The History of the Horoscope Signs System


Time and again spirited discussions take place on internet fora pertaining to an examination of the status of a variety of jyotish parameters, including chara dasha (a sign based planetary period astrofactor) and karakamsha (the navamsha in which the atmakaraka (most advanced planet in longitude) is placed. As characteristically happens, some of the discussants began to branch into other side discussions which really had nothing to do with the original questions or topics and some even became a bit exercised and emotional, as also often happens on the internet where attention spans of days and weeks are required in order to get to the bottom of things and where sometimes a topic is being discussed on many different boards and many topics simultaneously on a given board! As too is typical, nothing was really resolved, and some of the regulars began expressing their frustrations about these topics coming up again and again and directing people to archives etc. Unfortunately, the yahoo forums/fora are such that only limited searching of past messages is possible without losing all of one’s hair, and the archives sometimes are maintained on another yahoo site so this does not help matters when all one wants is to get a quick summary of what others are using and if possible their reasons for adopting a certain position! This latter usually brings out more gall than good information even though the intention of the person posing the question may have been very noble and not at all confrontational. Knowing Jyotish does not protect one from harbouring Neurotic traits!

Somewhere, along the path of this former quest, another topic got born and began questioning the use of varga kundalis or varga chakras, divisional horoscopes which are the core of jyotish and have also been used by tropical astrologers in the form of harmonic charts. Now this is something that is utilized in Jyotish going back to almost the first memories of even the oldest members in the forum who eventually admitted to such being the case. I myself, though myself not that senior, have seen horoscopes that were drawn in the century before last where the jyotishi had drawn the rashi chakra and navamsha and dashamsha and so on and more importantly had commented on these charts in his reading. So, at least some individuals had been utilizing varga-charts even a couple of hundred years ago and conceivably perhaps even prior to these times.

Somewhere during the discussion, in one of the lists, one of the members made available an article in which the author had expressed thoughts to the contrary, i.e., vargas should not be used in a chart format. A discussion ensued which sidestepped the more important and pertinent matter of the practical merits of using of navamsha varga as a secondary chart. A few individuals asked for proofs in classics that indicates that ancient jyotishis advocated of varga chakras. The discussants emphasized that ONLY rashi chakra must be used and varga placements should only be used for determining the strengths of planets etc.

Now, those who have studied BPHS would know, that 16 vargas had been defined by the Sage starting with rashi ehich is also known as ‘kshetra’ (field or area) and so on. One of the members brought to all astrologers’ attention that Parashara had described very clearly how to determine bhavas in the rashi chart (ascendant, 10th house and then trisection of the arcs, etc. in Chapter V of BPHS). This was indeed true and a positive step forward in the discussion. There were parallel discussions going on which were rehashing the point that BPHS was not original and was perhaps not even a classic and written by one or a group of ‘latter day saints’ [my term, not the original poster’s!] in Jyotish and therefore cannot be treated as a classic. Obviously, there was some support for this as could be similarly expected if someone were to make a comment that Jyotish was nothing but a derivative of Babylonian astrology that the army that came with Alexander brought to India. A topic that has been known to bring even sedate jyotishis out on the “war-path!”

To those who were still interested and intrigued by this, there seemed to be two streams of thought prevailing:

(a) Only Rashi horoscopes should be used. Other varga kundalis were the product of corrupted understanding of the classics – which themselves many concur might not have survived in pure form [though some of them have thankfully survived in reasonably good shape1]. Underlying this is the belief some may harbor that, alike the iceberg, available Jyotish is only 1/10th of the total body while the submerged 9/10th is mostly lost and partly hidden in the secret chambers of paramparas and some of the secret documents that exist but jealously guarded by the custodian families. I do not know how much of this iceberg postulate is based facts and how much is wishful fiction. According to the purists of this stream of thought, vargas MUST only be used as measures of qualitative and quantitative strength of planets and for the consideration of the deities and primal forces those represent BUT not in the form of a horoscope and certainly no serious consideration must be given to aspects and bhava considerations. Just for clarity, they would maintain, for instance, that while the 2nd house lord in navamsha is an important indicator, the fact that it is placed in the 2nd navamsha varga from the navamsha lagna (essentially in 2nd house in navamsha chart) is not significant. Or, for instance, if Mars is in Aries sign and Libra navamsha, and Saturn is in Gemini sign and Libra navamsha, the two planets are not related (though they would be depicted as being conjoined in the same navamsha varga in a navamsha chart). leo horoscope

(b) Regardless of whether explicitly described or not, the other stream of thinking maintains that varga kundalis have an important role to play in Jyotish and possibly are of significant utility in discerning primary mandates matters pertaining to the prescription given by sages. In other words, navamsha chart, for example, would hold a significant sway over matters of marriage and spouse, while saptamsha chart would be of similar import in the examination of children in a given nativity’s reading. These vargas should be examined in a chart format.

I do not recall anyone in the ‘camp (b)’ saying that the first part of (a) is not correct, namely, the varga positions must be considered, per se, for examination of strength and quality of a planet as prescribed within the Jyotish framework. In fact most of them utilized concepts from both (a) and (b) streams. There seemed to be a few other individuals who totally denied the veracity of thought stream (b) and a few were a bit taciturn about it, perhaps to avoid acrimony and getting ensnared in the controversy. Or perhaps there were some other reasons, known only to them.


While the purists and historians duke it out as to what constitutes a Classic and what not, there seemed to be no significant resistance to accepting Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, described – by a very accomplished and brilliant, jyotishi who is an excellent writer and teacher and a very wise person beyond his years – as … a remarkably well-preserved and reasonably intact, well-organized compendium of Jyotish knowledge. So I spent a few minutes going through it after Chapter 5 was brought to our attention as a strong indication of bhavas only being considered in rashi and in none of the other vargas since the Sage had not explicitly stated so. On the surface, this indeed seemed to be the case! However a further stroll into the magnum opus brought me to the chapter on Karakamshas In this Chapter 35 (Karakamshaphalaadhyaaya), BPHS describes the effects of planets that are in 2nd or 5th from karakamsha (sloka 30-31 for instance) and other houses also from karakamsha in subsequent slokas. Additionally, in sloka 33 BPHS mentions about the aspects (drishti) of Moon and Venus on the 4th from karakamsha and also in sloka 13.


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