Archives for posts with tag: Hindu Astrology

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From my earlier posts we are already familiar with the universal prohibitions arising from the nature of the Tithi ( Hindu Lunar day), the daily Chaughadias ( hourly change in auspicious and inauspicious phases of the day) eclipses etc. The longer term prohibitions become more significant as they affect Hindu social life and commercial activity over extended periods as contrasted with the shorter term prohibitions which pass quickly from hour to hour or Lunar day to Lunar day. These prohibitions relate to ‘universal effects’ as contrasted with ‘individual effects’ which are the concern of the horoscope of an individual or sometimes of a national unit.These universal prohibitions, applicable to all are governed by the following astrological or astronomical events:


The fundamental precept of long-term prohibitions arise from the belief that when the Sun is in Uttarayan (Norther swing) moving from the tropic of Capricorn to the tropic of Cancer, it is an auspicious time  as the Sun becomes stronger and empowered with every passing day. The commencement of this process is marked by the great festival of Makar Sakranti ( entry of the Sun into Capricorn) mid January, with great rejoicing, kite flying and feeding cattle around town. When the Sun is in Dakshinayan ( southern swing) moving from Cancer to Capricorn, its rays grow weaker, losing power and the time is less auspicious. This is marked by Kark Sakranti ( entry into Cancer), mid July. If this were strictly observed or enforced, no auspicious activity like marriage, inauguration of temples , entry into a new home, ceremonial tonsure of a child’s hair, coronation or assumption of important office etc etc  would be astrologically recommended during a six month period during each year. Fortunately, relief has been provided in the month of Margsheesh ( November-December) but only till the Sun enters Sagittarius ( Dhanu Sakranti) in mid-December when the prohibition becomes total as in this month the Sun is at its weakest in the year.  This period is called the Malmas, the dark month.The prohibition ends with Makar Sakranti and suddenly there are marriages everywhere once again. Even a former Governor of Rajasthan state waited till Makar Sakranti before assuming office.



Soon after the Dakshinayan phase commences, come the further prohibitions on account of Shraad. These are observances which are not festive but equally essential. We are said to be born with two types of obligations: debts to the gods ( Dev Rinn) and those to the ancestors ( Pitri Rinn). Dev Rinns are discharged through prayer and ritual and the first half of every day is for that. Pitri Rinn is discharged through ritual observances for ancestors and the latter half of the day is appropriate for that. Both are to be undertaken with the Sun as witness, therefore preferably between sunrise and sunset.

The Shraads commence with the full-moon of the month of Bhadrapad and end with the no-moon of the month of Ashwin, generally falling in the month of September each year, prior to the Sharad ( Winter) Navratra ( discussed in the post on fasts). This is a fortnight during the year which is reserved for deceased ancestors. Ancestors include three generations of parents, grandparents and great grand parents and uncles, aunts and siblings who have no progeny other than yourself to honour them. That which is done with Shraddha, faith, is Shraad. During the Shraads all other auspicious and festive events are prohibited. Each of the fifteen Shraad days is dedicated to the ancestor who died on that Tithi. Prayers and offerings to ancestors consist of preparations of rice, lentil and milk and the favourite food of that ancestor if known and then distributed to five beings – a cow, a crow, a dog, ants and a beggar – called the Panch Gras. Thereafter Brahmins are fed. This upholds an ancient tradition of feeding all manner of beings before consuming ones righteous repast. Through the mouths of these beings the ancestors are satisfied and honoured. mahalaya-ama-nIt is believed that the ancestors are permitted to visit the mortal world from their realms as spirits during this period to observe whether they are still loved and remembered. Most people observe these rituals meticulously as it is believed that one will be blessed with progeny and they will be assured long life and a successful career only if the ancestors thus honoured bless the family. The principle is that you are only entitled to future generations if you care to remember and honour your past generations – sounds quite logical.


images (9)Growing up in an Indian home one often hears the remark ‘sorry we can’t celebrate the wedding for the next few months, the god’s are asleep’. This was always intriguing. how possibly did the gods go to sleep? Of course one was familiar with the strict timings observed in temples when the gods awaken in the morning to the chanting of Mantras and the afternoons when the curtains are drawn or gates closed when they are resting, bathing or being presented with offerings of food. The timing for worship and divine audience  Darshan, was fixed in the morning and evening hours. If you came at the wrong time your worship would be without viewing the deity of the temple. Thus one was familiar with the concept of divine rest periods. But the prolonged rest for months on end in the lunar calendar was another matter and once again had stellar origins.

The period of divine rest or inactivity falls between two Ekadashis ( eleventh Tithis). Beginning with the Ekadashi in the Indian month of Ashad, Shukla Paksh ( lunar ascending phase), falling generally in June-July, it extends to the Ekadashi falling in the month of Kartik, Shukla Paksh. The first Ekadashi is popularly known as Devshayan Ekadashi ( Divine rest Ekadashi), signalling commencement of Devshayan Dosh (divine inactivity affliction) and the second one is called Devauthni Ekadashi ( Divine awakening Ekadashi) signalling end of the afflicted months.

Hindu-God Vishnu imageAs the Devshayan Dosh runs more or less concurrently with the Dakshinayan, the prohibition becomes strengthened further and no one dares to breach it by arranging any auspicious activity then. After the Devuthni Ekadashi, cities in India suddenly spring to life for a month, squeezing in a spate of marriages and events. Roads become so crowded with marriage processions and bridegrooms on horseback and elephants moving with their dancing and singing entourages that traffic happily comes to a standstill, unless of course you have to take a flight or a train. Mass marriages are also the order of the day for people of humbler means.


A month later, despite the prohibition arising from ‘divine rest’ having been lifted, another prohibition arises on account of the Sun entering Sagittarius and once again there is a complete lull on the Hindu social calendar. The entire sub-continent pauses till the Sun leaves Sagittarius and enters Capricorn on Makar Sakranti when its Uttarayan phase begins. Then all is well again for another six months, though short-term prohibitions do crop up from time to time. the Pundit is your trusted guide through all this. The question arises why the Sun’s entry into Sagittarius is deemed unfortunate. Of course the obvious explanation is that it is the month in the year when it is the least empowered having moved to its southernmost point and therefore inauspicious. But there is also a mythological basis for Malmas being inauspicious.

Jupiter, lord of Sagittarius, is the divine mentor and Guru of the demigods. When a royal personage, like the Sun enters the abode of his Guru, he must humbly conduct himself as a disciple and assume a lower seat from him, which he does not find pleasant. This causes him discomfort and being thus reduced in stature he is not his radiant self and in such a state cannot be expected to confer auspiciousness on celebrations. Marriages therefore are avoided during this period. also deferred are important trading and commercial transactions. Indeed, the Indian stock market itself is affected by these distant and invisible cosmic events and it is only after Malmas has passed that the stock market assumes full momentum again.

  Once, being in a hurry I installed a statue of my father in the village square at considerable cost with a stone carved canopy, despite warnings by the Pundits. Within days I was informed that a wayward truck had hit the canopy and that it had shattered, though the statue only suffered minor damage as it too was toppled to the ground. Could have been an unfortunate co-incidence – who knows? 

While the presence of a visible Full-Moon engendering a feeling of auspiciousness and a clearly visible eclipse or transit of a comet arousing fear and being interpreted as evil, may be understandable, the occurrence of a cosmic event which is not visible and can only be known through calculation of movement of the Sun affecting something as mundane and material as the stock market is most remarkable and shows the dominant influence of stellar phenomena on Indian culture and civilization. One cannot escape the feeling that India invisibly reels under a stellar spell.


The third major prohibition period is the additional  month which we saw had to be inserted within  a month in the lunar calendar every three years. Generally Adhikmas ( additional month) falls in late summer or monsoons and therefore in the period of Dakshinaya and the Devshayan, thus not creating an additional period of prohibition but this may not always be so, when the prohibition period would grow even longer than it is. Apart from the prohibition of marriages, during this month, the scriptures  demand that one prays more, fasts, sleeps on the floor, eats only once a day and is charitable.


The entry of Jupiter in Leo is another signal for prohibitions. Again we go back to the relationship of Jupiter and the Sun in Indian lore. As the Guru of the Indian Olympus enters Leo, abode of the Sun, the Sun begins to feel the same discomfort having to act deferentially to his Guru and marriages are once again avoided during Jupiter’s sojourn in Leo. However as this would mean no marriages for a whole year because that is the period that slow-moving Jupiter remains in the Sign, the Pundits have found a way out of this impossible prohibition by restricting it to a shorter duration when Jupiter enters a segment of three degrees of Leo from 13 degrees 20 minutes to 16 degrees 40 minutes called the Navmansh of Leo, thereby limiting the prohibition to less than two months.


Other prohibitions are associated with periods during which Jupiter or Venus become ‘combust’ ( get too close to the Sun as viewed from Earth). A ‘combust’ planet cannot exert its benefic influence and becomes a source of negativity, therefore inauspicious during such phases. During such phases also, marriages are avoided. fortunately with the Sun’s movement onwards as also that of faster moving planets, the combust status remains only for a short duration.

From the foregoing it should become abundantly clear that planning a calendar event in India is no joke and the astrological almanac is the arbiter for fixing the timing of auspicious and inauspicious events with the assistance of the Pundit – those who take this lightly do so at their own peril!

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Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit:



320px-Lunar_eclipse_diagram-en.svgA common portrayal of Rahu is a demonic head. His vehicle is the lion or tiger. In astrology it is a natural malefic with characteristics similar to Lord Saturn. In fact it is considered the strongest malefic planet of the Zodiac.In Hindu Astrology (Jyotish), unlike the planets, who are all revered demi-gods of the pantheon, the Lunar Nodes are demonic entities. The Lunar nodes are the points where the Moon’s path in the sky crosses the ecliptic, the Sun’s path. The two points are called Rahu and Ketu and are treated as planets. The question arises how these Lunar Nodes come to occupy a place as important as the planets in Hindu Astrology. We need to trace their origin in Hindu mythology and Puranic ( ancient ) legends.

The demi-gods ( Devs) and their antitheses the Titans and demons ( Asurs)  are shown in a state of constant conflict to acquire control over the heavenly regions ( Swarg Lok ) and the earth ( Prithvi Lok ). The Demons rule the nether worlds ( Patal Lok ) from where they mount their attacks to win heaven and thereby gain power over the forces of nature enabling them to dominate the earth and destabilize it by polluting the minds of earthlings, and by causing earthquakes, floods and other natural calamities.  Allegorically it is the  struggle between the forces of good and evil. The demi-gods are often outwitted and heaven and earth fall under the spell of the demonic forces. Numerous legends speak of the rise of one great Titan after another threatening heaven and earth. The demigods then rush to the holy Trinity of Godhead ( Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the annihilator) beseeching  their help  to oust the demons. Often the plight the demi-gods are in are of their own making. The demons succeed in gaining the upper hand when the demi-gods fall in righteous behaviour with bloated egos  and indulgences. After being duly reprimanded the Godhead then deigns to assist them through the employ of subterfuge and trickery. This becomes necessary because great demonic entities after engaging in extraordinary feats of penance, piety and meditation succeed in  gaining the blessings of the Godhead. The Godhead is obliged to grant them their wishes. Once thus empowered, the Demons cast away the mask of piety and launch attacks gaining control over the heavens.





Both the Devas and the Asuras were keen to acquire Amrit, the nectar of immortality. Lord Vishnu suggested to the Devs that the only way to get that nectar was by churning the cosmic oceans for which it would be necessary to get the Asurs to join them in the exercise. The churning then began by winding the king of serpents, Vasuki ( seen coiling round Lord Shiva’s neck as adornment) round Mount Meru, the Hindu Olympus. Lord vishnu assumed the form of a giant turtle on whose back Mount Meru was placed. The Asurs were to hold the head of the serpent while the Devs were to hold the tail. It was hoped that the fumes from the enraged serpant would confuse the Asurs, but the Asurs were not to be deterred. The churning first produced a pot of deadly poison which threatened to annihilate the universe. Lord Shiva magnanimously intervened by offering to drink it and save the world. As the deadly poison went down he confined it to his throat which turned blue – henceforth the saviour was called Neelkanth, Lord Blue-Throat.

When the churning finally produced the coveted pot of nectar, the Asuras usurped it, refusing to share it with the Devs. To save the day Lord Vishnu assumed the form of an enchanting damsel and charming the gullible Asurs stole the pot away, dancing towards the Devs and pouring the nectar quickly into their goblets. Rahu, a leading Asur realizing the subterfuge transformed himself into a Dev and joined the ranks of the demi-gods, being served the nectar.






The Sun and the Moon discovering his alien presence drew the attention of Lord Vishnu, now the divine damsel with the pot of nectar but too late, as Rahu had already drunk the nectar of immortality. Vishnu then let fly his famed discus severing Rahu’s neck from his body. but the two halves had already gained immortality and henceforth continued to haunt the Zodiac, seeking revenge on the Sun and the Moon by pursuing them and swallowing them time and again causing eclipses. The two nodes are however not associated with any Zodiac sign through lordship or ownership.

Rahu signifies all manner of separation, from tribe, family, home, region, country of origin –  ones essential roots. This could manifest as incessant travel or a career overseas, away from ones origins, even exile and execution. Separation could also imply absence of parental support or on account of being orphaned. Rahu’s adverse placement also indicates tendency to have  addictions  and obsessions, which could mean alcoholism, drug abuse and obsessive sex. Pronounced Rahu effects could even mean insanity and forms of mental instability, particularly when it afflicts a weak Moon ( which symbolizes the mind in the horoscope).  On account of its ability to eclipse the Sun, its influence can create grandiose illusions about ones importance. In the psychic area it could mean supernatural possession or susceptibility to adverse occult influences. His adverse influence can also be indicative of the possibility of being bitten by a snake. Viewed philosophically, Rahu signifies the spirit or soul’s contact with the material world and its machinations. It engenders desire and greed and is associated with materialism.

Another characteristic of Rahu effects is sudden or unexpected developments, both negative and positive. For instance sudden gain in wealth, through legacy or lottery or other fortuitous events or unforeseen calamities.However the gains would be of a dubious nature. Rahu can also produce beneficial effects like making the subject very prosperous, enhancement of status and ability to overcome enemies. Like all planets he is therefore also capable of facilitating Rajyoga – extremely beneficial effects.

Rahu is exalted in Taurus debilitated in Scorpio and favours Aquarius. It is friendly to Saturn, Venus, Mercury, neutral to jupiter and inimical to the Sun and Moon and Mars. In association with a planet it assumes its nature and magnifies it.







Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit:

Jupiter, Brihaspati has an exalted place among the planets. There are references to him even in the Rig Veda, the earliest known Hindu scripture.. In Puranic legends he is the Acharya or spiritual mentor of the demigods, the one to whom all turn for advice in a crisis. Thus he is known as Devguru, Guru of the gods. In the Hindu calendar Thursday is dedicated to him and is therefore called  Guruvar, day of the Guru. It is a day on which all activities associated with Gurus are undertaken . The spiritualism he represents is doctrinaire and ritualistic Brahmanism. He is a philosopher par excellance, representing all sacred scriptures and is the epitome of wisdom. He is therefore regarded as the most benefic and auspicious of planets. His ‘vision’ is like nectar wherever it falls in a horoscope, being inherently benefic. Where the Sun represents the Atma or soul, Jupiter represents the Jiva, the soul incarnated.

He is significator of religiosity, faith and spiritual devotion, morality, behavior, charity, respect for elders, compassion, benevolence and a dispassionate outlook. He is also significator of fortune and fame, wealth and progeny. He also represents a mild and adaptable nature inclined towards reason, adherence to law, honesty, sincerity, common sense and lack of prejudice. This would include clerical, intellectual, academic, judicial and legal establishments and vocations. The part of the body under his influence are the thighs.

A positive presence in the horoscope would indicate that the subject has accumulated favourable Karmas in preceding lives, which are likely to manifest in the present one through fortuitous events and unexpected gains.

Jupiter is visualized as being heavy bodied, stout chested and fair-complexioned. He has a peaceful disposition and modest demeanour and is forgiving by nature. His vehicle is the elephant. He is friendly to the Sun, Moon and Mars, neutral to Saturn and inimical to Mercury ( foster son) and Venus, his counterpart among the Titans ( Asuras) who it will be remembered was supportive of the Moon’s elopement with his wife Tara.

However, being the most benefic of planets does not mean that he will not be responsible for any adverse events in the life of the subject whose horoscope is under consideration. Like all planets, Jupiter too can be well placed or adverse for a chart and when adverse can create major turbulence. Like other planets he too can become a ‘killer’ or Marak. But this does not mean that he has any inherent evil .Planets are mere tools in the divine programme to help one reap the rewards and punishments of ones Karma and the punishments or adversity is not so much judgemental as reformative, facilitating the cleansing of the soul for its evolution from one lifetime experience to another. Thus an adverse Jupiter may be merely a means of teaching lessons through adversity for the subject’s good and be no more than corrective in nature. Like-wise a favourable Jupiter would enhance ones capability in certain areas to enable one to deliver ones full potential in a field, again enabling further progress and evolution of the soul.

Jupiter’s stone is the yellow Sapphire worn in a ring to offset his adverse effects or enhance his favourable presence in a horoscope.

Lord Brihaspati

Lord Brihaspati








moon days

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The Gregorian calendar that we use in India to get along with our lives in the modern world is like a mask  traditional India wears. The lunar calendar is the face behind it. What is fascinating is the ingenious marriage of the two as it has evolved in the lunar calendar for the traditionalist called the Panchang. While each of its pages displays a month of the solar calendar with dates as per the Gregorian calendar, it is impressive to see how with each Gregorian date, in the square for it is entered all manner of information on the passage of the lunar date and its astrological significance and the lunar defined festivals which are not merely stellar and astrological events but deeply religious ones.

Hindu spirituality and the stellar world are coterminous. Hindu mythology and cosmology move hand in hand each reflecting and strengthening the other. For the Hindu, the birth of the cosmos was after all a metaphysical event as much as a physical one. In the Beyond Beyond state, the Universal Unconscious Mind for a moment experienced an egotistical consciousness, triggering creation. Thus myth and math combine and while a pragmatic determination of  days is derived from calculation of degrees and their sub division in the movement of the Moon and the Sun through the constellations of the Zodiac, the material fact governing the passage of material time in the material lives  of people, there is also the metaphysical significance attached to these stellar passages based on the mythology and cosmology of the Vedas and the scriptures.Thus the gods acquire a stellar context, while the planets, a mythological one, with mythological reasons for their placement. 

At the back of my mind therefore I have always been aware of that lunar date for addressing those issues but never really enquired who fixed it and how. Most Pundits and astrologers get their information from the Almanac while the public, from the dates given in the Panchang calendar but they rarely bother to find out how these dates get fixed. A lunar day can begin at any time during the Gregorian day and likewise end at any time with no regularity. Therefore festivals never arrive on the same Gregorian date each year. Sometimes there are two and on rare occasions even three lunar days during one Gregorian day. Intrigued and confused I decided to find out and called a reputed astrologer home to get to the heart of the matter. He warned me that it would be beyond my comprehension but I insisted that he give it a try. The following is the result of that.

Days of the month according to the Hindu Almanac begin with the first day after the full moon, Purnima and continue for fifteen days till no-moon, Amavasya. This is the phase called Krishna Paksha ( dark as Lord Krishna). Then commences the remaining half of the month when the Moon is in ascent called the Shukla Paksha. The thirty lunar ‘days’ of the two halves in terms of our solar month gets compressed into 27/29 days depending on the movement of the Moon. When a Tithi begins at sunrise it is co-terminous with a solar day but sometimes a Tithi can extend into more than a solar day even extending into the third solar day. Tithis extending into several solar days are considered inauspicious for certain activities like marriage.

The principle for determining a lunar day is acutely complex but with full astronomical logic. Simply put, the lunar day or Tithi is determined by calculating the difference in the longitudinal locations of the Sun and Moon in the Zodiac at 5.30 AM on any solar day. The figures for the location of the Moon are subtracted from the figures for the location of the Sun to arrive at the difference in degrees, which is then divided by 12. This is because it would be recalled, the Moon is deemed to traverse one Tithi every time it moves 12 degrees from the Sun’s location. From the resulting figure is subtracted 15 ( lunar days). The balance figure indicates the Tithi on a particular solar day in the Gregorian calendar.

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Giant Sun Dial 1800 A.D. Jaipur

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Jai Singh II the Astrologer King who built the observatory

The Panchang has two sets of tables in regard to the Tithi. One provides the location of the Sun, Moon and other planets at 5.30 AM on days of the Gregorian calendar, throughout the year. The time 5.30 AM has been adopted as mean time. The second set is specific to a city and provides the exact time of sunrise and sunset which varies from place to place. This information is necessary because the Sun is the principal heavenly body in astrology and is also the ‘witness’, much as fire is the witness in ritualistic fire worship of Yagyas. The daylight hours are the hours of the witness and therefore the span of time from sunrise to sunset become crucial as all auspicious activities must take place during this time. Furthermore before the advent of standard time for all India, it was the practice to calculate Tithis from place to place based on the time of sunrise and sunset. One Hindu king even went as far as building a grand open air observatory in the city of Jaipur in the 18th century to determine the precise movements of the Sun.


Another early 18th century sundial at the Jaipur astrological observatory

Let us now try and calculate a Tithi to make the issue clear. According to the Panchang on 25 July 2003 ( the date on which I consulted the astrologer about the manner of fixing Tithis) the Tithi at Jaipur was Ekadasi, the 11th lunar day. On that day the longitudinal location of the Sun and Moon are given as follows   

  Zodiac Sign                  Degree

                      ( Rashi )                   ( Ansha )                   

Moon            1 (i.e. 12+1=13)            18                   

Sun                      3                                8


                                                                                                        subtract            10                                  10

NOTE: Each Zodiac Sign has  30 degrees of the 360 degrees of the Zodiac ( 12 Signs x 30 = 360)

The above indicates that on 25 July 2003 the Moon having traveled through the first Sign, Aries, was now in Taurus second Sign of the Zodiac having completed 18 degrees out of 30 degrees of Taurus. The Sun having traveled through the third Sign Gemini was in the fourth Sign Cancer having completed 8 degrees out of the 30 degrees of Cancer. The difference in the positions of the Sun and Moon was 10 Signs which is 10×30 degrees = 300 degrees. Add to that the difference in degrees which was 10, equalling 310 degrees. As the lunar calendar is divided into two phases of 15 days we subtract 15 days from no-moon to full moon (180 degrees) and are left with 130 degrees. Every time the Moon moves 12 degrees from the Sun it constitutes a Tithi. Dividing 130 degrees by 12 we get 10.8 days after the full moon. Thankfully this tortuous excersise is done by experts and the Pundit or the common man does not have to turn his hair grey doing it.

On 25 July therefore at 5.30 AM the major part of the 11th Tithi would have passed and only 0.2 of that Tithi would carry into the day until 8.58 AM at which point the 12th Tithi, Dvadashi would commence. Thus on the 25th July two lunar dates would occur, the eleventh and the twelfth. The twelfth would in turn terminate on the 26th at 10.42 AM. The above shows that lunar dates can occur at any time during the solar date and carry into the next solar date. The precise times of commencement and termination of Tithis are crucial for predictions of auspicious and inauspicious times for events in a Hindu’s life, for drawing up his horoscope, commencements of festivals and timings for prayers and even engaging in commercial activity. The Panchang provides all such information from city to city and are therefore an invaluable necessity for regulating such activities.

Now that we know what a Tithi actually is let us turn to their classification, to learn how some are auspicious and others not so. The basic principle is the strength of the Moon. It is generally auspicious when in full strength, five days either side of full moon, moderately so in between and inauspicious as it reaches no-moon status for five days on either side of no-moon.

The Tithis are classified in groups of three, into five categories : Poorna, Rikta, Jaya, Bhadra, and Nanda.

The Poorna Tithi implies that it is full, complete, all embracing and generally positive in conferring good effects. (These astrological interpretations based on Vedic injunctions are what one may call forecasts of a general nature for the multitude, equally applicable to all. The particular astrological forecasts for an individual of course will have to rely on his individual horoscope)  The 5th, 10th, and 15th tithis are Poorna, which includes the full moon day, Purnima falling on the 15th tithi of Shukla Paksh. There is a traditional practice of leaving some milk in a metal salver in the open on such nights so that the auspicious rays of the full moon may empower the milk which is consumed the next day ensuring good health and fortune. The ruling planet of Poorna Tithis is Jupiter who confers riches, growth and strength. For religious and auspicious activities these are the best Tithis, particularly if they fall on Thursdays, whose lord is also Jupiter.

As against the Poorna, there are the empty category called Rikta, denoting want, impoverishment, weakness and scarcity. No celebrations or activities for gain should be undertaken on these Tithis. They are the 4th, 9th, and 14th Tithis. Their lord is Saturn, distant from the Sun and therefore a dark planet of want. A Rikta falling on a Saturday is particularly inauspicious.

Another category is Jaya signifying victory and courage. These fall on the 3rd, 8th and 13th. Here again the best Jayas are the 13th of Shukla Paksh (ascendant phase) and 3rd of Krishna Paksh ( descending phase), somewhat auspicious being the 8th of Shukla and Krishna and least auspicious are the 13th of Krishna and 3rd of Shukla. Lord of Jayas is Mars, therefore the best Jayas would be those that fall on Tuesdays, whose lord again is Mars. In activities where victory is desired, like in battle, legal conflict etc, Jayas are the best days to launch such activities.

Then we have the Bhadra category concerned with charitable and welfare activities. These fall on the 2nd,7th and 12th. Here again the most auspicious Bhadras are the 12th of shukla and 2nd of Krishna. the least auspicious are the 2nd of Shukla and 12th of Krishna. The ruling planet of Bhadras is Mercury and the best Bhadra would be the one falling on Wednesdays whose lord is Mercury.

finally there is the Nanda category falling on the 1st, 6th and 11th Tithis. Their lord is Venus and they denote pleasurable activities. These Tithis are appropriate for inaugurations and entertainment. The best Nandas fall on Fridays, Venus’ day and the most auspicious Nandas are the 11th Tithi of Shukla Paksha and 1st Tithi of Krishna Paksha.

This is how the curious Tithis rule the lives of Hindu traditionalists and often even those who are not but who wish to be on the right side of the stars, just in case. 

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Sun Dials at the famous 18th century Jantar Mantar observatory Jaipur.




The Moon, Lord Chandra, is a well-known figure in Hindu mythology, with striking good looks, almost effeminate, tall, youthful and amorous by nature. He has a likable and friendly persona but is both sensitive and fickle minded and somewhat wild and unpredictable. He is shown wearing fine white garments and silver ornaments. He is known as Lord Chandra, the shining one and Soma, the intoxicating drink of the gods, from which we derive the name of Monday, Somvar. He wears a garland of pearls and rides a chariot seated on a lotus cushion, drawn by a pair of antelopes, befitting the speed with which he traverses the heavens as the fastest ‘planet’, barely pausing in a Sign of the Zodiac for a couple of days. He helps trees and plants grow, is a source of strength for the demigods on account of their supping of the divine nectar, Soma, which he symbolizes.

Legends tell us that he is the son of Varun, lord of the oceans. Other legends tell us that he is son of the sage Atri and his consort Anasuya. The Yadav dynasty of Lord Krishna, the divine incarnation of Vishnu the sustainer of the worlds, claim descent from him, as do several warrior clans, calling themselves the Chandravanshis. Legend also has it that he abducted Tara, the wife of Brihaspati, Jupiter, the guru of the demigods and she begot his son Buddh, Mercury. A popular legend speaks of his marriage to the 27 daughters of the administrator of the temporal cosmos, Daksh Prajapati but his obsessive devotion to only one of them Rohini, to the complete neglect of the others upset Daksha. The 27 symbolize the star clusters (Asterisms) within the Zodiac, also called the Lunar Mansions, the Nakshatras. The moon inhabits one each day of the lunar month. The legend goes that thus angered the intemperate Daksha cursed the Moon, afflicting him with leprosy. The Moon pleaded with shi-n1Lord Shiva to undo the curse. After much penance Shiva allowed a modification of the curse. Thereafter he was to experience a diminishing of his glow for half the month and a revival in the other half till he attained his former glory during Purnima, the full moon day. The moon also adorns the hair lock of Lord Shiva to keep him cool after he drank the pot of poison which emerged from the churning of the  cosmic oceans, to save the world from apocalypse.

Quite aside from the myths and legends the Moon occupies a predominant position in the lives of Hindus as the single most important ‘planet’. The Hindu calendar for millenia has been lunar not solar. Days of the week are determined by the position of the Moon in the Nakshatras and the month is defined by its waxing and waning phases. Auspicious and inauspicious moments arise from the status of the Moon. For Hindus it is their true chronometer and also the harbinger of good and evil events. But it is much more than a device to track time. It has been given a central place in astrology because of Vedic presumptions. It is regarded as a significator of the mind and emotions as the Sun is the significator of the Soul. The state of the mind governed by the Moon becomes the key element in determining the life of man.

The Moon governs the manner of determining days and months in a year. We therefore have a lunar day ( Tithi ), a lunar month and a lunar year, lunar birthdays and natal charts. Among Hindus it is not the solar birth Sign ( the Zodiac Sign in which the Sun was at the time of a birth) but the Zodiac Sign which was on the horizon  at the time of birth that determines the birth Sign assigned to a person. For instance my solar birth sign is Sagittarius but the birth Sign for my natal chart is Cancer. We have already seen that there are 27 Nakshatras or star clusters within the 12 Signs of the Zodiac, 2  1/4  for each. Hindu astrology, Jyotish, gives you your precise Nakshatra at birth ( the Nakshatra in which the Moon was at the time of your birth ), which determines your likely personality and inclinations. The placement of the Moon at birth also determines the planetary cycles of life, the Dashas, which are central to predicting events in one’s life in Jyotish.

The Moon in the ascendant phase is a benefic planet for the subjects chart and in the waning phase at the time of birth is malefic. The moon is lord of Cancer and like the Sun owns only one Zodiac Sign. It is exalted in Taurus and debilitated in Scorpio. It is friendly to the Sun and Mercury, neutral to others and inimical to none. This ‘relationship’ between planets assumes significance when studying the natal chart. For instance when two planets are in ‘opposite’ Houses of the chart in astrological terms they are said to ‘aspect’  or influence each other. Their relationship then comes into play for predictions.

The Moon is significator of the mind, intellect, temperament, mother, meritorious Karma from previous lives, beauty, complexion, attractiveness, para-psychological abilities and love of pleasure. On the negative side it is significator of lunacy, addictions, jaundice, epilepsy and lethargy. Physically it represents the mind, chest, breasts and limbs.


Nakshatras with adjacent Zodiac signs

the sun

Artist: Pieter Weltevrede Credit:

The Sun was one of the most important gods of the early Vedic period, influenced by Aryan beliefs. However, in the later Vedic period with growing philosophical sophistication  produced by the influence of pre- Vedic indigenous belief systems  and the arrival of the Trinity of Creator, Sustainer and Annihilator, the Sun progressively lost his pre-eminence in the Hindu cosmological framework. Yet as a visible and active symbol of godhead he continued to retain his hold on  Hindu spiritual inclinations. Vedic hymns are numerous that extol his grandeur in exquisite Sanskrit poetry. There are many Sanskrit words for sun each with a slight difference in the highlighting of some quality of the Sun : Aditya, the giver of light; Ravi, luminous;  Savitar, impeller towards light and enlightenment; Divakar, the one who gives us daylight; Mihir the one who waters the earth; Sakshi, the witness; Karmasakshi, the witness of our deeds and the most common, Surya, Lord Sun. These names are very commonly found among men in India.

One of the most beautiful Vedic hymns to Surya is recited universally in India, touching ones heart and soul.:

Asato ma sat gamaya ( Lead us from falsehood to truth)

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya ( Lead us from darkness to light )

Mrityor ma Amritam gamaya ( Lead us from death to immortality)

 It is a motto and morning theme song at schools to inspire young students. I was delighted to find that it has also inspired Hollywood, becoming the concluding incantation of the popular blockbuster Sci-fi film, Matrix Resolutions.

There is also the famous Gayatri Mantra which is the mystical mantra that promotes enlightenment. Lord Krishna in the Hindu bible the Bhagawad Gita tells Arjun his disciple and friend that of all the Mantras he is the Gayatri, the highest. The mantra has profound mystical depths. It suggests the connectivity of the earth ( life on the material plane ), the cosmos ( the created physical universe) and the spiritual realms, the different levels of reality permeated by a divine essence, manifested through the transporting light of the Sun, upon which we meditate, praying that thereby ones mind is enlightened:

Om, bhur buvaha svaha ( earth, sky, and heavens)

Tat savitur varenyam ( the divine essence manifesting through the creative principle of light, the sun, worthy of praise)

Bhargo devasya dhimahi ( that divine light we meditate upon)

Dhiyo yo naha prachodayat ( may our intellect and mind be illuminated by it)


The role of the Sun as a vehicle to facilitate such enlightenment is central to the mantra


According to legend when Lord Rama, earthly manifestation of the supreme godhead, became fatigued and despondent in his battle against the demon king Ravana, his mentor the sage Agastya initiated him into worship of the Sun with the Aditya Hridaya Stotra ( heart of the Sun hymn ) which then reinforced his confidence and strength. The hymn is often prescribed to strengthen resolve and assure success in adversity.

In southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu one of the most celebrated festivals is that of Pongal , while in the North the festival of Makar Sakranti is the most auspicious, both dedicated to the sun when it enters the sign of Capricorn and begins it six month journey of empowerment through summer.



A famous Sun temple in the east is the magnificent tenth century Konarak temple in Orissa state. The stone temple is shaped like a giant chariot drawn by the Sun’s seven solar steeds, representing the days of the week, with giant stone wheels having twelve spokes representing the Signs of the Zodiac. Another famous temple is at Kumbakaran in Tamilnadu. It enshrines the sun as the principle deity surrounded by the other eight ‘planets’ facing him. Pilgrims with planetary afflictions ( Doshas) in their horoscopes visit the temple to appease the deities for mitigation of the afflictions. This is the only temple in India where all nine planets are found together. The Sun is also called Adivar, the first among the planets and is called the king of the planets.

Several royal families claim descent from the Sun – the Suryavanshis – with the legendary avatar Lord Rama being the foremost among them.

According to one legend, the Sun is the son of Indra, lord of the heavens. According to another he is the son of the sage Kashyap and Aditi, the earth. The legend goes that Aditi found one of her sons in the shape of an egg and presuming it to be lifeless called it Martand ( dead egg) and cast him into the sky. However in the sky the egg shone with brilliance and Surya was born.

The sacred sign of the Swastika used often in ritual prayer is also sometimes taken to represent the Sun.

Another interesting legend is about the marriage of Sanjana, daughter of the divine engineer and craftsman Vishvakarma ( the god of all mechanics) , to the Sun. Their first child was Manu, the Indian equivalent of Adam. however, Sanjana could not bear the brilliance of her consort and whenever the Sun approached her, she looked away. angered by this the Sun cursed her with fearsome progeny. She then gave birth to the god of death, Yama, and Yamuna, the river which skirts the capital Delhi and is notorious for overflowing her banks causing annual suffering and havoc. Finally unable to bear his presence she fled to the woods, leaving behind her sister, shadow ( chaya). At first the Sun mistook her for Sanjana and we have learnt of a son emerging from that unlikely union in the shape of Shani ( Saturn). Later on discovering the subterfuge he abandoned Chaya and ventured forth to find his beloved Sanjana, who meanwhile transformed herself into a mare to escape detection. Surya located her and transformed himself into a stallion and mated with her. She kept changing form into that of other female animals while he did likewise as a male animal, each time mating with her, thus populating the world with many species of animals. 

sudarshanMeanwhile Sanjana’s father Visvakarma sought to remedy the problem of too much brilliance with some divine engineering and taking some of the solar fire out of Surya recast it into weapons for the gods. Thus Lord Vishnu acquired the flashing discus which he is depicted as swirling on his finger, Lord Shiva his splendid trident, lord Yama, god of death his staff and lord Kuber, god of wealth, the mace.

Lord Surya also fathered the monkey king Sugriva of the Ramayana. In the other epic the Mahabharata, Kunti the mother of the heroes the Pandavas, nurses the guilt of having borne a child out-of-wedlock from the Sun, without really wanting to. She had steadfastly worshiped the Sun in the hope that he would grant her a vision of himself. He did more than that and left her with an unwanted child, Karna. Karna was allowed to drift in a basket to his fate but was rescued by a childless couple who reared him. When later he learnt of his true identity from his mother he became deeply resentful and swore revenge on his half brothers, joining the ranks of their bitter enemies. Karna becomes one of the most tragic figures of Indian mythology.


Lord Surya sculpture – Sun temple Konarak

These are some of the colourful legends about the Sun in Vedic, Puranic and later Hindu mythology, influencing the imagination and spirituality of worshipers. Worship of the Sun as a deity has however dwindled and is confined only to a few corners of the subcontinent. However, the Vedic god appears to have found permanent sanctuary in Hindu astrology and is prominent in the Hindu calendar as the principal planet with a day of the week, Sunday, Ravivar, dedicated to him. For determination of time and casting of horoscopes the time of sunrise and sunset play a crucial role.

 In Hindu astrology he is significator of Atma, the soul and also of the individual ego. He is also the significator of father in the horoscope, health, courage, honour, status, fame and power. He also is significator of eyes and vision, bones and a balanced nature. A strong well placed Sun in the horoscope is an indication of a dynamic extrovert personality. Surya is however in astrological terms considered a somewhat malefic planet, probably in view of the heat he generates resulting in drought.

The Sun is lord of only one Sign in the Zodiac, Leo. He is exalted in Aries and debilitated in Libra. He is friendly towards the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter, inimical to Saturn and Venus and neutral towards Mercury. His gemstone is the red ruby and metal, gold. His day is Sunday. Devotees are advised to do the Surya Namaskar, prayers to the Sun, as it rises each morning, for good health and spiritual evolution. It is a common sight to see them by the river bank or sea-shore at dawn with folded hands.






Artist : Pieter Weltervede Credit :

Saturn is the most talked about planet in India with a pervasive influence among high and low. Lord Saturn, Shani dev, is most feared as the harbinger of ill omen and great misfortunes and those afflicted by such events vigorously appease him. There are several temples dedicated to lord Saturn, though they may not be prominent and visible like those of other Hindu deities and his grip on the Indian psyche is strong and universal. It is for this reason that I am presenting this post on him first, though he is not regarded as pre eminent among planets, as Lord of the planets, the Grihapati, is of course the Sun.

Lord Saturn is portrayed as being tall dark and ominous, emitting a blue radiance, with uneven teeth and coarse hair, sunken yellow eyes and deeply veined. He also has a limp and is very slow in movement. The word Shanishchara means slow-moving and Lord Shani’s name is derived from that word. It reflects the time he takes to complete a round of the Zodiac – some thirty years against the Sun’s one year and the Moon’s one month. This is of course because, of the seven planets of Jyotish astrology it is the farthest from the Sun and its orbit is therefore much greater.

shanidev look

image of Shani

Shani’s nature is described as ‘Tamasik’: slow, irritable and lethargic. His vehicle is variously shown as the vulture, the crow and the ox. His gaze, Medusa like, is destructive and even the gods have learned to avoid it. Thus he is called ‘Krur Lochan’, fierce eyed. Legend has it that  in  worshiping Lord Krishna he neglected his wife, never looking at her. In frustration she cursed him that whoever he cast his vision on would be destroyed. He therefore developed the habit of averting his gaze rather than looking at those he encountered. One of the Puranic  legends explains how the revered son of Lord Shiva, Ganesha acquired his elephant head. Goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, seeing the exquisite beauty of the child she had borne, invited the gods to come and bless him. Lord Shani, present among them did not raise his eyes to look upon the beautiful child. Parvati felt dismayed and insisted that he look upon him. When the reluctant Shani raised his eyes, Ganesh’s head disappeared. It was finally replaced by an elephant’s head as no other was available.

Another legend attributes the exile of Rama to the effect of Shani in his chart. Yet another legend about his destructive gaze is also found in the epic Ramayan. The demonic king Ravana had through penance and prayer acquired extraordinary powers over earth and heaven. To demonstrate his power he enslaved the nine planets and placed them face downwards on the steps leading to his throne. He would arrogantly ascend his throne by stepping on the backs of the planets. The divine sage Narada visited the power incensed king and mischievously suggested that it might please him more if they were placed on their backs looking upwards as he stepped on their breasts, to better see the humiliation on their faces. Ravana liked the suggestion failing to see the trap and had them turned around. As he was stepping on Shani, the latter’s gaze fell upon him and Ravana’s reason deserted him as a consequence. this led to his infatuation with Sita, Lord Rama’s wife leading to her eventual abduction by him and the ensuing battle with Rama in which he was vanquished and killed.

Hindu legend also speaks of Shani being the son of Lord Surya, the Sun, from his second wife Chaya ( shadow). There is however enmity between father and son as Shani cannot forgive his father for deserting her ( causing the disappearance of his mother whenever he makes an appearance). He is also credited with turning the horses of Surya’s chariot blind by looking upon them and afflicting Surya himself with vertigo. Their interaction in natal charts always bodes ill for father son relationships.

Though Lord Shani is considered the most malefic of planets, his portrayal as an evil dark force is a total misrepresentation. In fact  he represents the force that impels the evolution of the soul, however painful the exercise by which it is achieved. the obstacles, misfortunes and travails that he initiates are for refining the caliber of the person and cleansing his spirit. According to legend, Lord Shiva, the Lord of creation, has entrusted him with meting out justice and punishments. He maintains a meticulous account of ones misdeeds, ones abuse of wealth and ones failure to be charitable. He does not merely mete out punishments, for when he sees that it has produced favourable results he permits the re acquisition of  status and wealth double fold.

He is portrayed as a stern disciplinarian who stresses diligence and pragmatism. His goal is to bring out the finest in an individual. In going about his purpose he is ruthless and single-minded.

 Shani signifies longevity, determination, diligence, skill, sobriety, concentration, discretion and wisdom arising from experience, renunciation and spiritual evolution. He is also indicative of a person’s long-term goals, his organizational abilities and capacity to persevere. On the other hand he brings obstacles, delays, separation, loss and expenditure, anxiety, lawsuits, imprisonment, grief, lunacy, disease and death as corrective measures or results of ones Karma. In astrological terms an ‘aspected’ or afflicted planet in the horoscope may be more useful for an individual’s self-development and emancipation than one that is unafflicted but ‘weak’. Saturn’s influence though apparently malefic has the effect of producing self-reliance, acquiring experience through diligence and adverse circumstances, development of courage to withstand adversity and in the end producing qualities of restraint, wisdom, altruism and discipline through suffering. He is also portrayed as one conferring philosophical insight.

On the physical level he represents the nervous system and teeth. The diseases he brings are chronic and long in duration, like his slow movements. Some of the diseases he inflicts are cancer, arthritis, intestinal and urinal obstruction. He also induces lameness and a tendency to look askance.

Hindus believe that these effects can be minimized by prayer to Lord Hanuman, the monkey headed god and to Lord Shani on Saturdays with the chanting of the Mahamritunjaya mantra. Lord Hanuman freed Shani Dev from the clutches of the demon king Ravana. Thus prayers to Hanuman, an incarnation of lord Shiva, whom Shani worships, mitigate his adverse effects in the Natal chart. Furthermore donations of black garments, mustard oil, black lentils and sesame to the poor and helping old and needy people also pacify him. Prayers to Lord Krishna on Saturdays are also helpful as Shani is a devotee of Krishna. It is not surprising to see urchins and beggars around towns in India on Saturdays holding up metal containers filled with mustard oil with an iron figure of Shani immersed in it, urging one to put in a coin to ward off the effects of Shani on his day. Likewise the throngs outside Krishna and Hanuman temples on Saturdays are also for warding off his malefic effects.

From the astrological point of view, Shani is lord of Capricorn and Aquarius, is exalted in Libra and debilitated in Aries. He is the significator of the Eighth House in the natal chart, house of longevity and death. Saturday is his day of the week, black is his colour and the numeral sign 8 is his favourite. His gem stone is the blue sapphire which saves wearers from his afflictions, his metal is iron. his friends are Mercury, Venus and the lunar node Rahu. His enemies are the Sun and the Moon, Mars and the lunar node Ketu. He is neutral to Jupiter.

When located in one of the three houses of acquisition ( Tridhaya Bhavas), the third, sixth, and eleventh of the natal chart, he generally brings great benefits, facilitating royal comforts and aiding in spiritual growth. His capacity to confer prosperity transcends those of other planets. During his transit phases ( ‘Sade Sati’ ), the subject must develop qualities of humility, patience, deliberation and take time to ponder over decisions, becoming cautious and engage in charitable acts. The subject must slow down like Lord Shani.

There are many samll temples tucked away in the corners of cities and villages dedicated to him, the most famous being in Tirunallar in Tamil Nadu and Shinganapur in Maharashtra


Shani’s effect on a horoscope Credit :







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.




Credit: 12 zodiac signs surrounded by 27 Nakshatras (Asterisms) through which the moon passes each lunar day

India’s culture and civilization have always displayed an intriguing obsession with stellar phenomena. The Hindu infatuation with the movement of the planets, the Zodiac and the Asterisms is quite unique, deeply affecting social behaviour, religious observances, fasts and festivals, ritual and customs and even commercial and trading activities. More plausibly, it has also been the basis for determining the passage of time and fixing the duration of a day, a month and the year in the Hindu lunar calendar at a time when the benefits of modern time scales and calendars were not available in ancient India.

hindu priestWhile other cultures are not unfamiliar with astrology, there is a fundamental difference in the manner in which it is treated by other established religions. Generally it is viewed with suspicion if not hostility as a heterodox discipline at variance with religious dogma and therefore to be clubbed with heretical beliefs like witchcraft. In Hinduism, on the contrary, it is given unequivocal scriptural sanction, incorporating astrological practices within the very rituals of worship. Thus the planets themselves are included in the pantheon of deities and find a place in ritual worship, with some temples even being dedicated to them. It is therefore not surprising that Hindu clerics and the priesthood are required to be proficient in Astrology if they are to discharge their religious duties effectively. thus in India we find that the Pundit and the astrologer are more or less synonymous. This is not the case with priests of other religions.


Almanacs in a shop

The Hindu lunar calendar is in fact an exercise in Astronomy, providing forecasts in Almanacs meticulously accurate and prepared for every major city covering the zones in their vicinity, on a daily basis the precise time of sunrise and sunset and movements of the planets, Zodiacs and Asterisms ( Nakshatras) down to the minute. This becomes invaluable information for religious and social observances and ‘prohibitions’ for the lay man and the cleric.

Let us then take a peek into this India to see what happens on a daily basis in the lives of its denizens:


Shani Dev

We begin at a traffic light where we have halted our vehicle when it turned red. A boy comes running up holding aloft what looks like a small stainless steel bucket full of mustard oil. Not the usual street urchin demanding alms so persistently. In the oil in the bucket sits a metal deity. The boy calls ‘Shani Dev Shani Dev’ ( Lord Saturn). As it is a saturday, Lord Saturn’s day, we are expected to drop some offering into the container to ward off inauspicious events waiting to happen to us in the course of the day. Lord Saturn is known popularly to cause many painful trials on his day ( for our evolution). We have just glimpsed a planet arriving at a traffic road light – close encounter on a busy Indian street on a quite ordinary day!

mangal_bhagwanThen again when looking for a spouse for your daughter you may discover that the prominence of Mars in her astrological chart makes her into what is called a ‘Mangli’ (Martian). A serious disqualification as  it could result in the premature demise of a prospective spouse. Such an  astrological chart sent for ‘matching’, a necessity in arranged Hindu marriages, gets promptly rejected unless the prospective groom is also a ‘Martian’ when the two defects cancel each other out. Another close encounter, this time with Mars in an Indian home.

On another quite ordinary day you irritably phone the contractor at your building site to esquire why the labourers, plumbers and electricians have failed to turn up. With some annoyance he retorts, ”don’t you know?” Know what? It is neither a weekend nor Sunday, no national holiday, no festival  either, nothing? He explains with some exasperation, ”Sir, It is Amavasya – a No-Moon day which is inauspicious, a day on which labourers and handymen don’t work. They may work on weekends and Sundays even but not on Amavasya which occurs once a month without warning on any Georgian calendar – you better arm yourself with a lunar Hindu calendar. This time close encounter with the Moon on a work site!



rahuDuring lunar and solar eclipses all auspicious activity is suspended. There is no question of going out to watch the phenomenon through dark lenses, the family remain huddled indoors till it passes, particularly pregnant women. Evil forces are abroad then in the shape of the demons Rahu or Ketu ( titans who drank the cup of nectar but were cut asunder to prevent it having its effect of immortality reserved for the gods – Rahu now a bodyless head and Ketu a headless body) who, though astrologically only lunar nodes, are deemed to be planets in their own right capable of causing great harm. particularly when they ‘swallow the luminous heavenly bodies the Sun and the Moon during eclipses. After the eclipse, purification baths and fasts are in order to cleanse the body and spirit of the evil that has just passed; another close cosmic encounter.

But cosmic events are not generally ominous. every full moon,( Purnima). important festivals and celebrations gladden the spirit. The birth of great personages like the Buddha and guru Nanak of the Sikh faith happen to fall on the full moon. However on the fourth day after No-moon one never looks at the misshapen planet for if you did a great misfortune like burglary would occur in ones home.

kumbhThen you have the  great religious gatherings or super pilgrimages at the confluence of certain rivers when millions from the four corners of the sub-continent congregate for a holy dip under a unique configuration of stars at a given moment at the great festival of Kumbh, to wash off sins and gain spiritual and material credit . This happens when the Sun the Moon and Jupiter arrive together in preordained constellations every twelve years. This commemorates the tussle for the pot of nectar, the Kumbh, which emerged from the celestial churning of the oceans by the gods and Titans. In the ensuing struggle some drops spilled onto the earth. these mythical spots become the centres of pilgrimage for millions of devotees. Aside from the pilgrims, retinues of mendicants and naked fakirs belonging to well established esoteric orders surviving over millenia in remote corners of  India and the high Himalayas arrive on horseback, elephants and chariots, resplendent with spears, gleaming tridents, unsheathed swords and caste marks on their bodies and foreheads, for the holy dip. Some are stark naked on horseback, having shed all attributes of ego, including garments, others bejeweled in silken robes of saffron and white, yet others, as a mark of containing their passions are known to walk with their phalli bandaged and tied to their wastes. It is a sight from pre-history and attracts foreign tourists in droves.

makar sakranti`But India’s stellar obsession is not confined to social, religious or festive occasions. commercial activity also come within its ubiquitous embrace. The practical and down to earth broker may advise you to postpone a sale or purchase of stock not because of market forces arising from commercial considerations like the possibility of a reduction in the bank rate or likelihood of anticipated foreign investments or say India-Pakistan tension on the border – he will insist that you wait till the fourteenth of January. The month before the fourteenth is ‘Malmaas’, an inauspicious phase which ends on the thirteenth. The fourteenth is a most auspicious day celebrated as the great festival of ‘Makar-Sankranti’ or ‘passage into Capricorn’, passage that is of the Sun. It marks the moment the Sun at the southernmost point from the equator begins on its journey northwards. thus far the nights have grown longer during winter and the days shorter. From the fourteenth begins the process of longer days and shorter nights. More Sun means more growth in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Maker Sankranti marks the moment of transition, the northern swing of the Sun, Uttarayan as opposed to Dakshinayan, the southern swing commencing in July on Kark ( cancer)Sankranti. Makar Sankranti has its latent effect on the stock market as many traders commence maximum trading on that auspicious day.To celebrate the day people fly kites from rooftops all over the cities, families picnic on roofs. The day is so auspicious that Governors and even Prime Ministers have been known to postpone oath taking ceremonies to assume charge till the arrival of this day.

male with earringsSometimes the influence of the distant stars is to be found in the most curious of places, an ear lobe. The piercing of an ear lobe is not merely for wearing earrings. Often in rural areas one finds that men also sport earrings. It is believed to ward off the blemishes in one’s horoscope The effect of the presence of the demonic lunar node Ketu in certain houses of one’s chart could result in being bitten by snakes, scorpions and dogs. the piercing of the lobe replicates the ‘bite’ and pre-empts it with a prophylactic warding off of the evil portent.

Thus it becomes crucial to have the Pundit draw up horoscopes at birth and thereafter to monitor the charts through the seasons and events of one’s life to take advantage of stellar events and be forewarned of ominous portents by taking adequate steps to counter them through prohibitions and corrective rituals and prayer.

Indeed the place of Astrology is assured in India and astrologers do a roaring business. There are now many computerized astrological centres throughout the country with their hands full.


Hindu astrological chart with 12 houses of ones fortune

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