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 superiority of their teachings over Western astrology.
Whoever dares to critically question Hindu astrology enters an ideological minefield. Many Hindu scholars see approaches of Western science to their culture, history and sacred texts as assaults upon their spiritual tradition and their national pride. Unfortunately, some of them are not willing or able to discuss the matters in a sober and objective way but respond with aggression, tell their opponents that they have no competence at all, ridicule them, or accuse them of telling lies or wanting to destroy Hindu culture. Others avoid a real discussion, saying, e.g.: "The texts of the Vedas have been written in such a way that the non-initiated should not be able to interpret it". At least, these were the words that a Hindu scholar used when I just wanted a rational discussion on problematic passages in the Vedic writings. Western followers of Eastern teachings unfortunately often take over such patterns of behaviour.
What 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. 1 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 does 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. To a western outsider, this is really difficult to understand because all these traditions believe that they teach the knowledge of the truth and the divine. These phenomena can be studied in depth in the numerous forums devoted to the themes of Indian astrology and astronomy, calendar, archaeology, etc. 2 Therefore it can be quite difficult to support a constructive conversation with representatives of Indian traditions.
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.
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. 3 Evil tongues say that the term was invented only because "Vedic" – i.e. spiritual – astrology sells better. 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. Some Vedic astrologers believe that this original and “most authoritative” textbook of astrology is the popular Bṛhat-parāśara-horā-śāstra, allegedly written by the Vedic Rishi Parāśara himself.3a 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.3b 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;3c 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, the solstices, and the equinoxes. Planets play no role at all in the Vedas, zodiac signs are completely unknown.4 Observations of the sky played an important part in the Vedic sacrificial cult, but there is no evidence for a natal horoscopy as we know it today.
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. 5 In the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa, the oldest Indian astronomical and calendrical textbook, the signs of the zodiac do not appear either. 6
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). 7 It 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 and zodiac signs seem not to be of any interest. 8 After all, it is clear that some kind of natal astrology was known to these texts. They also state that all "lights" were in an auspicious position, when Kṛṣṇa was born.
The Rāmāyaṇa epic basically does not know zodiac signs either, although some versions of it give astrological information about the birth of Rāma (chap. 1:17): The moon and Jupiter were rising in Cancer, and five planets were in their exaltations or domiciles. However, this part of the text 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. Thus, it can not be considered a valid reference for an original Vedic astrology. In fact, it is strongly influenced by the Hellenistic tradition of astrology.
Another point 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 season-based tropical year and its cardinal points. 9 Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168 says that the year is based on the seasons. 10 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. 11 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. 12 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 of 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, are well aware of this problem and fight for a tropical reform of the Vedic calendar.12a
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 mansion. 13 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. 14 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 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.
Even worse for "Vedic" astrologers, some Vedic texts consider "astrologers" as impure folks. After the "Laws of Manu", people who earn their living through astrology are not allowed to attend Vedic rituals. 15 Bhīṣma, the great hero of the Mahābhārata epic also counts astrologers among the "most depraved of the Brahmins". Not only does he consider it shameful "to earn one’s living from the stars" but even more generally the predicting of astrological dates or the performing of "star sacrifices". 16
However, that does not mean that any kind of astrology is rejected. 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. 17 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. 18 Another chapter explains, in which lunar mansion ancestral rites should be performed, and what would be the benefit of it. 19 But all this does not correspond to what modern "Vedic" astrologers do. 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.
From about the second century AD on, astrologers and astronomers from Hellenistic Egypt 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-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. Unfortunately, representatives of Indian astrology cannot accept these facts because they want to see "Vedic" astrology as it is as an original part of Vedic religion, which they consider as perfect, absolute and universal from its very beginning. However, what I am saying is expressly confirmed by ancient Indian authorities, such as Varāhamihira, an important Hindu astrologer living in the 6th century AD. 20 The oldest astrological work in Sanskrit that knows the zodiac is the Yavanajātaka ("birth chart according to the Greeks") by Sphujidhvaja, a textbook of astrology in verse that, according to its own testimony, is based on a Sanskrit translation of a Greek original. David Pingree suggested that this text was written in the 2nd century BC in Alexandria and came to India around 150 AD. 21
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 Capricorn22 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.23 However, in the first chapter, it fixes the zodiac signs at the lunar mansions, and thus interprets them as sidereal.25 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 26 and at the same time at the lunar mansions. 27 But unlike the Yavanajātakam, the Sūryasiddhānta teaches sidereal, not tropical, ephemerides. A brief passage about precession seems to be an interpolation. 28 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. 29 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. 30 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? 31
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. 32 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.
Also 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. 33 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. Now, the ancient Indian model of precession, the so-called trepidation theory, also describes a cycle that starts on the same date. E.g. the Sūryasiddhānta’s version of trepidation assumes that the vernal equinox oscillates around the sidereal Aries point in a cycle of 7200 years, with a maximum elongation of 27°. 34 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. 35
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. 36 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
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.
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. 37
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.
Where did this sidereal zodiac that was fixed at the star Spica originate? In ancient Indian sources, unfortunately, it cannot be found. The fundamental work of ancient Indian astronomy, the Sūryasiddhānta, assumes the beginning of the zodiac at the star Revatī (ζ Piscium). This sidereal zodiac coincided with the tropical one in the year 564 AD. Manjula, the already mentioned great astronomer of the 10th century, also worked with this zodiac. The introduction of the Lahiri standards has therefore been followed by bitter quarrels. Even today, supporters of the Lahiri and the Sūryasiddhānta zodiac violently fight each other. And they do so for a good reason: the difference between the two zodiacs is about 3°. 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. Dikshita, who in the late 19th century wrote an important book on the history of Indian astronomy. Dikshita 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. 38 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. 39 This may be a me re 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 astrological text, 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. According to David Pingree, this text was written around the year 150 AD.39a Its zodiac should therefore differ from the Lahiri zodiac by almost 2°, from the Sūryasiddhānta zodiac by almost 5°. And as for 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: If the calendar reform of 1956 had not introduced the Lahiri Ayanāṃśa as a standard, then the majority of Hindu astrologers today would work with the Ayanāṃśa of the Sūryasiddhānta, i.e. with a zodiac that has its zero point three degrees earlier.
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 in 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 current debate over whether the Indian sidereal or the Western tropical zodiac should be used is 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. In Hindu astrology, the zodiac signs play a much smaller role than in Western astrology. And unlike Europeans and Americans, Indians do not ask each other about their Sun sign, but rather about the zodiac sign of their natal moon. As a consequence, 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 Brand’s investigation in his "plea for the sidereal zodiac", 40 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 Brand’s 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. 41
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 zodiacs 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. 42 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! 43 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. 44
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. The question of whether the tropical or sidereal Cancer should be used will not arise here because so-called “Cancer” is associated with very different ideas.
Not that Western astrology has always given much importance to the psychological interpretation of the zodiac signs. This is a rather recent phenomenon of the 20th Century. However, in the current controversy about the true zodiac it should be noticed that only Western astrology is really interested in the interpretation of the zodiac signs, and it seems to work quite well with the tropical zodiac.
Other descriptions of zodiac signs which are closer to 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. 45
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. 46
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 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"). 47 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. 48
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.
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. 50 Also as regards the question of the correct 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 one’s interest only to teaching the enlightened knowledge of one’s own tradition. Unfortunately, astrologers and astrology schools – not only the Vedic – tend to such sect-like behaviour.
© Dieter Koch, 2011
1 An impressive example is the interpretation of ChUp 6.8.7: tat satyam sa ātmā tat tvam asi, "this is the true, this is the Self, this art thou". The Dvaitavedānta tradition of Madhvācārya, which teaches the difference between the individual and God, reads the same text: tat satyam sa ātmā-atat tvam asi, "... this is the true, this is the (divine) Self, this thou art not". Such violent treatment of sacred texts are anything but rare. Although the Advaitavedānta tradition of Śaṅkarācārya, from a superficial level, seems to be more in tune with the meaning of quoted text, on a more subtle level it also twists the meaning of the text. As a result of the radical non-duality of all things taught by Śaṅkara, the teaching of Kṛṣṇa, which is essentially focused on selfless deeds, understood as a constant sacrifice to God, is twisted into a doctrine of the unreality of all individual existence, within which selfless deeds and worship ultimately make no sense at all. Similar phenomena appear in the astrological tradition, as I will show below.
3 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://groups.yahoo.com/group/HinduCalendar/message/8175 und http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HinduCalendar/message/8189)
Chakrapani Ullal (allegedly on 19 January 1979:
3a 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)
3b 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.
3c I refer to the article by Shyamasundara (see preceding footnote).
4 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
"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
"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. 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."
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" stands for the 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 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 22.214.171.124-10, 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 126.96.36.199 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).
5 The very few instances 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". In MBh 3.188.87 and 6.3.17, where the term appears in an astronomical context, rāśiḥ might mean any cluster of stars, any kind of constellation, not only zodiac signs. In the latter instance, the moon in brahmarāśiḥ might indicate the moon in the lunar mansion Abhijit, because Brahmā is considered the ruler of this lunar mansion.
At the very beginning of the epic (MBh 1.3.60-70), 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. In the astrology of late antiquity, the zodiac begins with the lunar mansion Aśvinī, which coincides with the beginning of Aries. It is interesting, however, that not even one zodiac sign is expressly mentioned. There is no evidence at all that they are already known to the text. There is only mention of the twelve months. (The online translation by Ganguli is unfortunately misleading. The mention of "twelve signs of the zodiac" is mere interpretation and is not found in the original Sanskrit text; http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/ m01004.htm.)
6 There is only one reference to a zodiac sign (rāśiḥ) in the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa, it appears only in one of the two versions of the text (the yājuṣa recension) and in a verse that is not numbered. Reasonably, the editor of the critical edition, T. S. Kuppannasastry, assumes that the verse is spurious, i. e. an interpolation, even more so as zodiac signs otherwise do not appear in the Vedic texts. (Sarma (ed.), Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa of Lagadha, p. 50)
7 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).
8 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).
9 cf. Dikshit, History of Indian Astronomy, part I, p. 140f.
10 ṛtubhir hi saṃvatsaraḥ śaknoti sthātum (ŚB 188.8.131.52), "it is by means of the seasons that the year is able to stand".
11 The text is explained in: Sengupta, Ancient Indian Chronology, p. 155ff.
12 Sengupta, op. cit., p. 163ff.
12a Vide Kaul's Hindu Calendar Forum, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hinducalendar/.
13 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 184.108.40.206), where "mouth" means "beginning" (cf. Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 220.127.116.11). Furthermore, it is said that the stars of Kṛttikā, the Pleiades, "do not deviate from the East" (prācyai diso na cyavante, Śatapathabrāhmaṇa 18.104.22.168; prācīṃ na parijahati, Baudhāyanaśrautasūtra 25.3.5). Taittirīyabrāhmaṇa 22.214.171.124f. 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.
14 Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 79.30; Varāhamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā 3.2; Āryabhaṭa, Āryabhaṭīyam 4.1; Sūryasiddhānta 14.7-10; see also Dikshit, Bharatiya Jyotish Sastra, p. 139. In the case of the Sūryasiddhānta, this conclusion is confirmed by the following facts: The ephemerides of the Sūryasiddhānta 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.
15 ... hastigo'śvoṣṭradamako nakṣatrair yaśca jīvati / pakṣiṇāṃ poṣako yaś ca yuddhācāryas tathaiva ca / ... etān vigarhitācārān apāṅkteyān dvijādha mān / 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>."
16 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."
17 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."
18 MBh 13.63(64).5ff.
19 MBh 13.89.2ff.
20 Varāhamihira, Bṛhatsaṃhitā, 2.32:
mlecchā hi yavanās teṣu samyak śāstram idaṃ sthitam
"The Yavanas are foreigners. Among them this science fully exists."
The Yavanas are the Ionians, a Greek tribe that lived in Asia Minor. Indian astrology took over the twelve zodiac signs from the West, not the other way round as some Indian astrology gurus like to claim. In ancient Indian texts one also finds the Greek names of the zodiac signs, e.g. in Varāhamihira’s 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.
21 Pingree, Jyotiḥśāstra, p. 81.
22 Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 79.30.
23 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
(Correction by K. S. Shukla: teṣām yuge viddhyayutāni ṣaṭca)
Pingree translates: “There are 60265 (days) in a yuga (of 165 years;
D. K.)”. The result-ing year length is 365.2424 days, which is very
close to the tropical year. The following objections must be made,
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;
(my proposal: tēṣāṃ śate dve trikaṣaṣṭikāgre / ṣaṭcāyutānyarkayugaṃ vadanti)
The text is unfortunately corrupt. Shukla chooses the variant trikṛdaṣṭaka-, interprets it as “3^2 x 8 = 72” and arrives at 60272 days per yuga. However, his interpetation of trikṛd- as “3^2 = 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.
25 Sphujidhvaja, Yavanajātakam 1.29.
26 Sūryasiddhānta 14.7-10.
27 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.
28 Sūryasiddhānta 3.9-12. See also Burgess’ commentary.
29 Bṛhatsaṃhitā 3.1-5. 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
uktābhāvo vikṛtiḥ pratyakṣaparīkṣaṇair vyaktiḥ (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. / The non-existence of what was stated (in ancient times indicates) a change. Evidence (is achieved) by direct observations."
(Verse 3 concerns the usage of the gnomon to determine the solstices.)
aprāpya makaram arko vinivṛtto hanti sāparāṃ yāmyām
karkaṭakam asamprāpto vinivṛttaś cottarām aindrīm (4)
"Before arriving at Capricorn, the Sun changes his course and ends his lower, southward and death-related (path). / And before arriving at Cancer, he changes his course and (ends) his upper/northward and Indra-related (path)."
(Note: Yama is the God of death, Indra the king of the gods. Current translations similar to: "If the Sun should change his course before reaching Capricorn, he would cause the destruction of countries in the west and south...", do not make any sense astronomically because the condition is fulfilled for all years since about 500 A.D.)
uttaram ayanam atītya vyāvṛttaḥ kṣemasasyavṛddhikaraḥ
prakṛtisthaś cāpy evaṃ vikṛtagatir bhayakṛd uṣṇāṃśuḥ (5)
"After (the Sun God) has passed the northward path as a bringer of growth of welfare and grain, he changes his course, / and, following his nature, just like that goes the opposite way and with his hot rays 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., Taittirīya-Brāhmaṇa 126.96.36.199f.)
30 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)
31 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.
32 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)."
33 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. 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 a sidereal ascendant from the tropical Sun, rising times of tropical zodiac signs and the value of precession.
34 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.
35 On the history of trepidation and precession in India, see: Pingree, "Astronomy in Indian precession and trepidation before AD 1200".
36 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. (Āryabhaṭīyam 3.10) 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.
37 s. Calendar Reform Committee Report.
38 Dikshit, History of Indian Astronomy, Part II. 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)
39 Kollerstrom, "The Star Zodiac of Antiquity".
39a Pingree, The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja, vol. I, p. 3ff.; vol. II, p. 415.
40 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.
41 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.
42 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")
43 Bhat, Fundamentals of Astrology, p. 82.
44 Bhat, op. cit., p. 89.
45 Raman, Hindu-Astrologie, S. 76-82. Translated from German!
46 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.
47 Quoted in: Varaha Mihira, Lehrbuch der altindischen Astrologie, Waakirchen (Urania), 1979, p. 130f.
48 Cf. the descriptions of the signs in the oldest work of Hellenistic Hindu astrology, Yavanajātaka, ch. 12. Here, the qualities of the zodiac signs are not mixed yet.
50 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)