The origin of Jyotish Vidya or the Indian style of astrology is not new. Infact it is quite old and is said to have been derived from the Vedas which are circa 1000-1500 BCE. Though the Jyotish Vidya is considered to stand independent of the wide arrayed knowledge system of Sanatan Dharma, it is at the end of the day one of the six main arms of Vedas. Hence it is categorized as Vedanga i.e. part of Veda.
Though the word Veda is used for the four epic volumes of Indian civilization’s knowledge which have a total of 25000 plus shlokas or verses, the word in the context of astrology means something else. Veda is an ancient Sanskrit word that is derived from the root vid which means to know or to gain knowledge. So Vedanga in essence means part of knowledge or a way of achieving knowledge.
In short, there are many Vedanga or ways of attaining knowledge in the Indian knowledge system, one of which is Jyotish or Vedic Astrology.
What is Vedic Astrology?
To avoid confusion let me first define what Vedic astrology is and most importantly what it is not. The Indian way of astrology involves the usage of mathematics and precise movements of planets with respect to Earth to analyze how the said planets affect the life of an individual or a group of individuals. Hence it doesn’t include other ways of pseudo-astrology or rather fortune telling like palmistry, face reading, tarot cards, and crystal balls.
These methods may have their own logical or practical uses but these are not a part of Sanatan Dharma Jyotish. Readers often confuse the comparatively new practices of fortune-telling that are prevalent today primarily in Western Astrology -and in some parts of India- with the ancient astrological studies belonging to the Indian subcontinent. Hence I felt compelled to make this differentiation outright.
How Does Jyotish Work?
Now let us understand the basic principles of Jyotish and how it works. The working mechanism of Jyotish lies in the fact that when a human, the position of the 9 grahas affects the body makeup of that individual.
In Vedic Astrology, the sky or the space around Earth is divided into 12 Rashis and 27 Nakshatras.
The position of a specific Graha in a particular Rashi and nakshatra along with its location in comparison to the other grahas decides what kind of effect it will have on the newborn.
Each graha has a unique personality and temperament. So it leaves a unique effect on the body of the infant, depending on the Rashi, Nakshatra, and degree of the particular graha at the time of birth. For example, let us assume that when a person was born the Mesha Rashi -Ares in Western Astrology- was in the sky and the Mangal Graha -planet Mars- was present in that Rashi. Now the planet Mars is considered of high energy and a rageful temperament in Indian astrology. So the presence of Mars or Mangal in the sky at the time of birth means that the boy or girl will have a high pitta and Taseer which roughly translates to a high metabolism rate. A jatak or infant of Mangal hence has a lot of rage and has an equally attractive personality. It’s just an example however and the position of other grahas also affects the personality and other factors.
What is a Graha?
The word graha is very important in the context of Indian astrology because this is what differentiates it from Western Astrology. That is why I have deliberately used it in place of the word planet inspite of the fact that many western and even Indian astrologers incorrectly use the words planet and graha exchangeably.
I regularly hear people especially pseudo-intellectual Hindus calling Vedic Jyotish illogical because it calls Sun and Moon planets but not Neptune and Pluto. Let me clear this doubt once and for all. First of all, the word Graha doesn’t mean planet at all, and hence translating graha as “planet” in English is entirely incorrect. Secondly, an English translation for this word is not possible since there is no exact word for it in the English language.
The word Graha comes from the root grah and in extension grahan which means to accept or receive something. Thus Graha in Indian astrology, as well as the Vedas, is used to describe a heavenly body that affects the human body in one way or the other. This is why Sun and Moon are considered grahas but not Neptune and Pluto because the sun and moon have a measurable effect on the human body. On the other hand, Neptune and Pluto are so far from Earth that they have little or no effect on our body and hence are not considered graha. Additionally to include the effects of solar and lunar eclipses on our bodies two virtual grahas Rahu and Ketu have been added to the pantheon of grahas, making them nine in total. I hope this clears the confusion with the word Graha and its relation to the word planet.
How is a Kundli made?
Having known the position of the Navgraha in the different Rashis and Nakshatras the graha are then divided into three types: Mitra (Benefic), Shatru (Malefic), and Samm (Neutral). The rashis under the lordship of all the grahas, the position of the graha itself, its degree, and its position with respect to the other grahas are then used to prepare a Kundli or birth chart.
Kundli gives an all-encompassing view of the jatak’s life including his basic personality, performance in basic and advanced studies, success or loss in a particular field, and much more. But this prediction is strictly probabilistic. What it means is that the probability of a certain event happening is strong as compared to any other event. For example, if the Brihaspati or Jupiter of a jatak is benefic his education is good, or if Shani or Saturn is malefic he lacks discipline and determination in his life.
This, however, doesn’t mean that a person who has a strong Jupiter will necessarily be an ardent student. Think of it this way. The position of planets is such that you will have success in the field of education and there will be no distractions in your mind while studying. But that doesn’t mean that if you sit at home adamant not to study, the planet Jupiter will come to your house and urge you to study. Free will is always a factor.
How do Planets Affect Our Life?
The planets and their effects are like the flow of a river. If you are swimming in a river and the current is with you it is easier for you to reach your destination. Going against the current is difficult but not impossible. However, if you choose to sit on the bank, the river will not persuade you to swim in it. It is not her job to do so, just like it is not the job of the planet to urge you to study or be successful.
The planets are there to make favorable and unfavorable conditions in particular fields of your life. So at the end of the day, you always have a say in the matter, as said by Shree Krishana in Bhagavad Geeta. A person creating your Kundli can’t tell you the exact day and date when you will die. He in turn can tell you in which period of your life you will have a high chance of facing life-threatening danger or pain equivalent to it. Infact there is a specific Rashi and Kundli house for that.