining nakshatra attributes with those of the signs that they are
associated with (attributes such as, elements, malefic/benefic
nature, chara-sthira-dwiswabhav state, male-female nature, etc.) can help
fine-tune many details and impart a richness and texture to the horoscope
readings. According to some jyotishis, one can view the influences of the
sign/rashi/constellation on a planet as its exterior, physical or coarse
influence, while the influence of the asterism or nakshatra would
determine the finer or mental nature of the planet. The navamsha sign in
which the planet is placed would describe the intrinsic nature and
motivations that act on the planet, in a sense the karmic signature. The
three can also be described as the form, living essence and motive of the
planet in a cosmic sense.

Next time we shall look at tara sambandhas and other factors influencing
the planets that one would be examining while analyzing a vimshottari
dasha. Only through an examination of a matrix of influences can one
truly decipher the meaning of the astrosymbolizm of dashas and how they
connect and work cooperatively with transits within the confines of the
horoscope of the nativity.

After dasas have been calculated using tables that are given in all
ephemeris or with a program (since most people use computers these
days), the next question that faces the astrologer is, how to translate all
these periods and planets into a reading? Some basic considerations that
may be followed are:

First and Foremost


The mahadasha period determines the primary jurisdiction of effects that
one might experience during the dasha.

After Dasha comes Bhukti


The results during the bhukti period would depend on the interaction
between dasha and bhukti lords, mutual relationship, placement, attributes
and strengths, etc., but a bhukti generally cannot give or take away what
falls outside the jurisdiction of the dasha. The dasha effect generally
supervenes and forms the boundaries of what is achievable. The only
thing to watch out for is the bhukti lord is a yogakaraka and very strong.
This sometimes makes it the primary determinant even surpassing the
dasha lord.

Strength Prevails
The strength of the dasha and bhukti lords determine the extent to which
the effects of these planets would materialize or be experienced by the
nativity (jatak, one that is born).

Yogas Have a Say


Any special yogas or combinations formed by the dasha and bhukti lord in
the natal horoscopes may materialize in their dasha and bhuktis or in the
periods of the planets that are placed in the stars of the yoga-forming
planets. For example, the mutual angular disposition of Jupiter and Moon
results in gajakeshari yoga, a benefic combination for fame and success
and gives a very steady level-headed mind set that is not swayed easily by
sentiments. A person with stronger Jupiter and Moon would be more
successful and higher-placed than another one with gajakeshari but with
the two planets weak in the horoscope. Similarly, a person with
gajakeshari in the 1st and 10th house is likely to experience a higher
degree of success than one with the Jupiter and Moon in the 3rd and 6th
signs from the ascendant (although the two planets are still in mutual
angles). If the dasha and bhukti lords are mutually ill-disposed, such as in
the 6th or 8th from the other, then their energies are not likely to be
expressed in a harmonious manner. Somewhat similar to when the team
members do not work in synch with each other! One factor to keep in
mind though is what is known as rashi drishtis. The fixed (sthira) rashis
aspect the movable (chara) rashis except the one next to them. So Scorpio
will aspect Capricorn, Aries and cancer but would not aspect Libra.
Similarly, Libra will aspect Aquarius, Taurus and Leo but not Scorpio.
The mutable (dwiswabhav) rashis, Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces
aspect each other. They are all in kendras from one another and in general
references made in yogas and other astrological combinations which refer
to Kendra sambandha producing such and such effect is more pronounced
when the planets are in dwiswabhavrashi! Gajkeshari yoga that is formed
by Jupiter and moon being in dwiswabhava rashis is especially strongly
expressed if the planets are benefic and strong otherwise.

Nature of Indicators
During a dasha (and to a lesser extent in a bhukti), influences of the
planet/s are expressed according to the nature of the sign in which the
planet is placed in the natal chart. Planets in cardinal (chara) signs
generate restlessness, activity, outwardly directed expression, dynamism,
the opposite effects are seen during periods of planets in fixed (sthira)
signs. Mutable (dwiswabhav) signs generate ambiguity, bipolar responses
and nervousness. The quadruplicity of the sign (all sidereal) must likewise
be taken into account, particularly the way in which it interacts with the
inherent nature of the planet. A fiery Mars in a fiery cardinal sign can
express itself strongly and is very much in its own element. If it is not in a
malefic house (6th, 8th or 12th from ascendant) or aspected by malefic
planets, its periods signify a large amount of activity and personal growth
and reshaping. Likewise, Moon in a watery sign would be able to express
its effects more in the way it is supposed to. Moon in a fixed fiery sign
would be very uncomfortable. This, incidentally, is perhaps the theme on
which house ownerships, exaltation and debilitation are based.

KP and Asterismal Consideration


An important consideration to be kept in mind (the concept originating
from Krishnamurthi Paddhati) is that the planet ruling over a period
indicates the source of effect during its dasha or bhukti. If it is strong by
rulership, position and association the effects during its period will be
strongly felt and vice versa. The nature of the effect will be determined by
the planet in whose star the dasha or bhukti lord is situated. The asterismal
sub (which is the angular representation of the duration of bhukti in a
dasha, considering the dasha duration to represent an arc of 13d 20m)
indicates success or failure depending on its relationship (inherent and
house-wise) with the asterism lord (indicating the effect during a dasha).
The following example might make this more clear. In a horoscope, if
Mercury is in Scorpio ascendant in the asterism of Mercury and sub of
Venus. During the dasha of Mercury, the source of effects would be
Mercury, the nature of effects experienced will be determined by the
asterism lord, Mercury in this case and the houses ruled by it (8th and
11th) and occupied by it (1). Venus, the sub-lord is in the 2nd house and is
in the 7th from the 8th house, 4th from 11th and 2nd from 1st house and
Mercury. So, during the dasha of Mercury, the 8th and 11th house effects
would flourish, while the 1st house will be moderately helped. This
translates into numerous obstacles, gains from insurance or inheritances
(8th), good earnings for ones capabilities and a period of moderately
good health and some personal growth (1). Mercury is an active planet but
it is located in a fixed watery sign (Scorpio). It is strong
in shadbal (strength determination), so the effects will be prominently felt.
But since it is not in a very congenial sign, the native would have
enormous restlessness without an opportunity for expressing it and things
would move very slowly or not at all. There would be opportunities for
spiritual and metaphysical experiences and growth. The intellectual as
opposed to emotional faculties will be utilized more in these matters.

Planets are Known by the Company they Keep


Associations and aspects from other planets to the planets ruling the dasha
and bhukti modify and modulate the effects of the period lords. As a
general rule, friendly and benefic planets (natural benefics such as Jupiter,
Venus, Mercury and waxing Moon, or benefic by disposition, such as
planets ruling over angular and trinal houses from the ascendant) help
move matters, malefics (natural such as Saturn, Mars or rulers of the 6th,
8th and 12th signs from the ascendant) exert the opposite effects. Sun and
waning Moon and rulers of 2nd, 3rd and 11th signs from the ascendant
have mixed effects, partly benefic and partly malefic. Some authorities
consider the Sun as a cruel but benefic planet. Rahu and Ketu are shadow
planets and assume the qualities of planets in whose sign they are placed
in a horoscope. However, they generally tend to be malefic in nature. The
nodes are in a class by themselves and different authorities have dealt with
those in different ways. Some have assigned particular signs as owned by
the nodes and signs in which they are exalted or debilitated, as is the case
for other planets. Others have refrained to do so. My experience is that the
nodes take on the attribute of their sign dispositor. Any planet which is in
conjunction with the nodes loses its propensity to bring about effects and
often expresses through the nodes in their dashas, bhuktis or transits.
Nodes have a very significant influence on ones life and nodal periods
sensitize and expose one to influences beyond ones immediate control.
Perhaps these influences originate from actions in other time periods.
They have been thought to signify karmic influences, Rahu signifying
karma-generating actions (future karma) while Ketu signifies deeds
already done and is more concerned with tying up of karmic loose ends.

One Swallow Does Not Make Summer


Dasha effects must not be studied in isolation. The reference to the natal
chart is absolutely essential but they must be studied simultaneously with
transits. The stars of the dasha and bhukti lords and of their asterismal
dispositors represent sensitive zones during the dasha and bhukti. When
these stars are transited by the Moon and/or Sun or other significant
planets, the effect tends to fructify. The transit of the dasha and bhukti
lords through different houses and stars should also be considered. There
is some see-sawing that one can find in contemporary views, with some
astrologers saying that the dasha supersedes transit influences, while there
are a few who uphold the opposite view. The final vote is not in,
obviously, but it would pay to closely study the transit of planets
associated with the current dashas, vimshottari and chara. The latter dasha
being not within the scope of this course may not be illustrated here or in
future material pertaining to this course; however, the seed has been
planted in your mind. Mastering vimshottari dasha, however, is definitely
the first task one should perform. A very good compendium of rules and
suggestions exists in a small booklet which includes both the Laghu and
Madhya Parashari (companion booklets of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra),
translated by S.S. Sareen and published by Sagar Publications. The
considerations take one a step beyond what is written in other classical
texts.

Although most Jyotish texts, ancient and contemporary, focus a lot on


laying out the attributes of signs, planets, nakshatras, houses and the
effects of combinations of these pointers, the beginner in Jyotish is often
left wondering about the sequence in which these must be tackled or what
weightage must be given to each of those individually. To complicate
matters further, recommendations sometimes vary from one author to
another.

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