Jyotish – Origins of Vedic Astrology

Summary: This article discusses the origins of Vedic Astrology (Jyotish) and the process of Vedic cognition. It identifies the great Vedic Seer Maharishi Parashara as the ‘father of Jyotish Astrology’ and  his classical text on Jyotish: the ‘Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra’.

Origins of Vedic Astrology and the Process of Vedic Cognition

Ask any Western Astrologer about the origins of their subject and they will give you a chronological account of how Astrology passed from country to country and from culture to culture. Western thought modes find this comfortable because it agrees with our sense of history. We enjoy quantifying the past with names, dates, timelines and places.

Ask any Jyotish Astrologer about the origins of their subject and they will tell you itcame from God[1]. This is a very important point and a fundamental difference between Jyotish and Western Astrology. According to tradition, the knowledge of Jyotish Astrology, just like the knowledge of how to maintain perfect health – Ayurveda, and all the rest of the vast Vedic Science knowledge, was ‘revealed’ or ‘cognized’. It was not discovered – neither was it invented by mankind, nor developed experimentally over many centuries.

We have no clear parallels in Western thought to the mechanics of Vedic cognition. The closest we can get is perhaps to consider flashes of artistic or creative genius, or scientific insight, where all the ‘information’ for a great work of art or theorem came into someone’s mind ‘in an instant’.

Modern ‘Download’ Analogy to Vedic Cognition Process

All the great Vedic Science works involved ‘revealed knowledge’ or ‘cognition’ in the consciousness of highly evolved sages, seers and rishis in a bygone age. They spent lifetimes practising yoga and meditation to facilitate this.

A modern day analogy would be like using the Internet to connect our personal computer to a remote server (or even ‘The Cloud’) and downloading into our PC all the information we required. Of course, we must know how to operate our local PC correctly and have the right password (maybe the ‘right mantras’) to access the data on the remote server! This whole process relies on a ‘Vedic Model of Reality’, where the whole universe and the beings in it are seen as part of an interconnected whole.

If we examine this analogy further, it is obvious that the information on the server exists whether or not it can be accessed by our remote device (PC, tablet, phone, etc.). The situation is exactly the same with the knowledge of Vedic Astrology. The information in the ‘Cosmic Computer’ is there all the time waiting to be accessed. In certain ages it may available to a few enlightened individuals.

In the present ‘Dark Age’ of Kali Yuga [2] it is totally unavailable by direct cognition. So we have to rely on the cognition of saints from past ages.

Maharishi Parashara – ‘Father’ of Vedic Astrology

The Vedic Sage (or seer) who is regarded as the ‘father of Jyotish Astrology’ is Maharishi Parashara (Maha meaning ‘great’: rishi meaning ‘seer’) [3]. His Sanskrit text ‘Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra [4] is a key work in Vedic Astrology. When or where he lived does not matter. If his knowledge became lost over the long passage of time, that would not matter either, simply because it was not ‘his’ knowledge in the first place! Other rishis would be born in future Ages and the whole of the Jyotish Shastra (teachings) could be re-cognised for the benefit of mankind.


[1] The Vedic concept of God is very different from that of the remote, judgemental God of the Abrahamic religions. The Vedic tradition perceives the all-pervading ‘GOD’  as a three letter acronym representing key principles of nature: G – Generator (personified as Brahma), O – Operator (personified as Vishnu), D – Destroyer (personified as Maheshwara or Shiva).

[2] The Vedic literature identifies four major ages or great time periods, each of which has a predominant characteristic. Currently most (but not all) scholars say we are in the age of Kali Yuga, although exactly when it started (some estimate around 5000 years ago around 3102 BCE when Krishna left His incarnation on earth) and how long it will last (some say another 19,000 years) is a matter for debate. Some have also proposed there are minor cycles, each with their own characteristics, even within the major time periods.

[3] Further information on Maharishi Parashara can be found on Wikipedia – although the article would benefit from additional scholarly review.

[4] There is debate amongst scholars as to exactly which chapters in the currently available printed versions of the ‘Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra’ are actually attributable to Parashara  and which to the sage Jaimini. Although these systems appear to conflict, it is generally agreed that Parashara’s systems are suited to the current age of Kali Yuga and those of Jaimini to a different age.

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.