Category Archives: Vedic Astrology – Jyotish

A predictive and preventive ‘karmic engineering’ system to help maintain only positive influences in our returning karmas.

How to Start Interpreting Vedic Horoscopes

Summary: First steps in learning successful Vedic Horoscope interpretation. Examining spiritual considerations and important factors needed before starting to interpret a birth-chart using Jyotish astrology. A step-by-step guide covering the ‘mechanics’ of Vedic chart interpretation will be covered in a separate article.

Successful Vedic Horoscope Interpretation

In order to successfully interpret a Vedic Horoscope we are going to need far more than just a knowledge of planets, houses and the astrological rules of Jyotish!

Firstly, Vedic astrology is a spiritual discipline in itself and we should be aware of the wider spiritual implications of this subject before we even start the process.

Secondly, in order to be able to make predictions from a Jyotish birth-chart we are going to have to combine lots of information from different sources and ‘weight’ those indicators accordingly. This is going to require some level of intuition. In order to develop this intuition we need to undertake regular spiritual practices and also follow a Sattvic lifestyle.

Thirdly, as complete beginners, we are going to have to be able to deal with ‘information overload’ and ultimately decide what factors to leave out until we gain more experience.

The following sections in this article look at the above factors in more detail. A separate article will cover the actual mechanics of the subject in a ‘Step-by-step Guide to Vedic Horoscope Interpretation’.

 

Jyotish Astrology and Spirituality

Knowledge of Jyotish – A Great Privilege

An enlightened Vedic Master (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) explains the ultimate purpose of Vedic astrology as follows:

‘The purpose of astrology is to take you to the ultimate truth that the entire universe is one organism. It’s one Being, one consciousness, one Self, that manifests itself into this varied universe’. (Published in Art of Living’s ‘Daily Sutra’, May 2003)

It has always been a great privilege to have this Knowledge. It was once available exclusively to the royal households and the courts of the Kings of Bharat. These courts had their own highly learned astronomy and astrology pundits. Rulers would ask their pundits for advice before making important decisions.

Why is the knowledge of Jyotish such a privilege for us in the modern world? Well, we should realise that Jyotish gives us some ability to look into another soul’s returning karma. So, this is a divine gift and we should treat it with great respect!

With great privilege also comes great responsibility. Before beginning any chart interpretation we need to ask ourselves: ‘how can I be of most benefit to my client’. In doing so we will need to balance both honesty and compassion.

Horoscope Interpretation Requires Intuition

Chart interpretation requires us to develop abilities to synthesise and make predictions based on multiple sources of information.

We will need to combine information from many key astrological indicators before we can make high probability predictions.

Jyotish is both a logical and systematic subject. However, the ability to combine lots of different factors and ‘weight’ them accordingly requires a reasonable level of intuition!

Spiritual Practices and Lifestyle Help Us Develop Intuition

The practice of Jyotish itself helps develop our intuition and gives rise to a growing awareness of the ‘all seeing light of pure consciousness’ within us. This is called : ‘Jyotish Mati Pragya’ or the all-knowing consciousness.

The more charts we do, the better we become and the more we develop our intuition. This ability develops over a period of time after viewing many charts and observing repetitive patterns that are correlated with client’s life experiences.

All good Vedic astrologers also realise the need for regular spiritual practices – both to improve their own intuition (or ‘sixth sense’) and to really ‘connect’ with the cosmos and its universal ‘forces’. Spiritual practices for a Jyotish Astrologer will probably involve daily meditation (preferably mantra-based Vedic techniques) – possibly together with daily yoga and pranayama. Advanced meditation practices and chanting Vedic mantras will also help develop a strong intuition.

In addition, a Vedic Astrologer will follow a reasonably Sattvic lifestyle (based on Ayurvedic principles). This lifestyle and meat-free diet will improve the astrologers abilities to give a balanced, bias -free interpretation. A well known living saint has also insisted that Her ashram-based astrologers remain celibate!

Some people say it takes a lifetime of study to be really good at Jyotish Horoscope interpretation. Others suggest it may even take several lifetimes! However, we should not be put off by this. We might even have been interested in the subject in a distant past life and are now reacquainting ourselves with it!

 

Key Considerations Before We Start Chart Interpretation

Dealing With Information Overload

When we start to learn about Jyotish and then try to apply our knowledge to chart interpretation we often encounter Information Overload!

This is particularly so if we are using Jyotish software, which gives far too much information for a beginner. We can be so overwhelmed that we then fail to even see the key factors in a chart. We then have ‘not seen the wood for the trees’!

So, it is important to know what we can leave out when we’re first starting to learn to interpret birth charts.

Professional astrologers will tell us that we should take all of the available factors into consideration when interpreting a birth-chart. Although this is very true, it is not at all helpful for beginners!

Key Factors to Include – Keeping it Simple

Firstly we need to have a basic knowledge about planets, houses, aspects, etc. (as presented in the ‘Resources for Students’ and ‘Learn Jyotish’ sections of this website)

Then, as a minimum, we should be able to identify and assess:

    • The overall strength of the birth-chart itself
    • The overall strength of the ascendant and its ruler
    • Functional benefics and malefics resulting from this particular ascendant
    • The strength of all planets by sign placement – e.g. exalted, debilitated, etc
    • The strength of all planets by house placement – e.g. placed in ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ houses
    • How this strength affects the things the planet indicates
    • How this strength affects the indications of the houses the planet rules
    • The condition of each house due to occupying planets and aspects
    • The major planetary periods (Mahadashas) and their favourable and unfavourable effects
    • Significant transits – usually of Saturn and Jupiter

I will cover all of these topics in much more detail in the ‘Step-by-step Guide to Vedic Horoscope Interpretation’ article.

What to Leave Out ?

What indicators should we, as a complete beginner, leave out? The following are my personal recommendations. Some astrologers will disagree and say we must include some or even all of these factors ! I would say: ‘yes, but later – when we have gained more experience’.

Personally I would omit numerical data obtained from the six Shadbala calculations and just systematically asses a planets strength from its sign and house placement (for now).

I would also leave out an analysis of the Vargas (divisional charts), with the possible exception of the Navamsha chart (which is important in marriage and also modifies the planetary strengths derived from the main chart ). We can always look at the Vargas when we have gained more experience – but best to stick with the main chart for now.

I would also omit an analysis of the transits, unless there is a significant Saturn transit such as Sani Sade (Saturn transiting 12th, 1st and 2nd house counted from sign containing the Moon). I would also omit transits of Guru unless particularly significant.

For complete beginners I would leave out taking into consideration the Nakshatras. I know that the position of the Moon in a specific Nakshatra at birth can have considerable influence on the overall chart – but this just adds another layer of complexity for beginners. If you have difficulty matching real life events with the main chart, then by all means investigate them.

Should we look at, or omit, an analysis of the birth-chart from the perspective of using the sign the Moon occupies as Lagna? Some astrologers say it is essential to take this into account. I must say I only tend to quickly glance over a chart from this perspective, but I don’t ignore it completely. In my ‘enhanced chart format’ I do label each house from the Moon for easy reference. So, your call really.

Should we leave out Sambandhas [2] or mutual relationships between planets? An example is the ‘exchange of signs’ – such as when Moon is in Pisces (Jupiter’s sign) and Jupiter is in Cancer (Moon’s sign) in a birth-chart. Maybe this adds another layer of complexity for absolute beginners, but even beginners should be aware Sambandhas exist and can give powerful and significant results. I have seen a number of charts where the presence of Sambandhas explained a lot that was not obvious from other factors.

What about planetary Yogas – should we include them or not? Yoga means ‘union’ – a special arrangement or combination of planets and Jyotish recognises hundreds of Planetary Yogas [3]. And that really is  a major problem for a beginner! Sure, if our Jyotish software identifies them, we might like to investigate the influences from a few major ones (e.g. ‘Raja’ Yoga, ‘Adh’i Yoga, etc.)

Can We Learn Chart Interpretation from a Book or Website?

The answer to this is: ‘maybe’. The problem with most books on Jyotish is that they contain far too much information – which can be very confusing.

When I began studying Jyotish I did find the book ‘Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer’ (by James T. Braha)  useful. It was well laid out and gave me fairly concise information that I could easily refer to. Unfortunately this book had some major omissions. For example, it did not deal at all well with functional benefic and malefic planets – but it did give me an initial ‘toe hold’ into the subject at a time when there was little else available (also no internet then).

I have actually found AI (specifically ChatGPT) to be quite good at answering questions about fairly detailed topics in Jyotish. It is not perfect though – so the usual warning ‘beginners beware’ applies. However, using it seems a lot faster than trying to trawl individual websites to find the answers, so it is now my first go-to source.

Do We Need a Mentor?

Having a mentor certainly helps. I was very fortunate in having a few extremely knowledgeable friends who were on advanced and residential Transcendental Meditation Programmes (Purusha Programmes) that I could easily refer to. A couple of these friends had access to professional Jyotish Pundits from India. They gave me valuable insights into Jyotish that I never received from books.

Could AI act as a mentor? This was a question I actually put to ChatGPT. It acknowledged it could be a powerful tool for finding information and researching the subject. However it also said: ‘It [AI]doesn’t possess personal experiences, intuition, or the ability to provide subjective insights in the same way a human mentor might.’ The full answer (which I rate highly) is given in Footnote [1]

What Charts Should We Look at First?

Personally, I would always suggest looking at our own chart first! Many people start their interest in Jyotish this way. At some point there might even be an ‘OMG’ moment – when we realise that this stuff actually works! This happened to me. I started off being highly sceptical, but soon realised Jyotish was very different indeed from Western Astrology. It seemed to provide a ‘window’ onto my returning karma – truly amazing and paradigm shifting too!

Then we could start to examine the charts of our immediate friends and family members. This way we can check how well their life experiences and events seem to be reflected in their charts. However, we must remember that Jyotish is dynamic and that some of the events indicated by the Mahadashas will not have materialised in younger people.

Books often teach chart interpretation by looking at the charts of famous people. I find this less useful because the knowledge we have about all the different life areas (Artha, Dharma, Kama and Moksha) of celebrities, sporting figures, politicians etc. is limited. Ultimately, the information we get is often what their PR team want us to get. So friends, family and people we know intimately are better for our initial investigations. They will also present charts more typical of people living ordinary (non-celebrity) lives.

Here are some key questions to bear in mind when we first start to look at a our own or another person’s Vedic Horoscope:

    • How accurately do they know their birth-time? Is this written down somewhere?
    • Do they mention any issues and current problems in specific life areas?
    • Can we detect any planetary imbalances or potential problems from their chart that relate to these current issues?
    • Which planetary remedies could we choose

Footnotes

[1] The question I asked ChatGPT was: “Can AI act as a mentor to someone studying Jyotish”? The answer I got: AI can provide information, answer questions, and assist in learning various topics, including Jyotish (Vedic astrology). However, it’s important to note that AI, including myself, doesn’t possess personal experiences, intuition, or the ability to provide subjective insights in the same way a human mentor might.

If you’re studying Jyotish and seeking guidance, it’s advisable to complement AI resources with human mentors who have practical experience in the field. A human mentor can offer personalised advice, share their experiences, and provide a deeper understanding of the nuances of Jyotish that might not be covered by AI.

AI can be a valuable tool for learning, researching, and practising Jyotish, but for a holistic and personalised learning experience, combining AI resources with guidance from experienced practitioners is often the most effective approach

[2] More details (on external website) of the mutual relationships between planets –  Sambandhas

[3] More details (on external website) of special arrangements or combinations of planets –  Planetary Yogas


Additional Information on Vedic Astrology

Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.

Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.

For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.

Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.

Ayanamsha Principles

Summary: Covering the basic principles and applications of the Ayanamsa (Ayanamsha) which is used to translate planetary positions from the Tropical zodiac into the Sidereal zodiac.

Quick Facts about the Ayanamsha

    • The Tropical Zodiac moves slowly relative to the background of the ‘fixed’ stars [1] and the Sidereal Zodiac does not move at all. So it, and all the signs in it, remain anchored forever against these stars.
    • The Ayanamsha is the angular distance between the starting point of the Tropical zodiac and the starting point of the Sidereal zodiac. Currently it is around 24 degrees.
    • Sidereal Position = Tropical Position – Ayanamsha
    • For example: if the Sun is at 29 degrees Virgo in the Tropical zodiac it will now be located at 29 – 24 deg. = 5 deg. Virgo in the Sidereal zodiac. However, if it lies between 0 deg. and 24 deg. in Virgo in the Tropical zodiac it will now be in Leo in the Sidereal zodiac. It has moved ‘backwards’ by the Ayanamsha amount. Suppose the Sun was at 20 degrees Tropical. This is equal to Sun at 20 – 24 = – 4 degrees from Virgo sidereal. This means it has moved backwards into the sign before it, so is now at 30 – 4 = 26 degrees Leo.
    • The Ayanamsha is important. It enables the position of the planets (as calculated by astronomers) to be accurately placed in their correct signs, houses and Nakshatras in the Sidereal chart. This forms the foundation for accurate predictions.
    • The Ayanamsha used by most professional Vedic astrologers is that calculated by Lahiri (although some astrologers use a small correction factor to ‘fine-tune’ it).
    • Lahiri’s Ayanamsha is also officially recognised by the Indian Government. They have standardised on this Ayanamsha because many (but not all) religious festivals in India are based on the Moon (sometimes both Sun and Moon), its phases and position in the Nakshatras or lunar mansion
    • Because of the astronomical phenomenon known as the ‘precession of the equinoxes’ the Ayanamsha is not a fixed number, but increases slowly with time.
    • If we take Lahiri’s Ayanamsha we find it was about 23 degrees in 1950 (the year I was born) and is now about 24 degrees. So it increases by an average of about 1 deg. every 72 years.
    • At some time in the distant past the two zodiacs were in perfect alignment and coincided exactly . Both then had the same starting point in the sky – estimated to be around 285 AD (if using the Lahiri Ayanamsha).
    • If we are just beginning our studies of Jyotish it is highly recommended we start with Lahiri’s Ayanamsha. This is usually an option (often default) in Vedic astrological software. Lahiri’s Ayanamsha is published in most ephemeris (ephemerides) tables. After we gain more experience we can explore the consequences and results of different Ayanamshas.

Ayanamsa (Ayanamsha) – Basic Principles

The Ayanamsa (pronounced ‘Ayanamsha’) is the angular distance, measured in degrees, between the starting point of the Tropical zodiac (used by most western astrologers) and the starting point of the Sidereal zodiac used by all Vedic astrologers.

So, what is the difference between the two zodiacs? Well, both the Tropical and the Sidereal zodiacs are identical in that both have 12 signs and each sign occupies exactly 30 degrees of the sky (or ‘celestial sphere’). Both also have identical names for the signs e.g. Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. The only difference between them is where they start in the sky and this difference is called the ‘Ayanamsha’.

The starting point of the Tropical zodiac (astrologers call this ‘zero degrees Aries’) can be measured with very high precision by astronomers and this precise point in the sky then referenced to the very distant ‘fixed’ stars [1] in our own galaxy. This measurement of the Spring (sometimes called ‘Vernal’) Equinox defines the position of zero degrees Aries in the sky. So, the Tropical zodiac is linked to the seasons. Also the signs of this zodiac slowly move through the sky. They don’t stay in the same place when referenced to the distant stars.

The starting point of the Sidereal zodiac cannot be measured directly, but its position can be inferred. It can also be found by ‘reverse engineering’ – by examining real life events matched against birth-chart predictions. Various scholars and academics have arrived at their own figures for the angular distance between the starting points of the Tropical and Sidereal zodiac. Most accepted Ayanamshas are within one or two degrees of each other [3]. Although this doesn’t sound much, it can have a major influence on chart interpretation and predictions if a planet’s position ‘moves’ between signs or houses as a result of different Ayanamshas. It also seriously affects the divisional charts (e.g. ninth divisional chart or ‘Navamsha’ – which is examined for details about marriage and partnerships) used in Jyotish. It can also affect the interpretation of transits too!

The Tropical Zodiac moves against the background stars

If the Spring equinox point always remained in the same location (with reference to the ‘fixed’ background stars) the Ayanamsha concept would be fairly straightforward.

Unfortunately things get more complicated as the starting point of the Tropical zodiac actually moves relative to the background of the ‘fixed’ stars over a period of time. This movement, although small (e.g. an average of about 1 degree per 72 years), is caused by the astronomically observable ‘precession of the equinox’ phenomenon [2].

To further complicate things, the rate of movement of the equinox point itself varies over a period of time. This is due to complex gravitational interactions between the Earth, Sun, Moon, Jupiter, etc. in our solar system. So the figure of 1 degree per 72 years is just an average. Complex astronomical algorithms can compute a more accurate figure over long periods of time.

Footnotes

[1] The ‘fixed stars’ are so far away from earth that their angular motion relative to our sun is extremely small, even over many thousands of years. So we can legitimately use the term ‘fixed’ or ‘immovable’.

[2] The equinox point on the Earth’s orbit around the sun moves, relative to the background of the ‘fixed’ stars, due to what is called the ‘precession of the equinox’. This is a well-defined astronomical phenomenon which is due to a slight ‘wobble’ on the Earth’s axis of spin.  The wobble is caused by gravitational forces from Sun and Moon that act on the bulge at the equator (as the rotating earth is not a perfect sphere due to ‘centrifugal’ forces) . It is a bit like a child’s spinning top or toy gyroscope that wobbles – the top spins rapidly about the central axis of spin, but the axis itself slowly rotates and  traces out a conical shape. The Earth takes around 26,000 years to complete 1 precessional cycle (calculated using present rate of precession).

[3] Ayanamshas Compared. The following, frequently quoted  figures were calculated by an online Ayanamsha tool  for the 1st January 2024:

Raman Ayananmsha: 22 deg 44 mins

KP Ayanamsha: 24 deg 06 mins

Lahiri Ayanamsha: 24 deg 11 mins

Fagan-Bradley Ayanamsha:  25 deg 04 mins

Note the very close agreement between the Lahiri calculation and that of KP (Krishnamurti Paddhati system). The Fagan-Bradley figure is not used by Jyotish Astrologers, as it was intended for Western  Astrologers using the Sidereal Zodiac.


Additional Information on Vedic Astrology

Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.

Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.

For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.

Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.

Transits

Summary: Transits are another way of predicting returning karma, but of less importance than the Mahadasha periods. Effects are evaluated on a house-by-house basis counted from the sign where the Moon is located in the birth-chart. The main effects considered by Jyotish are due to the transits of Jupiter and Saturn (particularly ‘Sade Sati’).

In Vedic Astrology, transits are another way of predicting returning karmas.

In Jyotish, transits are less important than the predictions given by the major periods – the Mahadashas.

Although difficult to put exact numbers on it, the karmic effects are typically : 60% due to the Mahadasha (Major Dasha) planet; 20% due to the Antardasha (Minor Dasha or Bhukti) planet; and 20% due to the transiting planets.

Transit effects can be ‘read’ from the current orbital motion of the planets as they move through different signs – which correspond to different houses in the birth-chart. In Jyotish, signs correspond exactly with houses and take up 30% of the sky in the sidereal zodiac. In this way the dynamic effect of the transiting planet interacts with the ‘static’ element of a person’s chart (determined by the planetary arrangements at the time of birth).

In Vedic Astrology the houses used to determine transit effects are counted from the sign the Moon is in at the time of birth. For example, if the Moon is in Aries at the time of birth then the whole of Aries becomes the first house: then the 12th house corresponds exactly with the previous sign of Sagittarius, the 2nd house corresponds with the next sign Taurus, etc.  Note: this only applies to the calculation of transits.

Some pundits suggest also judging transits from the ordinary ascendant – but this is clearly of secondary importance to using the Moon sign as ascendant (a bit like the reverse of normal practice in a birth chart interpretation).

Jyotish astrologers pay particular attention to the transits of the two slowest moving physical planets, Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter takes about a year to move through each sign and Saturn takes about three years (although it usually appears to move backwards and forwards a few times before actually staying in a sign.)

‘Sade Sati’ – Important Transits of Saturn

      • In India, people are very aware of potential issues caused by Saturn as it transits the 12th, 1st and 2nd houses from the birth Moon. This seven and a half year period is called ‘Sade Sati’.
      • So Saturn can negatively impact all those life areas associated with the 12th, 1st and 2nd houses (e.g. loss, body and health, accumulated wealth).
      • However, transits are less important than the Mahadashas. So, this period might not be too bad – particularly if it occurs during a good Mahadasha, or if Saturn is a functional benefic for the particular ascendant (e.g. rules 9th and 10th houses – in this case counted from position of Moon at birth), or is well placed in the birth-chart.
      • Many Jyotish pundits agree that Saturn as Lord of ascendant (Aquarius or Capricorn) won’t damage the planets of the birth-chart by transit. He will not damage his own houses either by transit.

Detailed Rules for Evaluating Transit Effects

These are interesting in that they show there are exceptions that need to be taken into account when using transits for predictions – particularly the ‘Sade Sati’ transits of Saturn. Clients need to know that Saturn’s transits are not always something to be feared!

The following rules are taken from the book “Predictive Astrology of the Hindus” by Gopesh Kumar Pandit Ojha (ISBN 10: 812083416XISBN 13: 9788120834163).

1. As Jupiter passes over a radical planet (i.e. birth-chart planet), or fully aspects a radical planet, then all things associated with that planet (e.g. Karakas, Houses planets rules) are improved.r

2. Saturn as Lord of ascendant won’t damage radical planets by transits. He will not damage his own house either by transit. I consider this an important consideration.

3. Pandit Ojha confirms that the functional benefic and malefic status of Saturn should be considered using the Moon sign as ascendant. He says: Saturn for Taurus Moon (Lord of 9th + 10th) does not cause so much damage in transits. Similarly Saturn for Libra Moon (Lord of 4th + 5th).

4. Planets strong in the birth-chart are better in transit (even when transiting an adverse house) than planets weak in birth-chart. Strong means in friends sign or better, aspected by a benefic, etc. These effects are magnified if such a transiting planet is in an Upachaya house in birth-chart.

5. Consider the dignity e.g. exalted, own sign, combust, conjunct malefic, etc. of planets as they transit and modify predictions accordingly.

The above rules only cover a few of the very basics. There are many more detailed considerations to take into account when predicting transits! Students of Jyotish at this stage are advised to refer to Pandit Ohja’s book for further information.


Resources for Students of Jyotish

Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.

Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.

For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.

Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.

Birth-time Errors

Summary: Discussing the implications of Birth-time errors for correctly identifying the Ascendant; for prescribing planetary antidotes; the calculation of Mahadasha starting times and possible errors in Nakshatra allocation; plus chart rectification techniques to determine a correct birth-time.

Consequences of Birth-time Errors for Chart Interpretation

Do birth time errors really matter that much? In Vedic Astrology the answer is a most definite ‘Yes’. There can be serious consequences of birth time errors, both for correct chart interpretation and for advice to clients.

Although most of the planets move relatively slowly through the sky (e.g. the Sun takes about 1 day to move through 1 degree of arc in our charts) this is not the case with the Moon which moves through 1 degree of the zodiac in less than 2 hours. Neither is it the case with the Ascendant (the zodiacal sign that appears to be ‘rising’ on the Eastern horizon at the time of our birth). Unfortunately, an accurate position for the Moon and the determination of the correct Ascendant, play an absolutely crucial role in Vedic Astrology.

Implications of Birth-time Errors in Identifying Ascendant (Lagna)

As there are 12 signs of the zodiac and 24 hours in 1 day (1 day is 1 complete revolution of the earth) the Ascendant changes on average every 2 hours. However, due to the complex 3D geometry of a rotating spherical earth (with an axis inclined at an angle of around 23 degrees to the plane of its orbit around the sun), the Ascendant can change in less than 1 hour in some cases. This depends on how far away from the equator we live, the time of day, etc.

Note: when we use the term ‘Ascendant’ we are referring to the ascending sign regardless of the actual degree of the horizon projected onto that zodiacal sign.

It is very bad news if our birth time is not accurate as we can then be given the wrong Ascendant by an astrologer. Birth-time errors can result in the following negative outcomes based on Ascendant:

    • Chart interpretation is rendered meaningless because all chart interpretation is built around identifying the first house (corresponding exactly with our rising sign)
    • Functional benefic and malefic planets can be wrongly identified
    • Planetary antidotes are wrongly prescribed doing more harm than good!

If the actual Ascendant (horizon) is placed in the middle of a sign, say around 15 degrees then there can be some leeway regarding birth-time errors without the Ascendant sign actually changing. Good news!

The problems really start when the actual Ascendant degree is placed close to a sign boundary – say within 5 degrees. In these cases a few minutes difference in birth-time can completely change the Ascendant and location of the first house. Bad news indeed!

Implications of Birth-time Errors in Prescribing Planetary Antidotes

An inaccurate birth-time could mean that planetary antidotes that are intended to improve our situation can actually make matters worse!

In medicine there is the key principle of ‘Do No Harm’. A Jyotish astrologer will actually do harm if he recommends strengthening a functional malefic by wearing an appropriate gemstone.

For example, suppose he uses the stated (but inaccurate) birth-time and calculates that the Ascendant for a particular person is Aries. He would then be perfectly correct to suggest the person wears a yellow sapphire to strengthen the planet Jupiter (it rules the 9th and 12th for an Aries Ascendant). However, if the true birth-time places the Ascendant in the next sign along – Taurus, then Jupiter is a highly malefic influence (it becomes a functional malefic as it is Lord of the 8th and 11th Houses for Taurus Ascendant) and should never be strengthened with gemstones for a Libra lagna. So it really does matter.

Implications  of Birth-time Errors in Mahadasha Timings

A unique feature of Jyotish is the Mahadasha system of prediction – ‘what’ is likely to happen and ‘when’ it will come about. The calculations of the starting times of the Mahadashas and Antardashas periods depend on accurate data on the position of the Moon in the birth-chart.

In the longer Mahadasha planetary periods (e.g. Venus, Saturn, or Rahu) a birth-time error of even 20 minutes can cause a Mahadasha starting time error of around six months!

A later birth-time than stated means the actual Mahadasha period starts earlier than calculated, and vice-versa.

Implications of Birth-time Errors in Nakshatras

A professional Jyotish Astrologer will use the position of the Moon in the ‘lunar mansions’ or Nakshatras. Different Nakshatras bring different ‘flavours’ to a chart. Problems arise if the stated birth-time puts the Moon very close to a boundary between two Nakshatras. This is something the astrologer will be watching closely and weighing up alongside the other factors mentioned above.

Chart Rectification – Techniques to Check Birth-time Accuracy

Professional Vedic Astrologers will be very much aware of the potential problems produced by inaccurate birth-times. They will be constantly checking to make sure what they ‘see’ in a person’s chart closely corresponds with the actual life events of their clients – and when those life events happened.

They might ask clients to tell them the dates of any marriages, children’s birth, when parents passed away, etc. together with background information on health, wealth, relationships, career, spiritual aspirations etc. Major discrepancies between what is ‘seen’ in the chart and real life will definitely indicate birth-time errors.

Jyotish is such a powerful predictive technique that Vedic Astrologers can actually ‘work in reverse’ from real life events to determine an accurate birth-time. They use the Mahadasha periods and ascendant calculations to do this. This process is called ‘Rectification of Birth-time’ or simply ‘Chart Rectification’ and requires some skill.

Modern Jyotish software enables this whole process to be carried out much more rapidly than before, as a range of ascendants and their charts can be quickly calculated for a corresponding range of birth-times. The Mahadasha calculations can also be performed more quickly too.


Resources for Students of Jyotish

Wiki Article on Dashas

Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.

Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.

For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.

Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.

Mahadashas – Planetary Periods

Summary: Explaining the key features of the Mahadasha planetary periods used in prediction, their duration, possible effects and how they are modified by the Antardasha sub-periods.

Jyotish Astrologers use Mahadashas to predict periods when we might experience significant life changes and the events, for better or worse, associated with them.

During specific Mahadasha periods, their predictions from the birth‑chart, which are linked to a particular planet, are most likely to occur. Mahadashas therefore enable astrologers to determine when ‘the cosmic postman’ will deliver his ‘karmic packages’!

The Mahadasha system is unique to Jyotish. Although sometimes written as ‘Mahadasa’, it is pronounced ‘Mahadasha’

Key Features of Mahadashas

    • The Mahadasha system of prediction is unique to Vedic Astrology – it is not linked to ‘transits’
    • Each major period is ruled by a different planet
    • The total duration of all the major periods taken sequentially is 120 years
    • While the duration of the major periods is the same for everyone, each individual has his/her own starting point in the 120 year cycle (determined by the longitude of the moon at birth in the sidereal zodiac)
    • Mahadasha periods are a key to successful prediction. This is where the static elements of the planets in the houses and signs in the birth-chart interact with the dynamic element of the Mahadashas to produce time dependent predictions: i.e. ‘what happens’ and ‘when it happens’
    • There are a number of different Mahadasha systems around , but the one most commonly used and discussed here is the ‘Vimsottari Dasha’ system
    • Jyotish software is by far the easiest way to find the Mahadashas for an individual (although tables are available)

Mahadasha Periods – Duration in Years

Duration of Planetary Mahadashas in Jyotish Astrology

Duration of Planetary Mahadashas in Jyotish Astrology

Mahadasha Sequence

The Mahadasha sequence is in the order as shown in the diagram above.

This sequence is the same for everyone regardless of their ascendant, or position of the Moon, or any other chart factors.

The Mahadasha that is operational at the time of our birth depends on the longitude of the Moon in the sidereal zodiac at the time we were born.

The Moon’s position also determines the remaining duration of that Mahadasha. For example, our birth time might give us a starting point of say 9 years into a Saturn Mahadasha. As the total duration of a Saturn Mahadasha is 19 years this means we would experience a change to a Mercury Mahadasha (the next in the sequence) when we were 10 years old. And a change to a Ketu Mahadasha (the next in the sequence) in another 17 years – when we were 27 years old. Then would follow the Venus Mahadasha, then that of the Sun, etc.

Effects of Mahadashas

We can best understand a Mahadasha period through an analogy. In the ‘play’ of life all the main characters (indicated by the planets) are always present, but often just waiting ‘off stage’. We may have to wait some time, maybe until Act 3 before the hero, or villain, actually appears! A skilled Vedic Astrologer can detect this potential waiting in our birth-charts and from it predict future events. They can see how the ‘play of life’ will unfold for an individual, and then make predictions  into the far future.

Astrologers often suggest a range of possible events – but it is likely that only a few of these possibilities occur.  This is not a ‘get out clause’ on their behalf ‑ just that a list of possibilities is given in the classical texts and they tell us what the lists include. They can certainly identify the life areas where we can expect benefits, or problems. ‘Forewarned’ is ‘forearmed’ as they say.

It is as though all things connected with a planet (e.g. the planets natural indications, the house(s) which it owns, the sign and house in which it is placed, or other planets which it aspects) become activated and brought to the foreground during the planets Mahadasha.  Therefore, the most significant life events during a planet’s Mahadasha will be events associated in some way with where and how that particular planet is placed.

While factors indicated in our birth‑chart hold good for life, the effect of a particular planet’s Mahadasha is to activate or ‘turn on’ areas of the chart associated with the Mahadasha planet. These areas indicate the most significant life events during that period.

Assessing the effects of Mahadashas is further complicated by the fact that planets active during these periods don’t just behave according to their natural characteristics!  This is where the concept of functional benefics (or malefics) is used. A benefic is a good agent and a malefic a negative agent. A planet such as Jupiter which is considered a natural benefic can, at times (e.g. for a Libra ascendant), behave in a negative way, but this depends on the particular ascendant. During Jupiter’s Mahadasha it would then be classed as a functional malefic influence.  Its potential negative tendencies and ability to do harm will then become active and apparent during its Mahadasha.

Antardashas: sub-periods of Mahadashas

Each major period, called a Mahadasha, is ‘ruled’ by one of the planets.  There are also nine secondary periods called ‘Antardashas’ (again determined by each of the planets) and these significantly modify the effect of each Mahadasha. Predicting specific events, rather than overall positive or negative tendencies during these sub‑periods can be more challenging for a Jyotishi.

However, during a Mahadasha of a strong and well placed functional benefic, when combined with another benefic planet’s Antardasha we can expect events to be very positive indeed. Of course, the overall strength of our chart is important as it gives an indication of how well we could ‘weather the storm’ of any unfavourable Mahadasha / unfavourable Antardasha combination.

When we talk about the minor periods there are 2 planets mentioned.  For example a Venus‑Mars period means that the main effects (Mahadasha) are governed by Venus and the minor effects (Antardashas) are controlled by Mars.

The sequence of the minor periods within the major one is identical to the Mahadasha planetary sequence. For example, if we take a Mars Mahadasha, the Antardashas are as follows: Mars-Mars; Mars-Jupiter; Mars-Saturn; Mars-Mercury; Mars-Ketu; Mars-Venus; Mars-Sun; Mars-Moon; then the Rahu-Rahu period begins.

What ‘weight’ should we give to the Mahadasha planet and the Antardasaha planet regarding their effects on an individual? Many Jyotish Astologers seem to attribute about 60% to the Mahadasha planet and around 20% to the Antardasha planet when predicting outcomes from a birth-chart. The remaining 20% is attributed to transits – mainly of the slow moving giants Jupiter and Saturn. This separate topic is covered in another article.

Effects of Birth-time Errors

Although errors in our birth-time will not greatly affect the position of most of the planets in the zodiac the exception is the Moon –  which moves through 1 degree of the sky in just under two hours.  And it is the position of the Moon which is used to calculate the Mahadasha starting dates!

Starting times of Mahadasha can be several months off their true times due to errors in our birth‑time. If our birth-time is actually earlier than we think, then the Mahadasha (and Antardasha) start date will be later, and vice versa. For example; if we were born into a Venus Mahadasha, a 20 minute error in our birthtime will move all the times predicted forwards, or backwards, by just over 3 months!

Very skilled astrologers can ‘work backwards’ from our real life events to obtain an accurate birth-time. They call this process ‘rectification’ and use their knowledge of Mahadashas to do this. Wow!


Resources for Students of Jyotish

Wiki Article on Dashas

Introduction to Jyotish. A range of articles for people entirely new to Vedic Astrology. Including: Introduction, FAQs, Origins and Karmic Implications.

Key Concepts in Jyotish. Articles covering the Sidereal Zodiac, Planetary Forces, Forecasting Analogies and ‘Planetary Antidotes’.

For Western Astrologers. Articles examining major differences between the two systems and the paradigm shift needed by Western Astrologers wanting to understand the subject.

Learn Jyotish. An extensive collection of articles covering key facts, concepts and methods. Aimed at ‘foundation level’ students. Includes essential information needed before beginning chart interpretations. Covering: Chart Formats, Planets, Houses, Mahadasha Periods, Transits, Aspects, Birth-time Errors, Natural and Functional Benefics / Malefics, Chart Interpretation Basics, etc.