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Jyotish, or Vedic astrology, is the chief form of astrology currently practiced in India. Part of a larger culture of Hinduism, it is derived from the same source as Western astrology (although what source that is - India or Babylon - is disputed), and the two systems share most basic concepts such as the signs, planets, and houses, as well as their general interpretive meanings. Jyotish is a chief source of reference for many Hindus across India, and Vedic astrologers will frequently prescribe special stones or Hindu Mantras to those facing difficult or unclear futures as predicted by means consistent with Jyotish methodology. Frequently, though not always, Brahmins are the primary practitioners of Jyotish.

The term "Vedic astrology" is itself something of a misnomer, introduced by American astrologers in the 1980s and 1990s. 'Vedic' refers to the Hindu holy texts, known as Veda. However, there is very little, if anything, recognizable as astrology in these texts. A more accurate term would be 'Indian astrology' or 'Hindu astrology.' In the end, however, all of these words are English. In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, 'Vedic astrology' is referred to as jyotisha, which means the 'science of light.' Modern speakers of Indian languages pronounce the same word jyotish - hence the name of this article.

Jyotish dates back at least as far as the 3rd millennium BC, and is still commonly used to aid in important decisions in modern India. In Hindu culture, newborns are traditionally named based based on their jyotish charts.

Hindu and Western Astrology

The fundamental difference between the two lies the measurement of the Zodiac. Vedic astrology uses the sidereal zodiac (the stars are considered to be the fixed background against which the motion of the planets is measured), whereas most Western astrology uses the tropical zodiac (the motion of the planets is measured against the position of the Sun on the Spring equinox). The most obvious effect of this difference is that about 80% of planets in a Western chart will move to the previous sign in a Vedic reading of the same chart.

Jyotish has developed separately from Western astrology for thousands of years. Proponents of Vedic astrology claim to have evolved a uniquely rich and powerful system of interpretation and prediction incorporating truly Hindu elements not found elsewhere, such as the system of Moon signs (called nakshatras).

Fundamentals of Jyotish

Jyotish is based on what Western astrologers call the whole house system and recognizes nine grahas (heavenly bodies or "planets"):

Abbreviation Sanskrit Name English Name Represents
Sy Surya Sun Soul
Ch Chandra Moon Mind
Ma Mangala or Angaraka Mars energetic action, confidence and ego
Bu Budha Mercury Communication
Gu Guru or Brihaspati Jupiter the great teacher
Sk Sukra Venus wealth, pleasure and reproduction
Sa Sanaiscarya, Shani, or Śani Saturn learning the hard way
Ra Rahu Ascending/North Lunar Node often described as a demon who does his best to plunge any area of one's life he controls into chaos
Ke Ketu Descending/South Lunar Node supernatural influences

They also recognize twelve zodiac signs, or Rashis:

Number Sanskrit Name English Name
1 Mesha Aries
2 Vrishabha Taurus
3 Mithuna Gemini
4 Karka Cancer
5 Simha Leo
6 Kanya Virgo
7 Tula Libra
8 Vrishchika Scorpio
9 Dhanu Sagittarius
10 Makara Capricorn
11 Kumbha Aquarius
12 Meena Pisces

One's lagna, or Ascendant, the rashi which is setting on the eastern horizon at the time of one's birth, is the most influential and important one. Of lesser important but still some impact is the Janma Rashi, the rashi in which the moon lay while one was born.

There are two different Jyotish chart notations, which are functionally equivalent but quite different in appearance. The following images show the same birth chart in both notations.

In the North Indian notation, the house positions are fixed (1st house top middle, with the rest following in counterclockwise order) and the signs of the zodiac are indicated by numbers in the chart (1 for Aries, and so on).


Conversely, in the South Indian notation, the signs of the zodiac have fixed positions (Aries always occupies the 2nd box from the left in the top row, with the rest following in clockwise order), and the first house is marked "As" (for ascendant) with the rest following in clockwise order.

The charts are broken into twelve sections, houses or Bhavas, each of which is related to a rashi in an equal house system.

Above article on Jyotish (Indian Astrology), from Wikipedia. The text on above article is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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