The influence on the daily lives of Hindus of the heavenly bodies, be they Saturn, Mars, the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, Venus or a group of stars in an Asterism, appears to be disproportionately high, because they do not strictly figure in the pantheon of numerous Hindu gods, are not universally worshiped popularly nor do they have important temples in their names. Yet each commands a day of the week and months are named after certain Asterisms and they appear to rule ones life through their auspicious or unauspicious portents. People are also named after them – common names derive from the Sun , Moon and Mars: Aditya/Suraj/Bhanu, Chandra/Purnima/Nishar, Mangal. This despite the fact that they are not the Trinity ( Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva). or their Avatars, Rama and Krishna, nor are they the numerous goddesses representing Shakti or primal energy, neither are they gods like Ganesh with an elephants head or Kartike on a peacock ( sons of Shiva). Yes, some of them do figure in the Puranic mythical stories of the ancient Vedic Olympus, Indralok presided over by the demigod (Deva) Indra ( the counterpart of the Greek Zeus) . The Sun, Moon, Mars and Jupiter (Brihaspati), as the priest of the demigods,  assemble in his heavenly court while Venus (Shukracharya), the priest of the Titans is present in their underworld ( Patalok) court. How then did they come to secretly wield so much power and influence on the Hindu psyche? The gods are essentially spiritual and metaphysical in significance, whereas the former are only planets and not gods in the traditional sense.

The pantheon of gods have spiritual and metaphysical significance, whereas the planetary influence is astronomical and therefore physical. However both tend to come together in obscure mythology. While the scriptures and doctrines of Hinduism  guide the spiritual life of the Hindu, the visible cosmos exerts its own indelible influence on the physical aspect of daily life, seeking firstly to provide a specific time scale in which to measure and live it and secondly, a framework to predict and forecast the manner in which that life will elapse. Thus we see that parallel to metaphysical doctrine and the philosophy of the scriptures there arose the discipline of Astrology to interpret the stellar influence on the life of man. While they remained distinct as disciplines the physical ‘science’ of astrology was not only tolerated by the metaphysical theology but the scriptures even encouraged its application by occasional references to its existence in myth and lore. While the progress of the mundane and earthly experiences of the incarnated Soul were assigned to astrological ingenuity, the sole purpose of reincarnation being the evolution of the Soul, that remained the private preserve of spiritual insight. Astrology or Jyotish through its activity merely reaffirmed the supremacy of the metaphysical goal.

Astrology sought to define the seconds, minutes and hours of temporal life, providing days months and years, by tracing the passage of the Moon through the 27 Asterisms surrounding the Zodiac. it also monitored the movement of the planets in precise degrees, minutes and seconds and forecast the rising and setting of the Sun on a particular day at a given location, defining the days of the week and their auspicious or unauspicious implications for the life of man. In doing so however it remained loyal to the fountainhead of inspiration, the metaphysical insight of the scriptures by allocating places in the natal chart to account for the accumulated debits and credits of a previous life. The Houses of the natal chart were also designed with scriptural injunction in mind. Thus the First became the ‘Connection’ (Lagna) of the incarnating soul to the mortal world, and represented the nature of its bodily vehicle consisting of corpus and mind, its shape, appearance, size, health, character, temperament and personality. The Second, was wealth (Arth) and accumulated credit and worth. The Third was concerned with younger siblings, courage patience and diligence. The Fourth was concerned with Mother and also security, happiness and home comforts. The Fifth was the House of progeny. The Sixth signified enemies, thieves, obstacles, dangers, vices, sin, humiliation, indebtedness, poison, maternal uncle and step mother. The Seventh related to marriage, family circumstances, spouse, sex and genitals. the Eighth was the House of death, longevity, reason and timing of death, inheritance,occult inclinations, distress, calamity, defeat, insult, overseas trips and organs of excretion. The Ninth represented spirituality and religiosity, and fortune. The Tenth related to career, occupation, livelihood, rank, status and honour, ideals and integrity. The eleventh was the House of gains and receipts, ambitions and their realization,success, friends, lovers, victory over enemies, discharge from hospital, prison  and return home. The Twelvth was the  House of loss and expenditure but also liberation (Moksha). It also indicated nature of troubles, worries, sorrow and misfortunes.

Thus it would be seen that the stellar world merely served to carry forward on the physical plane through its cosmic activity the gains and losses of the previous incarnation of the subject in question, spelling boom or doom,  for the evolution of the Soul rather than as punishment or reward. Astrology thus served mathematically to calculate and interpret what the incarnating spirit had earned and would have to experience in the course of its evolution. The constellations and planets as handmaidens of the supreme spiritual essence would act to charter the course of the roller coaster ride, teaching valuable lessons which occasionally might leave you breathless.

India has possibly the only civilization and Hinduism is the only religion which has permitted such an amalgamation of metaphysics and astrology to work hand in hand without deep contradiction. The Indian obsession with the stars may appear to be similar to those of the Mayan, Aztecs, Pharaonic, Celtic and other prehistoric cultures but this would be only superficially so because  there is an important distinction. While for these ancient cultures, stellar phenomena may have constituted a kind of  religious experience, for the Indian it was only a physical manifestation of a profound metaphysical truth contained in sophisticated religious and philosophical insight. The remarkable thing is that, therefore, unlike in other current religious disciplines where Astrology is often viewed with suspicion for creating a parallel determinism which might conflict with God’s omnipotence, for Hinduism there is no such perceived threat. Astrology fits into the Hindu scheme of things as a tool for playing out the game plan of rebirth and Karma. By creating a roadmap for the transmigrating soul it assists in its evolution. Astrology was therefore assigned a place in the most sacred scriptures, the Vedas, in the sections called Vedanga or limb of the Vedas, receiving total scriptural sanction.

It is therefore not surprising that the seven planets and two lunar nodes were deified  and  provided full accommodation in all ritualistic prayer, particularly at the time of marriage, auspicious occasions and prayers during festivals. Before lighting the ritual fire to allow Lord Agni (god of fire) to be a witness to sanctify the  ritual enactments, it was necessary to address several sets of symbols of the gods, beginning inevitably with the inaugurating deity the elephant headed god Ganesh. Then followed worship of the Kalash, pot of water with coconut atop it, representing Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the worlds,Varun the god of waters and the total ensemble representing the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Thereafter the sixteen goddesses symbolizing the Shaktis or energies, were represented by sixteen little piles of red wheat, four by four, on a red cotton cloth spread over a low table. Last but not the least, on a separate low table, nine piles of grain, three by three, representing the nine ‘planets’, were each invoked separately to bless the event. It became abundantly evident that the planets were an integral part of the pantheon of gods and demigods and were required to be worshiped at all events.