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Astronomy & Indian Astrology or Is Astrology a Science?. At the outset, a historical-societal PSM (rather than “rationalist”) perspective :.

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Indian Astrology

or Is Astrology

a Science?

at the outset a historical societal psm rather than rationalist perspective
At the outset, a historical-societal PSM (rather than “rationalist”) perspective:
  • origins of astrology lie in ideas about and the role of the Moon and Sun in early human cultures, the Sun gaining importance with start of annual agricultural operations
  • regularity of motions of planets and stars then drew attention and systematic observation
origins of astrology
Origins of Astrology
  • As human being gathered capacity to wonder at, and indulge in certain amount of speculation …...
  • The regularity of appearance and disappearance of these objects should have impressed them.
    • the sequence of day and night, and the obvious connection of the sun
    • the periodic waxing and waning of the moon
    • the unchanging character of the stellar vault
  • No wonder that all ancient civilisations possess proto-astronomy in one form or other.
  • Primitive societies noticed that the hunting seasons changed along with the periodic change in the night sky. Animals and birds migrated with seasons…
  • Soon primitive agriculture settlements emerged
  • In agricultural societies sowing and other operations 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.
  • 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 or Vkara Gathi].
  • Do these heavenly bodies have will of their own. All these heavenly bodies must have supernatural powers, they thought. Yet, nobody thought in those days that a person’s future could be predicted from planetary positions.
vedic period 2000 bc
Vedic period ~ 2000 BC
  • 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.

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- Adhbuta, Utpaata or nimitta. (Eg: Tik-Tik by lizard implies what is stated is Satya Vakku)
  • Certain rare and specified natural occurrences were expected to foretell future events, good or bad.
  • Rigveda and Atharaveda is replete with reference to Shakuna a ominous bird. Vedic literature also talks of auspicious time – muhurta.
magic natural world
Magic & natural world
  • 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 naive realism.
  • Nevertheless many of such correlations drawn by the early civilisations have actually proved to be incorrect.
nakshtra vidya
Nakshtra Vidya…
  • 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)
birth of predictive astrology
Birth of predictive astrology
  • 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.

astrology reaches india
Astrology reaches India…
  • 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 were sanskritised. Though the original work in its entirety is not available portions of it incorporated in Sphujidhavaja composed around 270 AD is available. This Yavana Jataka incorporated Egyptio-Greek astrology into Indian astronomy/astrology.
greek roots of indian astrology
Greek roots of Indian Astrology
  • The famous Brihit Jaatakam of Varahamihira ( 6 C AD) is candid in acknowledging the Greeks influence on Indian Astrology. 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.

vedic astrology is a bunk
Vedic Astrology is a bunk!
  • 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 of Budhagupta (~484 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 nowhere found in Vedas. It is clear that the predictive astrology is not at all ‘Vedic Astrology’ as some make it to be.
why astrology took root in india
Why Astrology took root in India
  • Aryabhata, tallest personality in ancient Indian astronomy (~ 450 AD) has no reference to Astrology in his work. 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?

  • 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.
aryabhat s time
Aryabhat’s time
  • 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 characterised by magnificent achievements in religious-philosophical debates among Jains, Buddhists and Hindus
emergence of hindu orthodoxy
Emergence of Hindu orthodoxy
  • 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
astronomy and science attacked
Astronomy and science attacked
  • Scientists like Aryabhatta became the subject of attacks. For example, Aryabhatta's work was attacked by Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya and Varahmihira.
  • 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
puranic myths were upheld
Puranic myths were upheld
  • 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”
new role for astronomy
New role for Astronomy
  • 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
  • Astronomers began to parade themselves as astrologers…
  • Even famous astronomers like Varahamihira, Bhramagupta, Baskara –II were astrologers as well as astronomers
  • Even in West astronomers like Kepler were astrologers…
astrology was the major application of astronomy: use in agriculture was limited and important role in navigation came much later
  • astrology thus remained intimately related to astronomy till c. 15th Cent.
  • astrology was perhaps the major driver for accurate astronomical observations in the ancient and medieval periods
  • though Church, sects like Sikhism shunned astrology, decline in importance of astrology (in West esp.) began with the birth of modern Science
path of sun

The stars against which it moves are grouped into 12 Zodiac constellations – or Rasis

  • Sun in the sky moves in a path – called ecliptic
what is rasi
What is Rasi
  • The concept of Zodiac originated in Mesopotamia and spread to India via Greek.
  • Similarity of the names/ figures attest to the same.




Apparent position of Sun against a particular constellation is the Rasi..



Sanskrit Name

Western Name





































  • Panch (five) – Ank (elements)
    • Thithi- waxing and waning of moon (~ 29/30 days- a month)
    • Nakshartra – position of moon in the background of stars (27 or 28) – 1/3 part Padam (feet)
    • Yogam – total of angle of sun & moon
    • Karnam- one half of Thithi
    • Vara- 7 day week


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.





The position of moon each day in its orbit aginst a prominat star is called the nakshatra or lunar mansion. There are 27 nakshtras

Moon takes about 27.3 days to go around Earth once.




Shani, Guru, Mangal, Ravi, Shukra, Budha, Chandra…. Is in order of the speed at which they appear to move…

  • 1Shani 2Guru 3Mangal 4Ravi 5Shukra 6Budha 7Chandra 8Shani 9Guru 10Mangal 11Ravi 12Shukra 13Budha 14Chandra 15Shani 16Guru 17Mangal 18Ravi 19Shukra
  • 20Budha 21Chandra 22Shani 23Guru 24Mangal
  • 25Ravi

In like manner, weekday order: Sun, Mon, Tue… flows



  • 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 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.



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 has no real ‘physical meaning’… This has only astrological significance.


Sun in Aquarius

Position of heavenly objects can be recorded against zodiac

Jupiter in Taurus

Venus in Gemini

Mars in Pisces

Moon in Pisces

Mercury in Scorpio

This is the basis of Kundali… it records the position of celestial objects at the time of Birth

Saturn in Libra


Position of Planets, Moon and Sun as seen from Earth

Mangal in Kanya

Raising Rasi- Kanya- Lagna

Budha in Thula

Shani in Karkataka

Sun in Vrichika

Guru in Mithina

Shukra in Dhanus

Chandra in Meena










Jathagam… South Indian style


What does this Kundali mean…

Ragu and Saturn in Meenam

Kumbam is the ascending rasi

Venus in Mesham

Moon in Danush

Sun, Mars and Mercury in Rishab

Ketu in Kanni

Jupiter in Simham

in ancient indian traditions similar to greek roman arabic persian etc
In ancient Indian traditions:(similar to Greek, Roman, Arabic, Persian etc)
  • astronomy AND astrology(Aster=star + logos=logic)are called Hora(Time)Shastra or Jyotisha(Light): Aryabhatiya (c. 474) deals only with astronomy, uses jyotisha only in this sense, makes no astrological predictions or statement
  • Panchang and Kundali thus have a astronomical basis but were hijacked by astrology ~ c. 600
  • dominant astrological tradition is Parasari(others being Jaimini and Tajaka)followed by Varahamihira, Bhattotpala, Venkatesa etc
  • astronomical basis is the Suryasiddhanta (c.700)
astronomical assumptions in hindu astrology
Astronomical assumptions in “Hindu” Astrology
  • along with almost ALL astrology:
    • a zodiac or band of 9º either side of the ecliptic
    • set of planets: (including Sun and Moon)
    • 12 Constellations or Signs (solar months) (IndianGreek)

Actually the path of all planets including Neptune and Uranus passes through 13 constellations!

  • Ancient astrology & astronomy was founded on geocentrism, that the Earth is the center around which the heavenly bodies move.
  • Copernicus (~1540) showed a great simplification was possible if the sun were in the center instead- his heliocentric theory proved to be a step in right direction.
  • Newton’s physics provided theoretical foundation and Sun centered Solar system is accepted in modern science
  • Modern astronomy is distinct from astrology in this count.

Indian Astrology

  • movements of planets explained bygeo-centric observation(eg. “retrogression” of Mercury etc: also from Ptolemy’s epicycles used by Aryabhata too) and not accounting for Copernicus-Kepler-Newton laws

Indian Astrology is Earth centered, epicycle based astrology. Ucham and Neecham is the high and low point of the planets as they go in epicycle.

other uncorrected assumptions
Other uncorrected assumptions…
  • all planets rotate around their axes once/day W-E!
  • However, Venus rotates from E-W. Saturn rotates in 10 hrs.
Planets are(in order of distance from Earth):
  • Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Sun, Jupiter, Saturn
  • do not recognise Uranus, Neptune, Pluto
  • include “phantom planets” Rahu and Ketu(missing in Aryabhatiya which explains eclipses by shadows)


Movement of the earth’s axis (with a period of 24,000 years) has gradually shifted which sign of the Zodiac the sun is in each month.

shift of the equinox
Shift of the Equinox
  • Due to precession the position of the zodiac has shifted in actual reality.
  • Today the sun is in Pisces from March 11 to April 18.
  • But modern western astrology columns still give its location 2000 years ago, February 19 to March 20.
  • Indian astrology give Meenam to be March 14- April 13.
shift of the equinox52
Shift of the Equinox
  • Thus modern newspaper astrology columns are about one sign (a month) off from where the sun actually is!
  • So you have been reading the wrong sign for years!
  • Astrologers who adjust for this seem to have no better success than those who do not!
In Indian astrology…
  • winter/summer solstices coincide with beginning of Makara(=Capricorn)(uttarayana)and Kataka(=Cancer)(dakshinayana)
  • Actual Utarayana is ~ December 22 but in Indian astrology it is January 14
  • And Dakshinayana is ~ June 22 but is actually July 16th
astrology claims to be
Astrology claims to be:
  • the most ancient science, almost perfected in India thousands of years ago, for“foretelling of the regular movements of the planets”
  • based on the“mysterious and subtle power”of planetary and stellar conjunctions which influence humans and all animates/inanimates on Earth
  • a rigorous discipline, with mathematical foundations and proven predictive capabilities
  • unlike witchcraft, palmistry, reading of cards or omens and other “occult” beliefs
  • able to interpret the future in the light of past karma AND enable coping through human will
  • (fromB.V.Raman, “Hindu Predictive Astrology”)
astrology as a discipline
Astrology as a discipline
  • has no theory for influences of cosmic bodies, only axiomatic assertions:eg. “no sane brain could ever deny the influence of planets upon man”
  • Predictions
    • are mostly vague, with have many qualifiers (ifs and buts)
    • have multiple causative factors and interpretations
  • anecdotal successes; failures unexplained
    • “Nature” mag. studied >4,500 persons born within 1 hr. over 25 years: found no correlations for >25 parameters!

Explanation: “not a science like… physics… requiring strict adherence to… reasoning and… logic”!

[AND] “cannot be simply based on strict… principles… but a certain amount of intuitive capacity [called for]…”

  • non-falsifiable in ultimate analysis
  • (Quotes fromB.V.Raman, “Hindu Predictive Astrology”)
astrology predictions

Who does not need?

Obviously, going abroad means lots of paper work and one should be indeed careful with documents.

Life of course requires a mature approach

Astrology ..predictions
properties of planets
Properties of Planets
  • Jupiter, Venus, Full Moon, Mercury:Good
  • Saturn, Mars, New Moon, Rahu, Ketu:Bad
  • Jupiter, Mars, Sun:Male } used for
  • Venus, Rahu, Moon: Female } gender
  • Saturn, Mercury, Ketu:Neuter } determination
  • Jupiter, Venus: Brahmin } Varna
  • Sun, Mars: Kshatriya } based on
  • Moon: Vaisya } guna & karma
  • Mercury: Sudra }
  • Saturn: Antyaja }
  • (fromB.V.Raman, “Hindu Predictive Astrology”)
what are astronomical objects
What are Astronomical Objects?
  • Ancient astrology had planets as gods or angels.
  • Telescopes & space travel show they are worlds like our Earth.
  • Nothing to indicate they are living beings like gods or angels.
what are astronomical objects59
What are Astronomical Objects?
  • Similarly, stars are burning gas balls like our sun.
  • Comets are large, dirty snowballs.
  • These discoveries require (at least) a large adjustment in astrology.
stars constellations
Stars & Constellations
  • Using parallax, we now realize that the stars are very distant.
  • Using telescopes, that the stars are very numerous.
  • The constellations disappear when dimmer stars are taken into account.
  • The constellations are also just the result of local perspective.
  • Hence Rasi’s are rather imaginative picture, rather than actual ‘shape’
new planets
New Planets
  • Discovery of Uranus, Neptune & Pluto since 1700s
  • How are these taken into account by astrologers?
    • Most ignore them
    • A few include them
    • No evidence the latter have better results
stellar influence
Stellar Influence
  • We do not claim that the sun and moon have no effect on earth:
    • Light, heat, tides
  • But planets & stars exert negligible forces at a person’s birth:
    • Compared to gravity of mother, doctor, hospital
    • Compared to radiation from room lamps
  • Astrological successes are probably a combination of luck, fraud, and vague pep-talk.
the twin problem
The Twin Problem
  • Astrological horoscopes are based on the position of the planets & Zodiac at a person’s birth.
  • Though identical twins often have very similar character, they sometimes have very different lives.
  • Fraternal twins often have very different character.
  • “Time twins” have very few similarities.









Night Side

Planets like Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the night