We are all addicted to having our Horoscopes read and interpreted. Our Natal charts hold a great fascination, predicting the course our lives are supposed to take, the highs and the lows, the opportunities and the obstacles, the strengths and the weaknesses – what the stars have to foretell. From the Jyotish (traditional Hindu) standpoint, the drawing and interpreting of the Janampatri or Natal Chart is an immensely complex exercise, which I propose to simplify in this post. But before we do that we need to ponder on what it implies.

In the series of posts on Stellar India so far I have covered the nature of the planets in Astrology and Hindu myth. Astrology , as I stressed earlier is for the Hindu an article of faith because it finds full sanction in Hindu scriptures, and unlike the Judaic faiths is not considered a heterodox deviation  at variance with established religious beliefs, if not blasphemous – the stuff of magic and witchcraft.  In India astrology is part and parcel of the orthodox belief system, is an aspect of religion, the high priest the Pundit being an adept at astrology if he has any worth. All social and religious customs and festivals derive their significance from astrologically determined timing and the Hindu calendar and time scale are a product of that discipline. Astrology and the planets which it represents and interprets, are part of age-old mythology and form part of the Hindu pantheon as demigods.

The astrological general effects which we studied in the posts on Fasts, Festivals and Prohibitions concern the populace as a whole having universal application. However, at the heart of Hindu astrology there is the question of the effect of the stars on the individual. It is here that we enter the hallowed ground of the Horoscope which confines itself to predicting their effect on the individual rather than the mass. It is to this microcosm level that much of the burden of traditional knowledge and astronomical and mathematical complexity turns its attention.

The birth of the individual is the crucial moment and the Natal Chart is drawn taking the stellar configuration at that moment. That chart will then become the road-map of his life and define the effects of each passing day and subsequent configurations will have upon him, in the context of the original configuration at his birth. It is therefore imperative for all Hindus to ensure that this stellar passport and birth certificate is drawn up. He will need it when he marries, when he builds a house, celebrates a birthday, or engages in any important social, religious or commercial activity. For this it is essential to record the exact time of birth to the minute if not the second and to relocate it in terms of the Lunar calendar.

To understand the Horoscope, we need to get acquainted with the several stages through which a chart is processed before it becomes a complete Horoscope and also to become conversant with the basic underlying concepts.

Basically, three terms are used and it is important not to confuse one with the other. Let me explain; The first concept is that of the 12 Houses ( Bhavs – loosely translated as moods). The second are the 12 constellations of the Zodiac, referred to as Signs ( Rashis). the third are the 7 planets + 2 Lunar nodes making them together as the 9 ‘planets’ of the Hindu Jyotish or Astrology. There must be a clear understanding of the distinction of the three.


T H E    H O U S E S

At the first stage of preparation, the Pundit or astrologer has an empty chart with 12 ‘Houses’. This as yet refers to no person. It is a universal map of the life of  prospective individuals. It is like a form which has yet to be filled in. The life of man is divided into 12 categories and these are cast within 360 degrees because the visible Zodiac also falls within 360 degrees. Each category will fit into one or two constellations, covering a space of 30 degrees. This will be determined on the basis of the birth of the subject whose chart is being drawn up. It is as if 12 Houses of fortune of a person are abstractly suspended into space, waiting for the constellations and planets to fill them up.

Each House relates to an aspect of life ( these aspects related to individual Houses are proscribed in the ancient scriptures on Astrology without indicating any logical reason for such prescription – presumably, divinely ordained). Very briefly, the Houses represent, first, the body and temperament of the subject; second, wealth; third, siblings; fourth, mother and home; fifth, progeny; sixth, enemies; seventh, spouse and sex; eighth, lifespan and death; ninth, spirituality and destiny; tenth, father, honour and career; eleventh, gain; and twelfth, loss and misfortune. These are the major issues of life but the detailed enumerations of the Houses are more comprehensive in the connected issues they embrace. These twelve, ‘Celestial’ Houses, as they are termed, are shown in the diagram below:Untitled

However, looking at the chart ( a North Indian version, there being a south Indian and an East Indian version also) it is difficult to visualize what it represents in the space around the Earth. the Houses are entirely conceptual but have a physically definable reality. Simply put, they are directional. the First House, denoting birth and person of the subject is in the East, the seventh is in the West, the Fourth is in the North and the Tenth is due South. We can either assume, as in traditional astrology, that the Earth is stationary, in which case the Houses remain stationary or if we assume in astronomical terms that the Earth rotates, then the directional Houses move with the Earth, the First being always in the East. If we assume the Earth as stationary, the band of the Zodiac Signs would be moving at that point;  If the Earth is taken as the moving factor, then the Zodiac Signs would be stationary. The chart and the actual position in space would therefore be as below:


                                                                                                                      S P A C E                                                             C H A R T 




The point at the centre of the circle shown in the above diagram, may be assumed to be the place of birth. To be more precise, the direction due East would be bisecting the first House, running through its middle. This would be the line running due East into the horizon at the place of birth and would correspond with 15 degrees of the 30 degrees of the first House; likewise, due West would be 15 degrees of the seventh House; North, 15 degrees of the fourth House and due South, 15 degrees of the tenth House.

The tenth House is also the Zenith, where the Sun is at mid-day and the fourth the Nadir. The Sun rises in the first House and sets in the seventh. Therefore the Houses from two to seven are below the horizon while the seventh to the first through the twelfth are the Houses above the horizon – the first and seventh being half below and half above the horizon. 


T H E      S I G N S

Like the twelve directional Houses, also called the Celestial Mansions, the twelve Signs of the Zodiac are also divided into twelve sections of 30 degrees each, together aggregating 360 degrees of the visible cosmos. the twelve Signs are the constellations of the Zodiac, beginning with Aries and ending with Pisces. In fact the Zodiac is only a small part of the visible cosmos. They are recognizable constellations within a narrow band of 23 degrees on either side of the ecliptic ( the path of the Sun around the Earth). The Zodiac is contained within this band width of 46 degrees. Within this band also orbit all the planets of our Solar System. the rest of the visible cosmos beyond the band of the ecliptic is not relevant to Hindu astrology. The following illustration would graphically show the juxtaposition of the Celestial Houses with the constellations of the Zodiac within the ecliptic band.



 As the Earth rotates in one direction, we may assume that the constellations appear to rotate in the opposite direction. the time taken for a revolution of the Earth is twenty-four hours. A constellation or Sign encompassing 30 degrees, which is coterminous with a House would take about two hours to enter and exit the House. The Signs rotate round the Earth in the order of the numbers from 1 to 12. The Signs are assigned permanent numbers to identify them in the chart from 1 to 12 ( one has to try really hard not to confuse the numbers denoting Signs from those denoting Houses). thus Aries is assigned the number 1 and whenever the number 1 appears on the chart it indicates the presence of Aries in that House. Below are listed the Signs with their permanent numbers:

Aries (Mesh) 1                                                             Libra ( Tula) 7

Taurus (Vrishabha) 2                        Scorpio ( Vrishchika) 8

Gemini ( Mithun) 3                              Sagittarius ( Dhanu) 9

Cancer (Kark) 4                                      Capricorn ( Makara) 10

Leo ( Singha) 5                                        Aquarius ( Kumbha) 11

Virgo(Kanya) 6                                         Pisces ( Meena) 12

In the illustration above if we assume that the constellations rotate clock wise and the Earth is stationary, Cancer would enter and pass the first House in about two hours above the horizon. After passing the first House Cancer would enter the 12th House and eventually set in the 7th House below the horizon. Leo would follow Cancer above the horizon entering the first House thereafter and set in the 7th House. The other Signs would follow likewise. Or if we take the Earth to be rotating, the Houses would pass the stationary Signs one after the other in the same order.

It is important to note that at any point on Earth ( Jaipur or New York, Timbuktu or Kathmandu) where a birth takes place, the chart for that birth would show the first House as aligned along the horizon due East at that point. At that point Houses 2 to 6 and half of the 1st and 7th would be below the horizon and Houses 12 to 8 and half of the 1st and 7th would be above the horizon ( please see the above illustration to understand this).

At the moment of birth the Sign rising in the East ( in the first Celestial House) in the town or village of birth of the subject, is  called the ‘ascendant’, the birth Sign, the ‘Lagna ( connection) Rashi (Sign). the manner in which this is calculated is extremely complex in the interests of absolute precision.

 The first step will be to have the precise time of birth ( Indian Standard Time – IST). The next is to note the latitude and longitude of the place of birth. The longitude will help to precise the IST in terms of the local place of birth. the latitude will be important in determining the Sign rising in the East at the time of birth. Next the longitudes will have to be noted. longitudes are indicated in the ephemeris in the Panchang for 5.30 IST (dawn). As the time of birth at the place of birth is likely to be different from IST, the longitudes would have to be adjusted accordingly through complex calculations or by viewing the tables in the Panchang which are specific to different cities in India. We need not go further into the enormous complexities of the calculations involving conversion of time scales, adjusting of timing of sunrise at place of birth in relation to IST sunrise, adjusting of longitudes to fix planetary positions at place of birth etc etc. Suffice it to say that nothing is left to the imagination in the interests of hair-splitting accuracy, which is so important for predictions to be accurate, considering that the Zodiac is on the move from minute to minute, the planets at their own varying speeds and time of sunrise and sunset change from day-to-day and place to place.

However, coordinates of Signs and planets occupying birth charts would be useful for those who may be interested in going deeper into this complex discipline, which has several courses assigned in Indian universities.

I have chosen a colleague of mine in the Foreign Service as our ‘subject’ whose Natal Chart we will be studying for purposes of illustration.

A few of the coordinates at birth for our subject are given thus in his horoscope under the caption ‘Bhav Spasht’ or coordinates of Houses.

                                     Ascendant ( Lagna- or birth):  3/17/50/58

                                     Sun:                                            7/16/03/59

                                     Moon:                                         0/22/26/23

the above coordinates of birth signify that at birth if we drew a line due East at the place of birth, the 3rd Sign, Gemini, had already passed and the 4th Sign, Cancer had arisen 17 degrees, 50 minutes and 58 seconds of iots total of 30 degrees. thus more than half of Cancer had risen above the horizon at the place of birth.

Likewise, the coordinates of the Sun show that the Sun had passed through the 7th sign and had completed traversing 16 degrees, 3 minutes and 59 seconds of the 8th Sign, Scorpio of the total of 30 degrees of that Sign. The Sun thus was located in the 5th House aligned with Scorpio ( see chart above). it too had passed the midway mark.

The Moon, had already traversed 22 degrees 26 minutes and 23 seconds of the first Sign, Aries, that is, 2/3rds of the Sign. The Moon was thus located in the 10th House.

the extent of progression of the planets into the Houses are indicative of their health and state, for instance, the Sun’s state is ‘youthful’, that of the Moon, ‘aged’ for the chart.

This has connotations for the chart in the manner in which the planets are likely to act, like an old person, feeble and ineffective, or a youth, active and strident, or an infant, or even a person who is dead and therefore exhausted and ineffective.

The number of the ascendant Sign in the Zodiac is then placed in the first House of the chart, the succeeding constellations in successive Houses. let us take the instant case of our subject, born in cancer, No. 4 of the Zodiac. We therefore note ‘4’ representing Cancer in the first House of the chart, Leo (5) in the second, Virgo(6) in the third and so on till all the 12 Signs are placed in the 12 Houses. Thus the Zodiac Signs are ‘superimposed’ on the blank Natal chart of 12 Celestial Houses as shown below:



Thus we note that 4, Cancer, is in the first House; 5, Leo, is in the second; 6, virgo, is in the third; 7, Libra, is in the fourth; 8, Scorpio, is in the fifth; 9, Sagittarius, is in the sixth; 10, Capricorn, is in the seventh; 11, Aquarius, is in the eighth; 12, Pisces, is in the ninth; 1, Aries, is in the tenth; 2, Taurus, is in the eleventh; and 3, Gemini is in the twelfth.

Like the Houses, the Signs also have their natures and properties which influence the subject and his fortunes. very briefly, signs can be masculine or feminine, movable and passionate, fixed and inactive,  or common and harmonious. they can have the quality of fire, earth, air or water, can represent the directions, be blind, deaf, or mute, be dry or watery, fruitful or sterile, human, reptilian, animal, bestial, vegetal or mineral, rise with head first or posterior, be silent or vocal. these qualities of the Signs will affect the subject’s personality and nature in the ascendant House and other aspects of his fortune in the other designated Houses. briefly, therefore, the Signs will affect the Houses they inhabit. Quite often, astrological predictions are based merely on the presence of the Signs in various Houses in a generalized kind of way, like the predictions on a daily basis to be found in the columns of newspapers and magazines, without reference to the planetary positions in the horoscope. That is of course only a small part of the story. Planetary positions further elaborate, modify and transform the basic predictive analysis, based merely on the locations of the Signs.

In our next post we will delve deeper into the influence of the planets and their ownership of Signs, and their mutual aspects on one another in the Natal Chart, to understand the full impact of Signs and planets on a horoscope.