When we talk astrology, the one word that pops into our mind immediately is horoscope! What is a horoscope or a jataka or a kundali, as we call it in India?
A horoscope is actually a map of the skies at the time of a person’s birth. The chart should ideally have been circular, but it has been reduced to the shape of a square for easy readability, just like we have done with our maps.
Now, this map or horoscope contains 12 boxes that represent each of the 12 rashis starting from mesham or aries to meenam or pisces. Rashis, as you may recollect from my previous video, are constellations in the sky through which the Sun is seen to move, as seen from the earth.
Each of the rashis measures exactly 30 degrees. So all the 12 rashis together add up to 360 degrees, which is the measure of the elliptical orbits of all celestial bodies including the sun and the moon.
However, in the Indian luni-solar system, the moon is given more prominence and a person’s rashi is the rashi in which the moon is found at the time of birth. So, this is different from the Western system of astrology where the Sun’s placement in a constellation decides a person’s zodiac sign. So the westerners follow the sun while we in India follow the moon.
But why do the Rashis start with Aries?
Really long ago, the Indian lunar calendar system got integrated with the Hellenistic or Greek solar calendar systems. As a result, ancient Indian astrologers adopted the western system of placing Aries or Mesham at the start of the zodiac. That’s the reason why our rashi chart starts with Aries, which marks the beginning of Spring equinox, one of the two times in a year when the duration of the day and night in a day are equal.
Now, coming back to our horoscope, the exact place, date and time of birth is used to arrive at the position of the nine grahas or planets with respect to the rashis. Talking of grahas, it is interesting to note that of the nine grahas, which we tend to associate with planets, only five are actually planets, which are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The remaining grahas are the Sun and the Moon and Rahu and Ketu. You may realise that none of these are planets. Sun is a star, moon is the earth’s satellite and Rahu and Ketu are not real grahas but only represent the points of the intersection of the orbits of the sun and the moon.
Now, these grahas are given lordship over the 12 rashis. While the Sun is the lord of Leo or Simha rashi, the moon lords over Cancer or Kataka rashi. The other five grahas, mercury, venus, mars, Jupiter and Saturn rule over two rashis each. For example, Venus rules over Taurus and Libra and Saturn rules over both Aquarius and Capricorn.
North Indian format vs South India format of horoscope
There are multiple ways in which the rashis and the planets’ placement in them can be represented. The two popular styles are the south Indian and the north Indian styles. In the south Indian format, the rashis are arranged clockwise in a rectangular box starting from the second box on the top left.
And this house represents the Mesha rashi or Aries, the first of the 12 Rashis that spans the first 30 degrees of the constellations. The following Rashi rishabham occupies the next box spanning the next 30 to 60 degrees. All the rashis are thus arranged across the 12 boxes and end with Meenam or Pisces, whose co-ordinates are the final 30 of the total 360 degrees.
The box in the middle represents the earth around which the celestial bodies are seen to move. Remember, our system of astronomy is geo-centric that puts earth right in the middle.
The interesting thing to note about the South Indian horoscope format is that the planets, as lords of the rashis, are arranged in the chart in the same order as they are found in the universe. So, apart from the Moon that is the closest celestial body to earth occupying Cancer and the Sun occupying Leo or Simha rashi, we find mercury, venus, mars, Jupiter and Saturn arranged clockwise in each of the subsequent rashis.
However, in the north Indian format, the rashis are not assigned to the strictly designated boxes. So they are not fixed. They change depending on the ascendant or lagna in the horoscope.
What is lagna?
The lagna represents the nakshatra/rashi that is seen rising on the eastern horizon at the date, time and place of a person’s birth. Depending upon the paada of the nakshatra, it is placed in the corresponding rashi. The lagna, which is designated house number 1 in the horoscope, is believed to set the tone for the nature of a person and the events in his or her life.
In the south-Indian format of a horoscope, the lagna is placed in the box pertaining to the corresponding rashi. On the other hand, in the north Indian format, the lagna is always placed in this centre-most box, which becomes the seat of the Rashi that corresponds to the lagna.
The other important difference is that while the south Indian format is read clockwise, the north Indian format is read anti-clockwise.
So, how do astrologers make predictions?
Each of the nine grahas are vested with certain specific attributes. Some like Jupiter and Venus are considered benefic, while grahas such as Mars and Sun are considered malefic or fiery by nature. Each of the Rashis too possess certain specific qualities. So do the 27 nakshatras.
Each of the 12 houses represent something in a person’s life. For instance, the first house or the lagna, as I mentioned earlier represents the person’s self, his nature and his destiny, the second house represents wealth, the third house siblings and so on.
The important thing to remember here is that all the elements in the horoscope including the planets, rashis and nakshatras are constantly moving. While they keep moving, they are also continuously interacting with each other. The interplay of these elements, their movements and interactions are analysed to make predictions about a person’s destiny.
Does that mean that everything is pre-destined and nothing is left to free will?
Not really! A person’s experiences in life are determined by the karma he has accumulated over time and that karma stems from a person’s own actions both in his past and current life. So in a way, astrology holds the person responsible for all that happens to him or her.
While fruits of the person’s actions may choose to play out at different times in one’s present life or in different lifetimes, there is no escaping one’s Karma. What astrology does is merely link the experiences in a person’s present life to his or her past actions and predict how the fruits of those actions are likely to play out in one’s life.
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