Astronomy and Astrology
Historical roots of Astrology:
As human being gathered capacity to wonder at, and indulge in certain amount of speculation
about them, the sun, the moon, the vault of the sky with numerous sparkling stars, bright and
dim, must have appealed them. Moreover, the regularity of appearance and disappearance of
these objects should have impressed them. The sequence of day and night, the obvious
connection of the sun with such alteration of light and darkness, the regular revelation of the
splendour of the nightly sky, the periodic waxing and waning of the moon and the
unchanging character of the stellar vault must have fired the imagination of the primitive
people. No wonder that all ancient civilisations possess proto-astronomy in one form or
Over a period of time, with meticulous observations and records, they noticed that the
hunting seasons also changed along with the periodic change in the night sky. As the
primitive society went on to build primitive agriculture settlements, they very soon realised
that the sowing times depended on climatic changes or the seasons. The seasons arrived with
appearance of certain groups of stars and changed with the arrival of others. In lower Egypt
the periodical overflowing of the Nile was noticed to have some connection with the heliacal
rising of Sirius. They perhaps vaguely felt that these periodic changes were somehow
connected with the most conspicuous of all heavenly bodies, the sun. In all those places
where settled agriculture was practiced Solar based calendar is extent. Even in India wherein
in olden days Moon based calendar was in use, the same was adjusted to fit-in with the solar
cycle, by adding Adhikmas (extra month).
Scholars say, perhaps predictive astrology emerged as part of this effort to understand the
regularity of cosmic bodies and the earthly events like rain, summer and change in seasons.
A search into the history will reveal that astronomy/astrology arose from the social needs of
ancient societies. Sky acted as a clock for them, the sun and stars moving 1º in every 4
minutes from east to west. (Actually, this is the angular speed of Earth‟s rotation, but, from
west to east). Stars give us directions at might, the polaris indicates the North, Southern crux
or Thrisanku shows the south, Orion the hunter in midsky shows N-S direction etc. Stars in
moon‟s path help in naming the days. Moon completes one rotation in 27 days and 8 hrs. So
the Lunar path may be divided into 27 equal parts, each consisting of 13º 20' (ie 360/27). So
each such space is called a „Nakshatra‟. Ashawini, Bharani, Kritika etc are stars forming the
background of Moon‟s position in each day. So, if a child is born on Kritika and today is if
Magha, it is clear that it is now 7 days old; similarly if your brother‟s marriage is in next
swathi and today is Mrigasira, then these are 9 more days left and so on. (Remember that in
olden days, Indians had no 7 day weak. It is a Semetic concept where the myth of genesis-
God created everything in 6 days and rested in the 7th day, the Sabbath day-existed).
While we in India intensely watched the path of Moon, the Babylonians followed the sun‟s
path, the ecliptic. They divided it into 12 constellations and related sun‟s position in each of
them to the seasons. This was very helpful to the farmers, traders and society as a whole.
Then they noticed that all the planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn-
later Indians added 2 more, Rahu and Kethu, the nodal points of solar and Lunar paths) move
through the Zodiac with regular periods. That could be used to measure long periods of time.
Saturn takes 2 ½ years to cross one Solar Constellation, Jupiter takes 1 year, Mars 1 ½
months and so on. So, if a child is born when Saturn is in Taurus and suppose now it has
reached pisces, then 10 rasis (constellations) have been covered by it and hence his or her age
must be about 10 x 2 ½ = 25 years now. The calculation can be made more accurate by
considering other planets also.
Emergence of Astrology
Naturally, a little amount of superstition could be expected at this stage because many
phenomena lacked physical explanations; eg. a very small circular disc like the sun shines
and heats the whole world; another small disc, the moon causes tides; planets usually moving
from west to east through the star field, stops motion one day and reverse the direction, called
the retrograde motion (Vkara Gathi). So they must have a will of their own, postulated some-
who emerged as initial astrologers. All these heavenly bodies must have supernatural powers,
they thought. But, nobody thought in those days that a person‟s future could be predicted
from planetary positions.
In fact it is interesting to note that Vedic literature is largely devoid of astrology as we know
today. There is no reference to Rasi which is most essential feature of astrology. It is said that
the ideas of Rasi came to India subsequently from Mesopotamia. The ancient Indian
Astronomy used concepts like Nakshatra, Tithi and so on but not Rasi chakra. Even the
„Vedanga Jyothisha‟ of Lagadha, of around ~10th C. BC, does not give any such indication.
However there are references to omens and prophecies in the Vedic literature. Referred
variedly as Adhbuta, Utpaata or nimitta, certain rare and specified natural occurrences were
expected to foretell future events, good or bad. Omens relates to the happening of unusual
events in the presence of one who has the ability to interpret the signs. Rigveda and
Atharaveda is replete with reference to Shakuna a ominous bird. Vedic literature also talks
of auspicious time – muhurta. On the other hand such beliefs in portents and omens are not to
be confused with predictive „astrology‟. Just before rain one could foretell by sensing the
gathering of black cloud or perceive the smell of the soil. The naïve beliefs towards omens
are based upon native realism. Nevertheless many of such correlations drawn by the early
civilisations have actually proved to be incorrect. Nakshtra Vidya developed and practiced
during the Vedic times essentially consisted of omens and predictions based upon the
nakshtra occupied by the Moon (janma Nakshtra) at the time of one‟s birth (eg; those who
are born in Bharani will rule the world etc)
In fact even the tallest personality of Indian astronomy, Aryabhatta has no reference to
Astrology in his work, Aryabhatiiyam. Eclipse and all other natural celestial phenomena are
explained using natural causes. There is no attempt to draw-in supernatural to explain the
Scholars say that in fact, the prediction business started with the Chaldians of Mesopotamia
during the 7th C. BC. Babylonian Civilization was in decline, people‟s life became miserable
and the priests could easily exploit them by divining things from planetary positions. Thus,
astrology, which began as an observational science, gradually turned into a pseudo science
and by the 4th C.BC, when Alexander conquered Babylonia, the superstitions had reached its
zenith. Predictive Astrology gradually spread to Greece and Rome. It was Baroses, a
Chaldian priest, who first started a school of astrology in Athens. During the next two
centuries, it spread in India (as a Greek influence). Gargan (Garga Muni) seems to be the first
person in India who wrote a book on predictive astrology- known as the „Garga Samhita‟.
And the rest is history.
Perhaps around 150 AD in the court of Western Kshatapa Rudadaaman in Ujjayini, a Greek
manuscript of an astrological text composed in Egypt around 100 AD was translated into
Sanskrit. The text refereed to as Yavaneshwara, the names and concepts related to predictive
astrology was sanskritised. Though the original work in its entirety is not available portions
of it incorporated in Sphujidhavaja composed around 270 AD is avialble. This Yavana Jataka
incorporated Egyptio-Greek astrology into Indian astronomy/astrology. The famous Brihit
Jaatakam of Varahamihira ( 6 C AD) is candid in acknowledging the Greeks influence on
Indian Astrology. His brihat Samhita (II.14) notes that though Greeks (Yavana) are melechas
the astrology is well established among them. Even they are honoured as sages. Brihat
Jaatakam lists the twelve signs of Zodiac (Rasi). The names are very similar to that of Greek
name. Even technical terms like declination (aapoklima) horizon (harija) diameter (Jaamitra)
Angle (Kona). Further scholars identify the author of Paulisha Siddhanta, an astrological text
with that of Paulus Alexandrinus.
The weekdays (Monday to Sunday) that we are so familiar, was not Indian in origin. Earliest
inscriptional evidence so far available for the week days is Eran Stone Pillar at of
Budhagupta (~4843 AD) Historians say that the practice of naming days after the seven
heavenly objects (5 visible planets, Sun and the moon) was commenced by Chaldeans. Name
of week days are no where found in Vedas. It is clear that the predictive astrology is not at all
„Vedic Astrology‟ as some make it to be.
Aryabhata, tallest personality in ancient Indian astronomy (~ 450 AD) has no reference to
Astrology in his work. His work Aryabhatiya, completed in 421 Saka or 499 A.D., included,
among others: (1) Aryabhata's advocacy of the diurnal motion of the earth (rather than the
apparent rotation of the sun around it), (2) a corresponding theory of gravity to explain why
objects are not thrown out as the earth churns, (3) recognition of the parametric variability of
the concept of ``up'' and ``down'' depending on where one is located on the globe, and (4)
explanation of lunar and solar eclipses in terms respectively of the earth's shadow on the
moon and the moon's obscuring of the sun. He seeks no supernatural powers to explain
natural (celestial) events like Eclipse. In his work he explains how Solar eclipse occur due to
obstruction by moon. He does not even refer to the Puranic myth of Ragu and Ketu. ..But
then why India is plagued by astrology?
Gupta period in which Aryabhata and his followers lived was one that saw the building of not
only Hindu temples but also Buddhist monuments such as Sanchi and universities such as
Nalanda and Nagarjundakhonda. It was a period of openness to global ideas, that it was
characterized by magnificent achievements in religious-philosophical debates among Jains,
Buddhists and Hindus.
Soon many parts of India came under the influence of Hindu orthodoxy- esp Manu Smrithi-
which had strict injunction against heretical thinking. Caste rules, rules of high and low, rules
of untouchability and inequality all were made more and more strict. All knowledge and
science was made more secret, secluded, hidden and concealed, and every new thought and
invention was opposed. Even Auyrveda Vaidyas were considered „polluted‟ and down
graded in the caste hierarchy.
Scientists like Aryabhatta became the subject of attacks. For example, Aryabhatta's work was
attacked by Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya and Varahmihira. Brahmasiddhanta says “Some
people think that the eclipse is not caused by the Head. This, however, is a foolish idea, for it
is he in fact who eclipses, and the generality of the inhabitants of the world say that it is the
Head that eclipses. The Veda, which is the word of God from the mouth of Brahman, says
that the Head eclipses... On the contrary. Varahamihira, Shrishena, Aryabhata and
Vishnuchandra maintain that the eclipse is not caused by the Head, but by the moon and the
shadow of the earth, in direct opposition to all (to the generality of men), and from the
enmity against the just-mentioned dogma”
Astronomers, or so-called 'jyotirvids' were denounced ; were declared „polluted‟. Manu
Smrithi condemned and prohibited from being called to yadnyas, mahadanas and shraadhas.
Further, the Brahmins changed the meaning of the word jyotirvidya, which now meant those
who study the 'effects' of stars on human beings contrary to the original meaning of study of
stars, and themselves became 'daivaidnyas', -- the knower of fate.
On one hand Astronomy in India was constrained by the new emerging social order, On the
other astronomers had to seek legitimacy for their profession. Thus soon astronomers began
to parade themselves as astrologers.
Even famous astronomers like Varahamihira, Bhramagupta, Baskara –II were astrologers as
well as astronomers. This was not the case only in India. So was the case in Europe. Even in
West astronomers like Kepler were astrologers, even while they were astronomers.
During the middle ages, in Europe, India and almost all over the world, astrology was the
major application of astronomy; use in agriculture was limited and important role in
navigation came much later. It should be noted that astrology was perhaps the major driver
for accurate astronomical observations in the ancient and medieval periods. Astrology thus
remained intimately related to astronomy till c. 15th Cent, until the renaissance and
Enlightenment movement in Europe. Though Church, sects like Sikhism shunned astrology,
decline in importance of astrology (in West esp.) began with the birth of modern Science.
Elements of Indian astrology
Sun in the sky moves in a path – called ecliptic. The stars against which it moves are grouped
into 12 Zodiac constellations – or Rasis. In Indian astrology few other notions are also used.
They form part of the panchank - Panch (five) – Ank (elements). The five elements are 1)
Thithi- waxing and waning of moon (~ 29/30 days- a month) 2) Nakshartra – position of
moon in the background of stars (27 or 28). 1/3rd of each nakshtras is classified as one
Padam (feet). 3) Yogam – total of angle of sun & moon 4) Karnam- which is nothing but one
half of Thithi and 5) Vara- 7 day week.
Tithi is a lunar day, or the time it takes for the longitudinal angle between the moon and the
sun to increase by 12°. Tithis begin at varying times of day and vary in duration from
approximately 19 to approximately 26 hours. There are 30 tithis in each lunar month. Moon
takes about 27.3 days to go around Earth once. The position of moon each day in its orbit
aginst a prominat star is called the nakshatra or lunar mansion. There are 27 nakshtras. All
planets do not appear to move in the same speed in the night sky. Shani, Guru, Kuja
(Mangal), Ravi, Shukra, Budha, Chandra is the order in which they appear to move around
Earth. Shani is the slowest. Chandra is fastest. Every day is divided into 24 parts called
“hours” (hora). The successive hours are governed by the celestial bodies in the above given
order. After every governing the first hour of the day lent its name to that day. For example,
if you start from Shani as the planet governing the first hour, that day is Shanivaara
(Saturday). The fourth planet from Shani in the given order is Ravi (the Sun) whose name is
lent to the next day as Ravivaara (Sunday). Then, the fourth planet from Ravi is Chandra and
hence the next day is named after Chandra (the Moon) as Somavaara (Monday), Soma being
a synonym for Chandra. Karnam is half of a Tithi. Like day and night of solar day, Karnam
is two half of lunar day. One Karana equals 6 degree difference between Moon and Sun.
Yogam is angular relationship between Sun and Moon. It is total of the solar and lunar
longitude. One Yoga equals 13 degrees:20 minutes. There are 27 Yogas in 360 degrees. This
element has no real „physical meaning‟. This has only astrological significance.
Another concept that is used in Astrology is Lagna. This is the zodiac that is on accent at the
time of birth (or the event that is being recorded). Kundali is record of celestial objects,
inclusive of the lagna at the time of birth. The twelve boxes, of manzil are actually the 12
zodiacs. Suppose in the Kundali Sun is placed in Viruchik and Moon in Simham, then it
means that at the time of the birth of the child, Sun was in Viruchik rasi and moon at the
We know that the „position‟ of planets, moon and so on in the zodiac is not actual. It is only a
apparent perception. The zodiac stars have neither physical meaning nor they are an entity.
The zodiacal images are fiction like child imagining shapes out of clouds.
Astronomy and Astrology
Though there is an insurmountable difference between Astrology and Astronomy, most
people cannot distinguish the difference. If you talk to them on astronomy, they will listen
with interest and in the end they will invariantly ask whether such and such star positions are
good or bad. Some may even bring their horoscopes and ask you to predict their future. You
may explain to them logically that future depends on so many factors like scientific
discoveries, political developments, international situations, natural calamities, availability of
resources, human developments etc which are all beyond the control of stars and planets.
Planets are lifeless things going round the sun and were mistaken for gods in olden days.
Then your audience will say that you don‟t understand a thing, there are many things which
your science cannot explain. Our old Jyothishis arrived at their conclusions from experience
or statistical evidences. It is interesting, in such situation, to quote to them stanzas from
„Brihat jathaka‟ of the Great Varahamikira, like:
Udayati Mridubhamse Saptamasthe cha mande
Yadibhavathi nisheka Soothirabdethrayena…etc.
Which means, if, at the time of conception, Lagna happens to be one of the abodes of
Saturn,viz, Capricornus or acquarius and saturn happens to be in the 7th Bhava, then the
delivery will takeplace only after 3 years. (Lagna is the rising constellation and 7th Bhava, is
the setting one). If instead of Saturn, it is the Moon (ie Lagna in Cancer and Moon is in the
setting constellation), then delivery will happen only after 12 years. There are other strange
combinations of planetary positions which result in the birth of Snakes, rather than human
beings. Can Varaha‟s conclusions be the result of observations?
According to predictive astrology ones life is completely at the mercy of planets. All our
actions are predetermined at birth. Whether you will become a thief or a thug or a Sanyasin
depends on your birth chart. Thus Godse had no escape but to kill Gandhiji because it was his
destiny and is written in his birth chart (or in the lines of his palm). It was also marked in the
birth chart of Gandhiji. A good astrologer could have read it. But even then it could not be
avoided since the planetary positions are beyond our control. Then the following question is
natural. While selecting souls for hell and heaven, how will God make a choice? no body
does anything other than what is destined for him and over which he/she has no control. Isn‟t
the whole thing absurd?
Predictive astrology was enthusiastically received and developed in India, since it fit well
into the caste system and the Karma principle. Your birth chart is determined by your deeds
(Karma) in your previous birth. Your caste also is determined by the same factor. A
wonderful combination, isn‟t it? Even now, when the whole world has ceased to take
astrology seriously, we have so many ardent followers for it here, especially among the upper
castes. Jyothisha has become the mother of all superstitions and is destroying the scientific
temper of our people.
In September-October 1975 some 186 leading scientists, including Dr. S. Chandrasekhar of
Chicago and 18 other Nobel Prize winners published a statement in the American magazine,
The Humanist, expressing grave concern over the increased acceptance of astrology in many
parts of the world.
“We, the undersigned – astronomers, astrophysicists and scientists in other
fields- wish to caution the public against the unquestioning acceptance of the predictions and
advice given privately and publicly by astrologers. Those who wish to believe in astrology
should realise that there is no scientific foundation for its tenets.
“In ancient times, people believed in the predictions and advice of astrologers
because astrology was part and parcel of their magical world view. They looked upon
celestial objects as abodes or omens of the Gods and, thus, intimately connected with events
here on earth; they had no concept of the vast distances from the earth to the planets and the
stars. Now that these distances can and have been calculated, we can see how infinitesimally
small are the gravitational and other effects produced by the distant planets and the far more
distant stars. It is simply a mistake to imagine that the forces exerted by stars and planets at
the far more distant stars. It is simply a mistake to imagine that the forces exerted by stars
and planets at the time of birth can in any way shape our future. Neither is it true that the
positions of distant heavenly bodies make certain days or periods more favourable to
particulars kinds of actions, or that the sign under which one was born determines one‟s
compatibility or incompatibility with other people.
“Why do people believe in astrology? In these uncertain times, many long for
the comfort of having guidance in making decisions. They would like to believe in destiny
predetermined by astral forces beyond their control. However, we must face the world, and
we must realize that our future lies in ourselves, and not in the stars.
“One would imagine, in this day of widespread enlightenment and education
that it would be unnecessary to debunk beliefs based on magic and superstition. Yet,
acceptance of astrology pervades modern society. We are especially disturbed by the
continued uncritical dissemination of astrology by the continued uncritical dissemination of
astrological charts, forecasts and horoscopes by media and by otherwise reputable
newspapers, magazines and book publishers. This can only contribute to the growth of
irrationalism and obscurantism. We believe that the time has come to challenge directly and
forcefully, the pretentious claims of astrological charlatans.
“It should be apparent that those individuals who continue to have faith in
astrology do so inspite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and
indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.”
The above statement is signed by 18 Nobel-laureates, a number of professors
and men of great learning.
It may appear that astronomy and astrology have same computational or positional
astronomy basis. It is not a fact today. While astrology still holds earth centered universe and
steeped in the Ptolemy‟s epicycle theory science has established that in solar system sun is at
the center. While the actual position of the stars have shifted due to the precession of the
equinoxes (or change in the tilt of the axis of earth), astrology still claims the position to be
that as it was about 1000 years ago. If one strictly calculates the eclipses or any other
celestial phenomena by traditional vakya panchang, the actual occurrence and the prediction
would be widely differing. Indian astrology is even more muddled as it includes two
phantom plants – Ragu and Ketu which are not real into its system and no astrological
schools ever predicted the existence of planets beyond Saturn- Neptune and Uranus.
Astrology under no stretch of imagination can be called as a scientific discipline for various
reasons. Largely astrology is a product of human ignorance and fear. Belief that celestial
objects like moon and planets were divine could have been result of the ignorance of these
objects in olden days. Before the advent of scientific instruments human knowledge of the
universe was limited to naked-eye observation and astronomy was not yet a scientific
discipline. Today the case is markedly different. Telescopes have laid bare what these objects
are, and in fact space have reached almost all the celestial objects. Humans have landed and
roamed around moon. From our present knowledge of the planets, on the basis of scientific
data and images sent back by space probes, we know that the planets are made up of the
same elements as our Earth although the composition of each planet differs. Comets no more
arouse fear in our minds because we know where they come from and how they move. There
is nothing to support the belief that planetary positions at the time of our birth or any other
time can decide our personality or fate, as astrologers would like us to believe.
Age Calculation: Example.
Mesha Rishaba Mithuna
Keth Sun Ven Jup.
a u Kanya
Dhanus Vrischikam Tula
Consider the two charts: One on the left, the birth chart of a person and the other on the right,
the planetary positions on 1-8-2008. What is the age of the person on that day.
Simple: Saturn has completed one full circle ie. 30 yrs. So, he is about 30 yrs old. But need
not be exact, since we don‟t know its exact position at the time of birth and also now. (Each
constellation consists of 300 and Saturn could be anywhere between 0 and 30). So we
consider Jupiter now, it is clear that Jupiter has completed two full circles and moved 6 more
constellations. So his age is 2x12+6=30 yrs again (since Jupiter takes 12 year for one full
circle) Again considering other planets (Remember that Rahu and Kethu have retrograde
motions come to the same age, but with more accuracy (an accuracy of 1 day).