Indian Astrology

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Jyotish chart of George Bush (sr.)
The message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasize fate – the result of past good and evil – but to arouse man’s will to escape from his universal thralldom. What he has done, he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are now prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation, because he created it by his own actions in the first place, and because he has spiritual resources which are not subject to planetary pressure.

Sri Yukteswar[1]

Synonyms: Vedic astrology, Hindu astrology, Jyotish

Indian astrology is a unique synthesis of Babylonian and Hellenistic elements combined with elements of the Hindu religion as handed down in the Vedas. They therefore have a similar basis to Western astrology. But the completely different cultural and religious environment that confronted the Babylonian star gazers East of the Indus led to the development of a different system that at first glance seems foreign to Europeans.

Around 1500 BCE Indo-Germanic peoples populated the North-West part of the Indian subcontinent. They called themselves Aryans (= noble ones) and were the founders of the Hindu religion. Central to this belief were the ideas of Karma, the belief in reincarnation and a hierarchical caste system. The belief that an individual's fate was the result of past deeds and had to be fatalistically accepted became widespread. This also influenced the development of Indian astrology.

When they conquered India, the Aryans came into contact with a high culture of Dravidian peoples in the Indus valley and the descendants of prehistoric nomads known today as the Adivasi (= indigenous people). These pre-Aryan peoples had a well-established Moon cult; however, little else is known about their astrological system.

In contrast to the other main Asiatic system, Chinese Astrology, Indian astrology is based on the well-known zodiac signs developed by the Babylonians. In addition, they use the seven (classical) planets and the rising and descending Moon's Nodes. This results in nine important points, an especially popular number in Indian mythology. The planets are associated with the same days of the week as in Western astrology. Indian astrology also uses a system of twelve houses and their rulers and the aspects between the planets.

Sri Yukteswar, Indian yogi and guru[2]

This is where the similarity with Western astrology ends. The unique form of Indian astrology has been strongly influenced by Hinduism, but also by other, older traditions.

The most significant differences to Western astrology lie in the role of the Moon and the Moon's Nodes, the use of the sidereal zodiac, the order and numbering of the houses, the further division into numerous segments and planetary periods together with individual methods of prognosis and interpretation which are closely linked to the theory of Karma.

The Moon has particular significance in Indian astrology. It is not just one among many celestial bodies that make up the luminaries but the most essential one. Indian astrology could even be described as lunar astrology because of the tradition to divide the zodiac into 27 Moon houses of 13 degrees 20 minutes each. These are poetically described as the "27 Women of the Moon". In Hindi they are called Nakshatras. The length of a Moon house is exactly equal to the average movement of the Moon during the course of one day. In Indian mythology, the Moon is wed to 27 sisters and visits a different one each day. On its journey it becomes ever weaker till it reaches the lowest point at which it recovers and its energy increases. The Moon's house position has a particularly important influence on terrestrial life. Put simply, the waxing Moon is considered to be beneficial and the waning Moon detrimental.

Great significance is also attributed to the Moon's North and South Nodes. The North Node is called Rahu, the South Ketu. They are considered to be very negative. In mythology the Moon's Node was a dragon that wanted to overthrow the gods. The attempt failed because the Sun god decapitated the dragon. But beforehand the dragon had drunk from the immortal nectar and so the head became immortal.

The recently discovered outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) play a peripheral role at most in Indian astrology, although some astrologers include them in their calculations. The majority of Indian astrologers work with a horoscope based on the sidereal zodiac. The deviation in relation to the tropical zodiac caused by the Precession of the Equinoxes is called ayanamsha.


Indian astrology uses an equal House System with the rising (= ascendant's) degree as the mid-point of the house. And it can be with overlapping signs alike the western Placidus system.which, in contrast to house systems used in Western astrology, runs in a clockwise direction.

Houses can be geomatrically finetuned where the houses can be slightly smaller or bigger few degrees more or less.

Signs suggest how a planet will behave and whether elevated-debilated etc. Houses indicate the agenda/ subject matter of the house, while the Lord of the house cusp is the Lord of the house.

The planetary aspects are from sign to sign, however.

And the graphic portrayal is rectangular.

A further distinctive feature is the division of the zodiac and planetary orbits into ever-smaller segments. The most common are the decants which are segments of 10 degrees and Navashmas which are segments of 3 degrees and 20 which result from dividing the signs by the mythical number nine while also representing one quarter of a Moon house. These methods are used to refine the process of prognosis. Another method designed for this purpose is the division of a life-span into so-called Dashas, which are themselves further divided into periods called Bhuktis. The Dashas are calculated according to the position of the Moon in the horoscope.

Finally, Indian astrology has been influenced by many of the concepts that have also influenced Western astrology. The planets, signs and houses are viewed in a strongly judgmental way. The fifth and ninth houses are considered to be especially beneficial, the twelfth stands for loss, the sixth is antagonistic. This rigid correlation paves the way for determinism. The common interpretation of the concept of Karma also strengthens this fact. The present life must be accepted as the consequence of former lives. The horoscope shows the basic disposition and nothing can be done to change this. If everything is already predetermined, astrology simply has the role of revealing the future. Insofar prognosis is the most important area of application.

The modern, emancipated branch of Hindu philosophy does not agree with the idea of determinism. It maintains that Karma is created in every moment, so that each individual is an active creator of their own fate. On this understanding, astrology takes on an altogether different significance. Instead of revealing the inevitable, it can reveal favourable and unfavourable times for particular actions and offer creative solutions.

The time of death is a central element of prognosis in Indian astrology. The subject of death is far less taboo in India than in the majority of Western countries. The people are more at ease with the subject. From a Hindu point of view the prognosis of the time of death is often considered to be a great help in planning to improve one's Karma for the following life. It is common practice for people to erect a horoscope for the time of death because it is thought to reveal aspects of the next incarnation.

Indian Zodiac symbols[3]



  • Richard Houck: Hindu Astrology Lessons: 36 Teachers Share Their Wisdom 250 Pages. Groundswell Press 1997 ISBN 0964161265 ISBN 978-0964161269
  • David Pingree: From Alexandria to Baghdad to Byzantium. The Transmission of Astrology, in: International Journal of the Classical Tradition. Summer 2001, Vol. 8, issue 1, p. 3–35

Notes and References

  1. Teacher of Yogananda
  2. Photo from 1905
  3. On the terrace of a Gopuram at Kanipakam, Andhra Pradesh/ India