As in tropical astrology, learning the basics of planets, houses, signs, and aspects is the foundation of learning natal chart analysis. But, to appreciate the depth and uniqueness of Vedic astrology, one must also encounter and explore the nakshatras. Naksha-tra literally means "that which does not decay." The nakshatras reflect the primordial level of the zodiacal belt, which lies beneath the 12 basic signs. The concept of the lunar mansions extends across many cultures as a natural result of observing the lunation cyle. The Arab, Tibetan, and Chinese cultures also utilized lunar mansion systems in their astrology. The nakshatras can be thought of as the 27 "Moon signs" of the Hindu zodiac. In comparison to the signs or rasis as they are called in India, the nakshatras reveal a deeper, more profound effect of the constellations. While the rasis reflect a "mass" or "heap" of the 12 signs, the nakshatras further divide the constellations into 27 segments of equal length. Each nakshatra is 13°20' in length. Multiplying this length by 27 equals the entire zodiacal belt of 360°.
Each nakshatra has a rich mythology and powerful deities that reside within it. It is important to remember that the basis of astrology is mythology. By exploring the myths, symbols, and archetypes of the nakshatras, the constellations are brought to life. One of the best books on this subject is Myths and Symbols of Vedic Astrology by
Bepin Behari. As Behari points out, "The Atharva and Yajur Vedas give complete lists of them (nakshatras) and associate them with the oldest Vedic gods." By befriending the particular god or goddess of a given nakshatra, archetypal healing becomes possible. As the great Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung once stated, it is important to "feed the gods and goddesses."
The nakshatras represent the fields of activity or environment in which the creative powers of the planets can reveal their multifaceted nature. They are called lunar mansions because the Moon "resides in" each of them for approximately one day. Each lunar mansion of 13°20' length is further subdivided into four quarters of 3°20' called padas. An ancient Vedic myth describes how the Moon god, Soma, was given 27 wives by the lord of creation, Prajapati. Each wife represented one of the lunar mansions which Soma, the Moon god, inhabited during his lunation cycle through the constellations. An ancient Celtic King also had a tower constructed with 27 windows to view the monthly sojourn of the Moon.
Each nakshatra has a particular power or shakti. According to Vedic scholar David Frawley, the shakti is "the power of the devatas or deities ruling the lunar mansions." Every nakshatra is associated not only with particular deities, but also with a specific planet that rules that asterism. It may fall completely within a particular sign or overlap between two signs. Thus, it is also influenced by the sign or rasi within which it resides and its ruling planet.
Each nakshatra is male or female, as well as sattwa, rajas or tamas in nature. These are the three basic gunas in which life reflects, according to the Vedas. Sattwa has a quality of spirituality, harmony, balance and purity. Rajas, which is dominant in human experience, is high-energy activity and somewhat "Type A" behavior. Finally, tamas has the basic quality of dullness, inertia, sloth, and darkness. According to Behari, the nakshatras are divided into three groups of nine, called pariyay, meaning "cycle." The first nine nakshatras are rajasic in nature, the second nine are tamasic, and the final nine are described as sattwic. A specific animal species, sex, caste, temperament and primary motivation such as dharma (life purpose), artha (wealth), kama (fulfillment of desire), and moksha (enlightenment) is reflected through each nakshatra.
Personality characteristics reflecting strengths and weaknesses are also correlated with the basic nature of each lunar mansion. In chapter 16 of his classic text Bri-hat Jataka, Varahamihira describes the human characteristics of the nakshatras. The chapter focuses primarily on the positions of the natal Moon in the respective lunar mansions. The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology also provides a good introduction and overview of the personality characteristics of the 27 lunar mansions. It focuses on the meaning of the Moon, Sun, and the Ascendant's natal placement in each of the nakshatras.
In addition, the nakshatras are of primary importance in muhurtha or election-al astrology. This involves the selection of a particular lunar mansion for the Moon pertaining to the optimal timing to undertake any new venture, i.e., starting a new business, building a new home, or choosing an auspicious wedding date. Finally, a specific archetypal symbol is depicted for each asterism. Because Vedic astrology is a sidereal system, it is based on direct observation of the planets in the constellations. Thus, when observing the Moon at night near the fixed stars of Al Sharatain and Mesarthim, one knows it resides in the first lunar mansion of Ashwini (0° to 13°20' of Aries). In this respect the Vedic or sidereal viewpoint is more in line with an astronomer's picture of the cosmos than the season-based tropical zodiac many people use in the West.
Aspects made from other planets can greatly influence the quality of a planet in a particular nakshatra. The strength of the ruling planet of a nakshatra will also provide furthur insights into the nature of the planet residing there. (It is important to subtract approximately 23° from tropical chart planets and ascendant if a Vedic chart has not yet been calculated.)
The Moon transits through a specific nakshatra each day (for approximately 25 hours). When the Moon passes through the different 27 lunar mansions, specific activities can bear more productive fruit. The Moon is considered more benefic when it is waxing or moving toward a full moon. The following is a listing of the nakshatras in regard to their qualities and the daily life events that are harmonious under their influence.
The Laghu or Kshipra (light and swift) nakshatras are Ashwini, Pushya, Hasta, and Abhijit. They are especially good constellations for the Moon to reside in when starting a journey (travel), sports activities, and doing healing work or administering medicines. These lunar mansions are also good for opening a business, sales, trade and obtaining or repaying a loan or debt.
The Mridu (soft, mild, or tender) nakshatras are Mrigrashira, Chitra, Anurad-ha, and Revati. These lunar mansions are excellent for learning music, dance, and drama and performing auspicious ceremonies like marriage. They are also good for buying and wearing new clothes. Lovemaking and romance flow under these stellar influences. These are excellent constellations for making new friends and enjoyment of pleasures that are healing and revitalizing.
The Sthira (fixed or permanent) nakshatras are Rohini, Uttara Phalguni, Uttara Ashadha, and Uttara Bhadrapada. These constellations are good for building homes and laying the foundations of communities. The emphasis here is toward permanence, stability, and structure. They are also favorable for ploughing the land, planting trees, and purchasing agricultural property.
The Chara (moveable or ephemeral) nakshatras are Purnarvasu, Swati, Shra-vana, Dhanishtha, and Shatabhisha. These constellations are good for buying automobiles and other vehicles, for going on a procession, and landscaping (gardening). Change of residence or career, travel, and other major life changes can more easily occur under their influence and support.
The Tikshna (sharp or dreadful) nakshatras are Ardra, Ashlesha, Jyeshta, and Mula. These lunar mansions are auspicious for creating separation from friends or filing for a divorce. Powerful, bold, and brash activities can occur under their influence.
They are effective for invoking spirits and other incantations. These constellations can be related to black magic, casting spells, exorcism, punishment, and even murder.
The Krura or Ugra (fierce or severe) nakshatras are Bharani, Magha, Purva Phalguni, Purva Ashadha, and Purva Bhadrapada. They are associated with the assertive and aggressive acts of a spiritual warrior. These constellations can also be related to evil deeds such at setting fires, poisoning, destruction, and other deceitful acts. Imprisonment and other forms of confinement can be experienced here.
The Misra (mixed) nakshatras are Krittika and Vishakha. They are generally good for mundane daily activities. Krittika can be good for fire ceremonies due to its deity, Agni.
The following are auspicious lunar nakshatras for specific activities or events:
Buying a Home: Mrigrashira, Punarvasu, Ashlesha, Magha, Purva Phalguni, Vishakha, Mula, and Revati.
Marriage: Rohini, Mrigrashira, Uttara Phalguni, Hasta, Swati, Anuradha, Uttara Ashadha, Uttara Bhadrapada, and Revati (the first three padas).
Installing a Deity or Building a Temple: Rohini, Mrigrashira, Punarvasu, Pushya, Uttara Phalguni, Hasta, Swati, Uttara Ashadha, and Uttara Bhadrapada.
Laying the Foundation of a Home: Rohini, Mrigrashira, Uttara Phalguni, Hasta, Chitra, Jyeshta, Uttara Ashadha, and Shravana.
Learning Astrology or Astronomy: Ashwini, Punarvasu, Pushya, Hasta, Swati, Mula, and Revati.
Learning Music or Dance: Rohini, Pushya, Purva Phalguni, Hasta, Anuradha, Jyeshta, Uttara Ashadha, Dhanishtha, Shatabhisha, Uttara Bhadrapada, and Revati.
Planting and Sowing: Ashwini, Rohini, Pushya, Magha, Uttara Phalguni, Hasta, Chitra, Swati, Anuradha, Mula, Uttara Ashadha, and Revati.
Medical Treatment: Ashwini, Rohini, Mrigrashira, Punarvasu, Pushya, Hasta, Chitra, Swati, Anuradha, Uttara Ashadha, Shravana, Dhanishtha, Shatabhisha, Uttara Bhadrapada, and Revati.
Surgical Treatment: Ardra, Ashlesha, Jyeshta, Mula (Tuesdays and Saturdays). Mars should be strong and the 8th House unoccupied. Waxing moon, but not a full moon.
Studying Medicine: Dhanishtha and Shatabhisha.
Studying the Vedas or the Shastras: Pushya, Swati and Shravana.
Travel or Beginning a Journey: Ashwini, Mrigrashira, Punarvasu, Pushya, Hasta, Anuradha, Mula, Shravana, Dhanishta, and Revati (Tuesday or Mars day should be avoided if possible).
Making a Will: Pushya.
In his book Muhurtha (Electional Astrology), B. V. Raman writes that "the constellation of Pushyami or Pushya (the 8th nakshatra) is the most favorable of all the nakshatras. It is said to neutralize almost all doshas or flaws arising out of a number of adverse combinations. Pushya has the power to overcome negative forces and assert its benefic nature. Despite all its positive influence, Pushya is still considered inauspicious for a marriage ceremony." Raman concludes that Pushya is "a constellation par excellence that can be universally employed for all purposes, excepting of course marriage."
Behari, Bepin. Myths and Symbols of Vedic Astrology. Salt Lake City: Passage Press, 1992. Harness, Dennis. The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 1999.
Raman, B. V. Muhurtha (Electional Astrology). New Delhi: UBS Publishers, 2001. Sastri, P. S. Acharya Varahamihiras Brihat Jataka. New Delhi: Ranjan Publications, 1995.
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