Hindu astrology, or Vedic astrology, as it is more commonly referred to by its practitioners, has made tremendous inroads into the Western astrological community in recent years. The origins of Vedic astrology are primarily in India and have flourished for several thousand years. According to modern Vedic scholars, a continuous record of basic astrological knowledge can be traced back to 2500 b.c.e. and the Indus Valley region. As one of the true systems of astrology, Vedic astrology is renowned for its spiritual depth and accuracy in predicting future events. Based on the sidereal zodiac, it reflects an astronomer's perception of the movement of planets through the constellations.
The father of Vedic astrology is Parashara Muni. He was reported to have lived around 1500 b.c.e. and was supposedly one of the first astrologers to actually cast natal charts for individuals. The date of his life is speculative and based on oral tradition. It is recorded that he made a specialized study of medical astrology that reflected health, disease, and longevity issues, and copies of his manuscripts still exist in India. His greatest work was The Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, which was finally compiled around 600 c.e. Parashara also wrote beautiful esoteric hymns in the Rig Veda (a Vedic text) that were mantras to the planetary deities. The seer Ranavira was another important astrologer who lived during the same era as Parashara. Ranavira specialized in relationship compatibility, female horoscopy, and other psychological aspects of astrology. In modern astrological practice in India, chart comparisons for marriage compatibility are still commonly utilized.
Vedic astrology is also called jyotisha, which means "luminous, brilliant, celestial, shining, belonging to the world of light." It is truly the science of light. Vedic astrology attempts to shine the cosmic light on an individual's true life path. It is a key to understanding the soul's intention or divine plan for this incarnation. Similar to the function of a true guru, the Vedic astrologer attempts to be the "dispeller of dark-
ness." The jyotishi or Vedic astrologer can be viewed as a priest or priestess, life counselor, teacher, and sage.
As in Western astrology, the rasi or natal chart is based on the date, place, and exact time of birth. The exact moment of birth is usually considered to be the time of the first breath or cry of the newborn. Many jyotishis also use the time when the umbilical cord is cut. Planetary calculations are based on the sidereal zodiac, which is based on the fixed positions of the stars. Western astrology is based on the tropical zodiac (seasonal). There is an approximate difference of 22° to 24° between the tropical and sidereal zodiacs, depending on in which part of the last century one was born. To calculate the Vedic natal chart by hand, subtract approximately 23° from the tropical positions of the subject's natal planets and ascendant. For example, 3° Virgo sun in Western astrology would be around 10° Leo in the Vedic natal chart.
According to Vedic philosophy, the natal chart represents an individual's past karmic patterns. In Varahamihara's Brihat Jataka, the natal chart reflects "the results of the good and bad deeds done by men in their previous births." Thus, this system is based on the theory of reincarnation and the laws of karma. It is important not to confuse the theory of astrology with fatalism. According to Vedic astrologer Chakrapani Ullal, the Hindu system of astrology emphasizes that "the planets are only the indicative forces and they do not determine the events of life in a fatalistic way. It is for the person concerned, to make use of the indications available, to change the course of one's life by using one's willpower, self-effort and by gaining the grace of God" (personal communication).
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