Vedic Astrology - critically examined

By Dieter Koch

Since the mid-1990s, the so-called “Vedic astrology” has experienced a remarkable boom in America and, with some delay, also in Europe. Indian Gurus and their western followers not only imported the Hindu sidereal Zodiac to the west, but also other techniques of Hindu astrology and even spiritual concepts of the Vedic culture. By designating this astrology as “Vedic”, i. e. connecting it with the sacred writings of Hinduism, the Vedas, they allege that this astrology has a spiritual background, and ultimately goes back to divine revelation. Also, they tend to teach this Astrology within a guru-disciple relationship, where the authority of the teacher and tradition plays a much bigger part than in common western teaching. Accordingly, “Vedic” astrologers appear very self-confident and claim of superiority of their teachings over Western astrology. In the present article, I want to critically investigate what is behind such claims.

Unfortunately, serious conflicts with Indian astrologers are bound to arise. They cannot live without the idea that their astrology was revealed in its present form about 5000 years ago by holy sages, and neither without the idea that this astrology is holy, perfect and eternal. If these ideas turned out to be an illusion, their whole world view would break down. When confronted with objections they cannot rebut, they often respond with aggression[1] or they deny one’s competence from the outset.[2] Western followers of Eastern teachings unfortunately often take over such patterns of behaviour.

E. g. my present text is interpreted by some as an aggressive act, not only against the Indian astrology, but even against the Vedic religion. I have even been accused of atheism. But this interpretation is based on a distorted perception of the facts. My actual goal is to critically examine the claims made by “Vedic” astrologers who teach in the West. If, at the same time, challenge the self-understanding of Indian traditionalists, then this is a side-effect I unfortunately cannot avoid. Besides, Vedic religion, as it is known to us in the Vedic scriptures, gets along perfectly without horoscopy. Hence it is not that I attack the Vedic religion itself, even less so as I myself am a follower of a Vedic doctrine, namely the Bhagavadgītā, or the Vedānta teachings of Kṛṣṇa.

Indisches Horoskop PortraitWhat makes the situation really difficult is the fact that in a traditional teaching in the guru-disciple relationship an objective discussion of facts is not admitted. Studying the authoritative texts does not mean that they be read, discussed, and their meaning discovered with a simple, unprejudiced mind. Instead, the guru teaches his disciples a particular ideology and shows them how this ideology can be “proven” referring to those authoritative texts, which are considered as a divine revelation. In this process, considerable violence is often done to the texts, and it happens that their meaning is turned into the exact opposite. If a student discovers that the teaching of the guru is in contradiction to the Vedas he is expected to believe that this contradiction is only due to his own limited understanding of things. Different traditions that rely on the same authoritative works do not discuss with each other, but each one do their own thing. They live in the unshakable certainty of being in possession of the true spiritual path. However, should their paths cross, they often treat each other without respect, become aggressive, suspicious, condescending or mocking. At the same time, it must be stated that some Indian gurus live in parallel universes, within which even the most obvious philological, historical and astronomical facts have no validity. Debates with them or their followers are often so irrational that outsiders can not imagine it. The phenomenon can be studied in depth in the numerous forums devoted to the themes of Indian astrology and astronomy, calendar, archaeology, etc.[3]

It is not in the scope of this essay to clean up with all erroneous claims of Indian traditionalists and their western followers. I confine myself to a few key points. However, I shall add numerous and detailed footnotes in order to properly discuss the arguments raised by Indian astrologers.

“Vedic” Astrology and the Vedas

The Indians themselves do not call their astrology “Vedic”, or have not done so until recently. The traditional expression is simply jyotiṣam, i.e. the “(science) of the lights”. The term “Vedic astrology” appeared only in recent decades, with the aforementioned boom of Hindu astrology in the West.[4] Evil tongues say that the term was invented only because “Vedic” – i.e. spiritual – astrology sells better.[5] In the West, it was made very popular by well-known American astrologers, e.g. David Frawley. It enjoys in­creasing popularity even among Indian astrologers.

The term “Vedic” is often used to express the idea that this astrology is a sacred science, which was revealed by the Rishis, the founders of Vedic wisdom, more than 5000 years ago and was handed down from generation to generation without any changes until the present day. For example, when the astrological textbook Bṛhat-parāśara-horā-śāstra claims to be a revelation by the Vedic seer Parāśara, it is taken at face value.[6] In reality, however, the oldest part of this work was written only about 1400 years ago. And contrary to what one would expect considering its current popularity, it was widely unknown amongst Indian astrologers before the 1980s.[7] The supposedly great antiquity of this work is challenged by the fact that ancient authors did not write commentaries on it and apparently did not even know of it;[8] moreover by the fact that the Vedic scriptures themselves tell us of quite a different kind of “astrology”. While Indian astrology may be “Vedic” in that it is part of today's Vedic tradition, it is in fact a lot younger than the Vedas and has many elements which were not developed in India but in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

The Vedas themselves, the core corpus of sacred writings of Hinduism (śrutiḥ), are mainly interested in the position of the moon in the 27 or 28 lunar mansions, as well as in the lunar phases, eclipses, the solstices, and the equinoxes. Planets play practically no role in the Vedas[9], zodiac signs are completely unknown.[10] Observations of the sky were important only for the Vedic sacrificial cult, as is expressly stated in the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa, the oldest textbook on astronomy and calendar calculation.[11] It is only interested in the cycles of the Sun and Moon, whereas planets and zodiac signs play no role in it.[12] There is no evidence for a natal horoscopy as we know it today in the Vedas.

The situation is similar in later Vedic texts like the great Mahābhārata epic, which relates us the story of an apocalyptic war in Indian prehistory. This epic contains numerous calendrical and astronomical details, it tells us in which lunar month certain events took place, in which lunar mansion and phase the moon was and whether there was an eclipse. More rarely, positions of planets are given. However, zodiac signs, ascendants or other elements of today’s “Vedic astrology” are never mentioned.[13]

Also revealing are the details of the astrological “birth chart” of Kṛṣṇa that are found in the Harivaṃśa and in some Purāṇa texts. Tradition interprets the texts in such a way, that Kṛṣṇa was born in the month of Śrāvaṇa during the rainy season at midnight in the eighth night after full moon, so was born during the waning half-moon with the moon in the lunar mansion of Rohiṇī (in sidereal Taurus).[14] MahabharataIt seems that the texts are not interested at all in zodiac signs and the exact positions of the planets. Kṛṣṇa’s ascendant becomes apparent only incidentally: because the waning half-moon at midnight was rising in the east. But there is no reason to believe that the ascendant was of interest as such, as it is not expressly mentioned.[15] Kṛṣṇa’s birth chart does not even prove that natal horoscopy was known. His birth is rather treated as a mundane event that was important for the history of the world.

The other great epic of India, the Rāmāyaṇa, does not contain any clue to astrology as we know it either, at least not in its original form. Some versions of it give astrological information about the birth of Rāma:  The Moon and Jupiter were rising in Cancer, and five planets were in their exaltations or domiciles. However, this information does not belong to the original epic. It only appears in versions of the northern recension, and the critical edition of the epic only quotes it in the critical apparatus.[16]  Thus, it can not be considered a valid reference for an original Vedic astrology.  In fact, it is based on the Hellenistic tradition of astrology.

Passages in the Purāṇas that mention zodiac signs also have to be dated to the Hellenistic epoch. Most of these passages tell us that the solstices are at the beginning of Capricorn and Cancer and the equinoxes at the beginning of Aries and Libra. If it is assumed that ancient Indian astrology used a sidereal zodiac, then these statements can be dated astronomically because of the precession of the equinox. They must have been written between 200 and 600 CE, depending on the assumed position of the initial point of sidereal Aries (i.e. depending on the assumed ayanāṃśa).[17] If one wants to date the texts earlier, one has to assume either that current definitions of the sidereal zodiac (i.e. ayanāṃśas used in current Hindu astrology) are completely wrong or that the texts are based on the tropical zodiac, in which the vernal point is at the beginning of Aries for all epochs. However, as all these texts assume the beginning of Aries at the beginning of the lunar mansion Aśvinī, which is sidereal by definition, even the assumption of a tropical zodiac does not allow us to date the texts much earlier.

The same holds true for other astronomical and astrological texts that mention the zodiac signs and take the equinoxes and solstices at the begin­ning of the cardinal signs. Among these are texts by Varāhamihira and Āryabhaṭa, the Sūryasiddhānta, the Yavanajataka and a text titled Gargasaṃhitā.[18] All these texts belong to the first centuries CE, in spite of the unrealistic early dates assigned to them by “Vedic” astrologers.[19]

Another point that deserves attention: Today’s “Vedic” astrology and calendar calculation are purely sidereal, i.e. they ignore the seasons, equinoxes, and solstices. In contrast, the Vedic texts attribute great importance to the seasons-based tropical year and its cardinal points.[20] Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 6.7.1.18 says that the year is based on the seasons.[21] According to Aitareyabrāhmaṇa 18.18, the summer solstice is the midpoint of the year. The text describes a method for determining the date of the solstice by Sun observations.[22] From Kauṣītakibrāhmaṇa 19.3 we learn that the winter solstice ideally occurred on the new moon of the month of Māgha. On both solstices sacrifices were offered to the gods.[23] The oldest astronomical text book of India, Vedāṅgajyotiṣa 5ff., teaches that the beginning of the month of Māgha ideally coincides with the winter solstice and a new moon at the beginning of the lunar mansion Dhaniṣṭhā.

Today’s Vedic tradition ignores all these statements, with grotesque consequences. They do not celebrate the “northward path” (uttarāyanam) of the Sun on its correct date around 21 December, but in mid-January on the day of the Sun’s ingress into sidereal Capricorn (makarasaṃkrāntiḥ). Nowadays, the month of Māgha falls into January and February and has nothing to do with the solstice anymore. As a result, from the point of view ancient Vedic religion, all religious holidays, rituals, and sacrifices that are bound to a calendar date are celebrated on “wrong” days. This is actually a catastrophe, because the rituals must be performed on their correct dates in order to become efficient. Some Indian scholars, such as Avtar Krishen Kaul and Darshaney Lokesh, are well aware of this problem and fight for a tropical reform of the Vedic calendar.[24]

Also interesting to note: According to current Indian astrology the zodiac begins with Aries and the lunar mansion Aśvinī. But in Vedic texts, lists of the lunar mansions always start with Kṛttikā, which corresponds to the Pleiades in sidereal Taurus. Besides, Kṛttikā is the most often mentioned lunar mansion in the Vedas, whereas Aśvinī hardly ever appears. The reason for this prominence of Kṛttikā in the Vedas lies in the fact that, in ancient times, approximately from 2500 BC on, the vernal equinox was located in this lunar motion.[25] In astronomical and astrological texts of Late Antiquity, the lunar mansion Aśvinī (and Aries) became the starting point of the ecliptic, and the reason was, again, that the vernal equinox by that time had moved on into this lunar mansion. The equinoxes and solstices were placed at the beginnings of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.[26] Incidentally, the vernal point has since crossed the whole lunar mansion of Revatī and is currently in Uttarabhādrā. Nowadays’ “Vedic” astrology therefore works with a zodiac that was defined by the equinoctial points of more than 1500 years ago and never updated.

From all this it becomes clear that even though we do not know much about the “astrology” of the Vedic period, it must have been radically different from so-called “Vedic” astrology as we know it today.

The spiritual claim of “Vedic” astrology

The spiritual claim of “Vedic” astrology also deserves a note. From the point of view of Vedānta, i.e. of spiritual liberation (mokṣaḥ), astrology is completely irrelevant. Kṛṣṇa never says in the Bhagavadgītā that astrology be required to attain to spiritual liberation. According to him, the path to liberation consists in acting without aiming at the fruits of one’s actions, where every action is conceived as a sacrifice to God. Indian astrology, as we know it today, is mainly used for clarification of worldly matters, aiming at earthly happiness. The same purpose is served by Vedic rituals, according to the Bhagavadgītā (BhG 2.42ff.). Perhaps one can practise astrology like any other activity in a spiritual attitude. But those who seek liberation must go beyond astrological issues and follow the teachings of the Bhagavadgītā and the Upanishads.

KrishnaVedic literature only rarely mentions astrology, and its reputation seems to have been rather dubious. According to the “Laws of Manu”, people who earn their living through astrology are to be considered impure and are not allowed to attend Vedic rituals.[27] Similar statements can be found in the teachings of Bhīṣma, the great hero of the Mahābhārata epic.[28] Indian astrologers, for whom these texts are spiritual authority, usually explain that Manu’s statement is not directed against astrology as such, but only against astrologers who demand a fee for their services. They believe that taking money is allowed if the customer gives it as a present (dakṣinā). Others believe that Manu and Bhīṣma do not refer to astrologers who take money, but to charlatans who do not have an adequate astrological education.[29] However, the texts themselves do not give any such explanations, and they may well be interpreted in such a way that they reject astrology completely. In fact, this is the view held by some Indian scholars.[30] However, we do not really know what kind of astrology these texts refer to, especially as “Vedic” astrology as we know it today did not exist at the time when these texts were written.

However that may be, that does not mean that Vedic literature reject all kind of astrology. Kṛṣṇa himself recommends to fix the beginning of the war on the new moon in the lunar mansion Jyeṣṭhā because Jyeṣṭhā is ruled by the king of gods, Indra.[31] And in the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth book, the epic reports inauspicious heavenly omens that occurred shortly before the great battle: eclipses, planet clusters, meteors, etc. It has to be noted, however, that all this is not comparable to an individual astrological fortune telling. Rather it can be compared to astrology in ancient Mesopotamia, where the current celestial configuration was used to draw conclusions about the fate of the country. Such conclusions were based not only on the observation of celestial bodies, but also other natural phenomena, as cloud formations, animal behaviour, flowing behaviour of rivers, etc. Moreover, there is a chapter in the epic which gives information about what kind of gift should be made in each lunar mansion, while the Moon is passing it, and what goal could be achieved thereby.[32] Another chapter explains, in which lunar mansion ancestral rites should be performed, and what would be the benefit of it.[33] But all this does not correspond to “Vedic” predictive horoscopy as we know it today. No hero of the great epic ever goes to an astrologer for a counselling or fortune telling, no matter how serious his life problems may be.

The zodiac was imported from the West

The question of whether or not the signs of the zodiac appear in Vedic literature plays a very important part for hard-boiled “Vedic” astrologers. The idea that the zodiac signs and other elements of astrology were imported from the Hellenistic world to India, is totally unacceptable to them, and they try at all costs to prove that, conversely, Hellenistic astrology originated from India and was a gift from the Holy Sages who revealed the Vedas.

However, there can be no doubt in which direction the influence went. The development of the zodiac in Mesopotamia and Greece is well attested by sources. We find in Mesopotamia from the 3rd Millennium BCE on representations of zodiacal constellations and reference to them in cuneiform texts. The most obvious example is the Sumerian myth of Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven (Taurus). Pictorial representations often show the bull with seven points above the neck, representing the Pleiades. In other depictions the Pleiades appear in the neck of the bull in the form of an ear of corn.[34] The cuneiform astronomical text Epinnu (mul.apin) lists 17 constellations along the ecliptic, among which most of the 12 zodiacal constellations known today.[35] Greek astronomers took over at least some of these constellations even before 500 BC. Attic vases show Hercules fighting the Cretan Bull, who, like his Mesopotamian prototype, has in his neck the ears of corn that stand for the Pleiades;[36] or they show Hercules’s battle with the Hydra and the Crab (= Cancer)[37] and with the Nemean lion (= Leo)[38].

According to Pliny the Elder, Historiae Naturae II.6, the zodiac signs were introduced by Cleostratos of Tenedos, who lived around 500 BCE. Euctemon mentions at least the constellations Scorpio and Cancer in his parapegma.[39] Callippus, who wrote in the 4th century BCE, mentioned in his parapegma all signs of the zodiac.

In cuneiform texts of the 5th Century BCE also appears the mathematical zodiac of 12 equal signs of 30° each.[40] This zodiac was used in the mathematical theories of planetary orbits and in ephemeris calculation, which began to be developed at this time. From the beginning, it was also used by astrologer, who had to work daily with ephemerides.[41] It is not exactly known, when the zodiac of 12 equal-sized imaginary signs came to the Greeks. Maybe, Euctemon used it already in the 5th century BCE.[42] The Babylonian astrologer Berossus, who lived in the 4th and 3rd century BCE and wrote in Greek, certainly used the mathematical zodiac, as did his Babylonian colleagues. And about 300 BC it explicitly appears in Greek sources.[43]

Coming back to India, there is no such history of the zodiac to be found in ancient texts or artefacts. Although in Vedic times the year was divided into 12 months and was defined with the help of celestial observations, the signs of the zodiac or zodiacal constellations are unknown to the Vedic texts. It is only in the first centuries CE that the mathematical zodiac of 12 equal signs is attested in India. Even then, however, the zodiacal star constellations are not known. It is obvious that the zodiac signs were not developed in India, but were only taken over and projected onto the existing system of 12 months and 27 lunar mansions.

It follows that in the first centuries CE, astrologers and astronomers from the Hellenistic western world brought their knowledge to India and triggered a development that took the Indian sciences of the sky to new heights. Not that the Indians threw away all their traditional knowledge and took over Greek science as it was. Rather, they created a fusion of ancient Indian knowledge with Greek-Babylonian and Greek-Egyptian teachings. E.g., the 27 sidereal lunar mansions of Vedic astronomy were merged with the Greek twelve-part zodiac, in such a way that the beginning of Aries coincided with the beginning of the lunar mansion Aśvinī. Besides the zodiac and its subdivisions, astrological houses, the dignities system, and other methods were taken over, which play an important role in today’s Indian astrology.

Fragment grieschiescher TierkreisUnfortunately, representatives of Indian astrology cannot accept these facts because they want to see “Vedic” astrology as an original part of Vedic religion, which they consider as perfect, absolute and universal from its very beginning. However, ancient Indian authorities expressly confirm Greek impact on Indian astrology. The oldest astrological textbook in Sanskrit that knows the zodiac is the Yavanajātaka (“Nativity according to the Greeks”) by Sphujidhvaja, who lived in the first centuries CE. According to its own statement, this textbook goes back to a Greek source.[44] In reality, however, the text is rather an amalgamate of Indian and Greek elements. The authors Varāhamihira (6th century AD) and Kalyāṇavarman (800 AD) also refer to Greek astrologers with great respect and even reverence.[45] The assertion made by some Indian scholars that the word yavana allegedly does not refer to Greeks, but rather to an Indian tribe of Vedic tradition, is wrong. Although the term yavana does not always denote “Greek”, its application to Greek-speaking people is well attested.[46] But above all, a lot of Greek astrological terminology can be found in the said Indian writers, including the Greek names of the zodiac signs.[47]

Precession and zodiac in India

As has been said already, texts from Late Antiquity that first mention the signs of the zodiac assume the solstices and equinoxes at the beginnings of the sign of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. As such a definition of the zodiac is valid only for a tropical zodiac, whereas “Vedic” astrology works with a sidereal zodiac, the question arises as to how the problem of the zodiac and precession has been “solved” in India.

Indian zodiacal astrology was initially neither purely sidereal nor purely tropical. Rather, the sources show the same contradictory attitude as Vettius Valens, in that they thought sidereally and tropically at the same time and made links between stars and the seasons. The oldest text of Greek-inspired Indian astrology, the mentioned Yavanajātakam by Sphujidhvaja, in its last chapter fixes the cardinal points of the year at the beginnings of the signs of Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn[48] and has the sun traverse all signs within 365,2303 days. This year length is closer to the tropical (365.2422) than the sidereal year (365.2564) and was most probably determined by observation of the solstices and equinoxes.[49] However, in the first chapter, it fixes the zodiac signs at the lunar mansions, and thus interprets them as sidereal.[50] How can this contradiction be resolved? Is the text not fully consistent in itself and do the different parts not form an original unity? Or could it be that Sphujidhvaja defines the lunar mansions tropically? Or is the text just not aware that it combines a sidereal world view with tropical ephemerides? Most probably the latter answer is correct. Sphujidhvaja does not mention precession, and therefore we have to draw the conclusion that he is unaware of this phenomenon.  Other old works from the Greek-inspired era, the so-called Siddhāntas, are also not fully aware of precession and the related problems. The Sūryasiddhānta, the main work of ancient Indian astronomy, also suffers from the tropical-sidereal contradiction. It fixes the zodiac at the cardinal points of the tropical year[51] and at the same time at the lunar mansions.[52] But unlike the Yavanajātakam, the Sūryasiddhānta teaches sidereal, not tropical, ephemerides. A brief passage about precession seems to be an interpolation.[53] Precession is never used in any astronomical calculation of this work. One could say the Sūryasiddhānta intends a tropical view but in practice is a sidereal system.

It was only around the year 500 that Indian sky watchers began to notice the precession of the equinoxes. Varāhamihira notes that, according to ancient sources, the summer solstice was in the middle of the lunar mansion Āśleṣā (23°20’ Cancer) whereas in his own time it was at the beginning of Cancer.[54] Now, this formulation seems to insinuate that Varāhamihira already opted for a sidereal definition of the zodiac. In fact, we find in this text the first timid attempt to untie the zodiac from the cardinal points of the year. Varāhamihira explicitly says that the summer solstice is not precisely at the beginning of Cancer, but a little bit earlier.[55] However, he does not give any reasons why he gives preference to the sidereal zodiac. Similar to Hellenistic astrologers, Varāhamihira does not discuss the sidereal-tropical problem. Why? Did he not know how to treat it?[56]

Āryabhaṭa I, who lived around 500 AD, also was aware of the precession. However, it seems that he was unable to decide whether the zodiac had to be regarded as a tropical or a sidereal thing. In the 4th chapter of his famous textbook Āryabhaṭīyam, he characterises the signs Aries to Virgo as “northern” and the others as “southern” – a statement that is correct only in the tropical zodiac. He further says that, besides the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and the lunar nodes, the fixed stars (tārāḥ) also move along the ecliptic. Such a motion of the fixed stars only exists if the tropical zodiac is taken as the fixed reference system.[57] However, the algorithms used by Āryabhaṭa to calculate the positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets are sidereal, and he does not say that one have to add the precession (i.e. an Ayanāṃśa) to these positions. In practice, therefore, Āryabhaṭa seems to be a siderealist. A proper discussion of the problem does not appear in his texts either, and the reason for this may lie in the fact that the time was not ripe, because the exact value of the precession was not known yet or astronomers of his time did not know how to treat the problem. The solution for this difficult problem was not too urgent either in that time, because the two zodiacs roughly coincided.

Indian ObservatoriumAlso later, when Indian astronomy had progressed further and the speed of precession was roughly known, astrologers did not consider to use a tropi­cal zodiac. The famous astronomer and astrologer Manjula, who lived in the early 10th century and authored an important astronomical work titled Laghumānasa, abides by the sidereal zodiac, and the same goes for all those after him who worked with his methods.[58] Even today, after the introduction of modern astronomical techniques from the West, Indian astrology abides by the sidereal zodiac.

However, the question concerning the sidereal and the tropical zodiac did not have the same urgency in India as it had in Europe. Astronomically, the sidereal Aries point has nothing special about it. There is nothing in this area of ​​the sky that would give it prominence over all other points on the ecliptic, not even an eye-catching bright star. Ancient Indian astronomy, however, believed that this point in the sky was extremely prominent in that it played an important part in the history of the universe. For, at the end of every great age or yugam, it was believed, all planets would come together to this point and form an exact conjunction. The last such great conjunction was assumed at the beginning of the kaliyuga, on 17/18 Feb­ruary 3102 BCE. Moreover, the precession cycle according to an ancient theory begins on the same date and at the sidereal zero point of Aries. According to the Sūryasiddhānta, the vernal equinox oscillates around the sidereal Aries point in a cycle of 7200 years, with a maximum elongation of 27° (so-called trepidation theory).[59] Thus, according to this theory, the vernal equinox oscillates back and forth between 27° Aries and 3° Pisces in the sidereal zodiac. In the Kaliyuga year 3102 BC, the vernal point would have been in conjunction with the Sun, the Moon and all planets at the sidereal Aries point. Then it would have entered into Aries, after a period of 3600 years, in 499 AD, again returned to the zero point and then entered Pisces.[60]

Now, according to modern astronomy, these ideas based on the trepidation model of precession are wrong. There was no such great conjunction on 17/18 February 3102 BCE, and this date has no historical significance at all.[61] Moreover, the vernal equinox does not oscillate forward and back­ward about some fixed point on the ecliptic, but around the entire zodiac and at a fairly constant speed. Still, it has to be noted that the theory of trepidation explains why the sidereal zodiac made sense to Indian astro­logers. They considered the motion of the equinoxes as a cycle of minor importance in the great age. Hence the idea of a sidereal zodiac must have been more convincing to ancient astrologers than a tropical zodiac.

From the above follows: The sidereal zero point makes sense only on the basis of ancient Indian astronomical theories that are erroneous according to modern astronomy:

       on the basis of the theory of trepidation, according to which the vernal point swings around the sidereal zero point with an amplitude of 27°, and

       based on the idea that at the end or beginning of each great age all planets and the vernal point form a great conjunction exactly at the sidereal zero point.

After modern astronomy has shown that these two traditional teachings are not correct, the validity of the sidereal zodiac is seriously challenged. The sidereal zodiac has no sensible definition anymore.

Ayanāṃśa – or where exactly does the sidereal zodiac begin?

The weakest point of so-called “Vedic” astrology is that it cannot say where exactly the sidereal zodiac has its zero point. This question is of central importance because without a well-founded zero point there can be no correct positions of the planets in zodiac signs, lunar mansions, and other subdivisions of the ecliptic. And without these there can be no correct astrological chart interpretations and predictions. Again, the history of “Vedic” astrology can show us how serious and unsolved this problem is.

The sidereal zodiac can be defined by its difference to the tropical zodiac, i.e. by the angular distance between the vernal equinox and the sidereal Aries point. This distance is called the Ayanāṃśa (“part of path”). Nowadays most Indian astrologers use the so-called Lahiri Ayanāṃśa, which was introduced as a standard in 1956 on the occasion of the Indian calendar reform. It is named after the Calcuttan astronomer and astrologer Nirmala Chandra Lahiri, who was a member of the Reform Committee. This standard is mandatory not only for astrology but also for astronomical ephemerides and almanacs and calendars published in India. The calendar is affected because the months of the Hindu calendar are bound to the sign ingresses of the sun in the sidereal zodiac. Before the reform, India had more than 30 different local calendars that used different methods to calculate the dates of important religious holidays. The new standard ensures that these holidays are celebrated on the same day in all regions of India.[62]

The Lahiri Ayanāṃśa is defined as having the initial point of sidereal Aries and the lunar mansion Aśvinī exactly opposite the star Citrā (= Spica, α Virginis), with Citrā itself exactly in the middle of the lunar mansion to which it has lent its name. This Ayanāṃśa had the value 0 in the year 285 AD; in this year the sidereal Lahiri zodiac and the tropical zodiac coincided with each other.[63]

Where did this sidereal zodiac that was fixed at the star Spica originate? In ancient Indian sources, unfortunately, it is not clearly attested. The fundamental work of ancient Indian astronomy, the Sūryasiddhānta, unfortunately makes contradictory statements about the starting point of the zodiac. While it assumes the star Spica at 0° Libra[64], the positions it gives for other stars are in blatant contradiction. And elsewhere it seems to assume the starting point of all planetary cycles and the origin of the zodiac at the star Revatī (ζ Piscium),[65] thereby indicating a difference from the Lahiri zodiac by almost 4 °. In other words, the sidereal positions of the planets in a natal chart have an uncertainty of several degrees. Hence, it is not without reason that the introduction of the Lahiri standard has led to bitter quarrels. For “Vedic” astrology with its claims of high accuracy, an inaccuracy of this dimension is obviously intolerable.

So when and by whom was the Lahiri zodiac invented? It seems that Lahiri was inspired by the astronomy historian S. B. Dikshit, who in the late 19th century wrote an important book on the history of Indian astronomy. Dikshit came to the conclusion that, given the prominence that Vedic religion gave to the cardinal points of the tropical year, the Indian calendar should be reformed and no longer be based on the sidereal, but on the tropical zodiac. However, if such a reform could not be brought about due to the rigid conservatism of contemporary Vedic culture, one should choose the Ayanāṃśa in such a way that the sidereal zero point was in opposition to Spica, because this would be in accordance with the zodiac of the 16th century astronomer Ganeśa Daivajña.[66] In Indian sources, the Lahiri Ayanāṃśa or zodiac apparently cannot be traced further back. However, it is interesting that all extant Hellenistic and Babylonian horoscopes are based on a zodiac that has the star Spica at 0 ° Libra.[67] This may be a mere coincidence, for there is no evidence that there was an unbroken tradition in India that worked with this zodiac. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that the Lahiri zodiac was brought to India by the Greeks and that it was known there at least for some time.

History shows however that both sidereal zodiacs mentioned above are chosen completely at random. As has been said, all astrological and astro­nomical works of late antiquity say that the beginnings of the cardinal signs of the zodiac coincide with the cardinal points of the year. Now, as these works were not all written in the same year, it basically follows that they assume the beginning of the zodiac at different points. As has been said already, the most ancient Indian textbook of horoscopy, the Yavanajātakam, teaches that the zodiac is fixed at the cardinal points of the year and at the same time also at the lunar mansions. This work was probably written in the 2nd century CE.[68] Its zodiac should therefore differ from the Lahiri zodiac by up to 2°, from the Sūryasiddhānta zodiac by even 4° or 5°. And with regard to the Sūryasiddhānta, it has already been said that its sidereal Aries point was fixed in 500 AD at the vernal equinoctial point of that epoch. Now, if the sidereal zero point is defined by the position of the vernal equinox in an ancient epoch, it becomes clear how arbitrary its definition is. How could it be a reliable fundament for astrology?

Also, it should have become clear that the idea of some romantics that Indian astrology as we know it is based on millennia-old scientific experience is completely mistaken. We have seen that Indian astrology has undergone several changes since Vedic times, one of which only took place in the 20th century: The calendar reform of 1956 made the Lahiri ayanāṃśa the astrological standard.

The Role of the Zodiac in Indian Astrology

ZodiacLet us close the article with a few considerations from the point of view of a western astrologer!

As has been shown, there are strong arguments against the claim of Vedic astrologers that the validity of the sidereal zodiac has been corroborated over thousands of years of practice in India: The sidereal zodiac has been use in India for less than 2000 years. Its exact starting point, which is controversial, was not chosen based on astrological experience, but due to the position of the vernal equinox at some point in late antiquity. Besides, I have not mentioned yet that the ephemeris calculation of ancient and medieval India contained massive errors, depending on the epoch and local tradition. Moreover, the correct calculation of the ascendant for a birth chart was anything but trivial. Considering all these facts it is hard to explain how a particular sidereal zodiac could have been corroborated by experience. And it is out of question that it could have proved to be better than the tropical zodiac, because the tropical-sidereal issue was never even discussed in India.

The tropical-sidereal problem becomes even more complicated by the fact that the sidereal zodiac is used in a quite different way in Indian astrology than the tropical zodiac in western astrology. Traditional Indian astrology is extremely focused on fate prediction and character compatibility (for weddings) and not so much on psychological character interpretation, as taught in the West. Unlike Europeans and Americans, Indians do not ask each other about their Sun sign, but rather about the zodiac sign of their natal moon. Here, a western astrologer may suspect that the lack of psychological interpretation of the Sun sign in India could be caused by the fact that it just does not work with the sidereal zodiac; or that the relevance of the tropical zodiac was not discovered in India because Hindu astrology is not particularly interested in character interpretation. In any case, the particular way of using the zodiac cannot be ignored in deciding which of the two zodiacs is correct. Western solar astrology, which is based on the tropical zodiac, is in no way challenged by eastern sidereal lunar astrology.

Very instructive is Rafael Gil Brands investigation in his “plea for the sidereal zodiac”[69], where he examines which of the two zodiac fits with some birth charts of famous personalities. Gil Brand opts for the sidereal zodiac, and his argumentation seems somehow stringent. However, I notice that he does not have his focus on the interpretation of the zodiacal signs, but rather the astrological dignities. On the other hand, when I look at the Sun signs I would prefer the tropical zodiac with each of Gil Brands examples. In my opinion, Muhammad Ali’s ascendant in sidereal Cancer is not as convincing as the ascendant in tropical Leo ("I am the greatest!"). For the father of psychoanalysis, I would clearly prefer an ascendant in tropical Scorpio and the Sun in tropical Taurus over a sidereal Libra ascendant and Aries sun. With Hitler the tropical Taurus Sun (territorial thinking, nationalism) holds at least as good as a sidereal Aries Sun. With Bill Gates and his Microsoft monster I would also rather opt for a Sun in tropical Scorpio than in sidereal Libra.[70]

Thus, Gil Brand does not try to show the advantages of the sidereal zodiac straight-forward by means of the interpretation of zodiac signs, but by showing how the choice of the zodiac “proves” itself by means of secondary ramifications that appear during the chart interpretation. He is not really interested in the signs, but rather in the rulers of the ascendant and the houses as well as the dignities of the various factors of interpretation. However, one may well argue that this approach to the question of the zodicacs is very indirect. Proceeding like this, Gil Brand has “proven” many things at once: the sidereal zodiac, the system of rulers and dignities, and also the Indian house system[71]. In my opinion, the interpretation of zodiac signs would be a more straight-forward method to examine the correctness of a zodiac. Does the interpretation of zodiac signs only work with the tropical, not with the sidereal, zodiac?

In some modern Indian textbooks the interpretation of zodiac signs is not treated at all, obviously because it is not given any importance. However, where it is treated, we will find that it massively differs from western interpretation. A little guessing game may illustrate this difference: I quote the description of a zodiac sign from a modern Indian textbook, and the reader may try to guess to which sign it is. I choose the book Fundamentals of Astrology by Ramakrishna Bhat (20th century), a very distinguished Indian astrologer and scholar. The description reads:

He will be intelligent, virtuous, will command his relatives, be proud, troubled by fire and wind, talkative, of strong body, with a few children, will have connections with many women, be an astrologer, prompt, happy, of low income, learned, having secret sons, knower of many languages, always in company and receiving wealth from a king.

Not a joke: This is Bhat’s complete description of the ascendant in the sidereal sign of Cancer![72] And the description of the Sun in Cancer is even shorter:

He will be poor, sharp, doing other's work and be tired and constantly going on tiresome journeys.[73]

The briefness and disorder in the text are symptomatic of the low importance that is given to the interpretation of zodiac signs in India. Also, it is striking how much such descriptions differ from the Western understanding of the tropical Cancer.

Other descriptions of zodiac signs which are closer western ones can be found, e.g., with B. V. Raman, one of the most important Indian astrologers of the 20th century. Here, the sign of Cancer is recognisable to western astrologers:

... they are inclined to cowardice. They are very attached to their children and family.[74]

This description may have been influenced by ancient Indian texts or by modern Western astrology. However, even with Raman we find glaring differences from western descriptions of the signs. E.g. about sidereal Scorpio he writes:

Their nature enables them to make friendships all over the world ... In the fine arts they are skilled, they love dancing and undoubtedly have a philosophical and philanthropic disposition.

Does that not rather sound like Sagittarius? Now, knowing that sidereal Scorpio in our days is largely in the area of tropical Sagittarius, a western astrologer will not be very surprised. Most probably, he will draw the conclusion that Raman could not avoid the effects of the tropical zodiac signs and that the qualities of the tropical zodiac signs shine through even in sidereal astrology, as soon as it endeavours to describe them. Or can it be explained by the fact that Raman was familiar with western tropical astrology and possibly influenced by it? In any case, this phenomenon seems to appear with several other zodiac signs, too. To Sagittarius Raman attributes qualities that in Western astrology are attributed to Capricorn:

They are punctual and maintain orthodox views. ... They are insensitive and become enthusiastic only for business matters.

And Capricorn is given some qualities of Aquarius:

… They are compassionate, generous, philanthropic, and have great interest in literature, science and education.

It becomes apparent that the descriptions given by Raman of the zodiac signs partly agree with western descriptions, but partly contain qualities of the subsequent signs. The same phenomenon can also be found with other western representatives of Vedic astrology, e.g. in a series of articles by Kenneth Johnson in The Mountain Astrologer.[75]

It seems as if, with the advance of precession, the sidereal signs changed their meaning, in accordance with the tropical signs that were in the same area of ​​the sky. In this respect the “experience” of Hindu astrology seems to support rather the tropical than the sidereal zodiac. Incidentally, the same phenomenon can be already be found with the late antique author Satyācārya: Gemini gets properties of Cancer (“fickle”, “low intelligence”, “anxious”, “not very active”), Cancer is given Leo qualities (“haughty and inflated”, “significant work abroad”, “will have power over others”), Leo Virgo qualities (“severe, capable, hard-working”).[76] Thus it seems that already in late antiquity the sidereal signs began to take over the qualities of the tropical signs that began to superimpose themselves over them.[77]

From all this it should have become clear that if modern astrologers read a natal chart with a Western understanding of the zodiac signs but with the sidereal zodiac, this is not an old tradition but a fairly recent invention, and also a European-American one rather than an Indian one.

Also to be noted: Traditional Indian interpretation of planets in signs does not show any recognizable connection with the qualities of the planets and signs involved. Varāhamihira writes:

If at the time of birth the Moon occupy sign Libra and be aspected by Mercury, the person will be a king ; if aspected by Jupiter, he will work in gold ; if by Venus, he will be a trader ; and if by Saturn, The Sun or Mars, he will be a chief and will work mischief.

If at the time of birth, the Moon occupy sign Scorpio and be aspected by Mercury, the person will get twins ; if aspected by Jupiter, he will be obedient ; if by Venus, he will be a washerman ; if by Saturn, he will be of defective limbs ; if by the Sun, he will be poor and if by Mars he will be a king.[78]

In Western astrology the interpretation of planets in signs can be “logically” derived, as it were, from an understanding of the planets and signs themselves. In the above-quoted text, however, this is not possible. It seems to me that traditional Indian astrology is backward and still is in the more primitive stage of Babylonian astrology: it is based on a myriad of tenets without reasonable explanation that can only be learned by heart.

Astrologers are a very practical people. Many of them shy away from theoretical questions or consider “theories” in general as something unrealistic that has nothing to do with real life. Even if their ideas obviously make no sense they will not easily abandon them but may respond with statements like: “But practice shows that it works ...” Also so-called “Vedic” astrologers quite irrationally refuse to accept the above facts. They insist blindly on the venerable age of the astrological tradition, on their personal practical experience, and on the authority of their gurus.

Is such “practical experience” to be taken seriously? I would strongly advise against it. “Vedic” astrologers consider themselves (or their tradition) far superior to western astrologers when it comes to astrological forecast. But such claims do not stand a serious test. With forecasts for Indian or American presidential elections, “Vedic” astrologers fail as often as Western astrologers.[79] Also as regards the question of the correct the zodiac in natal horoscopy, whoever loudly refers to his “experience” should be distrusted. As long as no statistical proof of astrology has gained general recognition, astrologers should talk about their “experiences” with due caution and modesty. Also, for anyone who truly seeks knowledge it is not recommended to treat differing views with disinterest or to limit ones interest only to teaching the enlightened knowledge of ones own tradition. Unfortunately, astrologers and astrology schools – not only the Vedic – tend to such sect-like behaviour.

 

 

 



[1] Because of the current article I was insulted by outraged “Vedic” astrologers as an enemy of the Vedas, an atheist, a demon, a racist, a liar, a fraud, a miscreant etc.

[2] For example, I was told: “The texts of the Vedas have been written in such a way that the non-initiated should not be able to interpret it”. Of course, this was the end of the discussion.

[3] http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akandabaratam/; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hinducalendar/; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vedic_research_institute/; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/scienceofastrology/; http://in.groups.yahoo.com/group/asthikasamaj/; http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/indiaarchaeology/.

[4] It is not clear who first introduced the term „Vedic astrology“. Several authors have claimed this doubtful „honour“, among which are:

– Shyamasundara Dasa (allegedly in the 1970s: http://shyamasundaradasa.com/jyotish/resources/articles/bphs.html; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akandabaratam/message/54587 and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HinduCalendar/message/8189)

– Chakrapani Ullal (allegedly on 19 January 1979: http://www.acvaonline.org/newsletters/chakrapani_ullal_interview_p1.html; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HinduCalendar/message/8174).

[5] A. K. Kaul writes:

„I do not remember any of my elders like my grandfather or father or even our purohit ji (= Priester der Familie; D. K.) etc. having ever called predictive astrology as Vedic astrology.  Similarly, till about early eighties of the previous century nobody, including the late Dr. B V Raman, called predictive astrology as Vedic astrology!

It was all of a sudden that everything started being called as Vedic!

Unfortunately or fortunately, I was present at one of the lectures of "Vamadeva" (= David Frawley; D. K.) at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, where I was trying to sell my Shri Krishen Universal Ephemeris & Panchang to the students. "Vamadeva"  had said that the term Vedic astrology would gain it more recognition in foreign countries and that is why Hindu astrology a.k.a. sidereal astrology should be called Vedic astrology! Everybody greeted his statement with a sort of standing ovation!“

(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akandabaratam/message/64312 ; cf. also:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/akandabaratam/message/54587)

[6] E. g. the “Vedic” astrologer Dharmapad Das (Dean Dominic de Lucia) in his answer to a former version of my current investigation. (http://www.harekrsna.com/sun/edito rials/05-12/editorials8614.htm)

[7] Some “Vedic” astrologers are quite aware of these facts, e. g. Shyamasundara Dasa, “On the Authenticity of the Brhat Parasara Hora Sastra” (http://shyamasundaradasa. com/jyotish/resources/articles/bphs.html); Ernst Wilhelm, “Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra” (http://www.vedic-astrology.net/articles/brihat-parashara-hora-shastra.asp). David Pin­gree discusses Parāśara in his book Jyotihshastra, p. 86ff.

[8] I refer to the article by Shyamasundara (see preceding footnote).

[9] Kāṭhaka-brāhmaṇa-saṃkalana 4 (graheṣṭibrāhmaṇam) treats the offerings to be given to the seven planets and Rahu and Ketu. However, this text obviously belongs to the late Vedic period. Planetary deities do not play a part in the old Vedic religion.

[10] Vedic astrologers contradict this statement and claim that as a matter of fact the zodiac signs are mentioned in the Vedas. Waradpande in “New Light on the Date of the Rgveda”, p.13-24, refers to the following places in Ṛgveda: Leo/Lion (siṃhaḥ) in RV 5.83.3 and 9.89.3, Virgo/Virgin (kanyā) in RV 6.49.7, Gemini/Twins (mithunau) in RV 3.39.3 and Taurus/Bull (vṛshabhaḥ) in RV 6.47.5 and 8.93.1.

None of these references is convincing. Let us first look at the last one, which, at a first glance, is most striking:

ud ghed abhi śrutāmaghaṃ vṛṣabhaṃ naryāpasam | astāram eṣi sūrya (RV 8.93.1)

“Up, o Surya, you rise, to <Indra>, the Bull, who is known for his gifts, whose deeds are heroic, to the archer.”

This verse allegedly refers to the zodiac sign of Taurus, and as a matter of fact, the word vṛṣabhaḥ used here is a common Sanskrit name of this zodiac sign. The mention of the “archer” (astā), which would associate Sagittarius, is ignored, though. Why? Because the common name of Sagittarius is dhanuḥ or “bow”? However, it is completely impossible that the “bull” here be meant as the constellation or zodiac sign Taurus. In the Vedic scriptures, “bull” is a common title for great heroes, such as Arjuna or other great heroes of the Mahābhārata epic, but especially for the Vedic storm and rain god Indra, to whom this hymn is addressed. In other words: The word “bull” in our verse does not refer to a constellation, but is an often-used title of the hero Indra. Those who apply this verse to the constellation or zodiac sign of Taurus, are obviously not aware of the signification of the bull metaphor in ancient Indian warriorhood.

Waradpande also refers to the following verse taken from a hymn to the rain god Parjanya:

rathīva kaśayāśvāṃ abhikṣipann āvir dūtān kṛṇute varṣyāṃ aha

dūrāt siṃhasya stanathā ud īrate yat parjanyaḥ kṛṇute varṣyaṃ nabhaḥ (RV 5.83.3)

“Like the charioteer driving the horses by the whip, he makes the messengers of rain appear. / From afar the roars of the lion arise declare, when Parjanya makes the rain clouds.”

Interpreting the “lion” as the constellation Leo would be far-fetched. The verse is just comparing the thundering rain god with a roaring lion. Besides, “lion” was an often used title for heroes and heroic gods, similar to the title “bull”. This explanation also holds for the following verse from a hymn to Soma:

siṃhaṃ nasanta madhvo ayāsaṃ harim aruṇaṃ divo asya patim

śūro yutsu prathamaḥ pṛcchate gā asya cakṣasā pari pāty ukṣā (RV 9.89.3)

“The sweet (cows) approach the lion, the dexterous, yellowish, reddish Lord of this sky.

The foremost hero in battles looks after the cows, the bull guards them with his eye.”

“Lion” here is a title of Soma, addressed as a moon god, not as the constellation of Leo. Besides he is called the “foremost hero in battles” and “bull”. The cows are probably the Pleiades or some other stars.

“Vedic” astrologers also refer to Ṛgveda 1.164.11 and 48. The twelve subdivisions of the year mentioned there allegedly prove that the zodiac was known. (cf. also 1.155.6) The text reads:

dvādaśāraṃ nahi taj jarāya vavarti cakraṃ pari dyām ṛtasya

ā putrā agne mithunāso atra sapta śatāni viṃśatiś ca tasthuḥ

“This wheel of twelve spokes of divine order revolves around the sky without fatigue.

Upon it, o Agni, stand in pairs 720 sons.”

dvādaśa pradhayaś cakram ekaṃ trīṇi nabhyāni ka u tac ciketa

tasmin sākaṃ triśatā na śaṅkavo 'rpitāḥ ṣaṣṭir na calācalāsaḥ

“Twelve circular segments, one wheel, three naves: Who understands this?

In this (wheel) there are three hundred and sixty "spokes" are set, as it were, both movable and immovable.” (48)

However, never do we find a name list of the twelve zodiac signs in Vedic texts, and not even one clear mentioning of a single zodiac sign. What we do find, though, are name lists of the twelve months. This verse therefore no doubt alludes to the twelve months of the year, and the “720” stand for number of days and nights in an “ideal year” of 360 days. Such an “ideal year” still underlies today’s Indian lunar calendars. They consist of 12 months of 30 Tithis each, where one Tithi roughly corresponds to one day. The details of the calendar calculation in Ṛgvedic times are not exactly known. However, as the year is said to “revolve around the sky," we can surmise that a somewhat similar method was used as described in the cuneiform text Epinnu (mul.apin). This text also uses an ideal year of 360 days (12 months of 30 days each) and lists the ideal dates on which different stars or constellations had their heliacal risings. The correlation of heliacal risings with calendar dates served the purpose of timely insertion of leap months. In the Vedic calendar the positions of the full moons in the lunar mansions could have been used for this purpose. It is interesting that Epinnu does not correlate months and zodiac signs, and that it lists 17, not 12, ecliptic constellations. Among these are some of today’s zodiac, but some are missing or bear other names. E.g. Aries was called the “Hired Man” and Virgo that was known as the “Furrow”. The example of Epinnu impressively demonstrates that a twelve-spoke wheel in Ṛgveda not necessarily indicates the circle of the twelve zodiac signs.

C.P.S. Menon believes that the 12 Adityas, a class of solar deities, also refer to the 12 zodiac signs. (Menon/Filon, Early Astronomy and Cosmology, p. 55) For, in Śatapatha­brāhmaṇa 6.1.2.8-10, it says that Prajapati first begot the sun-god Aditya and then the 12 Adityas, and “he placed them in the sky” (ādityam <sṛṣṭam> ādityās <anvasṛj­yanta> tān divy <upādadhāt>); and in 11.6.3.8 it says that the 12 Adityas are the 12 months (dvādaśa māsāḥ saṃvatsarasyaita ādityāḥ). However, these statements do not take us any further than the above-mentioned celestial twelve-spoke wheel. As a matter of fact, there is no explicit mention of the 12 constellations (zodiac signs), but only of 12 months, which were tied to astronomical observations (reference stars, lunar man­sions).

Moreover, I was referred to the following statement, allegedly found in Baudhāyana­śrautasūtra, as a proof that Vedic authors knew of zodiac signs:

mīnameṣayormeṣavṛṣayorvā vasantaḥ

“In Pisces and Aries, or in Aries and Taurus, is (the season of) vasanta (spring)”.

However, this statement, which is quoted by some older authors (e.g. Hemādri, Mādha­va, Kamalākarabhaṭṭa), is not found in current printed editions of the work. (Shivaraj Acharya Kaundinnyayan in: Vedaṅgajyotiṣa (Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series), p. 76) The origin of the quotation is obviously obscure.

Moreover, Hindu astrologers see an indirect clue to Vedic zodiac signs in Maitryupani­ṣad 6.14, where navāṃśa is mentioned. Navāṃśa is the subdivision of zodiac signs into nine segments. The wording of the text is as follows:

dvādaśātmakaṃ vatsarametasyāgneyamardhamardhaṃ vāruṇam. maghādyaṃ śra­viṣthārdham āgneyaṃ krameṇotkrameṇa sārpādyaṃ śraviṣṭhārdhāntaṃ saumyam. tatraikaikamātmano navāṃśakaṃ sacārakavidham. (MaiUp 6.14)

“The year consists of twelve (months). The one half of it belongs to (the god) Agni, the other half to Varuṇa. The (half) belonging to Agni (begins) at the beginning of (the lunar mansion of) Maghā and (ends) in the middle of (the lunar mansion of) Śraviṣṭhā, while (the Sun) moves (southward). The half belonging to Soma/Varuṇa begins with (the lunar mansion) Sarpa/Āśleśā and ends in the middle of Śraviṣṭhā, while (the Sun) moves (northward). Each (month) of it has nine parts according to the progression (of the lunar mansions).”

J. A. B. van Buitenen translates the last sentence as follows:

„In this (reckoning) every single (month) of the (year) itself amounts to nine quarters after the fashion of (reckoning) by the progression of lunar mansions.“

And Max Müller:

„And then there (are the months) one by one, belonging to the year, each consisting of nine-fourths of asterisms (two asterisms and a quarter being the twelfth part of the passage of the sun through the twenty-seven Nakshatras), each determined by the sun moving together with the asterisms.“

The text states that the year consists of two parts and twelve months. The two parts are defined by the two solstices. During the one part, the Sun moves north, and during the other to the south. Zodiac signs are not mentioned. The author could just as well have said that the one half of the year lasted from the beginning of Leo until the end of Capricorn, and that the other half lasted from the beginning of Aquarius to the end of Cancer. But instead he chooses the cumbersome definition of half-years via the lunar mansions. As for the navāṃśa, it is clear that it is not the zodiac signs that are divided into nine parts, but rather the twelve solar months, each of which is assigned nine quarters of lunar mansions.

[11] In an introductory verse, the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa says:

vedā hi yajñārthamabhipravṛttāḥ / kālānupūrvyā vihitāśca yajñāḥ

tasmādidaṃ kālavidhānaśāstraṃ / yo jyotiṣaṃ veda sa veda yajñān (Y-VJ 3)

“The Vedas have been revealed for the sake of the sacrifices, and the sacrifices are established according to the times.

Therefore, he who knows this science of the arrangement of times, i.e. astronomy (jyotiṣa), (truly) knows the sacrifices.”

[12] There is one single verse in Vedāṅgajyotiṣa that mentions the motion of Jupiter through the zodiac signs (rāśiḥ), starting from Pisces. However, this verse is found in only one of the two versions of the text (the yājuṣa recension), and it is unnumbered in the manuscripts. (Y-VJ, after verse 4) Moreover, the verse is unknown to the commentator Somākara and apparently did not exist in his time. Moreover, it must be noted that the whole theory of this text is based on the lunar mansions, not on the zodiac signs. And while it gives a list of all lunar mansions and a list of their ruling deities, it completely ignores the zodiac signs and their rulers and exaltations. Therefore, A. Weber and TS Kuppanna Sastry, who both published a critical edition of the text, reasonably suppose that this verse is spurious, i.e. an interpolation. (Weber, Über den Vedakalender genannt Jyotisham, S. 10f. und S. 21f.; Sarma (ed.), Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa of Lagadha, S. 50)

One of my opponents, Jayasree Saranathan, defended the verse as genuine by linking it to the 60-year cycle of Jupiter, which allegedly was indispensable to this work. However, this argument is not compelling. Is it plausible that this topic has been dealt with in only one verse? Besides, I do not see in this verse any reference to the 60-year cycle, which is not mentioned in other places either. Nor does Ms Saranathan provide a translation of the verse that would support her interpretation.

Ms. Saranathan also refers to another verse in which the word rāśiḥ appears (R-VJ 4; Y-VJ 13, p. 51). However, translation and comments by Weber (p. 47ff.) and Kuppanna Sastry (p. 51f.) make it clear that rāśiḥ does not mean “zodiac sign” here, but has its basic meaning “number, quantity”. Saranathan was not able to give a meaningful translation of the verse, which would have supported the meaning of “zodiac sign”.  

(http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.ch/2013/05/is-vedic-astrology-derived-from-greek_11.html)

[13] The very few instances in the Mahābhārata epic that “Vedic astrologers” interpret as allusions to “zodiac signs” (rāśiḥ) stand in stark disproportion to the ubiquity of the lunar mansions (nakṣatram). Besides, I doubt that in any of these instances rāśiḥ means a zodiac sign at all. In the Mahābhārata, this word usually means “heap, quantity, collection”. Where the term appears in astronomical or astrological context, it most probably denotes a cluster of stars or a constellation. Let us consider some instances I discussed with Indians:

(1) The word rāśiḥ appears in the Mahābhārata in the following verse:

yadā candraś ca sūryaś ca tathā tiṣyabṛhaspatī

ekarāśau sameṣyanti prapatsyati tadā kṛtam (MBh 3.188.87)

“When the moon and the sun as well (the lunar mansion) Tiṣya (= Puṣya) and Jupiter

come together in one rāśi, then the Kṛta age will begin.”

Do we have to translate the word rāśi here as “zodiac sign”? Given the fact that the epic otherwise does not know of zodiac signs, despite the many passages that describe positions of the Moon and the planets in lunar mansions, this would most probably be incorrect. Now, it is important to know that the fundamental meaning of the word is “pile, quantity, number” and that it is frequently found in this sense in the Mahābhārata epic. And in fact better sense is achieved if we translate it as “accumulation” or “cluster” in this verse. The translation “zodiac sign” would be even illogical because the lunar mansion Puṣya would then have to move into the zodiac sign Cancer, which, of course, is impossible because Puṣya is located in Cancer by definition. In reality, the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter, and the star Puṣya “come together in one cluster”. In point (2) below we will get to know another case in which the word rāśi does not denote a zodiac sign, but a cluster of stars or an astronomical constellation.

2) Another interesting instance of the word rāśiḥ in the Mahābhārata is the following:

vakrānuvakraṃ kṛtvā ca śravaṇe pāvakaprabhaḥ

brahmarāśiṃ samāvṛtya lohitāṅgo vyavasthitaḥ  (MBh 6.3.17)

Having made its first and second station, glowing like fire, and having returned to (or: having surrounded/inhabited) brahmarāśi, the red-limbed <planet> was located in Śra­vaṇa.”

The verb form samāvṛtya is ambiguous. It can be derived either from the root sam-ā-vṛt (“to return”) or the root sam-ā-vṛ (“to surround, fill, inhabit”).

A commentary given in the apparatus of the critical edition gives the following explanation for the term brahmarāśi: brahmadaivatarohiṇīnakṣatrasya vṛṣarāśitvāt, which means that the planet is in Taurus and that Taurus is called brahmarāśi “because the nakṣatra Rohiṇī, which has Brahmā as its presiding deity, belongs to the zodiac sign of Taurus”. Astronomically, this solution is not convincing, though. When a planet is retrograde in Śravaṇa, it will take it several months, if not years, until it arrives in Taurus. But such a long time span of observation is not likely for the omens that take place immediately before the great war. Besides, no evidence is found in other texts that brahmarāśi was ever used in the sense of Taurus.

So, should we identify brahmarāśi as the rāśi of Śravaṇa/Abhijit, i. e. as Capricorn? This is not likely either. First of all, the word is otherwise not attested as referring to Capricorn. And to my knowledge none of the ancient authors or commentators ever thought of it.

The commentator Nīlakaṇṭha believes that in the current verse the word rāśi stands for nakṣatram, i.e. for “lunar mansion”. He writes:

tatraiva ... lohitāṅgo’ṃgārako vakrānuvakraṃ kṛtvā ... brahmaṇā bṛhaspatinākrāntaṃ rāśiṃ nakṣatraṃ śravaṇaṃ samāvṛtya ... tiṣṭhati

“After the red-limbed one, i.e. Mars, has made his first and second station and has returned … to the sign, i.e. the lunar mansion, Śravaṇa, which had been entered by Brahmā, i.e. Jupiter, he stands (in Śravaṇa).”

Hence, according to Nīlakaṇṭha, brahmarāśi means “the nakṣatra entered by Brahmā = Jupiter”, and he believes that Mars was in conjunction with Jupiter in the lunar mansion of Śravaṇa (=brahmarāśi). Ganguli apparently follows Nīlakaṇṭha too, for he translates the verse as follows:

“The red-bodied (Mars) possessed of the effulgence of fire, wheeling circuitously, stayeth in a line with the constellation Sravana over-ridden by Vrihaspati.”

Moreover, if we look into the apparatus of the critical edition, we find the following variants of the text:

brahmarāśiṃ samāvṛtya

brāhmaṃ nakṣatramāśritya

brahmanakṣatramāśritya

The editor considers brahmarāśiṃ as correct. However, the variants make it clear that there was a tradition since ancient times that had brahmanakṣatraṃ, i.e. „lunar mansion of Brahmā“ instead of brahmarāśiṃ. Therefore, we ought to follow Nīlakaṇṭha assuming that rāśi here stands for nakṣatram, i.e. not for “zodiac sign” but rather for “lunar mansion”.

According to TS Kuppanna Sastry, brahmarāśi stands for the 28th lunar mansion Abhijit. (Collected Papers on Jyotisha, p. 320-323). This makes perfect sense for our verse: The planet made its first station in Śravaṇa, became retrograde, again became stationary, still in Śravaṇa but having returned to the part of it that overlaps with Abhijit, and then moved direct again.

The term is ambiguous, however, insofar as it denotes either the constellation Abhijit (Lyra) standing high in the northern sky or the section on the ecliptic that is called the lunar mansion of Abhijit. Stars that are far away from the ecliptic were also used to mark the ecliptic lunar mansions. A planet was located e.g. in the lunar mansion Abhijit when it transited the meridian at the same time as Abhijit.

The word brahmarāśi also appears in Parāśarasaṃhitā, a pre-Hellenistic astronomical text that is only known in fragments. The word occurs in the description of a comet of the name of Calaketu:

paitāmahaścalaketuḥ ... uditaḥ paścimenāṅguliparvamātrāṃ śikhāṃ dakṣinābhinatāṃ kṛtvā ... nabhasastribhāgamanucaran yathāyathā cottareṇa vrajati tathātathā śūlāgrā­kārāṃ śikhāṃ darśayan brahmanakṣatramupasṛtya manāg dhruvaṃ brahmarāśiṃ sap­tarṣīn spṛśan nabhaso’rdhamātraṃ dakṣinamanukramyāstaṃ vrajati.

(from Ramakrishna Bhat’s edition of Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita, vol. I, p. 134; the version quoted by RN Iyengar has a couple of variants.)

“After rising in the west, the paitāmaha comet Calaketu has his tail, which is as long as a finger joint, slant towards south and crosses … a third of the sky. And while he moves northward, he more and more shows his tail, which resembles a spearhead, comes close to brahmanakṣatram, within a short time touches dhruva (a star near the celestial north pole), brahmarāśi and saptarṣis (= Ursa maior), crosses half the sky in southward direction, and sets.”

The comet appears in the western evening sky and within a short time visits several constellations near the celestial north pole, among which also brahmarāśi. Here, brahmarāśi can not possibly stand for a zodiac sign, and especially not for Capricorn, which has been located south of the celestial equator for several millennia.

However, above I had come to the conclusion that brahmarāśi was the same as brāhmanakṣatram, namely the lunar mansion Abhijit, whereas now the two of them are listed separately. And strangely, brahmarāśi is mentioned between dhruva and saptarṣaya where there is actually no space for another constellation. Do we have to conclude that the comet made a station near dhruva, then return to Abhijit, and only then move on to the saptarṣaya? This assumption is indirectly supported by a parallel passage in Varahamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā 11.33-34. For, there it says that Calaketu moved through saptarṣaya, dhruva and Abhijit (sapamunīn saṃspṛśya dhruvam abhijitam eva ca). The order of the constellations is different from Parāśara, probably due to the constraints of versification, whereas Parāśara wrote prose. However, it seems that Varāhamihira considered brāhmanakṣatram and brahmarāśi the same thing, because he does not mention them separately. But then, why does Parasara mention both names? It is conceivable that brāhmanakṣatram actually denotes the star Vega described, whereas brahmarāśi is whole constellation Lyra.

Vṛddhagarga, another pre-Hellenistic astronomer, also describes the path of the comet Calaketu; however, he replaces brahmarāśi by brahmahṛdayam. His words are as follows:

sudīrghāṃ śūlasadṛśīṃ śikhāṃ kṛtvā sudāruṇām

dhūpayedatha nakṣatraṃ brāhmaṃ paitā(ma)haṃ śikhī

dhūpayedatha nakṣatramekaṃ dve trīṇi vā punaḥ

“And after making his horrible tail very long and spear-like,

the Paitāmaha comet fumigates brahmanakṣatram

and fumigates one, two, three other nakṣatras.”

sa brahmahṛdayaṃ spṛṣṭvā dhruvaṃ saptaṛṣibhiḥ saha //

diśaṃ vaiśravaṇākrāntāmevaṃ viparivartate

“He touches brahmahṛdayam, dhruva und saptarṣaya

and in this way turns toward the northern direction (which is presided by Kubera).”

sa cārdhameva nabhasaḥ parikramya pradakṣiṇam //

saptarṣibhiḥ pratihatastato’stamupagacchati

“And after wandering around half the sky to south (or to the right),

squashed by the saptarṣaya, he sets.”

(Sanskrit from Ballālasena, Adbhutasāgara; translation by myself)

The star brahmahṛdayam is known from the Sūryasiddhānta. It is Capella (α Aurigae). However, this star is far away from the other constellations touched by Calaketu. The comet would first have visited Vega (brahmanakṣatram), then wandered to Capella (brahmahṛdayam), then northward to Thuban (? dhruva) and Ursa Maior (saptarṣaya), and then crossed “half the sky” (i.e. almost the entire visible sky) in southward direction. Astronomically, this spectacular path is far less likely than the one described by Parāśara. Apparently Garga was also confused by the separate mention of brahmanakṣatram and brahmarāśi, and therefore speculated that the latter had to have been brahmahṛdayam. In any case, it is clear that Garga did not think of a zodiac sign either, but of a star or constellation.

Now let's get back to the verse MBh 6.3.17, where a “red-limbed” (lohitāṅgaḥ) celestial body makes two stations and returns to brahmarāśiḥ. The term “the red-limbed one” usually refers to Mars. However, five verses earlier it was said that Mars was located in the lunar mansion of Maghā. The question arises whether MBh 6.3.17 could not refer to the comet Calaketu. Comets also sometimes have a reddish dust tail, and comets are also mentioned in other places in the epic. Besides, Parāśara reports that Calaketu has a catastrophic effect, that he destroys the whole world (kṛtsnamabhihinasti lokam) and annihilates the region madhyadeśa completely (madhyadeśe bhūyiṣṭhaṃ janapadamanavaśeṣaṃ kurute). This seems to accord very well with the Mahābhārata war.

Another instance from Atharvavedapariśiṣṭa also associates comets that cause slaughter of people (puruṣakṣayaḥ) with brahmarāśi:

saṃtānakanibhā ye tu dṛśyante sūkṣmaraśmayaḥ/

ekatārā dvitārā vā atha vā pañcatārakaḥ || (AVP 52,6.5)

brahmarāśes tu te putrā grahāḥ saṃtānasaṃsthitāḥ/

saṃcaranti nabhaḥ sarvam utpanne puruṣakṣaye || (AVP 52,7.1)

“Those (comets) which appear like the flowers of the Kalpa tree with subtle rays,

- either single or double or fivefold -,

these are the sons of brahmarāśi, planets formed like the flower of the Kalpa tree.

They run over the whole sky when a slaughter of people takes place.”

Hence, the verse in Bhīṣmaparva may refer to the comet Calaketu. But this is only a possibility. The translation of the verse I gave in the beginning works perfectly for a planet, too. And brahmarāśiḥ could also refer to that portion of the ecliptic which is known as the lunar mansion Abhijit. However, if we assume that the “red-limbed one” is Mars, then we have a problem with verse 6.3.12, where it says that Mars is in Maghā in Leo. In any case, it should be clear that the concept of rāśiḥ here does not refer to a zodiac sign. All available sources, Vṛddhagarga, Parāśara, Varāhamihira, Nīlakaṇṭha, and the variants in the critical apparatus to MBh 6.3.17 indicate that brahmarāśiḥ denotes a lunar mansion or a constellation connected to a lunar mansion (e.g. Abhijit or Lyra).

3) In the Mahabharata translation by M. Ganguli, the word “zodiac” appears time and again. In the original text, however, the zodiac is never mentioned. One of these instances is the following:

apy evaṃ no brāhmaṇāḥ santi vṛddhā bahuśrutāḥ śīlavantaḥ kulīnāḥ

sāṃvatsarā jyotiṣi cāpi yuktā nakṣatrayogeṣu ca niścayajnāḥ (MBh 5.47.92)

uccāvacaṃ daivayuktaṃ rahasyaṃ divyāḥ praśnā mṛgacakrā muhūrtāḥ

kṣayaṃ mahāntaṃ kurusṛnjayānāṃ nivedayante pāṇḍavānāṃ jayaṃ ca (93)

“We also have old Brahmins who know a lot of sacred scriptures, who are of (good) conduct and family,

who (know) the calendar year and adhere to the (celestial) lights and know the decisions at (the times of) the conjunctions (of the Moon) with the nakṣatras.

The secret above (in the sky) and below (on earth) that is connected with fate, the questions concerning the sky, the animal circles (mṛgacakrāḥ), the hours (muhūrtāḥ),

(they all) indicate the great destruction of the Kurus and Sṛnjayas and the victory of the Pāṇḍavas.”

Ganguli translates mṛgacakrāḥ as “acquainted with the signs of the zodiac”. I have carefully researched the term and come to the conclusion that the interpretation of the word mṛgacakraḥ as “zodiac” is very unlikely. First, the word is plural. It would therefore have been “zodiacs” in plural, which does not make any sense. Second, there are texts in which the word refers to the divinatory interpretation of animal behaviour. Third, it can be demonstrated that in the Mahābhārata epic only this latter meaning of the term makes sense. Fourth, no texts have emerged in discussions with Indian scholars, in which the word is used in the sense of “zodiac”. And fifth, as has been said already, the signs of the zodiac are conspicuous by absence in the epic, whereas lunar mansions are mentioned countless times.

The term mṛgacakraḥ appears in Varāhamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā 30.4:

apasavye saṃgrāmaḥ savye senāsamāgamaḥ śānte

mṛgacakre pavane vā sandhyāyāṃ miśrage vṛṣṭiḥ//

“If at twilight the wheel of animals (mṛgacakraḥ) or the wind goes to the left, [it means] battle; if to the right and calm, [it means] union of armies; if they move both ways, [it means] rain.”

The term mṛgacakraḥ also appears in the “table of contents” of the same work (Bṛhatsaṃhitā 2.23) as a part of a very long compound:

-antaracakra-mṛgacakra-śvacakra-vātacakra-

“wheel of the directions of the compass, wheel of the animals, wheel of the dogs, wheel of the winds “.

The term mṛgacakraḥ also appears in Buddhist Pali texts as migacakka, e.g. in Milindapañhā (V. Trenckner (1889), S. 178). There it forms part of a similar enumeration of soothsaying techniques as we have seen with Varāhamihira. Besides the “wheel of animals”, the “wheel of dogs” and the “wheel of directions of the compass” are mentioned (sācakkaṁ migacakkaṁ antaracakkaṁ). Hence, we can conclude that Buddhist texts use the word in the same sense as Varāhamihira and that even there it has nothing to do with the zodiac circle, but rather with fortune-telling from animal behaviour.

Let us come back to the verse in the Mahābhārata! If Varāhamihiras interpretation of mṛgacakraḥ also applies to the Mahābhārata, the verse can be interpreted as follows: There is talk of (1) omens above in the sky (daivam uccaṃ), and (2) omens below on earth (-avacam). Then there is talk of (1) questions concerning the sky (divyāḥ praśnāḥ), (2) of animal behaviour on earth (mṛgacakrāḥ) and (3) of “hours” (muhūrtāḥ). All of these things predict the military destruction of the Kauravas and the victory of Pāṇḍavas.

Now there are at least two passages Mahābhārata where this interpretation can be verified, namely the reports about the omens that occurred shortly before the war and announced the downfall of the Kauravas and the victory of Pāṇḍavas (MBh 5.141(143); 6.2; 6.3. Ganguli’s translation can be found here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m06/m06002.htm ; http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/ m06/m06003.htm ; http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m05/m05143.htm).

In these passages is reported (1) where the planets were located in the lunar mansions (not the zodiac signs) are and that eclipses occurred. (2) Moreover, the behaviour of animals is described and interpreted. Both types of phenomena, i.e. both heavenly and earthly, are wildly mixed together.

Let us study the following entlightening verses:

prahṛṣṭaṃ vāhanaṃ kṛṣṇa pāṇḍavānāṃ pracakṣate

pradakṣiṇā mṛgāś caiva tat teṣāṃ jayalakṣaṇam (MBh 5.141(143).15)

apasavyā mṛgāḥ sarve dhārtarāṣṭrasya keśava

vācaś cāpy aśarīriṇyas tatparābhavalakṣaṇam (16)

“They predict, o Kṛṣṇa, cheerful effort for the Pāṇḍavas,

and the animals (mṛgāḥ) make a circumambulation to the right (about them). This is a sign of victory for them.

All animals make a circumambulation to the left about Duryodhana,

and (there are) incorporeal voices. This is a sign of defeat.”

Here we have to understand that a “circumambulation” to the right is a sign of respect. One walks around a person or an object of respect in such a way that the same is located to the right of circumambulator. A circumambulation in the opposite direction obviously expresses disrespect.

So, these are the “wheels of the animals” that indicate the victory of Pāṇḍavas and defeat of the Kauravas. I would interpret the text as follows: Animals are afraid of troops and try to avoid them in a circular movement. This movement can go to the right or to the left, and this is interpreted as an omen.

4) There is also another place in Ganguli’s translation of the epic where “twelve signs of the zodiac” are mentioned, although they do not appear in the original text (http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01004.htm). In MBh 1.3.60-70, the heavenly twins, the Asvins, create the year, which is conceived as a wheel with twelve spokes and as an ideal circle of 12 x 30 days, i.e. 12 months. One verse also talks about 720 spokes, which can be explained by the number of days and nights in an ideal 360-day year. It is interesting, that it is the Asvins who act as the creators of the year. This may be explained by the fact that the equinox was located in the lunar mansion Aśvinī at the time when these verses were composed. However, no sign of the zodiac, let alone the zodiac itself, is mentioned. There is no proof that these were already known to the author. There is talk only of the twelve months. In the following, I quote the text with my own and Ganguli’s translations. The massive differences are explained partly by the fact that Ganguli’s translation is very interpretive, partly because he chooses different text variants or alternative possibilities of translation:

ṣaṣṭiśca gāvastriśatāśca dhenava / ekaṃ vatsaṃ suvate taṃ duhanti

“60 and 300 cows / give birth to one calf (or: year) and give it their milk.”

(G.: Three hundred and sixty cows represented by three hundred and sixty days produce one calf between them which is the year.)

(Note: vatsa can mean either “calf” or “year”. Nīlakaṇṭha interprets vatsa as samvatsara (“year”).)

nānāgoṣṭhā vihitā ekadohanās / tāvaśvinau duhato gharmamukthyam (MBh 1.3.63)

“Various cow-pens are prepared to give milk to one (calf). / These Aśvins milk the hot milk accompanied by recitation.”

(G.: That calf is the creator and destroyer of all. Seekers of truth following different routes, draw the milk of true knowledge with its help. Ye Aswins, ye are the creators of that calf!)

ekāṃ nābhiṃ sapta śatā arāḥ śritāh / pradhiṣvanyā viṃśatirarpitā arāḥ

“700 spokes are fixed in the nave, / 20 other spokes are placed in the felly.”

(G: The year is but the nave of a wheel to which is attached seven hundred and twenty spokes representing as many days and nights.)

(Note: Nīlakaṇṭha explains the 720 spokes as the number of days and nights in a year.)

anemi cakraṃ parivartate ’jaram / māyāśvinau samanakti carṣaṇī (64)

“Without a rim, the wheel rotates, agelessly. / Māyā adorns the Aśvins, the two men.”

(G: The circumference of this wheel represented by twelve months is without end. This wheel is full of delusions and knows no deterioration. It affects all creatures whether to this or of the other worlds. Ye Aswins, this wheel of time is set in motion by you!)

ekaṃ cakraṃ vartate dvādaśāram / (pradhi?)ṣaṇṇābhimekākṣamamṛtasya dhāraṇam

“One wheel rotates with twelve spokes / with six naves and one eye, holding immortality,”

(G: The wheel of Time as represented by the year has a nave represented by the six seasons. The number of spokes attached to that nave is twelve as represented by the twelve signs of the Zodiac. This wheel of Time manifests the fruits of the acts of all things.)

(Note: Here Ganguli’s translation is rather a free paraphrase than a translation. He takes over the interpretation of the 12 signs of the zodiac from the commentator Nīlakaṇṭha. In the text itself, they are not mentioned.)

yasmin devā adhi viśve viṣaktās / tāvaśvinau muñcato mā viṣīdatam (65)

“(the wheel,) onto which the Viśvedevāḥ are attached, / those Aśvins release (this wheel). Ye two, do not become exhausted!”

(G: The presiding deities of Time abide in that wheel. Subject as I am to its distressful influence, ye Aswins, liberate me from that wheel of Time.)

(Ganguli’s translation from here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01004.htm)

[14] There is only one place in authoritative texts that explicitly states that Kṛṣṇa’s natal Moon was in Rohiṇī: Harivaṃśa 48 (2.4).13. However, this verse is not included in the critical edition and most probably not authentic. Another place that allegedly shows a birth moon in Rohiṇī is Bhāgavatapurāṇa 10.3.1, but the interpretation of this verse is uncertain. The details given by the texts about Kṛṣṇa’s birth configuration are contradic­tory, or at least not easy to interpret. According to some texts, Kṛṣṇa was born with the moon in the lunar mansion Abhijit. (see Koch, Kṛṣṇa Geburtshoroskop, in preparation).

[15] A natal chart of Kṛṣṇa with zodiacal positions of all planets and the ascendant is only given in Khamāṇikyam, a very late text of the 15th century AD. (s. Koch, Kṛṣṇas Geburtshoroskop, in preparation).

[16] Rāmāyaṇa, ch. 1.17 and 2.13. The Bālakāṇḍa. The First Book of the Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa, critically edited by the late Prof. G.H. Bhatt, Oriental Institute Vadodara (India), 2001; The Āyodhyākāṇḍa. The Second Book of the Vālmīki-Rāmāyaṇa, critically edited by Dr. P. L. Vaidya, Oriental Institute Baroda (India), 1962.

[17] E. g. Viṣṇupurāṇa has the following verses:

ayanasyottarasyādau makaraṃ yāti bhāskaraḥ /

tataḥ kumbhaṃ ca mīnaṃ ca rāśe rāśyantaraṃ dvija // ViP_2,8.28 //

“At the beginning of his northward course, the Sun enters Capricorn, then Aquarius and Pisces, one zodiac sign after the other.”

triṣveteṣvatha bhukteṣu tato vaiṣuvatīṃ gatim /

prayāti savitā kurvannahorātraṃ tataḥ samam // ViP_2,8.29 //

“After he has enjoyed these three, the Sun goes the path of the equinox, making day and night equal.”

tato rātriḥ kṣayaṃ yāti vardhate 'nudinaṃ dinam // ViP_2,8.30 //

“Then the night begins to decrease, the day increases daily.”

tataś ca mithunasyānte parāṃ kāṣṭhāmupāgataḥ /

rāśiṃ karkaṭakaṃ prāpya kurute dakṣiṇāyanam // ViP_2,8.31 //

“And then, at the end of Gemini, he arrives at his highest culmination. After reaching the sign of Cancer, he makes his southward course.”

...

śaradvasantayormadhye viṣuvaṃ tu vibhāvyate /

tulāmeṣagate bhānau samarātridinaṃ tu tat // ViP_2,8.67 //

“In the middle of the seasons śarad and vasanta the equinox is observed, when the Sun has entered Libra or Aries. This is the equality of day and night.”

karkaṭāvasthite bhānau dakṣiṇāyanamucyate /

uttarāyaṇamapyuktaṃ makarasthe divākare // ViP_2,8.68 //

“When the Sun is at (the beginning of) Cancer, this is called the southward course; and when it is at (the beginning of) Capricorn, this is called the northward course.”

[18] Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 79.30; Varāhamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā 3.2; Āryabhaṭa, Āryabhaṭīyam 4.1; Sūryasiddhānta 14.7-10; s. also Dikshit, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, p. 139.

The Gargasaṃhitā is available in an edition and translation by D. M. Sudhindra Kumar. Unfortunately, the Sanskrit text is full of orthographical mistakes. I read verse 1.7 as follows:

meṣataulyau tu viṣuvau kulīrau dakṣiṇāyane

makaraṃ cottaraṃ jñeyaṃ sarvā saṃkrāntirīdṛśī

“Aries and Taurus are the equinoxes, Cancer and <Capricorn> the solstices.

Capricorn, one must know, is the winter solstice. This is the way of each ingress <into these signs>.”

Hence, even this text, although assigned to Vṛddhagarga, must be dated to the first centuries CE, unless it is accepted that the sidereal zodiac as used today is completely wrong.

[19] Varāhamihira lived in the 6th century CE, not in the 2nd century BCE; Āryabhaṭa about 500 CE, not in the 3rd or 2nd millennium BC. All these wrong datings were refuted by T. S. Kuppanna Sastry in: Collected Papers on Jyotisha, pp. 255ff.

[20] cf. Dikshit, History of Indian Astronomy, part I, p. 140f.

[21] ṛtubhir hi saṃvatsaraḥ śaknoti sthātum (ŚB 6.7.1.18), “it is by means of the seasons that the year is able to stand”.

[22] The text is explained in: Sengupta, Ancient Indian Chronology, p. 155ff.

[23] Sengupta, op. cit., p. 163ff.

[24] See Kaul’s Hindu Calendar Forum, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hinducalendar/. Darshaney Lokesh and T. V. Sivaraman are the editors of a tropical Hindu calendar in Hindi under the title Sri Mohan Krity Aarsh Tithi Patrak (SMKATP). A short version in Tamil and Englisch is available under the Titel Reformed Sanathan Calendar. In this calendar, the uttarāyanam coincides with the winter solstice. (http://www. reformedsanathancalendar.in/index.html)

[25] Dikshit, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, p. 129; Sengupta in: Burgess, The Sûrya Siddhânta, p. xxxv ff.; Kuppanna Sastry in: Sarma, K. V. (ed.), Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa of Lagadha, p. 12. The following references in Vedic texts can be given: The lunar mansion Kṛttikā is de­signated as “the mouth of the lunar mansions” (mukhaṃ nakṣatrāṇām, Taittirīyabrāh­maṇa 1.1.2.1), where “mouth” means “beginning” (cf. Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 6.2.2.18). Furthermore, it is said that the stars of Kṛttikā, the Pleiades, “do not deviate from the East” (prācyai diso na cyavante, Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 2.1.2.3; prācīṃ na parijahati, Bau­dhāyanaśrautasūtra 25.3.5). Taittirīyabrāhmaṇa 1.5.2.7f. makes a distinction between northern and southern lunar mansions, the former being the lunar mansions of the gods, whereas the latter are assigned to death. The gods are associated with the lunar man­sions Kṛttikā to Visakha, the remaining ones with death. This suggests that the vernal equinox was located at the beginning of Kṛttikā. This tradition survived for a very long time, even far beyond its astronomical validity. E.g. Viṣṇupurāṇa 2.8.76ff. still explicit­ly states that the equinox is in Kṛttikā.

[26] In the case of the Sūryasiddhānta, this conclusion is confirmed by the following facts: The ephemerides of the Sūryasiddhānta in its oldest attested form (according to Varāhamihira in Pañcasiddhāntikā) are very accurate for the epoch 500 AD, but increasingly inaccurate with increasing distance from this epoch. The parameters of the ephemeris calculation and the underlying astronomical observations must therefore originate from this epoch. Now the Sūryasiddhānta puts the beginning of the zodiac at the star Revati (ζ Piscium), where the vernal equinox was around 500 AD. Āryabhaṭa uses almost the same constants as the Sūryasiddhānta. Sphujidhvaja used a tropical ephemeris.

[27]... hastigo'śvoṣṭradamako nakṣatrair yaśca jīvati / pakṣiṇāṃ poṣako yaś ca yuddhā­cāryas tathaiva ca / ... etān vigarhitācārān apāṅkteyān dvijādhamān / dvijātipravaro vidvān ubhayatra vivarjayet (Manusmṛti 3.162-167):

“... whoever works with elephants, oxen, horses, or camels, who lives upon the stars (nakṣatram), / who breeds birds, who teaches the usage of weapons / ..., all these most lowly among the twice-born who live a blamable life and are not permitted to the sacred meals – / the knowing Brahmin will avoid them with both the <offering to the gods> and <the offering to the ancestors>.”

[28] śvabhir yaś ca parikrāmed yaḥ śunā daṣṭa eva ca / parivittiś ca yaś ca syād duścar­mā gurutalpagaḥ / kuśīlavo devalako nakṣatrair yaś ca jīvati (MBh 13.90.10) etān iha vijānīyād apāṅkteyān dvijādhamān (11ab):

“Whoever roams with hunting dogs, who was bitten by a dog, / who is unmarried but has a married younger brother, who has a skin disease or shares the bed with his guru’s wife, / who is a messenger or worships idols for money or makes his living from the stars, / all these worst of the twice-born, one should know, are unworthy of attending sacred meals (i. e. rites for gods and ancestors).”

āhvāyakā devalakā nakṣatragrāmayājakāḥ / ete brāhmaṇacaṇḍālā mahāpathikapañca­māḥ (MBh 12. 77(76).8):

“Court messengers, <people who for money> perform offerings to idols or the host of the stars, / and fifth travellers – these are the most depraved among the Brahmins.”

na brāhmaṇān parivaden nakṣatrāṇi na nirdiśet / tithiṃ pakṣasya na brūyāt tathāsyāyur na riṣyate (MBh 13.107(104). 62):

“He should not speak (bad words) about a Brahman, he should not indicate the stars, / he should not tell the tithi of a half-month, then his life (duration?) will not be damaged.”

[29] One of my contacts mentioned Varāhamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā 2.34:

aviditvaiva yaḥ śāstraṃ daivajñatvaṃ prapadyate / sa paṅktidūṣakaḥ pāpo jñeyo nakṣatrasūcakaḥ

“One who, without knowing the science (of astrology), takes the <position> of a knower of fate should be considered a bad astrologer who pollutes the company of eaters (at a feast).”

However, Varāhamihira lived in the 6th century CE, and as he is an astrologer, his view may be biased.

[30] E.g. AK Kaul of the Hindu Calendar Forum.

[31] saptamāc cāpi divasād amāvāsyā bhaviṣyati / samgrāmaṃ yojayet tatra tām hy āhuḥ śakradevatām (MBh 5.140(142).18):

“After the seventh day, new moon will take place. / Then one should harness the battle, because that <new moon>, they say, has Indra as its <presiding> deity.”

[32] MBh 13.63(64).5ff.

[33] MBh 13.89.2ff.

[34] Depictions are given in: Hans Ulrich Steymans (Hrsg.), Gilgamesch. Ikonographie eines Helden. / Gilgamesh. Epic and Iconography, p. 425; W. Papke, Die Sterne von Babylon, p. 49; C. E. Watanabe, Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia, p. 101; Fig. 25 and 26.  

[35] Hunger/Pingree, MUL.APIN (i iv 31-39), p. 67-69.

[36] Louvre F 475; https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Mastos_Cretan_bull_Louvre _F475.jpg. Cf. Eratosthenes, Epitome 14. This theme is also found in Mithraic tauroctonies. The blood that flows from the neck of the Bull has the appearance of corn ears.

[37] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/image?img=Perseus:image:1992.06.0485 . The episode is described by Apollodorus, Bibliothek II.v.2; moreover by Eratosthenes (Epitome 11), who refers to the poet Panyasis (5th century BCE). The astronomical background of the episode is obvious from the fact that the constellation of Cancer is located immediately above the head of the constellation Hydra. Eratosthenes confirms the astronomical background of the myth, too.

[38] According to Eratosthenes, this animal is represented by the constellation of Leo. (Epitome 12). Apollodorus informs us that the lion lives in a cave with two exits and that Hercules’ fight with this animal lasts 30 days. 30 days is roughly the period of time between the heliacal setting in the west of bright stars of the ecliptic and their heliacal rising in the east. During this time, they invisibly wander, as it were, through a cave in the earth from west to east.

[39] The majority of experts believes that the astronomer Euctemon of Athens, who lived in the 5th century BCE, divided the year into twelve months which he named after the twelve signs of the zodiac. (Pritchett / van der Waerden, “Thucydidean Time-Reckoning and Euctemon's Seasonal Calendar”, in: Bulletin de Correspondence Hellenique 85 (1961), p 17-52). This is supported by the parapegma of Geminus, which gives us detailed information on Euctemon's parapegma; furthermore by the fact that the cuneiform text Epinnu (mul.apin) contains a very similar parapegma that was also divided into 12 months, although the months were not named after the signs of the zodiac yet. We cannot be sure about it, though. Some experts (D. Lehoux, R. Hannah) think that Euctemon did not structure the year in zodiacal months and that it was Geminus who fitted Euctemon's data into his own scheme of zodiacal months. What is certain, however, is that Euctemon mentioned the morning setting of the first stars of the scorpion two days before the spring equinox. (Lehoux, Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World, p 237) And according to John Lydus, Euctemon lists the morning setting of Cancer on the 15th day before the Calends of February. (Lehoux, p. 390) Euctemon thus seems at least to have known the constellations of the zodiac.

[40] Francesca Rochberg, The Heavenly Writing, p. 130.

[41] ibidem.

[42] See foot note 39.

[43] Equal zodiac signs are found in the parapegma of Geminus, which is a summary of the parapegmata of older writers like Euctemon, Eudoxus, Callippus, and Dositheos. Geminus himself lived in the 1st century BCE. However, as he does not mention any authors of the 2nd century, it has been assumed that the parapegma of Geminus was actually written by an older author (“Pseudo-Geminus”), who lived in the 3rd or 2nd century BCE.

Next to be mentioned is Payprus Hibeh 27, an Egyptian papyrus in Greek language written about 300 BCE; moreover the two stone fragments of a parapegma from the 2nd century BCE excavated in Miletus and the papyrus fragment Rylands 589. All these sources know the zodiac of 12 equal signs. (Original sources and interpretation can be found in: D. Lehoux, Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World.)

An interesting phenomenon that must not be suppressed here, is the Indian parapegmatist Callaneus, quoted in one of the two fragments from Miletus next to Euctemon, Eudoxus, Philippus and others. In India, his name must have been Kalyāṇa or Kallāṇa (= “the handsome one”). Interestingly, the Indian tradition does not know of an author of that name. Since apparently he wrote a Greek style parapegma and comparable works from India are not known, we must assume that he was a Hellenised Indian. In Hellenistic times, Egyptian and Babylonian scholars also wrote Greek works. (Lehoux, cited above, pp. 223-226) My Indian opponents have tried to talk Kalyāṇa up as transmitter of astronomical knowledge from India to Greece. However, this is impossible. Kalyāṇa lived in the time of Alexander, 100 years after Euctemon and Meton.

[44] Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātaka 79. The last chapter, which treats astronomical calculations, begins with the following introduction (79.1): (according to D. Pingree’s edition):

sarvasya <horā>vidhisaṅgrahasya / cakṣuḥ paraṃ yadvibudhā vadanti

samāsatastadyavanopadeśād / vakṣye pradṛṣṭaṃ caritaṃ grahāṇām

“Now I want to explain in brief according to the instruction of the Greeks the visible course of the planets, which the wise call the supreme eye of the totality of the rules of horoscopy.”

The chapter ends with the following statement (according to B. Mak, “The Date and Nature of Sphujidhvaja’s Yavanajātaka Reconsidered in the Light of Some Newly Discovered Materials”, in: History of Science in South Asia, 1 (2013), 11f.):

iti svabhāṣāracanātiguptād / viṣṇugraharkṣāṃśumato’vatārāt

maharṣimukhyairanudṛṣṭatattvād / dhorārtharatnākaravāksamudrāt (60)

sūryaprasādāgatatattvadṛṣṭir / lokānubhāvāya vacobhirādyaiḥ

idaṃ babhāṣe niravadyavākyo / horārthaśāstraṃ yavaneśvaraḥ prāk (61)

sphujidhvajo nāma babhūva rāja / ya indravajrābhir idaṃ cakāra

nārāyaṇārkendumayādidṛṣṭaṃ  kṛtsnaṃ caturbhir matimāṃ sahasraiḥ (62)

“This <is the instruction according to> the ocean of teachings (actually “of speech”), which originates from the jewel of horoscopy, which is extremely mysterious because of its language, which came down from Viṣṇu, the planets, the lunar mansions, and the Sun himself, and the truth of which was seen by the foremost of the great sages.

This science of the things of horoscopy was originally brought forth by the Lord of the Greeks (Yavaneśvara), whose words are blameless and who saw the truth that came from the grace of the Sun god, for the instruction of the world with excellent words.

It was a king of the name of Sphujidhvaja who, full of wisdom, composed this complete <instruction>, which was seen by Viṣṇu, the Sun god, the Moon god, and <the demon> Maya, in 4000 indravajra verses.”

The identity of the Greek author referred to as Yavaneśvara is unknown. See David Pingree, The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja I, S. 3; Jyotiḥśāstra, p. 81; Bill Mak, „The Date and Nature of Sphujidhvaja’s Yavanajātaka Reconsidered in the Light of Some Newly Discovered Materials“, in: History of Science in South Asia, 1 (2013), 1-20.

[45] Varāhamihira in his Bṛhajjātaka often explicitly refers to the Yavanas and their teachings. (BJ 7.1; 8.9; 11.1; 12.1; 21.3; 27.1, 19, 21) And in Bṛhatsaṃhitā 2.32 he says:

mlecchā hi yavanās teṣu samyak śāstram idaṃ sthitam

ṛṣivat te 'pi pūjyante kiṃ punar daivavid dvijaḥ

“The Yavanas are foreigners. Among them, this science (of astrology) is properly (or: in its completeness) established.

They are honoured like the great sages (ṛṣi). How much more a Brahmin who knows the fate!”

Kalyāṇavarman writes (Sārāvalī 1.2-4):

vistarakṛtāni munibhiḥ parigṛhya (var. parihṛtya) purātanāni śāstrāṇi

horātantraṃ racitaṃ varāhamihireṇa saṃkṣepāt (2)

rāśidaśavargabhūpatiyogāyurdāyato daśādīnām

viṣayavibhāgaṃ spaṣṭaṃ kartuṃ na tu śakyate yatastena (3)

ata eva vistarebhyo yavananarendrādiracitaśāstrebhyaḥ

sakalamasāraṃ tyaktvā tebhyaḥ sāraṃ samuddhriyate (4)

“Varāhamihira summarised the old teachings, which had been explained by the wise in detail, and composed the textbook of horoscopy as a summary.

However, as he could not explain in detail the division of the subject of the Daśas etc. according to zodiac signs, Daśavarga, Rājayoga and duration of life,

therefore I shall explain all that is important, omitting what is unimportant, of the elaborate teachings that were composed by the King of the Greeks (yavananarendraḥ) and others.”

Kalyāṇavarman often explicitly mentions the teachings of the “King of the Greeks” (yavanarājā, yavanādhipatiḥ, yavanādhirājā, yavanendraḥ, yavanendrāḥ (!), yavanapatiḥ; 4.38; 10.32; 14.2; 20.21; 34.13; 35.3, 54, 94; 46.20 (plural); 51.16). Teachings of the “Yavanas” or “Yavana teachers” (yavanācāryāḥ) or “Yavana elders” (yavanavṛddhāḥ) are referred to in Sārāvalī 3.39; 5.16; 9.8; 10.11, 42; 15.1; 21.1; 24.24; 34.68; 41.10; 47.45; 52.1; 54.11.

[46] E. g. in the Aśoka edicts, where even Greek king names are mentioned:

Amtiyoko nama Yona-raja

“The King of the Greeks called Antiochos”

param ca tena Atiyokena cature 4 rajani Turamaye nama Amtikini nama Maka nama Alikasudaro nama

“And besides this Antiochos four kings called Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas, and Alexander”.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edicts_of_Ashoka)

The word yavana is derived from the name of the Ionians, a Greek people that originally lived in western Anatolia.

My opponents stubbornly refuse to take note of this source. They refer to Mahābhārata 1.80(85).26, where it is said that the Yavanas are descendants of Turvasu, a mythical king of ancient India, and they see this as proof that the Yavanas must have been an Indian tribe. However, in other verses of the Mahābhārata the Yavanas are mentioned together with Rome, Antioch, the Śakas (Sacae) and the Pahlavas. As these peoples were militarily relevant powers only in the Hellenistic period, it is clear that those verses must have been written in the Hellenistic period. But then it is also obvious that the Yavanas must have been the Greeks. Some sample verses:

antākhīṃ caiva romāṃ ca yavanānāṃ puraṃ tathā

“... Antioch and Rome and the city of the Yavanas.” (MBh 2.28.49a)

araṇaṃ caiva romaṃ ca yavanānāṃ purāṇi ca

“... the remote (city of) Rome and the cities of the Yavanas.” (MBh 2.29.11d (var.))

pahlavān daradān sarvān kirātān yavanāñ śakān
hārahūṇāṃś ca cīnāṃś ca tukhārān saindhavāṃs tathā (MBh 3.48.20f.)

“... the Pahlavas, all the Daradas, the Kiratas, Yavanas, Shakas,
the Huns and Chinese and Tocharians and Saindhavas.”

asṛjat pahlavān pucchāc chakṛtaḥ śabarāñ śakān
mūtrataś cāsṛjac cāpi yavanān krodhamūrcchitā (MBh 1.165.35)

“She (the cow Kāmadhenu) created the Pahlavas from her tail, from her dung the Śabaras and Śakas (Sacae),
and from her urine she created the Yavanas, swollen with anger.”

[47] Varāhamihira, Bṛhajjātakam 1.8: kriyaḥ (from Greek krios) for Aries, tāvuriḥ (Gr. tauros) for Taurus, jitumaḥ (Gr. didymoi) for Gemini, kulīraḥ (= karkaṭaḥ, cf. Gr. karkinos) for Cancer, leyaḥ (Gr. leôn) for Leo, pāthonaḥ (Gr. parthenos) for Virgo, jūkaḥ (Gr. zygon) for Libra, kaurpiḥ (Gr. skorpios) for Scorpio, taukṣikaḥ (Gr. toxotês) for Sagittarius, ākokeraḥ (Gr. aigokerôs) for Capricorn, hṛdrogaḥ (Gr. hydrochoos) for Aquarius, ittham (Gr. ichthyes) for Pisces.

The following verses from the Yavanajātaka contain a great number of Greek astrological terms that are well known from Greek sources. The text itself says that these terms originate from the language of the Yavanas. Hence there cannot be any doubt that the Yavanas could only have been Greek-speaking people.

horeti yatprāgbhavanaṃ vilagnaṃ / tataścaturthaṃ hipakākhyamāhuḥ

rasātalaṃ tadvijalaṃ ca vindyād / gṛhāśrayaṃ vṛddhipadaṃ tadeva (YJ 1.48)

“The first sign, which is rising, is called horā (= ὧρα); the forth from which they call hipaka (= hypogeion/ὑπόγειον). It can also be considered as the waterless netherworld, as the place of house and family and as the place of growth.”

lagnādgṛhaṃ saptamamastagaṃ tu / jāmitrasaṃjñaṃ yavanābhidhānam

vilagnabhāvāttu nabhastalasthaṃ / me<ṣūra>ṇākhyaṃ daśamaṃ vadanti (49)

“The seventh house from the ascendant, which is setting, is called jāmitra (= diametros/διάμετρος) in Greek (yavanābhidhānam!). From the rising house the tenth, which stands in the sky, they call meṣūraṇa (= mesouranema/μεσουράνημα).”

etaccaturlagnamudāharanti / horāvido lagnacatuṣṭayaṃ ca

sthānaṃ tu candrasya catuṣṭayākhyaṃ / meṇyaivsaṃjñaṃ yavaneṣu vindyāt (50)

“Those who know horoscopy call this the ‘four pivot points’ and ‘pivot point square’. The position of the Moon that is called ‘square’ is called meṇyaiva (= meniaios/μηνιαῖος) among the Yavanas. …”

caturvilagnaṃ pravadanti kendraṃ / tataḥ paraṃ pāṇapharaṃ tu yogam

āpoklimākhyaṃ tu tṛtīyamāhur / lagnāśrayaiṣā trividhaiva saṃjñā (53)

“They call the four angular houses kendra (= kentra/κέντρα). From there the next square (yoga) is called pāṇaphara (= epanaphora/ἐπαναφορά), and the third one they call apoklima (= ἀπόκλιμα). This is the threefold designation based on the ascendant.”

ṣaṭṣaḍguṇā rāśitṛtīyabhāgā / drekāṇasaṃjñā yavanākhyayā ye

nānāvidhacchādanacitrarūpās / tān sarvaliṅgādiguṇairvidhāsye (3.1)

“Thirty-six are the thirds of the zodiac signs, which are called drekāṇa (dekanoi/δεκανοί) by the Yavanas. They have different guises and various forms. I shall describe them with all their characteristics like gender etc.”

candrātkuṭumbopagate grahe tu / yogāgrahāste sunaphāṃ vadanti

candrapramukte ’naphareti yogaṃ / tathobhayordaurudhuraṃ vadanti. (10.1)

“When a planet follows the Moon by house, then they call this sunaphā (= sunaphe/συναφή), because it (the planet) is thrown towards exactness of conjunction. When (the planet) is let go by the Moon, they call the conjunction anapharā (= anaphora/ἀναφορά). And in both cases, they call it daurudhura (= doruphoria/δορυφορία).”

candre tu yogā yadi na syurete / catuṣṭayaṃ ca grahavarjitaṃ syāt

kemadrumetyantyaphalasya yogaḥ / sarvagrahāvekṣaṇaviprayuktaḥ (2)

“However, when the Moon has none of these conjunctions, and when the squares are also deprived of planets, then this is the aspect of weakest influence called kemadruma (= kenodromia/κενοδρομία), which is devoid of aspects with all planets.

These Greek terms in Sanskrit texts provoke fierce resistance among Indian astrologers, as if the honor of the the whole Vedic culture were at stake. Some of them declare against all reason that these terms are not Greek, but Sanskrit, and the Greeks took them over from the Indians. However, those who know the two languages​​, immediately see the absurdity of this assertion. Unfortunately, even Indian “Vedic” astrologers usually do not know much Sanskrit, let alone Greek.

Besides, it is a telling fact that krios was the common Greek word for the male sheep or ram since ancient times (Homer, Odyssey 9.447, 461), whereas in Sanskrit the word kriyaḥ for the astrological Aries appears only more than 1000 years later in Varāhamihira’s Bṛhajjātaka and never designates the biological ram. The same holds for all other zodiac signs mentioned by Varāhamihira, with the sole exception of kulīraḥ. Although the word hṛdrogaḥ also appears in the Ṛgveda, its meaning there is not “Aquarius”, but “heart disease” (hṛd + rogaḥ).

[48] Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 79.30.

[49] Pingree holds the view that the Yavanajātaka teaches a tropical year of 365.2424 days. However his text edition and translation are partly incorrect. In a critical review of Pingree’s work, K. S. Shukla proposed a year length of 365.2848 days for the Yavanajātaka, which, however, is not convincing either. (See Shukla, K. S., “The Yuga of the Yavanajātaka”, in: Indian Journal of History of Science 24(4), 1989, S. 211-223). The arguments for my solution of 365,2303 days are as follows. Yavanajātaka 79.6 says:

ṣaṭpañcakāgre dviśate sahasraṃ / teṣāṃ yuge binduyutāni ṣaṭca (79.6cd)

(Correction by K. S. Shukla: teṣām yuge viddhyayutāni ṣaṭca)

Pingree translates: “There are 60265 (days) in a yuga (of 165 years; D. K.)”. The result­ing year length is 365.2424 days, which is very close to the tropical year. The following objections must be made, though:

1. If the context is considered, teṣām clearly refers to tithiḥ not to “days”;

2. ṣaṭpañcakam must not be read as the decimal number 65, but as “six times five”, i. e. as “30”; (cf. verse 12, where Pingree himself interprets the expresssion ṣaṭpañcakam ekahīnam as “six times five minus one” = 29.)

3. The construction of the following verse 7 is parallel to this verse, and it has ayutāni, not -yutāni in the last quarter. It is very likely that verse 6 has ayutāni, too.

Therefore, the correction of the Sanskrit text as given by Shukla is most probably cor­rect, and the translation of the last part of the verse must be: “Know that there are 61230 of them (tithis) in a yuga (of 165 years).” The year length cannot be derived from this verse.

The number of days in a yuga of 165 days is given in the following verse:

teṣām (dinarātrāṇāṃ; D.K.) śate dve triśadekakāgre / ṣaṭ khāyutānyarkayugaṃ vadanti (79.7cd) (var. trikṛdaṣṭakāgre; ṣaṭcāyutany-)

(my proposal: tēṣāṃ śate dve trikaṣaṣṭikāgre / ṣaṭyutānyarkayugaṃ vadanti)

The text is unfortunately corrupt. Shukla chooses the variant trikṛdaṣṭaka-, interprets it as “32 x 8 = 72” and arrives at 60272 days per yuga. However, his interpetation of trikṛd- as “32 = 9” is ad hoc and speculative. In reality, the most probable wording is trikaṣaṣṭikāgre and 60263 days per yuga, with a resulting year length of 365.2303 days. I do not see any other solution that works grammatically and is in agreement with the verse metre and also gives a plausible year length. It seems impossible to read “70” (saptati-) without either violating the metre or accepting a greater change in the wording.

My solution is apparently confirmed in verse 11:

triṃśaddināḥ sāvanamāsa ārkas / tryagrairviśiṣṭā daśabhirmuhūrtaiḥ

kalācatuṣkeṇa ca pañcaṣaṭkais / tryagryāṃśakaiśca dviguṇaiścaturbhiḥ (79.11)

“A civil month has 30 days, a solar month in addition 13 muhūrtas, 4 kalās and 33 (thirds) and 8 (forths).”

This results in a month length of 30.435862 days and, when multiplied by 12, a year length of 365.2303 days. (Pingree gives a different translation of the thirds and forths, but the error is minimal.)

Another confirmation is found in verse 34, which explicitly mentions the length of the year:

sapañcaṣaṣṭiṃ triśataṃ dinānāṃ / dyūnaṃ dvibhinnaṃ tu dināṃśakānām

tryūnaṃ śatārdhaṃ dinakṛtsamā syāt / yayā bhavargaṃ savitā bhunakti

Pingree translates: “A year of the Sun consists of 365 days and 14;47 sixtieths (aṃśas) of a day, in which the Sun traverses the signs.” From this, he derives a tropical year length of 365.2464 days. However, there is a problem with the word dyūnam, “sorrowful, lamenting”, which Pingree seems to interpret as equivalent of ekonam or “minus 1”. It is better to read dvyūnam, i. e. “minus 2”. (I thank Martin Gansten for this proposal.) The resulting year length is 365.2297 (= 365;13,47) days, which is only 52 seconds shorter than 365.2303 days.

[50] Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 1.29.

[51] Sūryasiddhānta 14.7-10.

[52] Sūryasiddhānta 1.27ff.; 8.1ff. The beginning of the zodiac is assumed near the star Revatī. The ephemeris calculation of the Sūryasiddhānta refers to this zero point.

[53] Sūryasiddhānta 3.9-12. See also Burgess’ commentary.

[54] In Bṛhatsaṃhitā 3.1, 2, and 4, Varāhamihira clearly speaks of sidereal zodiac signs although, in verse 5, he gives astrological interpretations for the two halves of the year that begin at the solstices (3.5.). The text reads as follows (my translation significantly deviates from other ones in some places):

āśleṣārdhād dakṣiṇam uttaram ayanaṃ raver dhaniṣṭhādyam

nūnaṃ kadācid āsīd yenoktaṃ pūrvaśāstreṣu (BS 3.1)

 “In the middle of the lunar mansion Āśleshā (or at the end of sidereal Cancer) started the southward path of the Sun, and at the beginning of the lunar mansion Dhaniṣṭhā (or at the end of sidereal Capricorn) started its northward path / in ancient times. This is stated by old scientific works.”

sāmpratam ayanaṃ savituḥ karkaṭakādyaṃ mṛgāditaś cānyat ... (2)

“At present, the (southward) path of the Sun God starts at the beginning of Cancer and the other (northward path) at the beginning of Capricorn. ...”

aprāpya makaram arko vinivṛtto hanti sāparāṃ yāmyām

karkaṭakam asamprāpto vinivṛttaś cottarām aindrīm (4)

 “Even before reaching Capricorn, the Sun turns around and ends its southward, western (path). / And even before it reaches Cancer, it turns around and (ends) its northward, eastern (path).” (Note: The half-year beginning with the winter solstice was apparently associated with north and east, the other half with south and west.)

uttaram ayanam atītya vyāvṛttaḥ kṣemasasyavṛddhikaraḥ

prakṛtisthaś cāpy evaṃ  vikṛtagatir bhayakṛd uṣṇāṃśuḥ (5)

 “After the Sun God has passed the northward path, he stops bringing welfare and grain growth. / Then the hot-rayed one dwells in non-manifest state, goes the opposite way and brings danger and fear.”

The astrological interpretation of the two halves of the tropical year can be understood from ancient Vedic teachings according to which somebody who dies before the summer solstice will enter the “Path of the Gods” and overcome the cycle of rebirth, whereas somebody who dies after the summer solstice will enter the “Path of the Ancestors” and  be born again in this world. (cf. Bhagavadgītā 8.23ff., Bṛhadāraṇyaka-Upaniṣad 6.2.14ff.)

[55] Bṛhatsamhitā 3.4, at least according to my understanding of the verse, see previous footnote. Here I would disagree with other scholars who maintain that Varāhamihira used a tropical zodiac (Knappich, Geschichte der Astrologie, p. 126). Robert Hand, who also believes that Varāhamihira was a tropical astrologer, refers to Bṛhajjātakam 1.19, where Varāhamihira gives ascension times of the zodiac signs that are valid only in a tropical zodiac. (Hand, “On the Invariance of the Tropical Zodiac”) It should be noted, however, that in Varāhamihira’s time the sidereal and the tropical zodiacs practically coincided, so that those ascension times were valid for the sidereal zodiac of his time. Besides, even in later works of Hindu sidereal astrology, the ascendant is calculated from the tropical Sun and tropical rising times of the zodiac signs and then converted to the sidereal zodiac. (E.g. Mañjula, Laghumānasam)

[56] Varāhamihira mentions the so-called trepidation model of precession in Pañcasiddhāntikā 3.20-22. However, no rate of precession is given, and it is not used in calculations.

[57] Āryabhaṭa, Āryabhaṭīyam 4.1ff., at least according to my understanding of the text. It reads as follows:

meṣādeḥ kanyāntaṃ samaṃ udagapamaṇḍalārdham apayātam

taulyādeḥ mīnāntaṃ śeṣārdhaṃ dakṣiṇena eva (A 4.1)

“The first half of the zodiac that begins with Aries and ends with Virgo has northern declination. The other half that begins with Libra and ends with Pisces has southern (declination).”

tārāgrahendupātā bhramanty ajasram apamaṇḍale ’rkaś ca

arkāt ca maṇḍalārdhe bhramati hi tasmin kṣitichāyā (2)

“The stars (!), the planets, the Moon, the nodes, and the Sun constantly move along the ecliptic. And because of the sun (there are) the two halves of the (ecliptic) circle, because the Earth's shadow (observable in lunar eclipses) wanders on that (circle).”

[58] Avtar Krishen Kaul, a prominent Indian critic of sidereal astrology and the traditional sidereal calendar, disagrees with me in this point. He believes that Manjula has worked with the tropical zodiac (http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/vedic-astrology-jyotisha/634475-jyotishis-vs-shri-avtar-krishen-kaul-2-a.html, 18 October 2009). However, in my opinion, Mañjulas’s theory works in a different way. Manjula first calculates the sidereal positions of the Sun and planets (Laghumānasa, v. 2.1 '-5'). In addition he notes the value of precession (ayanacalanam = ayanāśaḥ) at the epoch and the tropical position of sun (but not of the planets!). The tropical Sun is needed later (verse 24) for the correct calculation of the ascendant. The resulting tropical position of the ascendant must have been converted to the sidereal zodiac by subtracting the ayanāṃśa. However, we cannot be completely sure that he really made this subtraction, because he does not explicitly mention this last calculation step. Maybe he used the tropical ascendant. Of course, other astrologers who used the same method, were not tropicalists either, but siderealists. Kalidāsa, who also lived in the 10th century, in his work Uttarakālāmṛtam 1.4 also applies the same algorithms, calculating the ascendant from the tropical Sun, rising times of tropical zodiac signs and the value of precession.

[59] Sūryasiddhānta 3.9-12. The original Sūryasiddhānta probably knew no precession (see Burgess, The Sûrya Siddhânta, p. 114ff.). The verses about precession were no doubt inserted only centuries after Varāhamihira. An interesting detail: Burgess points out that according to verse 3.9ab it is not the vernal point that oscillates about the sidereal zero point, but the other way round: the sidereal zero point moves relative to the vernal equinox. The wording is really strange because it produces the impression that the vernal equinox, and therefore the tropical zodiac, is the absolute reference system. In later texts, such as Bhāskara’s Siddhāntaśiromaṇi 6.17, it is the other way round: The vernal equinox is in motion relative to the fixed stars.

[60] On the history of trepidation and precession in India, see: Pingree, “Astronomy in Indian precession and trepidation before AD 1200”.

[61] First indirect evidence for the Kaliyuga date 17/18 Feb. 3102 BCE is found in late Antiquity with Āryabhaṭa I, who correlates the 3600th year of the Kaliyuga with the 23rd year of his life, corresponding to the year 499 AD. Traditionalists like to point to the inscription of King Pulakeśin II of Aihole in Karnāṭaka, which allegedly supports this dating of the Kaliyuga. However, this inscription was written in the year 634 AD and is thus even younger than Āryabhaṭa. It is therefore extremely unlikely that the dating of Kaliyuga to 18 February 3102 BC be based on a genuine tradition. Rather, it seems that it was constructed by astronomers in late Antiquity as the zero date for their planetary theory and for ephemeris calculation as outlined in the Sūryasiddhānta and other texts. If this planetary theory and the zero date 18 February 3102 BC are used to calculate planetary positions, one gets pretty good results for the period around 500 AD and several centuries before and after that; however, increasingly inaccurate results for dates that are further away from this era. For 18 February 3102 BC, of course, a precise conjunction of all planets at the sidereal 0° Aries results, but this is far away from reality.

[62] s. Calendar Reform Committee Report.

[63] In the year 285 CE, Spica transited the vernal equinox in ecliptic longitude. However, its sidereal position after Lahiri was 0°00’16” Libra, and in the year 2000 it was 29° 59’03” Virgo. Hence, the star is currently almost one arc minute before the zero point of sidereal Libra. It was exactly at 0° Libra in 667 CE. The change in position of the star is partly due to its own motion. Fixed stars are not really fixed, but change their position very slowly. And due to the so-called planetary precession (not identical to the lunisolar precession, which is responsible for the shift of the vernal equinox) the ecliptic plane and the ecliptic coordinate system also slowly change their position. In 1967, Lahiri published a corrected version of the ayanāṃśa in his Bengali book Panchanga darpan, where Spica is precisely at 0° Libra for the present epoch. However, the official standard, which is also used in common software, still differs by about one arc minute.

[64] Sūryasiddhānta 8.2ff. However, the star positions of Sūryasiddhānta are not measured in rectangular ecliptic longitude, but in polar longitude, i. e. projected along meridians onto the ecliptic. The resulting ayanāṃśa differs from the Lahiri ayanāṃśa by about 51’. It had a value of 0° in 347 CE.

[65] In Sūryasiddhānta 8.2ff., the position of Revatī is given as 29°50’ Pisces (polar longitude), and according to verse 1.27 the planetary cycles take their start at the end of the lunar mansion of Revatī. This sidereal zodiac coincided with the tropical zodiac 556 CE. The deviation from the Lahiri ayanāṃśa is amounts to 3°45’.

An alternative way to determine the zero point of the ancient zodiac is provided by the astronomer Āryabhaṭa, who says that the 23th year of his life corresponds to the 3600th year after the beginning of Kaliyuga in 3102 BCE. Hence, Āryabhaṭa was 23 years old in 499 CE. And as he takes the vernal point at sidereal 0° Aries, we can assume that this was the case in 499 CE. Hence, in this year, the mean sidereal longitude of the Sun on the day of the equinox would have been 0°. The resulting ayanāṃśa is close to the Revatī ayanāṃśa. In detail, however, problems arise here, too. On the spring equinox 499 CE, the mean Sun was not exactly at the spring equinox. This was only the case in 517 CE. Hence, the year 517 is may be a better choice as the zero year of the ayanāṃśa.

[66] Dikshit, History of Indian Astronomy, Part II, p. ?????. A similar point of view was maintained by the Calendar Reform Committee, when it recommended the Lahiri Ayanāṃśa: “This recommendation is to be regarded only as a measure of compromise, so that we avoid a violent break with the established custom.  But it does not make our present seasons in the various months as they were in the days of Varahamihira or Kalidasa. It is hoped that at not a distant date, further reforms for locating the lunar and solar festivals in the seasons in which they were originally observed will be adopted.” (Calendar Reform Committee Report, p. 5)

[67] Kollerstrom, “The Star Zodiac of Antiquity”.

[68] The reference date of its ephemeris according to the latest research is probably the year 22 CE (Yavanajātaka 79.14, vide Bill Mak, “The Date and Nature of Sphujidhvaja's Yavanajātaka Reconsidered in the Light of Some Newly Discovered Materials”, in: History of Science in South Asia, 1 (2013), pp. 9-11). However, the year count is according to the Saka era, which begins in 78 CE. We can assume that the first 165-year cycle of its astronomical calculations had not ended yet when the work was written and that it must be dated before 187 CE. Pingree had assumed 144 CE as the reference date of the ephemeris of Yavanajātaka, however on the basis of a dubious text correction. (Pingree, The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja, vol. I, p. 3ff.; vol. II, p. 415).

[69] Gil Brand, „Zurück zu den Sternen – Ein Plädoyer für den siderischen Zodiak“, http://www.astrologie-zentrum.net/publikationen/text_5.htm. (18. 9. 2011); also in: Meridian 1/2004.

[70] In the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 27 Feb. 2004, p. 59, in an article titled “Microsoft wants more security, less spam” („Microsoft will mehr Sicherheit, weniger Spam“), it says: “Rather than taking joint action with their peers, who have developed similar approaches, Microsoft has quietly and secretly and in competition with similar procedures ... developed something of its own and immediately patented.” („Anstatt mit Gleichgesinnten, die ähnliche Lösungsansätze entwickelt haben, gemeinsame Sache zu machen, hat Microsoft still und heimlich und in Konkurrenz zu ähnlichen Verfahren ... etwas eigenes entwickelt und auch gleich patentiert.“) This is Scorpio, not Libra.

[71] An equal house system, where the 1st house encompasses the whole sign of the ascendant, and where each subsequent house also encompasses a whole sign. (so-called “Whole Sign House System”)

[72] Bhat, Fundamentals of Astrology, p. 82.

[73] Bhat, op. cit., p. 89.

[74] Raman, Hindu-Astrologie, S. 76-82. Translated from German!

[75] Johnson, K., „A Vedic Perspective on Virgo and Pisces“, in: TMA 8/2004, p. 116; „The Ascetic and the Sensualist: Vedic Aries and Libra“, in: TMA 6/2005, p. 121; „The Mystic Warrior: A Vedic Perspective on Scorpio“, in: TMA 10/ 2006, p. 129.

[76] Quoted in: Varaha Mihira, Lehrbuch der altindischen Astrologie, Waakirchen (Urania), 1979, p. 130f.

[77] Cf. the descriptions of the signs in the oldest work Hellenistic Hindu astrology, Yavanajātaka, ch. 12. Here, the qualities of the zodiac signs are not mixed yet.

[78] Varaha Mihira, Bṛhajjātakam 19.2, translation by N. Chidambaram Iyer, p. 176f.

[79] E.g. A. K. Kaul wrote about the American presidential elections of 2004: “Even the “Vedic” astrologers could not say in one voice as to who the “winner” would be! In November 2004 issue (just on the eve of election!) Gayatri Devi Vasudev has predicted that Kerry would win whereas in Express Star Teller (of November 2004)  K N Rao has said that Bush will win---both have used “Vedic astrology” with the birth of time also being identical, and the dasha bhuktis and transits also being taken into account by both the “stalwarts”! Naturally, if these astrologers cannot differentiate between the horoscope of the “most powerful man of the globe” and an “also ran”----I do not see any reasons as to how they can be more successful in case of a common man like me, their Jaimini and Parashari notwithstanding!” And about the Indian elections of 2004, where the ruling party BJP was voted out: “Regarding the fact whether astrological predictions are correct or incorrect, we have seen the fate of Bhratiya Janta Party, who had preponed their elections by several months because of astrological advice.” (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Hindi-Forum/message/1618; 3. Nov. 2004)

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