Astrology, a term originating from the Greek word Astrologia
which mean 'Star Study', is much more than the study of stars and constellations. Astrology is an ancient art to gain insight of an event, or foresee the future, based on planetary movements and their influences. However, astrology is yet to find acceptance in science, and is studied and practiced all over the world as a pseudo-scientific field.
Most astrological terms find their origins in the respective Greek words, and although it is believed that modern astrology is a derivative of the works of Ancient Greek, it was popularly used in most of the earlier civilizations like the Babylonian, Egyptian, and even earlier in Ancient India
Practically, astrology is far complex than merely studying astronomical positions, and interpreting terrestrial events based on the positions of celestial bodies and their transits. Astrology requires instinctive foresight and experience in predicting the combined effects of planetary transits and their aspects - based on the Zodiac traits and Natal Charts. In other words, an astrologer acts as a 'soothsayer' based on astrological knowledge and experience:
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In a superficial sense, astrology conveys an impression of being a mere superstition. And, the Modern Man finds it difficult to believe that planets - thousands of miles away from earth - to have any influence over terrestrial events. Astrology, indeed, never compels. But to discard astrology as an unscientific and superstitious belief would not be anything less than foolishness.
We, at Siddhantika, believe that astrological influences affect all life on earth, irrespective of geographic location and individual beliefs. Our efforts are dedicated in propagating the art of predictive astrology, and the Introduction
is a brief discussion to demystify these influences.
While most of our articles are meant for students - from beginners to intermediate, viewers with a casual interest may find an introductory guideline in our Predictions, Natal Charts & Transits
Ever since ancient times, the sky has always been a mystery to Man. The night sky, with millions of stars and constellations, provide a snapshot of the Universe - the 'world' outside the world that we live in. A 'world', of which, the Earth is only a microscopic part. The Ancient Man grew curious, and wanted to unravel the mysteries of the sky. They observed patterns of stars, and wanted to understand how the mankind (and the Earth) were related to the rest of the Universe.
The earliest astronomical studies were aimed to unravel the connection of Man's existence with the rest of the Universe. This is the reason that, in ancient times, astrology and astronomy was one, and the same, branch of studies - and pursued as a scholarly tradition.
It is a popular belief that astrology has originated in the early civilization of Mesopotamia in around 3000 BCE, and the Babylonian Astrology
, the first organized system of astrology, arose in the 2nd millenium BC (2000 BCE). Consequently, the modern Zodiac of 360 degrees was invented by the Babylonians around 700 BCE, and the entire system was adopted by the Greeks. By the 6th century BC (600 BCE), the Greeks made significant advances in the field of astrology (and astronomy), which stands as the basis of modern astrology.
Classical historians further believe that Ancient India
had its own system of astrology, dating around 1st millenium BC (1000 BCE), which was later modified, with Greek influence, to introduce the western version of the Zodiac - the 360 degrees 'Tropical Zodiac'.
In Ancient India
, astrology was termed as 'Jyotisha
' (derived from jyótis
which means 'light' and 'heavenly bodies'), and was considered one of the Vedangas
, dating to Vedic Era. The Jyotiṣavedāṅga
, one of the six auxiliary disciplines used to support Vedic rituals, is the earliest documentation - dating around 700 BCE. Jyotisha
finds innumerous references in Vedic scriptures, treatises, and even in epics like Ramayana
. This astrological system is used in India, till date, and referred as 'Hindu Astrology', 'Indian Astrology', or a more recent term, 'Vedic Astrology'.
This astrological system of Hindu, or Vedic Astrology, relies primarily on 'sidereal coordinate system' as opposed to the Western (Hellenistic) system. The 'Sidereal Zodiac', unlike the 'Tropical Zodiac', makes reference to the positions of stars as fixed, and an adjustment, ayanāṁśa
, is made to accomodate the the gradual precession of the vernal equinox.
However, these claims and beliefs are challenged by modern historians in view of the following observations:
||The Babylonian Astrology around 2000 BCE was 'omen-based astrology', and earlier references of astrology in Mesopotamia around 3000 BCE are discarded because 'isolated references of ancient celestrial omens are not considered sufficient evidences'.
||There are established evidences of trade and cultural exchanges between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilization, long before any Greek influence in either of the civilizations. There is no possible explanation why Ancient India would adopt the astrological system from Greeks and not from Babylonians.
||The Zodiac used in Ancient India used 'sidereal coordinate system', which makes reference to the fixed stars, as opposed to the 'Tropical Zodiac' of Mespotamian origin. There is no possible explanation why Ancient India would implement an out-dated model despite being well-known for its advanced astronomical and mathematical concepts, and despite established exchanges with the Mesopotamians - if not an earlier system.
(Source: Wikipedia - History of astrology
, Hindu astrology
, Vedanga Jyotisha
It is evident that the theory of four elements - water, air, earth and fire - was known to the civilizations of the East, especially Ancient India
, long before the Greeks. In the Vedas, Vayu
is air, Agni
is fire, Varuna
is water, and Prithvi
is earth. In addition to the four elements, the Vedas also discuss 'aether' (aakash
), as part of Pancha Bhoota
- in its quest to define the connection between microcasm and macrocasm.
The Vedas further discuss the powerful Surya
(Sun) at the center, surrounded by nine planets: Earth (Prithvi
), Mars (Angaraka
), Mercury (Budha
), Jupiter (Guru
), Venus (Sukra
), Saturn (Sani
), Moon (Chandra
), and two nodes (Rahu
). These nine, excepting Earth and including Sun, are considered Nava Graha
(Nine planets) - and the astrological relationships of the four elements with the planets is also discussed in the Vedas.
The followings are some interesting observations from the Rigveda
, which is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language, dated 1700 BCE:
||There are clear references to a chakra or wheel of 360 spokes placed in the sky, especially in the hymns of the great Rishi Dirghatamas (Rig Veda I.140 – 164), one of the most famous Rig Vedic Rishis. Most of the astronomical information occurs in his famous Asya Vamasya Hymn (Rig Veda I.164)
||According to Dirghatamas (Rig Veda I.155.6) "With four times ninety names (chaturbhih sakam navatim cha namabhih), he (Vishnu) sets in motion moving forces like a turning wheel (chakra)."
Understanding: It is suggested that Vishnu, the God of Present, has 360 names - 4 times 90 - one for each degree of the Zodiac. The fourfold division of 360 degrees correspond to the solstices and equinoxes.
||Again Dirghatamas states (Rig Veda I.164.2): "Seven yoke the chariot that has a single wheel (chakra). One horse that has seven names carries it. The wheel has three naves, is undecaying and never overcome, where all these beings are placed."
Understanding: The Zodiac is compared to a chariot of single wheel, of infinite time, where all terrestrial life are placed. The Vedic horse (ashva) is symbolic of propulsive force, or energy. The three naves refer to the three modalities (fixed, cardinal and mutable). The Zodiac is yoked by the seven planets, which are all forms of the same energy.
||Dirghatamas continues (Rig Veda I.164.3): "This chariot which the seven have mounted has seven wheels (chakras) and is carried by seven horses. The seven sisters sing forth together, where are hidden the seven names of the cows."
Understanding: Each of the seven planets has its own circular transition, and each has its own horse (energy). Referring to the astrological influences of the planets, the planets are considered twin-natured. Their feminine power, the power of expression, creates the music of life. Hidden beyond these expressions, each planet has its own sacred knowledge - symbolized by the Vedic Cow.
||Dirghatamas further states (Rig Veda I.164.11): "The wheel of law with twelve spokes does not decay as it revolves around heaven. Oh Fire, here your 720 sons abide."
Understanding: The circle of Zodiac has 12 spokes, or signs, that govern terrestrial life. The Zodiac circle of 360 degrees is sub-divided into 720 half-degrees, or twins, and considered sons of the Fire Altar, the Sun.
||In continuation, Dirghatamas explains (Rig Veda I.164.15), "Of those that are born together, the seventh is born alone. The six are twins (yama), Divine born rishis. The wishes that they grant are apportioned according to their nature. Diversely made for their ordainer, they move in different forms."
Understanding: Of the seven planets considered, the Sun has a different beginning. The six twins refer to 12 Zodiacs, each with a ruling planet that has divine powers to grant wishes according to their nature, or qualities. Their ordainer or stabilizer may be the pole star (polar point).
||Perhaps the clearest verse from Dirghatamas is (Rig Veda I.164.48) "Twelve are its fellies. The wheel is one. It has three naves. Who has understood it? It is held together like spokes the 360, both moving and non-moving."
Understanding: It clearly suggests the Zodiac of 360 degrees, as 12 signs, that revolve in the sky but remains in the same place in Zodiac. The same verse also occurs in Atharva Veda (X.8.4)
There are multiple more references of the 360-degree Zodiac in the Rigveda, reiterated in later Vedas
, including names of the Zodiac signs.
These observations leave modern historians with no choice but to accept that the 360 degrees Zodiac was indeed invented by Ancient India
around 1700 BCE, if not earlier, contrary to the popular belief that the Babylonians invented the Zodiac in the 700 BCE.
The confusing event that many believe to have misled early historians is the compilation of Yavanajataka
("Sayings of the Greeks"), an astrological treatise around 2nd century AD. It was a Sanskrit versification of Greek works by Sphujidhvaja
under the patronage of king Rudradaman
. It would be incorrect to assume this work, and multiple subsequent translations, as an introduction (or even 'modernization') of astrology in Ancient India
. Greek influence during that period indeed had a huge impact on Indian Astrology, but even today, astrology in India - Jyotisha
- is based on sidereal coordinates and includes many elements that are not found in Hellenistic astrology.
The history of the Western Astrology remains unclear. Nevertheless, modern historians are in the opinion that Omen-Based Astrology originated in Mesopotamia, this model was re-structured in Ancient India
to include the 360 degree Zodiac based on sidereal coordinate system. The Babylonians further refined this model for Hellenistic system, which was adopted by the Greeks and further advanced into the current mature form of Western Astrology. This explains:
||The reason that the names of the Sun Signs that we use today, are Latin translations of the equivalent Sanskrit names, referred in Jyotiṣavedāṅga - dated around 700 BCE.
||The reason that 'Babylonians invented the Zodiac in 700 BCE' which coincides with the time-period that Jyotiṣavedāṅga was compiled - given the fact that the two early ciivilizations had trade and cultural exchanges.
||The reason that the Omen-Based-Astrology used by Babylonians around 2000 BC, considered Mundane Astrology, gradually declined - with the emergence of Horoscopic Astrology and inclusion of Natal Charts - around 700 BC.
||The reason that Indian Astrology preserved some of the older pre-Ptolemaic elements of Greek astronomy, and includes several nuanced sub-systems of interpretation and prediction with elements not found in Hellenistic astrology, such as its system of lunar mansions (Nakṣatra).
On the other hand, the Chinese astrology is believed to be influenced initially by Babylonians, and later by Ancient India
, originating in 3rd millenium BC and maturing in 2nd century BC. It follows a calendar of 60-years cycle, and includes concepts that are not found in Hellenistic astrology - including the principles of yin-and-yang. It has close relation to Chinese philosophy and its theory of three harmony: Heaven, Earth and Water.
Greeks were exposed to Asian cosmological ideas during their conquests, especially by Alexander the Great. And, there are historical evidences that astrology found popularity amongst scholars of Greece and Rome around 280 BC. Egyptian astrology was initially influenced by the Babylonians, and with the occupation of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, came under Hellenistic influence.
The Hellenistic period, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, witnessed significant Greek advancements in various branches of studies - including astrology.
By the 13th century, astrology had become a part of everyday medical practice in Europe - as it gained popularity throughout Medieval and Renaissance Europe. But over time, except in India, astrology steadily declined in popularity until the 20th century that witnessed a renewal of interests. In India, however, astrology has never lost its charm - considered a part of religion, as much as it is accepted as a scientific field. Until recently, no Indian marriage would been planned without astrological compatibility. Till date, astrology finds a place in everyday Indian household, and events and future plannings are discussed only after due astrological considerations.
Hellenistic Astrology, also popularly known as Western Astrology, has a powerful presence and even referred by Indian and Chinese astrologers - especially because it includes planets and asteroids - like Pluto and Chiron - that were not discovered in the Solar System until (relatively) recently. We, at Siddhantika, pay our tribute to modern astrology - the amalgamation of knowledge and efforts of many early civilizations:
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