Vedic Astrology Symbols

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by Hank Friedman

  • Uttara Phalguni. Uttara Ashadha — Mongoose.
  • May 20, 2019 Signs are called 'Rashis' (raw-shees) in Sanskrit. This table shows the signs with their rulers, Sanskrit names and symbols, etc. As you can see, the signs are the same as used in Western astrology. However, the nature of the signs, what they do, and the demigods behind them, who control them, are vastly different in Vedic astrology.
Vedic astrology chart

[Author's Note: Throughout this article, the example charts use signs in the Sidereal Zodiac, not the Tropical Zodiac.]

Vedic Sun Signs. The Sun represents the soul and the soul takes birth in a human form usually for a purpose ascertained by the law of karma. The apparent motion of the Sun creates the zodiac and the 12 signs. Each sign has an Aditya governing it and there are totally 12 in number. They are the sons of Sage Kashyapa and the divine mother Aditi.

Since mankind's earliest days on Earth, the movement of the Sun across the heavens has garnered our rapt attention. We can measure the Sun's path from two different vantage points: in reference to our own position on the Earth, or in reference to its path across the backdrop of the stars. For many purposes, such as hunting, planting and harvesting and other seasonal events, observing the Sun's passage relative to ones' physical location has been of vital importance. The movement of the Sun (and the other planets) across the field of stars has been valued, on the other hand, for selecting propitious times for both mundane proceedings and spiritual rituals, for navigation, and for predicting astronomical events.

Astrologers also use both methods of reckoning. Western astrologers use the seasonal or Tropical Zodiac, where the signs are based upon the annual movement of the Sun in relationship to the Earth. The Tropical sign of Aries begins at the point in the sky where the Sun crosses the Equator going North on the first day of Spring (for the Northern Hemisphere), around March 21st. Vedic astrologers, on the other hand, use the stellar or Sidereal Zodiac, where the Sidereal sign of Aries is determined by the placement of the stars in the Zodiacal constellations of the night sky. For the 21st century, the Sun enters Sidereal Aries around April 15th.

The Tropical Zodiac reflects how the changes of the seasons, of weather, and of light and dark, affect us, while the Sidereal Zodiac reveals our place among the stars, our place in the Universe. Since the signs in both Zodiacs have the same names, and many of the same characteristics, this can confuse astrologers and lead some to believe that one must be right and the other wrong. But in fact, those who use the Tropical Zodiac do so in ways that differ from those who employ the Sidereal Zodiac, and vice versa. It is vitally important to be clear here that all methods of astrology that use either Zodiac can be deep and alive in the hands of a talented practitioner.

Vedic Astrology Planet Symbols

But how did the both kinds of signs end up with the same names? The most likely explanation is that during the early years of Western astrology, the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs were virtually aligned (at most only a few degrees apart), so that there was little need to distinguish between them. In fact, many Western astrologers today don't realize that the signs they use (i.e. in the Tropical Zodiac) no longer occupy the same space as the constellations that they were originally named for.

For example, if you look up at the night sky when the Moon is in early to the middle of Virgo in a Western chart, visually it will be traversing the constellation of Leo. Astronomers sometimes try to use this fact to deride modern astrology, not realizing that a Zodiac based upon the seasons is just as valid as one based upon constellational positions.

As implied above, the two Zodiacs diverge from each other. Because the Earth is not a perfect sphere but instead is wider at the equator, it wobbles in its orbit, and as a result the seasons and the position of the Sun relative to the Earth shift in relationship to the constellations. In fact, the Tropical sign Aries coincides with the constellation of Aries for only a small fraction of the 26,000 year precessional cycle.

Within Vedic astrology, the difference between the Zodiacs is called the Ayanamsha, which means 'falling back portion'. Vedic astrologers reckon the beginning of the Sidereal Zodiac based upon specific star positions, with the most commonly used ayanamsha (called the Lahiri or Chitrapaksha ayamamsha) based upon the position of the star Spica as marker of the beginning of the Sidereal sign Libra.

Using the Lahiri ayamasha, the two Zodiacs coincided at 285 AD.The difference between the Zodiacs grows by only about one degree every 72 years. Today, the difference between them is approximately 24 degrees. E.g. a planet at 25 degrees of Cancer in a Western chart is at about 1 degree of Cancer Sidereally, and any planet earlier than 24 degrees of any Tropical sign will move back to the previous Sidereal sign. This divergence continues to increase, and therefore astrologers are having to come to terms with planets being in one sign Tropically and another one Sidereally. Nevertheless, each Zodiac has exceptional value within the astrological system in which it is used.

The purpose of this article is to show how Vedic astrologers use Sidereal signs. (Note: Vedic astrology also makes extensive use of the Sidereal Zodiac in its system of Lunar Mansions, aka Nakshatras. Venus and mars compatibility astrology taurus. See Linda Johnsen's fine articles on the Nakshatras in The Mountain Astrologer.)

Vedic Astrology Chart

One clear illustration of the contrasting approaches lies in the fact that while Western astrology textbooks usually have delineations of all of the planets in each of the signs, Vedic classical texts do not. The early references only give interpretations for the Rising Signs and occasionally for the Moon signs, and the later texts that offer planet in sign meanings do so by categorizing the planet in the sign of another planet, not it a sign itself. For example: Mars in a sign of Venus, instead of Mars in Taurus or Mars in Libra.

On the other hand, while most Vedic classics interpret the rulers of houses (by house, strength, aspects, etc.) in great depth, this is not commonly done in most Western astrology textbooks. The entire Vedic system of approach, in other words, is oriented towards planets and towards using signs as indicating planetary rulerships, as opposed to focusing on the qualities of the signs themselves.

That is not to say that the signs lack meaning. As you can see from the section below, the signs have rich and detailed significations. But these are secondary to their planetary owners. For example, if a planet is in its sign of exaltation, a Western astrologer sees it as strong. A Vedic astrologer, however, immediately looks at the strength of the planet that rules the exaltation sign, and if that planet is weak, then the exaltation would carry little weight. Similarly, if a planet is in the sign opposite to its exalted sign (which Western astrology calls Fall and Vedic astrology debilitation or neecha), then again the Vedic astrologer looks at its dispositor, and if the ruler of the debilitation sign is strong, then the debilitation is not only ameliorated, but can in fact indicate remarkable abilities. This way of thinking, about the profound effect of dispositors upon planets, is a central and valuable approach in Vedic astrology.

B. The Vedic Rashis

Vedic Astrology Symbols

Vedic Astrology Signs Explained

The Vedic term for astrological sign is rashi, which means a heap of stars. While modern Western astrology is very theme-based, with all of the qualities of Taurus, for example, clearly correlating with each other, Vedic astrology is more non-linear, with no attempt to merge the various meanings of each sign into coherent themes.

Vedic Astrology Calculator

The fundamental fact is that Vedic astrologers conceive of and use signs differently than Western astrologers, and that the differing sections of space actually have divergent meanings. We see this in the classical Vedic interpretations of the signs. In Mantreswara's 16th century classical work, Phala Deepika1, the sign Aries is seen as associated with fear of water, for example, a quality not typically ascribed to Tropical Aries in Western astrology. (See the following table for all of the signs)

Vedic Astrology Chart Calculator