Personal planets in a horoscope are meaningful to Vedic astrologers in several ways. Several such personal planets have been described. First and foremost in importance is the ascendant lord, the planet ruling the first house in a chart – beginners please refer to: "Beginners". It is also customary to look at the planet in whose sign the lord of ascendant is located in the chart (this is known as the sign dispositor of ascendant lord). The planets ruling the star and star-subdivision of the ascending degree also play a key role, as does the lord of the lunar sign (sign dispositor of the Moon). Yet another personal planet is one in a horoscope that is the most advanced in longitude in any sign, and is known as the "Atmakarak" (significator of self). Finally, there are the lords of the navamsha and other harmonics of the ascendant.
Yet another important personal reference is the pada or arudha. For instance in a Libra rising chart, if Venus the lord of ascendant is in Leo in the XI house, then the sign XI from Leo, namely, Gemini would be the arudha lagna or pada lagna. This can serve as a secondary 'ascendant' according to Jaimini system (which in all fairness and to avoid some prevailing confusion on the jyotish scene is NOT an exclusive or different entity from the 'mainstream' Parashari system - which contains most of the so called Jaimini principles as well). However, one must utilize the rashi-based Jaimini aspects (also described by Parashara) for best results in such a case to study interplanetary connectivity with these karakas. These aspects are simple to figure out.
Planets in fixed signs aspect those in the movable signs, except the adjacent ones (planets in Leo will aspect those in Aries, Libra and Capricorn but not in the adjacent sign Cancer), planets in movable or cardinal signs would aspect those in fixed signs, except the adjacent fixed sign (planet in Aries would not aspect one in Taurus), and the planets in mutable signs aspect those in the other mutable signs. Mixing Parashari aspects (e.g., Jupiter aspects the 5th, 7th and 9th from its location) with arudha lagna considerations is not recommended by the experts. They also do not recommend the use of Parashari relationships and friendships when dealing with Jaimini system parameters. Virgin territory for research and exploration or a veritable minefield of astrological disaster? Your choice, your perspective, do enter ... should you dare!
With so many ways of interpreting the myriad of personal planets, things can easily get out of hand as one wades through a chart. However, there are several ways to exercise discrimination and not fall prey to some all-inclusive broad-brush methodology. The simplest primary cut would be by considering the relative strengths of these entities. Vedic astrology attributes several sources of strength to planets. Although it is a matter of personal preference borne out by experience, I firstly look at strength determinations based on the degree of exaltation, angular/directional disposition and sign-friendship (uchcha, kendra, dig and moolatrikonadi bals, respectively). The strongest of all personal planets wins. Sometimes, the same planet appears on the personal planet list on several counts (e.g., Moon in early degrees of Cancer ascendant! Moon will be lagnesha, lord of navamsha lagna and the sign will also be the natal lunar sign and also serve as its own dispositor in all three counts), and obviously this is an important consideration to pay attention to. In general, the ascendant lord, the ascendant sub-lord and the dispositor of the natal Moon are worthy of closer attention because they generally play an important role in judging the effects of planetary combinations (Yogas).
Atmakarak (the most advanced planet in any sign in a chart, one with the highest longitude in any sign), has a practical problem associated with it. It is well-known that sidereal longitudes required for Vedic are generally derived from tropical longitudes by subtracting the equinoctial precessional quantity (ayanamsha) from those. Depending on the drummer one follows, these "corrections" could differ from one another by up to a couple of degrees. Obviously, a planet that is near the cusp between two signs is very likely to turn out to be the youngest (least longitude in the sign) or the oldest (most advanced longitude in the earlier sign), based on the ayanamsha value chosen. The potential for significant error, therefore, exists and must be kept in mind in order to avoid falling in a trap. On the other hand, this very fact of such a slippery planet can clinch the ayanamsha issue for some of us! Those who tend to take the young/old region of a given sign as a sign of weakness (first five and last five degrees in a sign are considered to be weakening on planets by some) would often find the Atmakarak and kalatrakaraka falling in this 'ineffective' region of a rashi and this can pose some problems and initial confusion. Little wonder that they would have to divorce themselves from the charakaraka principle because of the conflict.
The personal planets indicate the 'self'. Many astrologers tend to describe people as being primarily demonstrating the nature of any one planet (a Martian or a Jupitarian person!), but in truth, such pure "types" are rarely encountered. Most of us embody the essence of several planets and these qualities are hopefully blended and expressed in a harmonious manner. When the blend is not harmonious, personal chaos could surface as a discernible and distinctive trait, neuroticism or at times something far worse.
When the personal planet is in a benefic house (angles, trines), the stronger it is the better. The planet should also be well-supported by other benefic planets (lords of 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 8 and 10th houses) in the chart so that it can ride the 'waves' when these come crashing in. The stronger these planets are, the smoother ones life is.
On the other hand, if the personal planet(s) happen to be in malefic houses (6th, 8th or 12th), then there could be a lot of self-doubt, misery, pain and isolation in ones life. When strong, the evil propensity of the planet generally increases. It stands to reason; therefore, that the personal planet will be weak in strength when placed in one of these houses - the major exception being a situation where the personal planet also happens to be the ruler of the ascendant. A weak ascendant lord in the 6th, 8th and 12th could reflect a propensity for chronic illness, lack of mental peace and of confidence or of self-worth, one with a low self-esteem, burdening oneself with self-imposed limitations and trepidation, or else indulging in reckless actions and self-inflicted danger, incurring damage and loss. Typically, people with the ascendant lord in the 6th house can look forward to a lot of self-exploration as they work through self-doubts in order to regain/enhance their self-worth.
The sign/house in which the personal planet is found can color the outlook of the person regarding the issues that (s)he considers important in life, either by necessity or by being cast in a certain role by force of circumstances. The adaptability/adjustment potential of a chart can be revealed by noting the nature of the planet and that of the sign it is placed in. A watery planet such as Moon is more comfortable in a movable or mutable watery sign (Cancer or Pisces), but not as much in a fixed sign such as Scorpio, where it is debilitated. It is utilized to the best of its potential in the fixed earthy environs of Taurus, where the watery mental energies of the Moon are transformed from ideas that irrigate into actions or tangible fruitful products. No wonder the Moon is exalted in Taurus!
Mars, on the other hand, is a fighter; it meets its challenge and shines in the confining saturnine sign of Capricorn (exaltation), but its dynamic fiery energies tend to fritter away in the movable and watery Cancer (debilitated). It becomes too easy and tempting for Mars in such a situation to blow off steam too frequently and the critical pressure necessary for meaningful activity never builds up.
The other houses/lords that the personal planet(s) is associated with (by location, aspects etc.) indicate the issues that the nativity would need to tackle or be faced with during the lifetime. Indeed, the personal planets form the core of the horoscope and their linkages are necessary to give fruitful experience in life. This is especially noted during the dasha periods of the planets that are associated with the personal planet or during its own dasha. The experiences are much more immediate, seemingly important and more substantial regardless of the favorable or unfavorable nature of the outcome. In a sense, ones personal planet may be considered as one of the key planets that is involved in matters of karmic importance. This is obviously escalated many folds if inherently karmic planets such as the lunar nodes are associated with the personal planet. When two planets are of exactly the same longitude (extremely rare situation), Parashara recommends using the lunar node Rahu as one of the karakas, with the planets attaining the same longitude co-chairing the chara karakattwa. A variant opinion exists that recommends using the nodes anyway, in a 8 charakaraka scheme instead of the prevalent 7 planet scheme. Jyotish has enough of these discrepancies to keep you awake for many nights and turn your hair white sooner than it normally would!
It is often difficult for those new to astrology to hone in on the key areas in a chart that so much resembles a maze. Concentrating on the personal planet(s) and other planets associated with these could provide a crucial starting point to focus ones delineation upon. The most important experience in a person's life is that which touches ones self and "self" is essentially what the personal planets represent. We must also remember that our entire concept of reality is experiential and we experience things through our individual colored glasses, through our biases, through our strengths and weaknesses - which all must be revealed through a thorough study of the personal planets in our charts.
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