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Sayana-Nirayana Systems
r -rr=r trrzr rrrr r -r rrrr trrr-r(r
r-rrrrr=rrr -rrr r-r rs :rtzrr11
- -r-r=-rtr
[We should proceed through the same path our ancestors (the sages)
followed. If we do so we dont have to worry that we made a mistake]
Our ancestors followed the path of search by self study and medita-
tion. Intellect and felling (heart: experience of reality) were given equal
importance. The search of truth was of a balanced individual. Enlight-
enment and accumulated knowledge made them articulate in present-
ing the reality they experienced. Thus the path (Dhyana=Tao) is of self
study (Swadhyaya) and meditation. Not only the knowledge, but also
its application and the spiritual experience are important. The life is the
path - the never ending search. It is search always because the frag-
mented mind cannot encounter the reality - and when encountered it
can not be put in words, since the words are of the mind.
Astrology has a unique philosophy in the search of truth; Astrology
itself is a path. The path to the ultimate by the study of eternal time (the
time that can not be divided: Ananta) and the divisible time (Year, Month,
Day, Hour, Minute, Second etc). Time itself is part of the ultimate.
-rr trrr-rr-r =rr=rrtr: ;rr-r-rrtt-:r
rrtr rrrr r-r r-rr-r r:rzrrz11
- rt-r: rrrrr
[Astrology is the path. The knowledge of it is beyond that of the (five)
senses. This branch of knowledge is created by the god himself, who is
beyond the Vedas]
+-rrr rrrr-r trrz-r-r rz-r-rz
r;trr r-rr =rt:r r-r +r-rr-rr-rr1
rr=rrtr rrr=:rrtr trrr:=r=r +r-r
rr=r -rrtrr rrr=:r r-:r+ r:r =rrt=rrr11
- =rr-rrr+ (=rrr=r =rrr:)
[The time itself is god Vishnu, eternal and is Siva. Those who know it
are respected. It is said (by the sages) that who else is greater than him
(than the one who feel the reality of time). Other ancient advices (Sastra)
are not visible, and the arguments are common; but Astrology is visible
(provable) advice, Sun and Moon are witness for the same]
+r-r=r-rtr rrrt-r +r-r==r(ztr r-rr
+r-r==rrr -rrrftr +r-rrt( :ztr+-r1
+r-r-r -rt-rtrtz-:r()rr +r-r-r r t-rrftrr
+r-r (r r-r +trr rzrrr-rr-rtrz11
- rrfr(rzr
[Time creates everything, time destroys. Time makes us sleep, and
time awakes. Time is impenetrable, impossible to go beyond. It is by
the power of time mind becomes strong, it is due to time that the ulti-
mate gets revealed. It is the time that does everything. In Puranas also
the same is told]
Thus astrology is the study of time; the study of the ultimate; a
philosophy; a beginning and end in itself; a branch of knowledge that
existed from the far past; and still continues to exist.
History of astrology is a unique and mysterious subject. The literary
history presented by available slokas from Rishi horas and our modern
understanding about the history of India does not match. Even the liter-
ary history as interpreted from Vedas, Upanishads and Epics does not
tally with the literary history of astrology derived from the available
Rishi hora slokas. The names of signs are neither mentioned in vedas
nor in Upanishads. The Vedic literature seems to reflect more of Sayana
system, and Nirayana system based on stellar divisions, even though
the division of zodiac into 12 equal parts are available in Vedas. Possi-
bly the names of signs gets first mentioned in vedic literature in
Yajnyavalka Smiriti, about the period of which we have no idea. The
names of days possibly gets its first mention in Boudhayana sulba sutra
as far as vedic literature is concerned.
As per the Nirayana stream of astrology, the signs, planets, days
etc gets mentioned and well described in detail in ancient texts like
Skanda Hora. The first text of Nirayana astrology Skanda Hora (also
known as Jyotishmati Upanishad) does not get mentioned in any other
Upanishad. Many slokas from this text is still available but the period
this text undecipherable and the language very old and similar to vedic
literature. Suryacharya (the guru who give rise to Surya Sidhanta, and
Surya Jataka, texts on astronomy and astrology) is thought to be one of
the major gurus of this tradition. Possibly this branch of knowledge of
Nirayana system of astrology is non-vedic in nature and as old as vedas
itself. The most scientific approach of texts like Skanda hora and Surya
sidhanta giving maximum importance to rhythm of the solar system,
breath pattern and minute time divisions indicates a the evolvement of
this science from Yogic or Tantic experience. Many associate this knowl-
edge with the lost Sindhu-Saraswati civilization and the Tantric culture
prevalent in India in the ancient past. This path of knowledge seems to
be a bit different from that of the astrological knowledge reflected in
vedic literature.
The Epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) and Puranas deal with
astrology for sure but not in a comprehensive and perfect manner as
depicted in Skanda Hora (Predictive astrology) or Surya sidhanta
(Nirayana astronomy). They some how seems to follow the Vedic path,
but missing link or a mix up is also visible at many places. These texts
give us the feel that there existed a system of predictive astrology com-
pletely based on stellar divisions alone, prior to the origin of sign based
predictive system. It is also possible that Sign based and stellar divi-
sions based astrology followed different paths in development and ap-
plication, prior to the mix up of the two to form the perfect system.
This condition necessitates scrutinizing the subject in detail to have
a detailed understanding so that our views would more closer to truth,
than that of a passer by. A detailed study of ancient astrology depicted
* Vedas and Upanishads
* Tantric Literature
* Epics and Puranas
- is necessary to attain the same, without which our clarity in under-
standing will not emerge.
There is one more unique bit of knowledge that should be kept in
mind prior to such a study. Even though the Vedic literature might have
a history of even BC 6000 or earlier, the Devanagari script did not
existed prior to BC 200 as per our current archeological understanding.
The original Sanskrit texts like Vedas, Upanishads, Epics such as
Mahabharata and Ramayana might have originally been written using
a script similar to Sindhu-Saraswati script or Proto-Brahmi. Prior to
that they might have been imparted to generations by memorizing the
slokas through guru-sishya parampara. With the advent of Devanagari
script all the texts must have been modified and rewritten using the
new rectified script and its grammar. The modifications and interpola-
tions must have continued for generations there after and the texts that
are available to us are survival remains of all these tides turbulences
and cultural changes. There is no point in denying this fact out of na-
tional pride or religious fundamentalism. Being sacred texts Vedas,
Upanishads, and Epics might have withstood these modifications to a
large extend, and the inner thread of knowledge possibly we could lo-
cate in them should point to the original knowledge as practiced and
perceived in far ancient past.
To give a brief idea about these streams of knowledge, I will quote
some slokas from them to provide an introduction to the same.
Vedic Astrology
There are many suktas available in Vedas that point to the existence
of both Sayana and Nirayana Zodiac.
;r:rr rrrrr+-r+ :rttr -rrrrt-r + a rtr+r
r:rr(rr =:rttr rrrrt-r rr+r rtcrr +t-rr trrrr-rrr1
;: =rtrrfr -rr-rtt( re r-rr (+ (+-r
rt=-r-r (rtrrt-rs-r r (rr-r+ (+-r11
- rrr:
[One wheel with 12 spokes (12 signs). It has 3 fiducial points (120 deg,
240 deg, 360 deg). 360 nails (degrees) are fixed in it. Who knows this
unmoving wheel? (This is about Nirayana Zodiac). This solar year is
composed of 6 seasons each season covering 2 months. This is one
wheel (This is about Sayana Zodiac)]
(+r+ rtrr (+-rt-r =r(=rr=r r rzrtr rrrr
r-r tr-r rr-r -r-rr-r r: =rrr +r r: -rrr11
- rrr:
[(Out of these) one wheel and its fiducial points with the circular boundary
is moving continuously (This is about Sayana zodiac). The world (all
the worldly time divisions) emerged from it. But where is the other
part? (This is about Nirayana zodiac)]
r-rrrtrrrztr rr -rzrr-rr-rr -r(rrtr-rrrr,
r-r tr-r rr-r -r-rr-r r:=rrr +r-r =r +r1
=:r rz-r-r:+ +r-rrr: (rr
rrrt-r =rr r=rrr -r =rr -r-r=rr tr:
- rrr:
[By living invisibly inside everything Prajapati* (The creator) revolves
and emerges in different forms (seasons). From its half the world
emerges (This is about Sayana zodiac). What is its other part? (This
is about Nirayana zodiac). Like water in the pot everybody sees what
is visible above from outside, with their eyes. But they fail to compre-
hend it with their mind (and fail to see what is there inside, in depth)]
This sukta depicts the worry of the sage about the extra importance
given to Sayana zodiac in vedic period. The sage says, let others study
the Sayana zodiac but he will study the Nirayana zodiac in which the
Nakshatra divisions are fixed.
r:r:rrrrr-r-rrrrrrzr -rrrrtrrtrrr rr rr rr rsrt-r1
- rrr:
[I search for that Narayana (Nirayana zodiac) in which like the spokes
of a wheel the Nakhatras (Devas: :rr(r r -r=r:rrtr) are fixed]
;-rr-r;rr rrrr+ zr=r r-rr
rr-rr -rr(rr rrr -r(-rr zr-rrt=r :trr11
- +r:
[Oh! Aswin (Oh! Aswini Nakshatra!) you have directed one of your
wheels in your chariot to make sun radiant (This is about Sayana zo-
diac). You use the second wheel to grasp the whole world (This is
about Nirayana zodiac)]
These suktas clearly indicate that the Vedic sages understood both
the Sayana and Nirayana zodiacs.
Ancient Astrologic Literature (Non-Vedic?)
Now let us look at some of the available slokas from the ancient
astrologic literature such as Skanda hora, Surya Jataka etc of which
we fail to determine the period of origin.
+r-rr-rr +r-r=rr()r +r-rt=:r-rr:t-rz
r=r sr-r =rz +-r srrrr+ trr=rr1
+r-rrrtrt-r: =rr =r +r-rr terrrz
rr +r-r+-r-r rrr=:r r=r -rrtrr-rtr-r11
- =rr-rrr+ (=rrr=r=rrr:)
[The soul is time, the ultimate is time, time itself is the god of all three
worlds (Past, Present, Future). All the actions are as per time, like the
shadow that is natural. Everything is given by time, and that time is
visible (visible divisions of time). I will tell about that science that is
known as astrology/astronomy]
rrrt-r+ rrte+ =-rr-r (r-rrt:r +-r=r
-rtr=rrtr -rftrr zrrrr rz-rtrrr
- =rr-rrr+ (=rrr=r=rrr:)
[In auspicious for spiritual and auspicious for worldly actions, the divine
signs, even though without shape, imagined in particular shapes, reflect
(their nature)]
=rr -rr tr trr r+-r rr=r-rr-r -r -rr=r-r
-rr trrr-r +rrrrz-rrt=rr rtzrtr r 1
;r rrr(r: rtrrr rre-rtrr
-rrrr rrtr +rrtr -rt-rrr -r-rtr +rtr-r11
- =+-:(rzr
* Prajapati is the lord of Rohini Nakshatra. In that period Rohini Nakshatra was
at the equinox and represented the beginning of Sayana zodiac. In the Yugadi
planetary position - which is the base for division of Nirayana zodiac into
signs and Nakshatras - also the equinox is at the center of Rohini Nakshatra.
[Without support in sky the wheel that forms the support of for the
movement of Sun and other luminaries fixed, and it stays eternal. Sup-
ported by Gravity this wheel stays high, its center never fluctuates, and
the wheel never falls]
rr+zrt:r =rrt-rr =rr-rr:(f-rrr zrrr
rr=r-rr-r-rtr -rrt:rztr +rtrr -r rr1
rt-r=rr:tr -r rrrr -r -r==r=rr
-r rrr:r r t+:r rzrr =rtetr-r=rrr11
- =+-:(rzr
[Even though in the path of sun, no dust emerge from it (when the
chariot of sun pass through). This wheel is not made of earth, water,
air, fire, or sky. It is not physical, and is mysterious]
r=r =r =rr-r-rrrrr -r rr rtz-rrtrr
rt=rrr -r t-rrtr-r rrztr +-r-r=rr1
r-r + =r -rr rrt-r t-rrtr rt:r=rr
--rr-rrt-r =r r-rtt-r + rrr rr tr-rrt+-r
- =+-:(rzr
[The sages who start in search of its shape, couldnt decipher it com-
pletely even after these thousands of years. This wheel bears the flow-
ers of darkness (stars at night) of god Siva]
r-rrrrrrrr r=r r r =rrtrrrtr
r-rt-r rrrr =rrr -rrtr:rrtr r:
zrrrrr -rr-r rtr-r r:rr(-r r -rr
;r:rrrrtr+z=r rrrr-rr =rrtrrrtr
- =+-:(rzr
[The 27 Nakshatras that are part of this wheel, the daughters of God
Brahma, are each composed of 4 quarters. Their names starting with
Aswini Nakshatra, they in groups with their 9 quarters rotates the above
wheel. The places where these 9 quarters fall is known as signs start-
ing with Aries. Every minute it in zodiac circle is composed of 27 breaths]
Zodiac = 12 signs = 9 x 12 = 108 Nakshatra quarters.
1 Sign = 30 degree = 1800 min
1 min = 27 breaths.
Zodiac = 12 x 30 x 60 = 21600 min = 21600 x 27 = 583200 breaths
1 Sign = 1800 x 27 = 48600 breaths
Thus the zodiac and the rhythm of the solar system get equated to
human breath! The common thread is the measurement of time - the
study of time, by yogic experience (meditation) and observation of sky
(self study: Swadhyaya).
rrrr-rer =r(=r r +-rr=rr ;( t-rtr+r
t-rrr trt-rtr+rrr tr =r;rrtr==r rrtrr 11
- =+-:(rzr
[Such 1800 minutes forms a sign. This could be further divided as Lipta,
Vilipta etc]
Look at the beauty of presentation! This is Jyotishmati - a sample of
the ancient advice of astrology as depicted in the first authentic work
on predictive astrology, Skanda hora. The language seems to be vedic,
and who knows when and where it was written!
May be the text and the knowledge depicted in it has a Vedic origin
or may be a non-vedic tantric or yogic origin.
The study of stellar astrology as depicted in Epics and Puranas is
another big subject that should be systematically studied.
Predictive Astrology in Vedas
Vedic culture gave too much importance to Yaga, Homa (fire wor-
ship) etc and for conducting such ceremonies in Auspicious time (fixing
the proper Season, Month, Nakshatra, Muhurta etc); all of which be-
comes important only when we accept the existence of the divine, re-
sults of action (karma) and predictive astrology; whether it be Sayana
or Nirayana, Sidereal or Tropical, Lunar-Solar or Luni-Solar. The sys-
tem they used may or may not be the same that we follow today, it may
have only the seeds of predictive astrology reflected in them (Vedas
are not intend to be books to teach us neither astrology nor astronomy)
but the existence and acceptance of a predictive system of astrology is
clearly visible in them. Some suktas are quoted to prove the same-
ertrrrtr trrrrt-r rr-rrt-r =r(rrr rr-r -r
rrr rr =r-r r =r-r rr rrr r -r-rr()(rzr:rrrr-r=r
- rrr:
[Let all the 28 Nakshatras that provide beneficial results be equal in
providing beneficial results to me. Let me be efficient in attaining the
invaluable things and preserve them with the help of these Nakshatras.
I bow to day and night (to the eternal time and its divisions)]
This prayer to the Nakshatras asking them to provide beneficial
results indicate existance of Sayana or Tropical astrology in that pe-
riod. The Nirukta meaning of the word Nakshatra (28 Nakshatras
are mentioned in the above sukta) is -r =rz-rttr -r=r:r (one which does
not move is Nakshatra). It is clear that Nakshatras never had regularly
modifying boundaries; they where either associated with the lunar path
or with the ecliptic with fixed boundaries. The mention of vernal equi-
nox moving through Nakshatras (in Rohini, in Kartika, in Aswini in dif-
ferent periods of time) itself indicate that even the vedic Sayana sys-
tem used the fixed reference frame of Nakshatras to refer to the move-
ment of equinoxes, and the month divisions like Madhu, Madhava from
there onwards. The year system based on this fixed frame of Nakshatras
was also in place - -r=r:rrtr =r r=rz =r rtrc r (The year is based on
Nakshatras) tells Titireeya Brahmana.
See another sukta that prays to Nakshatras to provide auspicious
tr:rrtr =rr+ t:tr zrr-rrt-r =rzt=rrrtr rr-r -rrrt-r
rf-rrr =r-rtrt-rs-rr-rr (rt-r rtfr =rrrrt-r -rr+
- rrr:
[Nakshatra constellations with many shapes stay radiant in the sky.
Looking from earth, man feels that they are fast revolving round the
earth. I praise those stellar divisions with these words, because I want
to have the auspicious intellect provided by them]
Then the sage goes on to mention the auspicious result each
Nakshatra can provide-
=r(r-r-r +ttr+r zrt(rt rr=r r: -rrtrrzr rr-rr:r
r-rr=r =r-rrr rr= rrr rr-rzrr-rrr r-r -rrr -r
rr rrrr-rr-rr rr:r(=r tr:rr trrrr, =rrtr =r=rr
-r =r zrr trrrr=r =r(rr-rzrrr -rcr =r-r=r:r-rtze-r-r
:r rrr zr=rrr -r rrrer =--r :rtrzr rr(-r
trt-r--r zr=rrr rr-rr rrr rtrcr +rrr =rrte
r-r -r(srtrr+ rztr r-r ;rr rr cr:r
=rrr-r rzrtr rr-rr-rr rr -r r-rztr rzrrr(-r
- rrr:
Then again he prays-
rrt-r -r=r:rrtr t:r-rzt=r =rr-rr rrt-r -rrr t:=r
r+-rrr-:-rr rr-rtr =rrrtr -r-rrrt-r trrrrt-r =r-r
- rrr:
[Those Nakshatra that are imagined to provide auspicious and inauspi-
cious results in heaven, air, water, earth, mountains and directions (thus
everywhere), because of the movement of moon, let those Nakshatras
bestow auspicious results to me]
If you still dont believe that predictive astrology existed in that pe-
riod, view this clear and doubt clarifying sukta that predicts the results
for children born in various Nakshatras (fixed stellar divisions).
-rc-r -rrrr trtrrrr-r=r -r-r-r(rrr rtzrr<-r
- rrr:
[The son born in Jyeshta Nakshatra cause the destruction of elders
(elder brothers), the son born in Moola Nakshatra cause the destruc-
tion of the whole clan]
Beyond this crystal clear statement what proof we need for the
existence of predictive astrology in vedic period?! Of course it is pos-
sible that the system existed in vedic period was a bit different from the
system that is currently in use - but the changes and growth, destruc-
tion and turbulences are natural to any branch of knowledge; astrology
is no exception.
Vedas and Upanishads are not books intended to teach as astrology
(even though proof for the existence of predictive astrology in Vedic
period is available from them), but instead they are search of the ulti-
mate, seeking the truth, spiritual, the prayers and thoughts of the sages
about existence and the divine. To learn the ancient system of astrol-
ogy, as it existed in the far past, we should look in to the available slokas
from Rishi horas such as Skanda hora, Vasishta hora, Garga hora,
Surya Jataka etc because, they were texts on astrology intended to
pass the astrological knowledge to future generations. If we want to
learn astronomy we should look into and study the available compila-
tions of age old books like Surya Sidhanta, Brahma Sidhanta etc;
because the original treatise are lost. In astronomy the oldest reference
available today to us is Pancha sidhatika which contains the Surya
sidhanta, Brahma sidhanta etc as collected and compiled by Mihira.
Vedanga Jyotisha is a text that imparts us the knowledge of astronomy
that prevailed in vedic period, even though the text itself is written by
Suchi the student of sage Lagadha in BC 1400 only. Texts in every
branch of knowledge (let it be search of the ultimate, astrology or
astronomy) has their own purpose and searching the knowledge in wrong
place will give us only wrong knowledge, if not right knowledge is ac-
quired first from the authentic texts in the right branch. This should be
kept in mind by every true seeker of knowledge and wisdom.
I think this small sample is enough to prove how small our knowl-
edge is, how much knowledge and texts we lost, how small our under-
standing is, and also that the mere cover to cover reading of any an-
cient texts will not impart much info if not approached with a humble
consciousness (without ego) with an intention of learning. Construction
of the ancient temple of knowledge from its fragments is difficult, but
making fun of the ruins, and making sarcastic statements easy, even
though not much worthy.
Be constructive any time when in search of knowledge and be medi-
tative - self study (Swadhyaya) and meditation are the only path to true
knowledge, as told by the sages. Re-create and ancient structure, in-
stead of faultfinding. Put hard effort in collecting the ancient knowl-
edge available in lone quotes scattered here and there, in palm leaves
buried in manuscript libraries, various versions of the same texts and so
on - of course never forget that it is the consciousness that looks into
the subject that is more important than the subject itself. If the mirror is
not clean and clear, no clear image will reflect in it, but only the frag-
mented shapes, which wont convey much understanding.
The knowledge is vast and we are so small - so be humble; towards
existence, towards the vastness, towards the eternal time, and towards
the path, towards the effort to understand, towards the mysterious.
What we read from cover to cover will impart us just the fragments,
our consciousness so feeble, and reading just touching the periphery
incapable to go deeper. Only a highly resonating brain that is par with
the authors of Vedas and Upanishads could realize what they meant,
only a resonating brain with the excellence of the author of Surya
sidhanta in astronomy, Skanda Hora in astrology could either deny them
or extend them. What are our contributions to search of ultimate (Vedas
and Upanishads), to astronomy (Surya sidhanta), Astrology (Skanda
hora, Surya Jataka) to either deny or to extend them? Do we have a
resonating brain that is in par with their excellence? This is one of the
questions we should meditate upon.
- Sreenadh
= -r-r trrrrr11
Note: This article was written in response to some queries put for-
ward by Avatar Krishnan Kaul, a learned scholar, who rejects the vedic
or non-vedic existence of predictive astrology in ancient past and is
after the western tropical school of astrological thought.
Every body follows swadharma (own nature). The Tantric culture
that finds its origin in Sindhu-Saraswati civilization in Kashmir is the
same. It is said that-
+r-rr r-r rz-rr(-rr rrtr-rr-rrr-r11
- +-rrrrr-:r
[The Dharma (path) followed by Kaul is mysterious even to the yogis] :)
- What is swadharma for a Tantric of Kashmir origin, the cradle of
civilization? Is it not to search and reveal the contributions of Tantrics
to various branches of knowledge?
Dont worry; it is just a fancy joke. Just making a friendly comment
to my dear astro friend Avatar Krishnan Kaul. :)