Vedic Astrology – The Navagrahas

Hari Om

The Vedic (Hindu) astrology is based on an elaborate calculation of the position of these planets at the time of one’s birth.

For example the zodiac is divided into twelve zodiac houses of 30 degrees each called Rasi.

The planet Sun travels to one of these houses each month.

Similarly other planets have their times of travel through these zodiac assigned to them. As the planets travel through these zodiac signs, their respective positions with respect to each other changes and this is supposed to determine the fate of the human affairs.

An astrologer can draw up a horoscope of a person based on his time of birth and calculate the relative positions of the planets relative to this horoscope.

Planets are also believed to influence the outcomes of historical events of entire nations and the earth.

Each planet has its own mode of circumambulation clockwise or anticlockwise, which fact is also known to modern day scientists.

Each planet faces a different direction. In religious rites betel nuts represent the planets and priest invites each planet there to witness and bless the puja.

In Puranas they are all represented as deities borne in cars (vehicles). They are propitiated because of their sinister effects (Saturn, Rahu and Ketu) and for their favorable influence (Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Sun and the Moon).

In addition to the planets, twenty seven Nakshatras (constellations) through which the Moon passes and twelve signs of zodiac of the Sun, regarded as deities are consulted at birth, rejoicing, distress and calamity. In astrology, Nakshatra (translated as star into English) is only one of the 27 segments of the zodiac belt whereas in astronomy stars are heavenly twinkling bodies in the sky. Shanti (peace) propitiation ceremony is held to appease any unfavorable constellation.

The Moon completes a circuit of its path with respect to the earth in about 27.33 days. Hence the Zodiacal belt is divided into 27 equal parts of 13 degrees 20″ each called Nakshatras.

The first segment longitude of the Moon 0 degrees to 13 degrees and 20″ is called Aswini, the second 13 degrees 20″ is Bharani and so on. 346 degrees 40″ to 360 degrees is Revati, the last Nakshatra.

The segment in which moon lies at the time of birth of a person is called Janma Nakshatra(birth star) of that person. When the longitude of the Moon is 133 degrees 20″ to 146 degrees 40″ at birth, the Janma Nakshtra is Poorva Phaalgun..

Recently elaborate research study has been undertaken by Dr B.N. Narahari, Professor of Physics at University of Memphis, on the date of Mahabharata War simulations using the planetarium software.

A search was made for the years in which there is conjunction of Saturn (Sani) with Rohini (Aldebaran) between 3500 B.C. and 500 B.C. Based on the findings a unique date of 3067 B.C., for the date of Mahabharata war has been determined.

This date is consistent with all other astronomical references in the Mahabharata in several publications, determined with the help of copious illustrations of star maps generated by the planetarium software.

The date provided by the software provides an anchor sheet for the history of India.

The Navagrahas or the nine planetary gods worshipped together in all Hindu temples, invoking the Lord in the form of planetary deities is one of the unique forms of worshipping Iswara (Saguna Brahman) seen in the Vedic culture.

The nine Grahas represent the star Surya, ( Sun); Chandra or Soma, (Moon), the satellite of the Earth; the five planets—Kuja or Mangala, (Mars); Budha, (Mercury);Guru or Brihaspati, (Jupiter); Sukra,(Venus); Shani, (Saturn); which are close to the earth in the order of their distances from the Sun; and, finally Rahu and Ketu which are not planets but are the ascending and descending nodes of the moon as it enters the ecliptic and leaves it, which have been given the status of planets in mythology. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are called in Samskrit as Varuna, Indra and Prajapati respectively.

Prominence for these planets has not been given in Hindu predictive Astrology as their effects on human beings are believed to be negligible. Kathopanishad mentions ‘Uma of the golden hue’ as the Goddess Mother Earth whom the followers of Siva have adopted as the consort of Siva, one of the Trinities.

The planet Earth is always considered as a vital element and is included amongst five prime elements called Pancha Bhootas—Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ethereal Space (sky) and therefore not included in the group of Navagrahas.

However, earth planet is worshipped by all Vaishnavites as Bhudevi, one of the consorts of Lord Vishnu while Sridevi (Lakshmi) is the other consort.

Navagraha deities worshipped as planetary deities in Hindu Temples are perceived as having the greatest influence on the physical and psychic conditions of the living beings on earth.

If the Moon can affect the tides in the sea, why can’t stars and planets affect the tides in the life of a man? Man is essentially an electromagnetic network. There is a lot of references on human magnetism. So movement of planets and stars which affect the earth’s magnetic fields should also affect the magnetic fields of human beings.

At a time when Vedic rituals were all important, there was a great need to determine the correct times for performing them.

This gave rise to a new branch of knowledge called “Jyotisha” or “Jyautisha” which was deemed as Vedaanga, a subsidiary science of Veda. This was the origin of Hindu Astronomy and dates back to 1400 B.C. according to modern historians. Jyotisha Shastra includes astronomy and astrology. Jyotisha Shastra connects the life events of human beings to the orderly patterns of the movements of the planets in the earth’s solar system.

Astrology according to Hindus is not a mere superstition of gazing the stars and making fantastic predictions, but is based on the firm tenets of the doctrine of Karma and rebirth of Sanatana Dharma.

Hindu Panchanga provides a dating system which can be used in civil affairs such as dating of documents, letters, maintaining accounts etc. It also forecasts the occurrences of daily celestial phenomena such as Tithis and Nakshatras– the dates and times when religious festivals are to be observed and auspicious moments to be observed for other socio-religious functions such as wedding, Upanayanam etc based on duration of Tithis and Nakshatras and on planetary positions.

The nine planets in the Solar System were familiar with Hindu sages in the Vedic culture, long before they were discovered by the Western World.

In Hindu temples, to-day during traditional Vedic rituals, Yajnas and Veda chanting, Indra, Varuna and Prajapati (Neptune, Uranus and Plato planets) are invoked invariably.

Thus all the planets in the solar system are traditionally worshipped in the Hindu Temples besides Sun, Moon, Rahu, Ketu and Mother Earth.

There are exclusive temples for individual deities in the group of Navagraha planets in Tamil Nadu in India, where Saiva Siddhanta is vigorously followed in Saiva temples.

Surya temple in Konrak in Orissa and Surya temple in Andhra Pradesh are quite famous. Navagraha Puja and Navagraha Homa are popular amongst Siva worshippers in India.

The position in which the Navagraha Deities have to be installed in the temples gives the inkling as to what they are actually meant to represent to man.

In Saivite temples in South India there is always an altar dedicated to the nine planetary devatas. In North Indian temples they are displayed on the lintels of doors. This is to protect the temple as well as those who enter it from evil eyes. They are usually housed on a small pavilion (Mandapa) with or without enclosure.

The Nine Grahas are installed in such a way that no two of them will face each other. It is said sometimes that images of the planets are set up in the order in which they are in zodiacal circle at the time of construction.

The image of Soorya is always in the center of the planet, facing east with other planets fixed around him each in a specific direction.

The idols are to be installed with the Sun at the center. The other eight deities stand surrounding the Sun in such a way that no deity faces another. The eight Grahas surrounding the Sun represent the eight-fold lower nature of the Lord which becomes Jeeva.

Graha literally means ‘to grab’. They are probably called so because they cause ellipse by grabbing the Sun and the other stars.

The world play is the play of two natures, attracting or catching and pulling one another. Since the nine grahas catch one another, they are called the Navagrahas or the ‘nine catchers’.

All the restlessness of man is due to the mutual attraction of these two tendencies. When a man knows how to keep natures within him separate from one another, he stands at peace with himself and with the world around. Navagraha also means a “New grasp”.

A deeper investigation into the names of these deities and their vahanas (vehicles), gives us a new understanding about life and mysteries, which are presumed to be influenced by the deities.

SURYA (RAVI) – Surya is always associated with a ratha (chariot) drawn by seven horses. Surya means promoter; ratha means movement. Seven horses stand for the seven types of appetites. The superior nature of Lord entering into individual egos promote the seven types of appetites—five senses, the Mind and the Intellect. Sunlight has seven colors, allegorically described as seven horses. Because the sun’s essential nature is light, it is called “aatmakaaraka” or the presiding deity of the aatma. The Sun governs person’s confidence, authority and status. The Sun is also the presiding deity of the eyes and rules the zodiac sign Leo. Vishnu Purana states that the Sun does not move; nor does it rise or set. Rising and setting imply appearance and disappearance. The Sun god is one of the most important deities in the Vedas. According to the Rigveda, Aditi had eight sons known as Adityas. She threw one of her off springs because she did not want to be associated with its burning heat. Another myth tells how Surya arose from the eyes of the great giant Purusha. In the Brahmapurana, Surya is attributed with twelve ‘splendors’ and given 12 names of distinct deities including Indra, Varuna, Vishnu and Mitra. Surya himself is said to be Supreme Spirit identified with Brahman, who by means of these splendors permeates the universe and radiates so far as the secret soul of man. Surya is also a descendant of Kashyapa in mythology. Sun is a fireball and its diameter is approximately 86400 miles. It is approximately 93,000,000 miles away. Earth and moon get their light from Sun. Anything bigger than this size would burn the recipient planets. Anything smaller than this would make them cold and dark. The first day of the week in the name of the Sun is not only prevalent amongst Hindus, in Sanskrit and other languages but also in Western world as SUN-day. All these makes the Sun foremost amongst the Navagrahas.

CHANDRA (INDU; SOMA)—Chandra is Moon God, seen riding on a chariot drawn by ten white horses. Chandra means allurer—allurer to the Jeeva which is hungry for the lure of the sense objects offered by the world. Chandragraha is the nearest to the earth planet. It is approximately 240,000 miles from the earth. Moon is the second graha in the southeast direction in the Navagraha configuration. In mythology Moon was born in the milky ocean during churning along with nectar. Amrita and Rohini are his wives. He is assisted by Varuna and Gowri deities. Moon is the presiding deity of the mind and emotions. This devata is depicted holding lotus buds in his hands. He rules the zodiac sign of Cancer.

KUJA (MANGALA; ANGARAKA)—Kuja is seen riding a goat (Mesha). The Mars god, Kuja means stealing, coming from the Sanskrit root kuj, to steal. Mesha is winking, that means it is thinking. A continuous brooding or thinking about the attractive objects steals the individual away. Kuja is the son of Earth Goddess. In the Puranas, he is also described as Kartikeya, the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati. He is depicted as wearing red clothes and carrying a spear. He governs the qualities of courage and bravery and presides over siblings and health. He rules the zodiac signs Aries and Scorpio. There are facilities for life sustenance in this planet as per modern scientists. Researches are going on to further this theory.

BUDHA (SOWMYA)—The Mercury God rides on a lion. Budha means recognition. A knowledge of how the wisdom is being stolen away comes to man on self-mastery. Simha means mastering (sahanaat simhaha). A man of self control can recognize how he is becoming a slave to the sense objects by his unintelligent brooding over them. In mythology Budha is the son of Moon God. Budha deity presides over Intelligence. He governs a person’s teaching capacities. He is depicted as holding the Vedas in one hand, a sword in the other. His other two hands carry a mace and a shield. He rules the zodiac signs, Gemini and Virgo.

GURU (BRIHASPATI)—Jupiter God rides on Hamsa, the mythical swan. Guru means remover of darkness. Hamsa is the mythical bird that is capable of separating milk from a mixture of milk and water, accepting only the milk and rejecting water in it. Thus the actual removal of the ignorant attraction is not by recognition alone but by proper discrimination. Guru is the presiding deity of religious inclinations and prosperity. He is also the presiding deity of married life for woman. He is described in the Puranas as Brihaspati (one who possesses sharp intelligence), the preceptor of Devas. He is often depicted in a standing posture with four hands, in one of which he holds a weapon called the Vajraayudha. He rules the signs Sagittarius and Pisces.

SUKRA (BHRIGU)—Venus god rides on a Mandooka that is a frog. Shukra means ‘bright illumination’. It comes on satisfaction. Mandooka means those who dwell in satisfaction (manda esha oka iti) on perfect contentment and applying themselves to the contemplation of higher Reality, when the illumination dawns. Sukra is the presiding deity of material comforts, arts, culture and aesthetics. He possesses the qualities of a poet. He is also the presiding deity of love and married life of men. In the Puranas he is depicted as the preceptor of King Bali and the demons. Sukra is depicted as standing with his hands folded. He is the ruler of zodiac signs Taurus and Libra.

Image courtesy:Tirunallar Temple

SANI—Saturn God rides on crow. Sani means slowness and laziness. Kaaka (crow) means that which is to be driven out. In the matter of Saadhana (achieving) there should be no relaxation or laziness—such tendencies should be firmly eliminated. Sani is the presiding deity of longevity, calamities and difficulties in life and at the same time of renunciation and spiritual wisdom. He presides over painful experiences and inner growth. In the Puranas, he is considered as the son of Sun god and brother of Yama. He is depicted with a dark complexion, bearing a mace and moving at slow pace. His eyes or generally blindfolded because of the belief that his glance is very powerful and may bring misfortune. He rules the zodiac signs of Capricorn and Aquarius.

RAHU—Rahu is the combination of two roots in Sanskrit, raa and hu meaning to surrender and offer in sacrifice respectively. He rides on a lion, Simha. Simha means Himsa turned back, that is non-injury cultivated. Non-injury is the carrier of the spirit of surrender and sacrifice to the Lord. Rahu is closely connected to Ketu in mythology, born of a rakshasa, a demon. Rahu is the presiding deity of worldly desire. Astronomically, it is not a planet but the ascending nodal point of the Moon. The upper body of Rahu is similar to man and the lower half is like a snake being the converse of Ketu. Rahu does not rule any sign but gives the effect of the ruler of the sign where it is situated.

KETU—Ketu means praajna or pure consciousness His vehicle is an owl or Gridhra. Gridhra in Sanskrit is derived from the root gridh which means endeavor to gain. An effort to gain consciousness is the carrier of knowledge which cannot be gained without proper effort. Ketu is the presiding deity of Moksha (moksha is derived from two words moha and kshaya) or freedom from limitations. Ketu is not a planet but the descending nodal point of the Moon. He is closely connected with Rahu. In mythology, it is born of a rakshasa, a demon. The upper half of Ketu’s body is similar to the head of the snake and lower half is like a man, being the converse of Rahu. Ketu like Rahu does not rule any zodiac sign but gives the effect of the ruler where it is situated. In mythology a demon called Viprasena, born of Simhika, wanted to share the divine nectar, disguising himself as a deva. But Vishnu cut off his head with the nectar serving ladle while serving nectar to devas. Because of the previous consumption of nectar, the head survived and worshipped Lord Siva and got the status of planets. Accordingly Rahu got the status of a planet with human head and serpent body, and, Ketu also got the status of a planet with human body and serpent head.

While performing Navagraha Shanti Puja each Graham or planet is specifically offered a particular grain, which after puja is fed to cows.

These are: Sun–wheat; Moon—rice or paddy; Mars—red gram (tuar); Mercury—green gram; Jupiter—Bengal gram;Venus—flat white beans (avarai); Saturn—black sesame; Rahu—black gram; Ketu—horse gram.

It is also customary for the performer to wear specific precious stone jewelry for the Graham, whose benefits or evil ward-off are sought after, during Shanti Puja and also invoke the ruling deity of the planet:

1. Surya—Agni, fire god, Siva; Red Ruby stone.

2. Moon—Aapaha, Water god, Parvati; Pearl

3. Mars—Bhumi (Earth), Skanda (Or Muruga) ; Red coral.

4. Mercury—Vishnu (Preserver); Emerald.

5. Jupiter—Indra (king of Devas), Brahma; Yellow sapphire, Yellow topaz.

6. Venus—Indrani (queen of gods); Diamond.

7. Saturn—Yama, God of Death, Prajapati; Blue sapphire and black stones.

8. Rahu (dragon’s head)—Durga (Goddess of Power), Naga devata (serpent god); honey colored Hessonite.

9, Ketu (dragon’s tail)—Chitragupta (God of Karma); Cat’s eye.

[Ruling deities are shown in bold letters]

Even in Western belief, precious stones play an important role in human life. They believe in the superstition of birth stones for the twelve months of the calendar year. According to the belief, diamond made people lucky in love as well as strong and courageous; Sapphire, next to diamond is the strongest. It is supposed to possess mystical qualities including promotion of peace and purification of mind; Emerald, in ancient times was powdered and taken believing to cure fever; Ruby, the rarest of the gems, particularly Burmese ruby was thought to promote good health and keep looking young. They were said to guard fruit trees from disease.

Before leaving the temple devotees offer prayers to Navagrahas by circumambulating nine times around the altar, while chanting Navagraha Stotram or the following prayer:

Aarogyam pradadaatu noe dinakaraha

Chandroe yasoe nirmalam

Bhootim bhoomisutaha sudhaamsu

Tanaya prajnam guru gauravam

Kaavyaha koemala-vag vilaasam-atulam

Mandoe mudam sarvadaa

Rahur baahubalam viroedha shamanam

Ketuhu kulasyoennatim”

May the Sun give us long life and good health; the Moon pure fame; the son of Earth, Mars, charisma and prosperity; the son of the Moon, Mercury, intelligence; Jupiter, respectability; the one possessed of the qualities of a poet, Venus, the capacity for unsurpassed and elegant speech; the one of slow gait, Saturn, continual joy and pleasure; Rahu, strength and the destruction of the enemies; and Ketu, growth of the family.

“Namaha Sooryaaya Chandraaya Mangala Budhaaya cha

Guruhu Sukraha Shanibhyascha Raahave Ketave namaha”

I offer my obeisance to Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu and Ketu.

GF’ Blessings.