I introduced Jyotish or Vedic astrology in a previous post, where you saw how a Western chart can be translated into its Jyotish equivalent by subtracting the applicable ayanamsa for the date of birth. You also saw how Jyotish uses whole-sign houses, and how the chart may be drawn using either the South Indian and North Indian style. I will be using the South Indian style chart for all my posts on this blog.
The next step is to understand how the planets are interpreted in Jyotish; in other words, what are the significations of the planets. Remember that traditional Jyotish does not use the “modern” planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, so there are no interpretations for these. The significations for the planets arise from various sources:
- As a natural significator of various animate and inanimate things. The Sanskrit word for significator is karaka (pronounced “kaa-ruh-kaa”), literally meaning “that which causes”.
- As a functional significator of various animate and inanimate things, arising from its rulership of certain house(s) in the chart.
- As a natural benefic or malefic in that it has power to do good for the person or not.
- As a functional benefic or malefic, arising from its house rulership.
You notice that there is a categorization of planets as benefics and malefics, and this separation is used heavily in both natal and predictive analysis. Unlike modern humanistic Western astrology that shies away from such judgment calls.
In the following roundup, only key significations of the planets are presented. If you only just use these, you will still get very good results in your interpretation of charts.
Sun (Surya – pronounced “Soor-yah”)
As in Western astrology, the Sun naturally signifies the soul (atma – pronounced “aat-ma”), will, authority, father. However, unlike Western astrology which places the Sun above all else, Jyotish places more importance on the Moon than to the Sun. Also, the Sun is considered a natural malefic, and can definitely cause trouble with self-confidence if not placed well. That being said, it is a malefic of tremendous importance, and strongly activates the area of the chart in which it is placed. After all, it is the soul significator, or atmakaraka.
The Sun’s signification of the father is also extremely important to note.
Sun signifies the heart and the lower back, and an affliction (due to associations or aspects from malefics) to the Sun can result in problems with these areas of the body.
Moon (Chandra – pronounced “chuhn-dra”)
The Moon is considered the most important planet in classical Jyotish. Later, we will see that the Vimshottari dasa system of timing events is based on the natal position of the Moon. The Moon signifies manifestation and spirit in the world. It stands for emotion, and the mother. A well-placed Moon strengthens the chart considerably, even if other planets are not well-placed. Conversely, a Moon that is weak by placement can create great trouble and agitation even if other planets are well-placed.
The Moon stands for the mind, meaning the unconscious reaction to stimulus. This obviously has a strong connection to the mental and physical health of the person–an ongoing disturbance of the mind can damage to the physical health. A disturbed Moon can lead to mental agitation, imbalance, and in extreme cases breakdown of the mind.
The full Moon is considered auspicious, in contrast to Western astrology which would see the Sun-Moon opposition as a potential source of trouble possibly related to discord between the parents. A waxing Moon is considered to be increasingly beneficial as it progresses towards the full Moon. A waning Moon is considered to be increasingly malefic as it progresses from full Moon to new Moon.
The Moon signifies the stomach and digestion, and the embryo. An afflicted Moon may cause problems in these areas.
Mercury (Budha – pronounced “Bu-dha”)
Mercury signifies the conscious mind, speech and writing, learning and education, business and enterprise. Mercury is also one of the significators of astrology, the other significator being Jupiter. Mercury is considered to be a neutral planet with respect to beneficence. In particular, it assumes the influence of the planet(s), if any, conjuncting it.
Mercury rules the nervous system, the lungs, and the intestines. Breathing problems (asthma, bronchitis) come under the influence of Mercury. Also stuttering, since it is a speech problem that is tied to the nervous system.
Venus (Shukra – pronounced “Shu-kra”)
Venus signifies spouse, women, luxury, beauty, art and artistry especially in music and dance. A strong Venus can support the enjoyment of the good things in life. Venus is a natural benefic. With Mercury it makes for graceful speech, with Mars it gives rise to passion, and so on.
Venus rules the reproductive system, throat, kidneys, venereal diseases, and the skin. (Saturn co-rules the skin, so one would need to look at Venus as well as Saturn in this regard.)
Mars (Mangal – pronounced “M-uh-ng-uh-l”)
Mars rules courage, bravery, brothers, immovable property (such as houses), and vehicles. It also rules leadership and weapons. The rulership of property is an important consideration that does not have a parallel in modern Western astrology.
With regard to health, Mars rules blood, muscles, and bone marrow.
Jupiter (Guru – prounounced “Gu-ru”)
Jupiter signifies higher learning, religion, philosophy, children, wealth, wisdom, and the higher mind. It signifies astrology as well, since ancient astrology was regarded as a divine science. Jupiter’s significator of children is important to keep in mind, since this is not a usual modern Western astrological signification.
The word guru means teacher. But this literal translation misses much of the cultural importance of the Guru in ancient (and even modern) India. The guru serves as a channel of learning, and is respected and revered in Hindu tradition. There is a saying Mata, pita, guru, deivam (mother, father, guru, divine) that captures the progression of a life in the world: from mother to father to guru and eventually to the divine.
Jupiter is a natural benefic. A strong Jupiter favors idealism.
Health-wise, Jupiter signifies the liver, gall bladder, spleen, thighs and allergies.
Saturn (Shani – pronounced “Shuh-nee”)
Saturn signifies simplicity and asceticism (especially if in contact with the Moon), age, patience and perseverance, delay and obstruction, pain and suffering, wisdom born out of experience (whereas Jupiter’s wisdom is an intuitive one), and building. Saturn also signifies the truth, as in the material reality of things. In modern times, Saturn is used to analyze career as well.
Saturn is a natural malefic whose function is to deliver the hard knocks that will push a person toward maturity, mastery, self-realization and liberation from human bonds.
Saturn rules the skeletal system, bones, teeth, and skin. (Skin is co-ruled by Venus).
Rahu (pronounced “Rah-hu”) and Ketu (pronounced “Kay-tu”)
These are respectively the north and south nodes of the Moon.They are treated as separate, “shadowy” planets. The Sanskrit term for each is Chhayagraha, where Chhaya (pronounced “chah-yah”) means shadow, and Graha (pronounced “Gruh-ha”) means planet. Rahu and Ketu are assigned different significances, their conjunctions with other planets are assigned different meanings (Mars conjunct Rahu is not the same as Mars conjunct Ketu), and they play vastly different roles in the timing of events.
Rahu rules excess, ambition, foreigners, addiction and drugs, and fame. The function of Rahu is ultimately spiritual in nature in that even as it drags a person into things that are apparently materially beneficial, there is a price to be paid. And through this “no free lunch” idea, Rahu eventually makes a person realize the fruitlessness of pursuing material wealth and pleasure for the sake of it.
Rahu is a natural malefic. It acts on behalf of any planet that conjoins it, and the planet that rules its sign. It aggravates or distorts the quality of the conjoining planet. So Venus conjunct Rahu can result in excessive material greed. Or, it can result in a person marrying out of their culture (foreigner significance). Or both.
Rahu rules the lungs.
Ketu rules spirituality, discrimination, unboundedness, unorthodoxy and separation. The role of Ketu is to force spirituality in a fiery way. For instance, if the Moon is conjunct Ketu, one may be separated from one’s mother for much of one’s life. The point of this separation is to promote detachment, in the path to spirituality.
Ketu is a natural malefic. It is not friendly to material life—however, it can be a great asset for work in the world if this work results or is intended to result in the benefit of the people at large. The Sun-Ketu conjunction implies separation from the ego, so it could result in a lack of self-confidence. Viewed and experienced in a different perspective, this could mean a triumph over the ego that could manifest in an individual with great spiritual power.
Ketu rules chronic ailments, ulcers, and cancer.