History of Vedic Astrology

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Published on: July 20, 2013

History of Vedic Astrology


Ajam nirvikalpam  nirakaara rupam param nirgunam nirvishesham niriham

Parabrahma  Rupam Ganesham  bhajema |

Gunateeta manam chidananda  rupam munidhyeya makasha rupam paresham

Parabrahma  Rupam Ganesham  bhajema |

Jagatkaranam karanam jnana rupam suradim sukhadim ganesham gunesham

Parabrahma  Rupam Ganesham  bhajema||

Astrology is a Greek word. It means Special knowledge about light. It is believed that ancient Indian saints got this knowledge in their Samadhi Sthiti (Condition of being one with God). Ancient scriptures proclaim that this knowledge was preached to them by Suryanarayana or Sun God. Indian, Chinese and Babylonian astrologies are believed to be born around the same time, but they have evolved differently over time. It was observed by the saints that, Planets and Stars which are within Earth’s path, are able to influence life and living beings on earth. They believed that the planets and stars have specific influence and cause to change the human mind, intellect, and body. With that understanding, they have come to the conclusion that if we study the influence of planets in a logical way it can be used for the benefit of mankind. Considering the vastness of the subject and the oral tradition of transferring the knowledge that was prevalent at the time, they chose poetic form as it made it easier to express succinctly and memorize. They named it as Jyotisha. However, several centuries later, Sanskrit as a language has transformed and almost become extinct as mainstream language. Understanding the real poetic meaning they preached is hard and hence, must be learned through a Guru or experienced Teacher.

Indian ancient knowledge is known as Veda, which means Knowledge. It is the consolidated experience of many saints over a long period of time.  It was carried forward for centuries by a preceptor preaching to his pupil. It was not in written form. So it was known as “Apaurusheya”.  Some people argue that Jyotisha is not available in Vedas and only contains few verses. But the truth is that this knowledge has evolved along side of Vedas. So I feel there is nothing wrong in calling it as Veda Jyotisha. All branches of knowledge are developed from time to time by experimentation and experience.

Since Veda is in the form of Verses or Poems, Six branches were developed to help understand it.

  1. Shiksha – Teaching pronunciation.
  2. Kalpa – Teaching to perform rituals according to the inherited meaning.
  3. Vyakarana – Grammar to properly understand and divide the word. (which becomes essential in Samskrit language)
  4. Chandassu – Prosody to get special meaning.
  5. Nirukta – Proper meaning of each word.
  6. Jyotisha – Special knowledge of light (coming from stars and planets)

These branches of knowledge are formulated to understand the Veda’s Properly. We have many many saints who are experts in any one of the branches mentioned above.  E.g: Panini in Vyakarana or Grammar. Similarly we name 18 Saints as Jyotisha Pravartakas or experts. 1. Surya 2. Pitamaha 3. Vyasa 4. Vasistha 5. Atri 6. Parashara 7. Kapila 8. Narada 9. Garga 10. Marichi 11. Manu 12. Angira 13. Lomasha 14. Paulasha 15. Chyavana 16. Yavana 17. Bragu 18. Shaunaka. These names are not in the order of their time but as in the verse.

In jyotisha there are three branches. 1. Hora 2. Siddhantha 3. Samhitha

  1. Hora – it is also known as predictive astrology, that is to know the effects of planets and their transits on human beings.
  2. Siddhantha – It is the Astronomical part or Mathematical part to calculate the exact positions of planets and stars with respect to Earth. There are many Siddhanthas in use, but 1. Surya siddhantha 2. Pitamaha Siddhantha 3. Vasistha Siddhantha 4. Paulasha Siddhantha 5. Romaka Siddhantha were more prevalent. Among these Surya Siddhantha is considered more accurate.
  3. Samhitha – It is also a predictive part but explains the results of planets and stars on all living beings and on nature.

For Predictive astrology to be more accurate, Siddhantha must be accurate. It has been noticed that as time passes, planetary positions also change. So there is a need to recast the Siddhantha. This gave much boon to develop Indian Mathematics.  From time to time many mathematicians tried to find out and simplify the ways and means of calculations.

Saints such as Yajnavalkya, Manu, Atri, Hareetha, Aapasthyambha, Mandavya, Shuka etc. have notable contributions to Predictive astrology.

Saints such as Aryabhata, Varaha, Brahmagupta, Shripathi, Bhaskara I and II,  Narasimha, Vaidyanatha and many have made notable contributions to Sidhantha portion. In the later years Kalamadhava, Bhoja, Jnanaraja, Ganesha, Kamalakara, Munishvara, Ketakar etc. are notable.

I could not discuss their work and contributions here, because that itself becomes a bulky writing. I am only mentioning few names, as my tribute to the Gurus or Preceptors.

With the life time contributions of all these great saints, we were able to get the Astrology in the present form.  But I feel that in the course of astrology’s evolution many practitioners have added their own verses. I am a very small man to deny or dispute their experiences. But I feel that these ancient verses cannot be the universal truths applicable to all times and societies. So now there is a great responsibility on the present day astrologers to apply the dictums to current times and society with utmost care and propagate this science for the benefit of mankind.

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