Jyothisha is one among the six vedangas. It is without doubt, indian in origin and is based on an intimate understanding on the correlations between planetary movements and terrestrial happenings. Astrology as ‘Vedanga Jyothisha’ was meant primarily to select auspicious or favourable times for vedic sacrifices. These rules of Vedanga Jyothisha were basically evolved for finding Thithis and Nakshatras for Yagnas and for the use of vedic scholors who were not conversant with the 3 branches of Jyothisha, namely 1. Siddantha 2. Samhita and 3. Hora. This is evident from references to Muhurtha in “Taitiriya Brahmana” (rSfRrjh; czkã.ke~).
Most temples in India, built in accordance with the Agama Sastras, invariably have a small shrine for the Navagrahas in the premises. The Sun is always shown as seated in the centre with the remaining Grahas placed around him which is a representation of the solar system and is irrefutable evidence of the knowledge of the heliocentricity of the solar system which our ancient Indians had.
There was a feeling in some sections of the society that it was Alexander, the Great, who brought astrology to India. If you look at historical facts, Alexander was born in 356 B.C. But we know Gautama, the Buddha, was born in 623 B.C., much before Alexander. The court astrologers examining Prince Siddhartha’s chart and saying he would be the king of kings or the emperor of renunciation is common knowledge with historical evidence.
And much before this, in the historical epic ‘Mahabharata’ and even before that in the ‘Ramayana’ there are clear references to astrological facts and phenomena.
King Dasaratha wanted Rama to take over the kingdom, as Dasaratha was given a forecast by his court astrologers of the impending evil to the king because of the planetary positions.
Dasaratha tells Lord Rama
अवष्टब्धं च मे राम नक्षत्रं दारुणग्रहैः।
आवेदयन्ति दैवज्ञाः सूर्याङगारकराहुभिः।।
“Astrologers say that my birth star is afflicted by the Sun, Mars and Rahu. 4: Sloka 18 :Ayodhyakanda)
प्रायेण च निमित्तानामीदृशानां समुöवे।
राजा हि मृत्युमाप्नोति द्योरां चापदमृच्छति।।
“When such bad omens appear, the king would face a great danger and meets with death”
The prediction came right. Dasaratha was separated from his beloved son Rama, which was a great calamity to him, and later he died of the same worry.
Now coming to ‘Muhurtha’ part, Pushyami is the best constellation for coronation. Dasaratha wants his son to be coronated in that constellation. He says to Rama
अद्य चन्द्रोऽभ्युपगमत् पुष्यात् पूर्वं पुनर्वसुम्।
श्वः पुष्ययोगं नियतं वदयन्ते दैवचिन्तकाः।।
“Today Moon is in Punarvasu and astrologers say tomorrow is “Pushyami Yoga”, which is best for the coronation”.
The above constellation is highly favourable for journeys also, which was later utilised by Rama to set off for the journey to the forests.
Valmiki gives one astrological combination, at the time of Rama leaving to the forests.
दारुणाः सोममभ्येत्य ग्रहाः सर्वे व्यवस्थिताः।।
(41 :11, Ayodhya Kanda)
“Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and malefics are nearing Moon”.
Surprisingly Sage Valmiki separates the planet Mars from the list of malefics.
But his viewpoint has to be understood in this manner. For a Kshatriya, Mars is not a malefic. It is highly recommended for Kshatriya, to get his Upanayanam done on a Tuesday, where the ruler of the day is Mars. Moreover, for waging a war also, Tuesday is recommended by the astrological texts. Considering the above facts Mars is not a malefic for a king or for a prince.
After receiving the reports of Sita’s presence in Lanka, Rama asks Sugriva to get the Vanara Army ready as he wants to start to Lanka on that day as the ruling star is Uttaraphalguni.
उत्तराफल्गुनीह्यद्य श्वस्तु हस्तेन योक्ष्यते।
अभिप्रयाम सुग्रीव सर्वानीकसमावृताः।।
(4:5, Yuddha Kanda)
“Sugriva, today is Uttaraphalguni, tomorrow is Hasta. Therefore, let us start the journey, surrounded by the army, today itself.”
For Rama, Uttara is Sadhana Tara, Hasta is Nidhana Tara. He wants the journey to commence in his Sadhana Tara.
Interestingly, Valmiki gives the transits of Mercury and Mars at the time of Ravana’s death.
प्राजापत्यं च नक्षत्रं रोहिणीं शशिनः प्रियाम्।
समाक्रम्य बुधस्तस्यौ प्रजानामहितांवहः।।
(102:32, Yuddha Kanda)
Mercury is posited in Rohini, beloved of Moon, and whose lord is Prajapathi, which is unfavourable for the people of Lanka.
कोसलानां च नक्षत्रं व्यक्तमिन्द्राग्निदैवतम्।
आहत्याङगारकस्तस्यौ विशाखामपि चाम्बरे।।
(102:35, Yuddha Kanda)
“Mars is posited in Visakha, the constellation of the Kosala Desa to which Rama belongs, whose lords are Indra and Agni”.
Coming to Mahabharata, Vyasa speaks of the impending fortnight of 13days, with 2 eclipses in it, as unusual and indicative of great slaughter and killing when he meets Dhritarashtra before the war. the two eclipse falling within a 13-day fortnight are feared as filled with ominous portents.
चन्द्रादित्यावुभौ ग्रस्तावेकाह्ना हि त्रयोदशीम्।
अपर्वणि ग्रहं यातौ प्राजासंक्षयमिच्छतः।।
(3:28, Bhishma Parva)
The peculiarity here is Lunar and solar eclipses came one after the other within 13days, and that too neither on a “Full Moon day” nor on a “New Moon day”. It is very difficult for us to comprehend the eclipses between the two thithis ‘Amavasaya’ and ‘Purnima’. But Varahamihira also quotes in “Brihatsamhita” about these types of eclipses. He points to the planet Tvashta (Ro"Vk) while giving reason to these types of eclipses. The sloka runs as follows.
सतमस्कं पर्व विना त्वष्टा नामार्कमण्डलं कुरुते।
स निहन्ति सप्तभूपान् जनांश्च शस्त्राग्निदुर्भिक्षैः।।
( 3:6, Aditya Charadhyayah)
Coming back to Mahabharata, Sage Vyasa gives the planetary positions at the time of Mahabharata war and the predictive part of the above combinations, in the 3rd Adhyaya of Bhishma Parva.
मद्यास्वङगारको वक्रः श्रवणे च बृहस्पतिः।
भगं नक्षत्रमाक्रम्य सूर्यपुत्रेण पीडयते।। 14।।
शुक्रः प्रोष्ठपदे पूर्वे समारुह्य विरोचते।
उत्त्तरे तु परिक्रम्य सहितः सहितः समुदीक्षिते।।15।।
श्वेतो ग्रहः प्रज्वलितः सधूम इव पावकः।
ऐन्द्रं तेजस्वि नक्षत्रं ज्येष्ठमाक्रम्य तिष्ठति।। 16।।
रोहिणीं पीडयन्येवमुभौ च शशिभास्करौ।
चित्रा स्वात्यन्तरे चैव विष्ठितः परुषग्रहः।।17।।
From the above slokas and the other unquoted ones from the above chapter, we can prepare the Rasi Chart, at the time when ‘Mahabharatha War’ was just about to begin, which is as follows.
Planets - Constellations
Sun, Moon - Between Chitra and Swathi
Mars - Magha
Jupiter - Sravana
Saturn - Poorvaphalguni
Rahu - Chitra
Kethu - Jyeshta
Venus - Poorvabhadra
I took the help of Neelakantha Dikshitas’ commentary on Mahabharatha, without which it is very difficult to decipher the slokas.
Generally, Rahu and Kethu are 1800 apart. But here, they are coming in the opposite directions to eclipse both the luminaries, which is very dangerous to the rulers as well as the ruled, according the Nilakantha.
In the above chapter, Vyasa gives the positions of the Upagrahas also. He says Dhumakethu is in Pushyami and Parigha is in Uttarabhadra. He attaches great importance in the predictive part for these sub-planets also.
After going through Mahabharata, anybody can estimate the astrological knowledge of most of the characters in the epic. For example, when Krishna tries to convince Karna to come to Pandavas’ side as a last minute bid to avert war, Karna stuns us by saying that he knows that Pandavas are going to win the war. He cites the transit of the planets and the result thereof in the following verses.
प्राजापत्यं हि नक्षत्रं ग्रहस्तीक्ष्णो महाद्युतिः।
शनैश्चरः पीडयति पीडयन् प्राणिनोऽिधकम्।।
नूनं महöयं कृष्ण कुरुणां समुपस्थितम्
विशेषेण हि वाष्र्णेय चित्रां पीडयते ग्रहः।।
“The constellation of Prajapathi, ‘Rohini’, is heavily afflicted by saturn, indicating destruction of the people. The constellation ‘Chitra’ is also heavily afflicted by the malefics indicating the ruin of the kings, especially Kurus”.
A fortnight or Paksha is not 2 weeks as is understood generally. One Paksha is of 14days, 43 Ghatis, 55 Vighatis duration and is the period between one New Moon and the succeeding Full Moon as defined in Surya Siddhanta. The 13 days Paksha is not possible when the mean motions of sun and the Moon are taken into account. It is possible only if true positions are reckoned. For calculating true positions of planets, a high level of knowledge of astronomy is required. This and other episodes in the Mahabharata and Ramayana show that even thousands of years ago, ancient indians had advaned greatly in Jyothisha.
In ancient India, there was no dogma and the spirit of enquiry was strongly encouraged. This is why we have so many schools of thought in every branch of learning.
Vada and prativada were encouraged equally and a discipline stood or fell only on its intrinsic merit. If in an atmosphere of such gruelling enquiry, astrology has survived for thousands of years, isn’t it proof enough of its validity?