Vedic Astrology

Vedic Astrology (Hindu Astrology)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Hindu astrology, or Vedic astrology, as it is more commonly referred to by its practitioners, has made tremendous inroads into the Western astrological community in recent years. The origins of Vedic astrology are primarily in India and have flourished for several thousand years. According to modern Vedic scholars, a continuous record of basic astrological knowledge can be traced back to 2500 b.c.e. and the Indus Valley region. As one of the true systems of astrology, Vedic astrology is renowned for its spiritual depth and accuracy in predicting future events. Based on the sidereal zodiac, it reflects an astronomer’s perception of the movement of planets through the constellations.

The father of Vedic astrology is Parashara Muni. He was reported to have lived around 1500 b.c.e. and was supposedly one of the first astrologers to actually cast natal charts for individuals. The date of his life is speculative and based on oral tradition. It is recorded that he made a specialized study of medical astrology that reflected health, disease, and longevity issues, and copies of his manuscripts still exist in India. His greatest work was The Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, which was finally compiled around 600 c.e. Parashara also wrote beautiful esoteric hymns in the Rig Veda (a Vedic text) that were mantras to the planetary deities. The seer Ranavira was another important astrologer who lived during the same era as Parashara. Ranavira specialized in relationship compatibility, female horoscopy, and other psychological aspects of astrology. In modern astrological practice in India, chart comparisons for marriage compatibility are still commonly utilized.

Vedic astrology is also called jyotisha, which means “luminous, brilliant, celestial, shining, belonging to the world of light.” It is truly the science of light. Vedic astrology attempts to shine the cosmic light on an individual’s true life path. It is a key to understanding the soul’s intention or divine plan for this incarnation. Similar to the function of a true guru, the Vedic astrologer attempts to be the “dispeller of darkness.” The jyotishi or Vedic astrologer can be viewed as a priest or priestess, life counselor, teacher, and sage.

As in Western astrology, the rasi or natal chart is based on the date, place, and exact time of birth. The exact moment of birth is usually considered to be the time of the first breath or cry of the newborn. Many jyotishis also use the time when the umbilical cord is cut. Planetary calculations are based on the sidereal zodiac, which is based on the fixed positions of the stars. Western astrology is based on the tropical zodiac (seasonal). There is an approximate difference of 22° to 24° between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs, depending on in which part of the last century one was born. To calculate the Vedic natal chart by hand, subtract approximately 23° from the tropical positions of the subject’s natal planets and ascendant. For example, 3° Virgo sun in Western astrology would be around 10° Leo in the Vedic natal chart.

According to Vedic philosophy, the natal chart represents an individual’s past karmic patterns. In Varahamihara’s Brihat Jataka, the natal chart reflects “the results of the good and bad deeds done by men in their previous births.” Thus, this system is based on the theory of reincarnation and the laws of karma. It is important not to confuse the theory of astrology with fatalism. According to Vedic astrologer Chakrapani Ullal, the Hindu system of astrology emphasizes that “the planets are only the indicative forces and they do not determine the events of life in a fatalistic way. It is for the person concerned, to make use of the indications available, to change the course of one’s life by using one’s willpower, self-effort and by gaining the grace of God” (personal communication).

The Grahas (Planets)

The basis for understanding astrology is to learn the significations of the planets. The Vedic term for planet is graha, which means “demon” or “what possesses a person.” The planets represent the maya, or illusions that can veil one’s divine nature. One must learn to befriend all planets and make them allies. The position of the planets in an individual’s birth chart reflects the person’s strengths as well as areas that may need to be healed. Each planet signifies certain aspects of life. The following is a list of grahas and their karakas or significators (i.e., what they indicate in a person’s life):

Sun/Surya: Physical appearance, health and general vitality, soul (atman) nature, father, nobility, and leadership or status. Heart, circulation, right eye, and head.

Moon/Chandra: Emotions and perceptual mind, mother, early childhood, memory and past experience, and influence on the public. Breasts, left eye, stomach, and womb.

Mercury/Budha: Rational mind, speech, writing, language systems, intelligence, logic, discrimination, and education. Nervous system, lungs, mouth, tongue, and skin.

Venus/Shukra: Wife, beauty, art, music, singing, flowers, gems, cooperation, harmony, happiness, marriage, contentment, and love. Reproductive system, kidneys, and face.

Mars/Mangala: Courage, valor, energy, brothers, properties, achievement, dynamism, fires, conflicts, war, enemies, oppression, discord, and accidents. Muscles, sexual passion, and blood.

Jupiter/Guru: Religion, higher education, teaching, counseling, consulting, advisor, wealth, children, husband, good fortune, holy places, pilgrimages, travel, and law. Liver, allergies, and fat.

Saturn/Sani: Structure, organization, truth, stability, perseverance, discipline, diseases, delay, loss, father (night births), authority figures, separations, and limitations. Bones, teeth, and nerves.

North Node/Rahu: Worldly power and desires, fame, foreign lands, travel, the occult and psychology, loss, worry, crime, drugs, and addictions. Mental illness, fears, and phobias.

South Node/Ketu: Mystical experiences, liberation, psychic or spiritual insights, ghosts, sleep, dreams, accidents, fires, and injury. Mental confusion, addictions, and death.

The outer planets—Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—are not usually utilized in traditional Vedic astrology. Vedic astrologers believe that the nodes of the moon reflect the energies of the transSaturnian planets adequately. Some modern Vedic astrologers utilize these planets in their natal chart analysis. They believe the planets reflect one’s divine birthright and potential soul destiny. All of the grahas operate as cosmic relay stations for the transmission and reception of stellar wisdom.

The Bhavas (Houses)

The Vedic natal chart is divided into 12 houses called bhavas. These houses represent different fields of action or activity. The following are the karakas and significators for the 12 houses that are somewhat similar to those in Western astrology:

First House/Thanu Bhava: Bodily appearance, character, early childhood, health and general vitality, personality, ego, strength, fame, and longevity. Dharma house (right action). Head or face. Karaka: Sun.

Second House/Dhana Bhava: Money, family life, domestic harmony, food or diet, intellect, powers of speech and writing, jewelry, and dress. Artha house (wealth). Mouth, nose, and right eye. Karakas: Jupiter and Mercury.

Third House/Sahaja Bhava: Brothers, younger siblings, fine arts (music, dance, and drama), courage and adventure, skill with hands, short journeys, inquisitive mind, ambition, and will. Karma house (desire). Hands, arms, throat. Karaka: Mars.

Fourth House/Matru Bhava: Mother, happiness and contentment, property and real estate, formal education, subconscious mind, and close of life. Moksha house (liberation). Chest, lungs, and heart. Karakas: Moon and Venus.

Fifth House/Putra Bhava: Children, love affairs and romance, creative intelligence, poorvapunya (past life credit), and wisdom. Dharma house (right action). Stomach (sometimes heart). Karaka: Jupiter.

Sixth House/Ripu Bhava: Service, detail work, medicine, catering, pets, enemies, disease, effort and hard work, discrimination, debts. Artha house (wealth). Navel and intestines. Karakas: Saturn and Mars.

Seventh House/Kalatra Bhava: Marriage partner, quality of married life, love and passion, social nature, and business partnerships. Kama house (desire). Below navel, kidneys, and veins. Karakas: Venus and Jupiter.

Eighth House/Ayu Bhava: Death, longevity, inheritance, mysticism and psychic ability, psychology, delays, fears, and misfortune. Moksha house (liberation). Reproductive systems and chronic illness. Karaka: Saturn.

Ninth House/Bhagya Bhava: Wisdom, guru, father, religion, philosophy, long journeys, higher education, law and legal affairs, teachers, and good fortune. Dharma house (right action). Thighs and hips. Karakas: Jupiter and Sun.

Tenth House/Karma Bhava: Career or vocation (also first house), status, power, house of action, achievement, and good deeds. Artha house (wealth). Knees. Karakas: Sun, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Eleventh House/Labya Bhava: Friends, groups, profits and gains, sisters and older siblings, goals, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Kama house (desire). Legs, calves, and ankles. Karaka: Jupiter.

Twelfth House/Moksha Bhava: Enlightenment, bed pleasures, sleep, expenditures, confusion, sorrow, confinement, seclusion, and the next life. Moksha house (liberation). Feet, left eye, and hearing. Karakas: Saturn and Ketu.

To illustrate how the planets and houses are combined, consider pop singer Madonna’s natal chart. In viewing her natal Vedic chart, one can see that the houses/signs advance in clockwise fashion. The rasi, or the natal chart, is set up so that each house contains a whole sign. As in Western astrology, there are 12 signs as well as 12 houses. The sign interpretations of Tropical and Vedic astrology are quite similar. The ascendant (rising sign) is of extreme importance in Vedic astrology. In Madonna’s Vedic chart, the ascendant, or lagna, is at 15° Leo and the entire first house is therefore Leo. Thus, any planets that fall in the sign of Leo (e.g., her retrograde Mercury at 12° Leo) would be considered to be in the first house.

Madonna’s second house is the entire sign of Virgo and is empty. Its ruling planet, Mercury, is placed in the first house, creating a dhana yoga (wealth producing). The third house is Libra, with Jupiter retrograde at 3° conjoined with Rahu, the fourth house is Scorpio, with Saturn retrograde at 25°, and so on throughout the zodiac. Thus, each house equals 30° or one sign. The bhava chart is also used to fine-tune planetary house positions. It calculates approximately 15° before and after the ascendant as the first house and then uses an equal-house method. Another popular bhava chart calculation is called sripati, which takes into account the midheaven point (MC).

In Vedic astrology, the ascendant determines the harmonic pattern of house rulerships as well as how the person acts upon and perceives the world. It is also a reflection of the individual’s physical appearance and vitality. As mentioned earlier, in Madonna’s Vedic chart the ascendant is Leo or Simha. The ruler of the ascendant is the Sun and is located in the twelfth house, indicating career challenges and loss of status. When the ruler of the first house is located in the twelfth, a combination exists that produces tarnished fame and the need for alone time away from the public eye. Fame has its emotional costs. However, Leo ascendants are often driven to be successful on stage. Calculating with the sidereal zodiac, the Leo ascendant is found in the charts of such famous actors and musicians as Tom Hanks, Elton John, Mozart, and Oprah Winfrey, and of such politicians as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and the senior George Bush.

Madonna’s Sun is located on the cusp, or sandhi, of 29° Cancer and is in mutual reception, or paravartana yoga, with her Leo Moon, which helps to strengthen the afflicted Sun. The Sun is also located in the sign of its friend, the Moon. The Moon is well placed in the first house in the nakshatra of Purva Phalguni, which is ruled by creative Venus. Madonna’s ascendant is also placed in this dynamic lunar mansion of success and good fortune.

Madonna also has the planet Mercury residing in her first house conjoined the Moon, which is an excellent placement for speech, writing, intelligence, and communication that will affect the masses. Mercury is in the friendly sign of Leo (Sun and Mercury are considered good friends in Vedic astrology), indicating good communication skills and a large library. Madonna’s Jupiter/Rahu conjunction in the third house reflects her good fortune in the fine arts and her strong determination to succeed.

A unique feature of Vedic astrology is planetary periods (dasa is the major period; bhukti is the subperiod). They can clearly reveal future trends and development cycles in life. They form the basis of a very powerful Vedic technique of dividing life into specific periods of emphasis. Predictions are made based on the strength or affliction of the planetary-period ruler and aspects to it, as well as the houses it rules. It is as if the planet ruling the dasa period becomes the president of one’s life during its rulership and the bhukti ruler becomes the vice president during its sway. In examining the charts of famous personalities, one can see periods of introversion during weak planetary periods, followed by speeches before thousands during a strong period.

Calculating One’s Planetary Period

The dasas (major periods) are based on a predetermined number of years for each planet or node of the Moon, excluding Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The order is based on the rulership of the 27 nakshatras or lunar mansions. Each sign of the zodiac contains three nakshatras of varying degrees. From 0° Aries to 13°20’ Aries is Aswini, which is ruled by the south node of the Moon (Ketu).

The order of the planetary periods is that of the rulerships of the nakshatras, starting with the first nakshatra of the first sign (Aries), which is ruled by Ketu (south node) and lasts for 7 years. The next nakshatra of Aries is ruled by Venus and lasts 20 years; the next by the Sun, 6 years; the Moon, 10 years; Mars, 7 years; Rahu (north node), 18 years; Jupiter, 16 years; Saturn, 19 years; and Mercury, 17 years. The sequence repeats 3 times through the 12 signs of the zodiac.

The total planetary periods is 120 years, which according to the Vedas (the earliest Hindu sacred writings) would be the potential life cycle for a balanced, healthy person. The beginning planetary period of an individual’s life is determined by the nakshatra ruler of the natal Moon. For example, a person born with the Moon at 15° Taurus is in the nakshatra Rohini, which is ruled by the Moon itself (located from 10° Taurus to 23° 20’ Taurus).

The task is to calculate how far along the ten-year period is at the time of the person’s birth. If the natal moon is exactly 15° Taurus, then it would be 5° into the 13°20’ nakshatra of Rohini. Therefore, the planetary period needs to be reduced in proportion. First divide 5° by 13.33°, which equals approximately .375. Then multiply .375 by the total number of years in the planetary period: .375 x 10 + 3.75 years. Finally, subtract .375 from 10 years, which equals 6.25 years, the number of remaining years the person has left in the Moon dasa at the time of birth. This person would have been in the moon dasa for the first 6.25 years of life, followed by 7 years of Mars, 18 years of Rahu (north node) and so forth.

The native’s experience of each planetary period is primarily based on the stature of the planet in the natal chart (bhava and navamsa charts should also be utilized). As an example, consider again the chart of Madonna. At the time of the blossoming of Madonna’s career, she was under the influence of the planetary period of the Moon dasha. As previously stated, Madonna has both Mercury and the Moon in the sign of her Leo Ascendant. Mercury (representing intellect), placed with the Moon in the first house, gives strong leadership ability, connections in the world of business and commerce, and a high position in society during the Moon planetary period. It was during her Moon dasha and the Mercury bhukti (ruler of the second and eleventh house) that Madonna released her first album and the singles “Lucky Star” and “Borderline.” The entire ten-year period of her Moon dasha reflected Madonna’s ascent to power, fame, and career success. Also, the Mercury bhukti ruling the second and eleventh houses and placed in the powerful first house brought her increased income and success through friends, social groups, and organizations (eleventh house during this period). The ruler of his tenth house (Venus) is located in the twelfth house (bed pleasures) and indicated the sexual themes of her music and theatrical success.

The seven-year planetary period of Mars began in March 1987 and lasted until March 1994. Mars is Madonna’s yogakaraka, or planet of power. Placed in the auspicious ninth house in its own sign of Aries conjoined with mystical Ketu, it indicates a spiritual warrior quality with the ability to defeat her competition as well as potential conflict with others. It also aspects her twelfth house Venus reflecting her challenging love affairs and romance. The Mars bhukti started in March 1987, just before the start of her first successful world tour (ninth house) in July. It also revealed the beginning of her bittersweet breakup with her first husband, actor Sean Penn. Their separation occurred during her challenging Mars/Rahu cycle in 1988. Her “Blond Ambition” tour in 1990 reflected the pinnacle of power of her Mars Dasha. Her Mars/Venus period produced the infamous Sex book and Erotica video.

Madonna is currently running her Rahu dasha (1994–2112) and Mercury Bhukti (March 2002-September 2004). This should reflect an increase in her finances combined with a variety of opportunities in the communications media, such as the television, music, dance, and drama. Her acting career may still be unstable, with her music still her strength. She may become involved in another book project that is autobiographical in nature but less controversial.


Vedic or Hindu astrology is an ancient predictive system of esoteric knowledge that is becoming more popular in today’s Western culture. As many have embraced the wisdom of the East in other fields of study, such as philosophy and psychology; it is imperative to cultivate this exploration in study of cross-cultural astrology as well.

—Dennis M. Harness, Ph.D.


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Cameron, Barbara. Predictive Planetary Periods: The HinduDasas. Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 1984.
DeLuce, Robert. Constellational Astrology: According to the Hindu System. Los Angeles: Deluce Publishing, 1963.
Frawley, David. The Astrology of the Seers. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2000.
Harness, Dennis. The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 1999.
Levacy, William. Beneath a Vedic Sky: A Beginner’s Guide to the Astrology of Ancient India. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 1999.
Parashara, Muni. The Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra. Translated by R. P. Santhanam. New Delhi, India: Ranjan Publications, 1989.
Varahamihara. Brihat Jataka. Translated by J. R. Satyacharya. New Dehli, India: Ranjan Publications, 1987.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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