Many people contest the theory that the stars and the planets can affect human beings on earth. But the practical experience of thousands of years has confirmed that the Sun, Moon etc. not only emit heat, light, magnetism, electricity and other energies known to science but other subtler forces which profoundly influence life on earth. We are aware, how, the heat of the Sun not only creates weather conditions, ripening of crops and other natural phenomena. We are also aware how changes in sun-spots affect radiowaves passing through the earth's atmosphere. Many scientists have established a correlation between the cycle of the sun-spots and periods of economic depression on our planet. The effect of the Moon on the seas causes high and low tides is too familiar a phenomenon to be elaborated. Many diseases such as asthma and epilepsy have a direct connection with the digits of the Moon. The word lunacy comes from luna which means 'the moon' and persons born at a time when the Moon is weak and severely afflicted in the heavens, suffer from derangement of the mind or lunacy. The menstrual cycle in women is distinctly the lunar cycle of twenty-eight days.
Not only Hindus, but practically all the old civilisations on earth believed in the science of astrology.
Says Sidney K. Bennett, "Astrology's scientists and students are numbered by hundreds among the world's greatest of all time. Students of this science are in very good company, for they are standing side by side with Moses, Newton, Emerson, Kepler, Harems, Plato, Ptolemy, Zoroaster, Abraham, Thales, Anacimander, Hippocrates, Bacon, Napier, Flamstead, Cardan, Placidus, Brahe, Shakespeare, Byron, Scott, Dryden, Chaucer, Goethe, Copernicus, Galileo, Regiomontanus, Paracelsus and countless other guardians of wisdom in all ages and in all lands."
The annals of history are replete with references to the science of astrology and how predictions made on the basis of stars have been fulfilled. With Hindus, astrology is a part of the religion itself. The Vedas, the Puranas and the epics are all full of astrological lore and perhaps in no country of the world, astrological traditions are so ancient and widespread as among the Hindus. A birth-chart is made when a child is born and religious propitiations made for unfavourable influences, if any. The earliest and the most religious texts of the Hindus refer to astrology and the faith of an average Hindu in this divine science is strong and unflinching.
The subject, like every other branch of learning is, however, so vast that it is a problem to compress it within a small book. Still an attempt is made here to provide enough guidelines to comprehend the principles of Hindu astrology.
Before dealing with the principles of astrology, we would like to acquaint the beginners with some of the preliminaries, for once they are familiar with the basic background, they would fmd it easier to follow the subsequent steps.
The earth goes round the Sun but it appears that the Sun goes round the earth. So whether we say the path of the earth or the apparent path of the Sun, it means the same thing. This path is called the ecliptic. The earth's path is strictly on the ecliptic line. The other planets—Mars, Mercury, Jupiter etc. go round the Sun along the ecliptic line, but sometimes they are exactly on this line at others slightly north or south of the ecliptic. This passage is called the zodiac. The Oxford Dictionary defines zodiac as "a belt of the heavens limited by lines about 8 degrees from the ecliptic on each side, including all apparent positions of the Sun and planets as known to the ancients and divided into twelve equal parts called signs of the zodiac."
This zodiac is not exactly circular but elliptic. Since a circle or an ellipse has, as computed from the center, 360 degrees, each of the twelve pans or sectors constitutes 30 degrees. These twelve sub-divisions arc called signs. Why are they called signs? A sign means' mark traced on surface etc.' and in each of these sub-divisions there are different patterns formed by the fixed stars, so there are different types of marks constituted by the stars or groups of stars and each sub-division is identified by the special pattern formed therein by the fixed stars. These fixed stars or groups of fixed stars are called asterisks or constellations in English and nakshatra in Sanskrit. This word nakshatra will recur again and again in this book and so the readers would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with this word.
To revert to signs, since the zodiac is divided into twelve pans of 30 degrees each, there are twelve signs named as follows:
I. Mrs 2. Taurus 3. Gemini 4 Cancer
S. Leo 6. Virgo 7. Libra 8. Scorpio
9. Sagittarius 10. Capricorn 11 Aquarius 12 Pisces.
Tropical and Sidereal Zodiac
There is only one Sun, one earth and one zodiac. Why are there then two names for the zodiac? This is being explained. If we were to measure a straight line, every one would commence from one end and finish at the other. But when the figure is circular or elliptic, the question arises from where to begin, on the circumference. The Western astronomers commence from that point on the zodiac where the Sun appears to be on or about 21• March—at the spring equinox—when the day and the night are equal. Then, from there they mark sectors of 30 degrees each and call them Aries, Taurus etc. This is called computing in the tropical zodiac.
But this point—the spring equinoctial point—is not fixed or constant. In about 72 years it recedes by about one degree, with the result that if the tropical zodiac commenced at a point, say X in the year 1900, it commenced at a point one degree prior to point X in the year 1972. Thus, this point not being a fixed one, the Hindus rejected it for astrological and predictive purposes and followed the system of commencing the measurement on the zodiac from a fixed star or constellation called Ashwini in Sanskrit. The fixed stars or constellations have also some slight motion in thousands of year but that motion being infinitesimal, is for all practical purposes considered negligible. So the Hindus compute the twelve signs from Ashwini (a fixed constellation) and divide the zodiac into twelve parts of 30 degrees each and call them Aries, Taurus, Gemini Cancer etc. Since this computing is from a fixed point, it is called the fixed zodiac or the sidereal zodiac. The word sidereal is derived from the Latin word sidereus which means pertaining to the constellations (fixed stars).
Since the 0° or the commencing point in the tropical zodiac is ever gradually preceding, the distance between the commencing points on the two zodiacs (the tropical and the sidereal) has accumulated to 23 degrees 29 minutes 4 seconds of the arc on I" January, 1973. This phenomenon of the precession of the equinoctical point is called precession of the equinoxes. Thus, the readers will observe that the zodiac is one and one only but due to the variation in the commencing points, it is referred to differendy as the tropical zodiac and the sidereal zodiac.
Longitudes of Planets
The Hindu astrology is sidereal. All references hereafter are to the sidereal zodiac only. The position of a planet from 0 degree to 360th degree—anywhere on the zodiac is called the longitude.
One degree is divided into 60 minutes. One minute is further subdivided into 60 seconds. When we want to be very exact. We refer not only to the degree but to minutes and seconds also. The symbols for degree. minutes and seconds are as follows: 23 degrees, 29 minutes, 4 seconds - 23°-29-4".
We have explained earlier that each sign extends to 30°. The domain of each of the signs, is therefore, as follows:
1. Arica O' to 30' 7. Lido 180' to 210^ 2. Taunts 30* to 60' 210° to 240' 8 Scorpio 9. Sapaturtus 3. Gemini 60e to 90' 240" to 270' 4. Cancer 90' to 120' 10. Capricorn 270° to 300' 5. Leo 120"io 150' 11. Aquarius 300' to 330' 6. Virgo 150' to 180' 12. Pisces 330' to 360e
The Sanskrit names for the twelve signs are as follows:
1. Mesa 2. Vrisbha 3 Mithuna 4. Karka 5. Sinha 6. Kanya 7. Tula 8. Vrishchika
9. Dhanu 10. Makar 11. Kumbha 12. Meen
The readers will do well to memories these names of the twelve signs. There will be references to these names again and again in this text-book. Now, please note one more point in this connection. Suppose a planet is in the 36th degree of the zodiac. You may refer to it as being in the 36th degree or as occupying the 6th degree of Taurus, because the sign Aries finishes at 30° and the 36th degree would be 6th degree in Taunts. Or take another example. Suppose a planet's longitude is 242°-15.. Now looking to the above table you know that Scorpio finishes at 240°—so the planet's longitude will be 2°-15' in the next sign i.e., Sagittarius. Since S signs have been completed, we refer to the planet's longitude as 8-2°-15'. Here 8 stands for the completed sign—Scorpio, which is the 8th sign in the zodiac. So there are two methods prevalent in referring to the longitude of a planet. Either you say 242°-15' or you refer to it as 8-2°-15'—it means the same thing. We shall in this book follow the second method, because it obviates the necessity of dividing the number of degrees by 30 and determining the sign position.