On first encounter the
Vedic system of astrology
can present a bit of a
challenge. To begin with
Vedic horoscopes are usually
drawn as rather odd looking box type diagrams.
The good news is that if you use the more familiar
Western wheel type diagram you can still have
a perfectly valid Vedic chart. The main advantage
of a circular chart is that it gives a visually accurate
representation of the spatial relationships that exist
between the planets.
The most obvious point of difference between the two systems
is that Western astrology uses the Tropical or "moving" zodiac,
whereas Vedic astrology uses the Sidereal or "fixed" zodiac,
which is the one that corresponds to the actual star constellations.
In essence this means that the position of the Ascendant and of
each planet, as calculated for a Western birth-chart, must move
back through the zodiac approximately 23 degrees in order to become
converted into the Sidereal zodiac. This shift backwards is known
as the Ayanamsha. So it's quite likely that your Sun, Moon or
Ascendant will fall back into the previous sign when your chart
is converted from the Western to the Vedic system. Don't panic!
The Vedic approach to sign interpretation is very different from
the Western one, and will present no
The second point to remember is that in traditional Vedic astrology the whole of the Rising Sign (or Ascendant) constitutes the first house, the whole of the following sign constitutes the second house, and so on. Thus if Libra is the Ascending sign, the whole 30 degrees of Libra constitutes the first house, the whole of Scorpio constitutes the second house, and so on. This is known as the 'House equals Sign' method. The nearest that we have to this in the West is the Equal House system, although the majority of Western astrologers use one of the Quadrant house systems, all of which take the M.C. as the cusp of the 10th house. True that the Sriparti system of house division (which also takes the M.C. as the cusp of the 10th house) is also employed by some Vedic astrologers but the vast majority use the Sign equals House method, just as the vast majority of Western astrologers use one or other of the Quadrant systems.
At first sight the 'House equals Sign' system may appear to be a rather crude method of house division, but only at first sight. The more familiar you become with the system, the more you will appreciate its relevance and applicability, especially when one considers the common practice in Vedic astrology of using a variety of 'divisional charts.' These are similar to the Harmonic charts developed by John Addey (which were partially inspired by his studies of the divisional charts of Vedic astrology). Vedic astrologers can us up to 15 divisional charts, all of which are derived from the main sign chart, each one giving a deeper insight into a particular area of a persons life. For example the 10th division chart, the Dashamsa, provides additional information regarding a persons career, while the 12th division chart, the Dwadamsa, provides insight into a persons ancestral heritage and past life karma. The most used divisional chart is the Navamsha (which corresponds with the 9th Harmonic chart now used by some Western astrologers). The Navamsha is nearly as important as the main sign chart, and gives additional information regarding long term relationships. It is also used to determine whether the indications of the natal chart is going to manifest with difficulty or ease. Esoteric astrologers regard the Navamsha as the horoscope of the soul, and the Rashi or main sign chart as representing the outer and more mundane conditions of a persons life.
Traditional Vedic astrology does not include the more recently discovered outer planets - Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, although some modern practitioners do take them into account. Much more importance is attached to the North and South Nodes of the Moon, (known as Rahu and Ketu). If including the outer planets (and experience shows that they can provide invaluable insights) the attribution of their sign rulerships should be ignored. Thus the ruler of Scorpio is always Mars rather than Pluto, Aquarius is ruled by Saturn rather than Uranus, and Pisces is ruled by Jupiter rather than Neptune. The modern rulerships may be valid in Western astrology but would create confusion and cloud judgement if used in Vedic astrology.
The use of Planetary Yogas is unique in this system of astrology.
A yoga in the context of astrology means a union or combination
of certain planets. There are many hundreds of yogas mentioned
in the classical Sanskrit texts, and the study of these yogas
can be most enlightening, often giving insight into important
details of a persons character or circumstances which could not
otherwise be explained.
Perhaps the most unique and useful of Vedic predictive techniques
is the Vimshotari Dasha system. This is calculated from the position
of the Moon at the time of birth, and is used extensively in predictive
astrology. In this system each planet covers a different time
cycle, varying from six years (the Sun) to twenty years (Venus).
Each planetary cycle is sub-divided into nine smaller planetary
cycles. If the birth time is accurately known then even these
sub-cycles can each be divided into nine even shorter planetary
time periods. In all the Vimshotari Dasha cycle of planets cover
120 years and provides hundreds of planetary combinations which
are of great assistance to predictive interpretation, especially
when used in conjunction with planetary
On first encounter the aspects used in Vedic astrology appear to be very different in nature to those used by Western astrologers. However, in essence the origins are the same - all are derived from the five major aspects - conjunction, opposition, square, trine and sextile. Certainly the manner in which the aspect are viewed is very different, but an understanding of these differences can do much to deepen our understanding of significance of the harmonies and discords that are generated by the various combinations of planetary energies.
So is Sidereal Vedic astrology superior to Tropical Western astrology? Can one be right and the other wrong or misguided? Not at all! The strength of Western astrology is in its accurate delineation of personality and character traits, and undoubtedly the planetary aspect play an important role in this analysis. Vedic astrology also deals with these qualities, but it excels on the predictive side, and is most useful for gaining an insight into karmic issues. It probes deeper into the human psyche, and has a history which reaches back thousands of years. It is badly in need of modernisation and reinterpretation in order to address our present western and future global civilisation - a process that is already underway. The future we are likely to see greater appreciation of the fact that both systems are valid and complimentary, and an increasing number of astrologers will be using both Sidereal and Tropical astrology in order to gain a more comprehensive picture of the human condition.
[The above is adapted from an article which first appeared in the Winter Solstice issue of Surya's Garden, a free quarterly magazine sent out as an e-mail attachment. It deals with all aspects of astrology from a Vedic perspective. To request Surya's Garden or for further information concerning the Nodes please ]