(My obeisance to Sage Parasara who gave us the treatise Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra; Sage VarahaMihira who wrote the Brihat Samhita Hora, and the current astrologers Joni Patry, Maurice Fernandez and a host of other experts who have made astrology comprehensible to the layman. I am attempting this essay only because of them. Any errors are only mine.)
I am a scientist by training and now switch between waste and water advocacy as well as writing. Then why am I writing about astrology which is considered to be pseudoscience by a large section of the world? Well, I decided that I have to examine some basics, especially with regards to the unprecedented events that have happened in the world today, before I summarily dismiss it. There is a pandemic and a total lock-down of humankind, something that has not been witnessed in a long time.
I have long been studying Vedic Ecology and have found many universal truths in it. Extrapolating it to the field of predictive sciences, in all probability Vedic Astrology would also have many things to tell the world. Astrology is one of the most ancient practices, that has been in practice through time immemorial and across all cultures in the world. Evolutionary astrologer Maurice Fernandez says, “As soon as people understood that night, day, and seasons were all regulated by the Sun and Moon cycles, they realized that we are part of a larger complex of cycles that affect our lives on earth, like a cosmic clock where each planet is a hand of that clock.”
The experts I have spoken to and followed through books and on the internet actually consider it as ‘Mother of all Sciences’. I want to see if it indeed warrants such an epithet. The force of gravity cannot be seen by the physical eye, yet it exists. So, is there something else about the cosmos that governs all animate and inanimate things?
In this piece, I will be commenting on Vedic or Sidereal astrology, which is different from the western tropical astrology. The difference is the tropical system is based on a fixed astrological map of the stars as they were around 0 AD. The sidereal system is based on the current position of the constellations.
Let me admit that I know extremely little about the subject, so I am open to corrections. It was during last year’s annular solar eclipse on December 26th, 2019 that sparked an interest in me. It was the third and final solar eclipse of 2019 and it was an annular or ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse. While trying to get some information about the solar eclipse, I saw an article in the passing on how this eclipse would have an unprecedented effect on the world in 2020. Giving it a quick glance, I let go as we were travelling to Malaysia. During the solar eclipse we were in Penang. Had we been at home, according to the rules laid down by my grandmother we would have had a shower and then eaten freshly cooked food. Let’s just say we tried our best.
We returned before the year end and on 31 December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. As of 3 January 2020, a total of 44 patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology were reported to WHO by the national authorities in China. According to media reports, the concerned market in Wuhan was closed on 1 January 2020 for environmental sanitation and disinfection.
At the back of my head, I wondered if the eclipse was the harbinger of this news. So, I started tracking the planets online.
Solar New Year: However, let me start with the recent positions on 14th April ’20, the day when the Sun completed its Zodiac Year, just for some easy understanding. During the year, the Sun transits through all zodiac signs starting from Aries and ending in Pisces (the Vedic sidereal signs or Rashis explained below). Remember this path is as observed by us from the Earth.
The sun stays in each sign/rashi for roughly 30 days as observed from Earth. Thus, when Sun transits into Aries or Mesha Rashi, it marks the beginning of the circle as well as the Solar New Year. The transit results in the move from a water sign (Pisces/ Mina Rashi) to a fire sign (Aries/ Mesha Rashi). The meaning of Sankaranti is the transmigration of the sun from one constellation to another. So basically, these Zodiac constellations are those that lie along the plane of the ecliptic – or the apparent path of the Sun defined by the circular path of the Sun across the sky, as seen from Earth. In other words, the Sun appears to pass through these constellations over the course of a year. The 12 constellations in the zodiac family can all be seen along the ecliptic.
They are: Aries (Mesha), Taurus (Vrishabha), Gemini (Mithuna), Cancer (Karaka), Leo (Simha), Virgo (Kanya), Libra (Tula), Scorpio (Virschika), Sagittarius (Dhanur Rashi), Capricorn (Makara), Aquarius (Kumbha), and Pisces (Mina).
Ayanas or Solstices: Now let us look at the solstices that occur in a year. According to Vedic Panchang or calendar, there are two Ayanas in a year. In other words, Sun changes its position twice every year. These changes are known as Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. Uttarayana is the period when the Sun travels from Capricorn sign all the way to Gemini sign. The day when the sun transits into the Makara or Capricorn constellation begins its northward journey is called Makara Sankaranthi and this happens every year on 15th January every year.
This Uttarayana period is six months long. In the same way, when Sun travels from Cancer sign to Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius sign, the period is known as Dakshinayan. This way, both these periods have a duration of six months each.
Constellations/ Rashi: As a child, I remember lying down on the grass at home and my father would ask us to identify the various constellations. Ursa Major or The Great Bear was one we could identify easily. You may remember from your physics lessons too that these are a group of stars that make an imaginary shape in the night sky. Our ancestors named them after mythological characters, people, animals and objects. Hence each Rashi was a constellation and named as per what it looked like.
Nakshatras or lunar constellations: In Vedic astrology, the ancient sages further divided the zodiac into 27 Nakshatras (that which never decays) or lunar constellations. Each constellation covers 13 degrees, 20 minutes. The calculation of Nakshatras begin with Ashwini Nakshatra 0 degrees of Aries and ends on 30 degrees of Pisces covered by Revati Nakshatra. In mythology, these nakshatras were the wives of the moon. They were sisters born to Daksha Prajapathi and wife Panchajani. The 27 sisters had one brother called Abhijit. In western astronomy, Abhijit is Vega, the brightest star in the northern constellation of Lyra and is the 28th Nakshatra. The use of Nakshatra is very important in Vedic astrology.
They are also referred to as the lunar mansions because the motion of the Moon (13 degrees 20 minutes) stays in one nakshatra per day and creates the 27-day lunar calendar in India. Ah my basic knowledge in trigonometry- wish I had paid more attention in math class!
The Solar Eclipse of 26th December, 2019:
So, let’s get back to the solar eclipse on 26th December 2019. Many astrologers look at eclipses to look for signs of things to come. An eclipse is when the Sun and Moon unite with Rahu or Ketu. Now Rahu and Ketu are basically the two lunar nodes. A lunar node is a point when the lunar orbit coincides with the elliptic (the apparent path that the sun over the course of a year), and there are two such points – the ascending node (or north) node that is Rahu is where the Moon moves into the northern ecliptic hemisphere, while the descending (or south) node is where the Moon enters the southern ecliptic hemisphere, that is Ketu.
There are two solar eclipses a year (six months apart) that occur in opposing signs. One eclipse occurs in conjunction with Rahu and the other with Ketu since they are always exactly opposite. The eclipses are based on where Rahu and Ketu are transiting. It takes 18 ½ years for Rahu and Ketu to transit through all 12 signs of the zodiac, so Rahu and Ketu stay in one sign for 18 months. So astrologically, it is important to know the sign where the two lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu are placed and specifically the nakshatra they are transiting through.
Vedic astrologers in the past observed that events had a pattern because of the nakshatras and their placements in the sky. Now the nakshatras are ruled by the celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, as also by the lunar nodes Rahu, and Ketu. The nakshatras ruled by Rahu and Ketu seem to be the most powerful and intense.
Rahu governs the nakshatra Ardra which extends from 06 degrees 40 minutes to 20 degrees 00 minutes of Mithun Rashi (Gemini). It is symbolized by a teardrop and its ruling deity is Rudra (the God of destruction). The Sanskrit name Ārdrā translates to “green” or “the moist one” and represents howling winds.
Ketu, the southern lunar node governs three nakshatras, namely, Ashvini, Magha and Mula. Along with Mars or Mangal, it governs Vrischika Rashi (Scorpio). While I give you the descriptions of all the nakshatras, we need to focus more on the Mula nakshatra.
- Ashvini is the first nakshatra in Hindu astrology having a spread from 0°-0′-0″ to 13°-20′, corresponding to the head of Aries, including the stars β and γ Arietis.
- Magha is 10th Nakshtra and extends 0.00-13.20 in Leo.
- Mula is the 19th Nakshatra and the symbol of Mula is a bunch of roots tied together. The centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, lies in this nakshatra and hence it gets the name Mula. The presiding deity is Niritti. The name niritti translates to “absence of rta”, meaning ‘disorder’, or ‘lawlessness’, specifically the absence of divine or cosmic order. So Niritti is the Goddess of destruction. For this essay, we have to focus on this nakshatra in particular.
Now on September 26th, 2019, Rahu’s location moved into Ardra Nakshatra (its own nakshatra) and would be there till April 22nd, 2020 (the true node– the actual position on the Node of the moon). There is another position called as Mean Node, which is the position of the Moon’s node according to a mathematical formula which ignores many of the minor perturbations in its orbit and that would be on May 20th, ’20, which is a difference of a month. So Rahu is in transit until it enters Mrigashira on May 20th, ’20.
By the time we move to December 26th, 2019, there were more developments astronomically, where Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, were conjoined with the Sun, and the lunar node Ketu. The Moon would then join in to make a 6 celestial body conjunction in Sagittarius or Dhanur Rashi- which promised to be a powerful cosmic event.
Next – on February 12th, 2020 Ketu would enter its own nakshatra Mula and will remain till September 22nd, ’20. Astrologers over the world had already predicted trouble when Rahu entered Ardra Nakshatra on September 26th, 2019. There were other planetary transits that were leading into a big event- the details of which I will not go into to simplify the understanding of the reader.
So, the window of time in which both Rahu would be in Ardra and Ketu would be in Mula was from February 12 – April 22, 2020. This was the critical time of danger, which the experts predicted. And as we see that it was in this time period the spread of Covid-19 became wide-spread. Moreover, on 19th February, 2020 Mars was with Ketu and was predicted to be a difficult day- as Mars represents anger and is the Lord of War. In addition, there is the occurrence of the Kala Sarpa Yoga which is explained below.
Kala Sarpa Yoga: Kala means time, Sarpa means serpent and Yoga – spiritual discipline. What happens during the Kala Sarpa yoga? Here Rahu is at the head of the imaginary serpent and Ketu is at the tail of the serpent and all the planets are hemmed in between them. During this time, it has been observed that things happen in extremes, things are imbalance and events are magnified. This is supposed to be a ‘karmic’ time and laws of Nature are in effect. During this current period in 2020, the Kala Sarpa Yoga began on 24th February and will go on until 25th May. It is broken intermittently by the orbit of the moon. It will be finally be broken by Mercury on till end of June when Mercury enters Cancer. So we could expect incredible highs and lows during this time. But when Mercury breaks the Kala Sarpa Yoga and enters Cancer/ Karaka Rashi, it will be because of better communications and people will be travel again. (Mercury planet represents travel).
Dates during which Kala Sarpa Dosha 2020 (partial and full) will occur are :
- 25 February – 5 March 2020
- 17 – 31 March 2020
- 13 – 27 April 2020
- 10 – 24 May 2020
- 07 – 21 June 2020
Historically, it has been seen that when Rahu was in Ardra and Ketu in Mula, there have been pandemics. Joni Patry has studied a whole slew of historical events. For instance, in 1666, when Rahu was in Ardra and Ketu in Mula, the Bubonic Plague appeared and led to the deaths of 20 percent of London’s population. Interestingly on September 11, 2001 when the terrorist attack happened at the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, again Rahu was in Ardra and Ketu in Mula.
Swati and Ashwini are another pair of nakshatras, that have been seen during pandemics. In 1520, when Rahu was in Swati and Ketu in Ashwini, the Aztec Empire was destroyed by a smallpox infection carried by African slaves. In 1957 when Rahu was in Swati and Ketu in Ashwini, the Asian Flu (H2N2), that started in Hong Kong, spread throughout China and then into the United States. The Asian flu became widespread in England where, over six months, 14,000 people died. A second wave followed in early 1958, causing an estimated total of about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the United States alone. Fortunately, a vaccine was developed, effectively containing the pandemic.
Now why did this event happen now? Astrologers believe that the events have a karmic connotation. Over the decades, the whole world seemed to be in anger over something or the other. Either over the government, over political ideologies or religious ideologies. Even social media is not spared – there is trolling, hate speech, and intolerance. Niceties and etiquette are on their way out. It seems as if we want to be angry over something or the other. Astrologers say – that this needn’t have been this way. “What we need to do is to look at ourselves and stop the anger. Every single soul is connected and when we put out our anger it affects the world. So, despite our differences we need to put anger away and find love and peace. We need to be responsible for our actions and good or bad it will come back to us- as per the law of cause and effect or karma. There should be no disregard for another being- man, animal or nature and find ways to find peace and happiness in the world, ” says Joni Patry.
Evolutionary astrologers say that the current alignment of Saturn and Pluto together in Capricorn is powerful and is all about accountability. World over, leadership is being put to test and those in power are being held accountable. Saturn has to do with karmic results. We have been polluting the air and abusing nature so much. Is it any wonder that the Corona Virus affects the lungs! With Jupiter and Mars also being there, the big event was bound to happen. Astrologers thought it would be a World War, but Nature sprung a surprise to all of us. In evolutionary astrology, it is not about predictions but intentions. Also, now that the North Node (Rahu)- an axis of destiny- moves into Cancer and the South Node (Ketu) moves into Capricorn. What does it mean? Cancer has to do with family and emotional health. We are moving away from Capricorn energy of ambition and wanting more. Governments are actually putting safety of citizens before economy. Ketu in Capricorn focuses on people with experience and the elderly – and in this crisis it is our elderly population that has been most vulnerable. The presence of Mars in this conjunction indicates intense war – the war against the virus.
Jupiter (the giant) and Pluto (the dwarf) come together in this paradox on April 4th in Capricorn. Both are growth oriented. Pluto represents power, has tremendous life-changing impact but is discreet. It represents deconstructing and rebuilding. Jupiter represents abundance, and in the sign of Capricorn represents ambition and need for true wisdom and teachers. Each time they come together (13-14 years), they expose the consequence of excesses and arrogance. Hence – they represent a moment of truth- they can exaggerate and defeat. The last time they were together December 2007- soon after there was the economic crash of 2008, as real estate was over blown and exaggerated. These results are the consequence of feeling entitled, and taking too much from nature. Basically our anthropocentric views – that humans have thought they were above Nature, rather than being part of it, is driving the disaster.
However, in all this churning, the planetary positions of Jupiter and Ketu together in Capricorn in January is positive as it is all about spirituality and rebuilding. What astrologers say that something positive may come out of this. While in search for a cure of the virus, something new may come out of it. As humanity, we need to focus on healing and not on fear. The fear-based conscious will be detrimental to mankind and we need to get out of it.
There is more to come by June 21st 2020, when there will be another solar eclipse, followed by a penumbral Lunar eclipse on July 4th – 5th . I have to understand that further, so for now let us stay safe, meditate with deep breathing and gratitude and pray that we ride this wave with equanimity. Let’s leave the negativity behind, because anger will never get us anywhere; let us take our power back by nurturing and sharing.
Post Script : I do want to go through atleast an abridged version of Brihat Samhita atleast for one reason. Urmi Chanda-Vaz mentions in her paper that Varahamihira in his treatise shows an exceptional knowledge of the environment. In his chapter on Undercurrents , he lists a number of positive and negative bio indicators that point to or negate the existence of groundwater. In the exhaustive floral and faunal clues on water divination, Varahamihira lists the number of plants, reptiles, insects and other creatures, which offer valuable insights on the biodiversity, climatic and soil conditions of the period. But more about in my next!