ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY

ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY

 

ASTRONOMY AND ASTROLOGY

Dictionary definitions:

‘Astronomy’      The scientific study of the Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars, etc.

‘Astrology’         The study of the positions of the Stars and movements of the planets in the belief that

                                they influence human affairs.

As defined above the study of the Sun, Planets and Stars and other astral objects like Meteors, Comets and Astronomical events like the Eclipses of the sun and moon is known as Astronomy.

Human beings have been fascinated by the objects in the sky since time immemorial. The Western people had their own Myths and beliefs which underwent drastic changes with the invention of the telescope and other scientific developments. Mathematical calculations were also developed to precisely gauge the movements of the Earth, moon, Planets and the stars. 

 

Wikipedia:

Astrology is the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial objects as a means for divining information about human affairs and terrestrial events. Astrology has been dated to at least the 2nd millennium BCE, and has its roots in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Many cultures have attached importance to astronomical events, and some – such as the Indians, Chinese, and Maya – developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Western astrology, one of the oldest astrological systems still in use, can trace its roots to 19th-17th century BCE Mesopotamia, from which it spread to Ancient Greece, Rome, the Arab world and eventually Central and Western Europe. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with systems of horoscopes that purport to explain aspects of a person's personality and predict significant events in their lives based on the positions of celestial objects; the majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.

The earliest Vedic text on astronomy is the Vedanga Jyotisha; Vedic thought later came to include astrology as well.

Hindu natal astrology originated with Hellenistic astrology by the 3rd century BCE, though incorporating the Hindu lunar mansions. The names of the signs (e.g. Greek 'Krios' for Aries, Hindi 'Kriya'), the planets (e.g. Greek 'Helios' for Sun, astrological Hindi 'Heli'), and astrological terms (e.g. Greek 'apoklima' and 'sunaphe' for declination and planetary conjunction, Hindi 'apoklima' and 'sunapha' respectively) in Varaha Mihira's texts are considered conclusive evidence of a Greek origin for Hindu astrology. The Indian techniques may also have been augmented with some of the Babylonian techniques.

Astrology is the use of Astronomical observations to link them with the happenings in the life of a human being both in the past and present as well as try to foresee what may happen in the future.

The western astrologers

use the system of ‘Astrological constellations’. A constellation is a group of bright stars found in a particular direction of the sky and when linked by imaginary lines they appear to look like various objects known to men like scorpion, goat, lion etc. There are 12 constellations and each is given a name like Leo, Gemini, etc. These constellations are given specific dates from the Gregorian Calendar like July 24 to August 21, May 22 to June 21, etc. Thus a person’s birth date is linked to a particular constellation and predictions of events in his life are made. Probably in earlier times the year started from the date of the Winter Solstice, 21st of December. The months also probably coincided with astrological constellations. The present Gregorian calendar system should have come about later.

The Indian Astrological system

 is much more complicated. The concept of constellations is found here also. They are called ‘Rashis’. There are 12 Rashis namely Simha, Mithuna, etc. The stars in each Rashi is also given a name like Chitra, Aswini etc. There are 27 stars called Nakshatras.

There are two basic system of determining the months in the Indian system.

 One is based on the movement of the Moon. Thus every month starts with the first day after the New moon and ends with the New moon.

In the other system the movement of the Earth in relation to the Sun is the basis for determining the month. The entry of the Sun into a particular Rashi is considered to be the beginning of the month. Further every day is assigned a particular star. Thus a particular star/s may appear for more than once during every month.

In the Indian astrological system the following are considered

The Earth with its day and night phases

The Moon with its waxing and waning phases

The Sun and its position in the Southern or Northern hemisphere

The Planets    - 7 in number and their movements relative to the Earth and Sun as well as their positions in the Rashis

The Rashis     - 12 in number

The Nakshatras     -   27 in number distributed into the 12 Rashis

The Week days      7 in number given a name to represent the Sun, Moon and Planets

 

 THE YEAR

The 365 days that the earth takes to go around the Sun is considered as 1 year. Each year is given a Name. There are 60 Year Names and they repeat itself after 60 years. The first name is “Prabhava” and the 60th year is “Akshaya”.

For those following the Solar system of Panchang, the year normally commences from the 13th or 14th of  April of the Gregorian Calendar every year.

For those following the Lunar system of Panchang the New Year will commence the next day after the New Moon. Hence the date will vary every year and may be any date between the 2nd fortnight of March and 1st fortnight of April. This month is called Chitra or Chaithra in both the systems of the Indian calendar.

MONTH

Every year is divided into 12 months. Each month is designated with the name of the Rashi which the Sun is supposed to traverse during the Month. For example Chaithra, the first month, is known as Mesha Masa  ( April –May). The 12th month is named Panguni or Phalguni. In the Solar system of panchang the number of days in a month varies from 29 to 32 days. The names repeat after every 12 months. However those following the Lunar system the month always commence from the day after every New moon day and ends on New Moon day. Hence all the months are of uniform duration.

THE WEEK

The week consists of 7 days both in the Western as well as the Indian calendar. The days are named after the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.

There is no 7 day cycle in the solar planetary system which repeats itself. Hence naming a particular day as Sunday or Friday seems to be without any Astronomical basis.

There is no particular aspect of Sun or other planets which repeats itself after every 7 days.  When the calendars or panchangas came into existence it could have started on a particular day. Hence if they were to have started a day later present Sunday could as well be a Monday. However astrologers assign various attributes to each day.

Strangely the week days in the Western calendar and the Indian calendar coincide. Whether the week began on the same day in both the systems? Further the names given to each day in both the systems represent the same astronomical object. Like Sunday – Bhanuvara, Monday   - Somavara, etc.

Astronomers give predictions based on the days also. Further in the Indian system certain Shubha Pujas/Functions are not performed on days like Tuesday, Saturday.

THE STARS

The Stars or Nakshatras are 27 in number. They are designated to rule a particular day for specified period of time. They appear in a particular sequence one after the other. The first star is Ashwini and the last star is Rewathi. The names repeat after every 27 Nakshatras. The number of stars (27) are less in number than the number of days in a month (29 to 32). Hence a few stars will appear both at the beginning of the month as well as at the end. It does not coincide even with the Lunar month of 29 days.

The star said to be reigning at the time of birth of a person is taken as the birth star of the person and basing on which his horoscope is drawn and various predictions are made.

THE RASHIS

The 27 Nakshatras are distributed into the 12 Rashis. Each Rashi contains more than one star. The Rashis are named as Simha, Mithuna, etc. The rashis in the Indian system are the equivalents of the Constellations in the Western system. The names given to the Rashis and Constellations in the two systems also have lot of similarities.

ARIES                  MESHA                    REPRESENTING THE GOAT

TAURUS              RISHABHA              REPRESENTING THE BULL

LEO                      SIMHA                    REPRESENTING THE LION

SCORPIO              VRICHIKA              REPRESENTING THE SCORPION

PISCES                   MEENA                  REPRESENTING THE FISH                  

  In the Indian Astronomical system SAME star is found in more than one Rashi also. This is quite strange and astronomically impossible.

Though each month is designated to a particular Rashi with its own group of stars it is not clear why a particular star is designated every day.

The ‘Constellations’ as per the Western system and the ‘Rashis’ as per the Indian system represent a group of stars appearing in the Earth’s sky. By connecting the stars by imaginary lines man assumed that the star group looks like various objects or animals known to man. Thus a group of stars looked like a lion and hence he identified that group as Leo. Similarly another group of stars looked like the goat and hence he called it as Aries. Thus all the constellations as observed from the earth were given a particular name. Due to the Earth’s rotation around the Sun with a specific period of time (one Year) these star groups also appear at the same period of time every year.

But the surprising fact is that both the western and Indian astronomers seem to have imagined the same objects for a particular group of stars. Separated by both distance and cultures this does not seem to be a mere coincidence. Obviously one of the systems could have merely replicated the ideas prevailing in the other system.

 

 

Comments/ Observations

The Sun, Moon and seven Planets are given much importance and they are even worshipped as Idols in temples. The Stars are also given much importance.

However The Earth which has maximum effect on all beings as well as sustains them seems to be not given much significance nor is it worshipped.

Further when the Sun is in a particular Rashi the Stars in that rashi would not be visible from the Earth. Hence all the Nakshatas in that Rashi will be in a state of Eclipse. But the Indian Astrology attaches much importance to the Stars.

Also the position of the Planets in particular Rashis , their entry and exit from the Rashis,  their influence on the Nakshatras, are all considered while predicting the events happening in the life of the  person basing on his birth Star.

The birth Star is considered for performing all auspicious actions like birthdays, upanayanam, grahapravesh, marriage, etc.

Every day is assigned a particular Star as mentioned above. Since there are only 27 stars and the number of days in a month varies from 29 to 32 days the date of birth will not come on the same day every year.

However after death, the day of the Lunar phase of the Moon on the particular day is considered for performing the various rituals and ceremonies like shraddha etc. This is known as the ‘Thithi’.  The Lunar phases are two in number, the bright half from the first day after Amavasya to the Full Moon day known as Shukla Paksha and the dark half from the day after full moon to the day of Amavasya known as Krishna Paksha, the waxing and waning Moon. Further the particular month is also reckoned. Thus the month which is based on the Solar movements and the Paksha which is based on Moon movements are considered together. Hence every year the dates will keep on changing.

The only constant visible phenomenon is the Phases of the Moon. Starting from the Amavasya or New Moon to Poornima or Full Moon consisting of 14 days and back to Amavasya consisting another 14 days. Thus a Lunar month consists of approximately 29 solar days divided into two halves of 14 days each. However since the number of days in the Lunar Year (around 348 days)will be less than the Solar year (365/366 days) an additional  month is added once in a few years. This is called as ‘Athika Masa’ and in that particular year there will be 13 lunar months.

In the Hindu tradition many of the events like marriage, upanayanam, grahapravesh, etc are conducted based on the month, lunar paksha, star and day of the week.

 Since there are several  Panchang systems followed by different groups/sects of people it is quite common to see that a particular day is auspicious according to one panchang and the very same day is inauspicious according to another.

 

HOROSCOPES IN INDIAN SYSTEM

A person is assigned a particular star according to the place, time, day and month of his/her birth. The Planets in the Solar System at the time of birth is also taken into consideration. Based on these data a person’s ‘Horoscope’ is drawn. In Indian terms it is generally referred to as the ‘Jathakam’.

This document is then used for various predictions that has happened or to happen in the person’s life.  While giving predictions about the events happening in a person’s life the positions of the Astronomical objects at the time of birth and also their positions at the time the predictions are made are taken into consideration.

It is therefore important to have the correct date, time and place of birth before the Horoscope is drawn. Any mistake will lead to errors in the horoscope as the positions of astronomical objects are continuously changing.

In earlier times, say 60 -70 years back, most of the human births would take place in houses only as there were very few hospital or nursing home facilities. Even today in spite of improved medical facilities many births do take place in homes particularly in villages. Births were hardly recorded in official documents. There are a huge number of people who do know their exact date of birth leave alone the time.

In India time used to be reckoned by the position of the Sun during day time and the stars during night time. A day of 24 hours was divided into 60 Nazighais and each Nazighai will be around 24 minutes. Further in any village or town only very few people had the knowledge to reckon these timings as well as the astronomical positions of the sun, planets, moon and stars. Terms like ‘Lagnam’, ‘Muhurtham’ also denote specific periods of time during the day.

The time piece and clock were introduced in India by the British probably during the 19th or 20th century though they were in vogue in Western countries much earlier. Further they were luxury items possessed only by a few wealthy people.

Thus it is apparent that the exact time at any point could be reckoned only by a very few people.

Therefore whenever a birth takes place those nearby would have had only an approximate idea of the time and it would be much more difficult during night times.

It would therefore appear that most of the Horoscopes of earlier times (before the advent of the clock) would be wrong as well as the predictions based on them.

The matter is further compounded by the fact that there are several Panchang Systems (as earlier mentioned) and though the exact time of birth may be known the star, position of the planets etc will differ considerably from one Panchang System to another. Thus the birth star may be Ashwini according to one Panchang and something else according to another.

 

UTTARAYANA AND DAKSHINAYANA

The movement of the Earth around the Sun is Elliptical. Further the Earth’s Poles have a tilt to the Axis. Also the ancient belief in the Western Countries as well as in India was that all the Astronomical objects move around the Earth. The position of the Sun as seen from the Earth appears to move from a Southern most point to a Northern most point, in the Earth’s sky, and then back to the southernmost point during the course of a year.

Winter Solstice

This occurs on 21st or 22nd of December according to the Gregorian calendar. This marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The North Pole of the Earth has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. The Arctic Circle at the North Pole has the longest night with 24 hours of darkness. As you move down South the night time duration goes on decreasing and at the Antarctic Circle in the South Pole it is 0 hours of darkness or 24 hours of Daylight. The Sun appears to be at the Southern most point of the hemisphere.

Spring Equinox

From the above date the Sun appears to move in a Northerly direction in the Earth’s hemisphere and around 21st March appears to be directly above the Earth’s equator. The Earth’s tilt is perpendicular to the angle of the Sunlight. The day and night are almost of equal (12 hours) duration on most part of the Earth.

Summer Solstice

The Sun appears to continue to move in the northerly direction and on or around 21st June reaches the Northern most point on the hemisphere. The earth’s North Pole has the maximum tilt towards the Sun. The day marks the longest day time in the northern hemisphere. The Arctic Circle in the North Pole will have 24 hours of sunlight. At the same time the Antarctic Circle will have almost 24 hours of darkness.

Autumn Equinox

From the above point the Sun appears to reverse and move in a Southern direction. And around 22nd September the Sun once again appears to be directly above the Earth’s equator like on the spring Equinox day. The Day and night are almost of equal duration.

From this point the Sun continues to move in the Southern direction and reaching its Southern most point on the winter solstice day.

Thus it appears that the Sun moves in a Northerly direction for 6 months and in a Southern direction for 6 months of the year.

According to the Hindu Astrological almanac these are called as Uttarayan and Dakshinayan. However the Uttarayan period starts from the commencement of the Makara Masa (Thai Masam in Tamil) for the followers of the solar system. This corresponds to 14th or 15th of January of the Gregorian calendar. The Dakshinayan Period starts from the start of the Kataka Masa which is around the 16th of July ( AADI Masam in Tamil). According to the Hindu religious traditions the Uttarayan is considered to be auspicious and good for doing various activities like marriage, grahapravesh, upanayanam etc. The Dakshinayan period is considered less auspicious.

The dates of solstices and equinoxes as per the western system coincide with the physical position of the Sun as it appears in the Earth’s hemisphere.

It can be seen that there is a difference of almost 25 days for the start of the uttarayan period and dakshinayan period as compared to the winter and summer solstices.

The Indian astrological system is based on keen observations of the movements of the celestial objects. It is able to predict and forecast various astronomical events like the movement of the planets, moon and the eclipses very accurately using mathematical formulae and calculations. Hence it is not clear why there is so much of difference in the commencement of the uttarayan and dakshinayan periods.

 

Reckoning of Date and Day

As per the Gregorian system the date starts from 12 midnight and ends at midnight of next day. Similarly the day also starts simultaneously and ends simultaneously. For example if 1st of February happens to be a Friday than both the date as well as the day starts at midnight and end at midnight at any particular place.

However in the Indian system both the day and date are reckoned based on the time of Sunrise at any given place. Thus taking the above example the Friday will start from say 6.30 AM assuming Sunrise is at that place is 6.30 AM. And the Friday will come to an end at 6.30 AM next day. If it is 18th day of the month of Makara(Thai) it will also start and end with Sunrise at the place.

Hence though Friday will end at midnight as per the western system it will continue till 6.30 AM of 2nd February as per the Indian system.

In India since we use both the systems simultaneously it creates problems in certain cases. For official purposes the Gregorian system of day and date are reckoned. For reckoning the time, date and day of birth of a person to draw up his/her horoscope the Panchang system followed by that family is used.

To take up a real situation. A person is born at say 12.30 in the night (or any time after 12 midnight and sun rise at 6.30 AM). According to the western system it is 00.30 hours of Friday the 1st of February. But according to the Indian system it is still Thursday the 31st of January till 6.30 AM. Hence for all peculiar persons born during this 6 hours period of the day they will have two dates of birth one for official purposes and another for horoscope purposes.

 

 

A New Calendar System

As the month of February was drawing to a close with its 28 days an interesting thought came to mind. As per the Gregorian calendar the month of February has 28 days and once in 4years it has 29 days and that year is called as Leap Year. The leap years are even years divisible by 4, for example 2000, 2004, 2008 etc. This is mainly because the Earth’s rotation round the Sun is slightly more than 365 Earth days and the leap years adjust the difference more or less.

Everyone is happy in the month of February because they get their Salaries or other incomes 2/3 days earlier than other months. Everyone also possibly wishes that why not every month be like February with 28 days.

In earlier days wages were paid on a weekly basis to workers. With the shift to monthly wages it appears workers lost almost four week’s wages in a year.

This thought prompted me to have the following atrocious ideas:

  • All months will have only 28 days
  • Thus the year will have 13 months
  • The additional month may be given a new name
  • The total number of days will be 364 in a year
  • The year will begin on a Monday and all months also on a Monday
  • To take care of the extra day to make the year of 365 days, December will have 29 days
  • In the month of December in addition to the last Sunday one more Sunday will be added, this may be called Sunday 1 or by any other suitable name
  • During the Leap Year December will have two more additional Sundays, that is, Sunday, Sunday 1 and Sunday 2

The benefits will be

  • All months will have the same number of days
  • All the week days will be similar every year
  • Every worker will get an additional month’s wages/income
  • It does not make any difference whether the year is divided into 12 months or 13 months. After all the main purpose of a calendar is to reckon time/ period
  • Further only one week in a year , that is last week of December , will have 8 or 9 days
  • This also should not matter much because after all it is only we have decided that a week should have 7days
  • To take care of Astrological requirements one more Rashi or Constellation may be added

  

The following is a very apt song in Tamil

திரு அருணகிரிநாதர் அருளிய கந்தர் அலங்காரம்  - 38  நாள் என் செயும்
Kandhar AlangkAram by Thiru Arunagirinathar  - 38  nAL en seiyum

நாளென் செயும்வினை தானென் செயுமெனை நாடிவந்த
   கோளென் செயுங்கொடுங் கூற்றென் செயுங்கும ரேசரிரு
      தாளுஞ் சிலம்புஞ் சதங்கையும் தண்டையுஞ் சண்முகமுந்
         தோளுங் கடம்பு மெனக்குமுன் னேவந்து தோன்றிடினே.   ... 

 

நாள் என் செயும்? வினைதான் என் செயும்? எனை நாடி வந்த
   கோள் என் செயும்? கொடும் கூற்று என் செயும்? குமரேசர் இரு
      தாளும் சிலம்பும் சதங்கையும் தண்டையும் சண்முகமும்
         தோளும் கடம்பும் எனக்கு முன்னே வந்து தோன்றிடினே.

 

நாட்கள் அடியேனை என்ன செய்யும்? வினைதான் என்ன செய்யும்?
அடியேனைத் தேடிவந்த கோள் தான் என்ன செய்யும்? கொடிய
இயமனால்தான் என்ன செய்யமுடியும்? குமரக்கடவுளின் இரண்டு
திருவடிகளும் சிலம்புகளும் சதங்கையும், தண்டைகளும் ஆறு
திருமுகங்களும் பன்னிருதோள்களும் கடப்ப மலர் மாலையும்
அடியேனுக்கு முன்வந்து தோன்றிடுமே. 

nAL en seiyum? vinaidhAn en seiyum? enai nAdi vandha
   kOL en seiyum? kodum kUtRu en seiyum? kumarEsar iru
      thALum silambum sadhangkaiyum thaNdaiyum saNmugamum
         thOLum kadambum enakku munnE vandhu thOndRidinE.

What can the days do to me? What can the results of my past deeds do to me? What can the planet looking for me, do to me? What can the cruel messenger of death do to me? ThirumurugapperumAn's two Sacred Feet, adorned with silambu-anklets, strings of tinkling bells, tandai-anklets, and the Lord's Six Sacred Faces and Twelve-Shoulders, adorned with garlands of kadambu-flowers, graciously appear before me. 

Author

Kaushik Vichar

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