Varga Chakras (Kundalis) in Jyotish Classics?

Preamble and Background

Recently on one of the many Jyotish lists on internet, spirited discussions took place for examining the status of a variety of jyotish parameters, including chara dasha, karakamsha. As characteristically happens, some of the discussants began to branch into other side discussions which really had nothing to do with the original questions or topics and some even became a bit emotional, as also often happens on the internet where attention spans of days and weeks are required in order to get to the bottom of things and where sometimes a topic is being discussed on many different boards. However, nothing was really resolved, and some of the regulars began expressing their frustrations about these topics coming up again and again and directing people to archives etc. Unfortunately, the yahoo forums/fora are such that only limited searching of past messages is possible without losing all hair, and the archives sometimes are maintained on another yahoo site so this does not help matters when all one wants is to get a quick summary of what others are using and if possible their reasons, why! This latter usually brings out more gall than good information even though the intention of the person posing the question was noble and not confrontational. 

Somewhere, along the path, another topic was born which began questioning the use of varga kundalis or varga chakras. Now this is something that is utilized in Jyotish going back to almost the first memories of even the oldest members in the forum who eventually admitted to such being the case. I myself, though myself not that senior, have seen horoscopes that were drawn in the century before last where the jyotishi had drawn the
 rashi chakra and navamsha and dashamsha and so on and more importantly had commented on these charts in his reading. So, at least some individuals had been utilizing varga-charts even a couple of hundred years ago and conceivably perhaps even before those times. 

Somewhere during the discussion, in one of the lists, one of the members made available an article in which the author had expressed thoughts to the contrary, i.e.,vargas should not be used in a chart format. A discussion ensued which sidestepped the more important and pertinent matter of the practical merits of using of navamsha varga as a secondary chart. A few individuals asked for proofs in classics that indicates that ancient jyotishis advocated of varga chakras. The discussants emphasized that ONLY rashi chakra must be used and vargaplacements should only be used for determining the strengths of planets etc. 

Now, those who have studied BPHS would know, that 16 vargas had been defined by the Sage starting with rashi or kshetra and so on. One of the members brought to all astrologer’s attention that Parashara had described very clearly how to determine bhavas in the rashi chart (ascendant, 10th house and then trisection of the arcs, etc. in Chapter V of BPHS). This was indeed true and a positive step forward in the discussion. There were parallel discussions going on which were rehashing the point that BPHS was not original and was perhaps not even a classic and written by one or a group of ‘latter day saints’ [my term, not the original poster’s!] in Jyotish and therefore cannot be treated as a classic. Obviously, there was some support for this as could be similarly expected if someone were to make a comment that Jyotish was nothing but a derivative of Babylonian astrology that the army that came with Alexander brought to India. I believe a discussion on that topic is in progress currently somewhere (October 2005). 

To those who were still interested and intrigued by this, there seemed to be two streams of thought prevailing:

  • (a) Only Rashi kundalis should be used. Other varga kundalis were the product of corrupted understanding of the classics – which themselves many concur might not have survived in pure form [though some of them have thankfully survived in reasonably good shape1]. Underlying this is the belief some may harbor that, alike the iceberg, available Jyotish is only 1/10th of the total body while the submerged 9/10th is mostly lost and partly hidden in the secret chambers of paramparas and some of the secret documents that exist but jealously guarded by the owner families. I do not know how much of this iceberg postulate is based facts and how much is wishful fiction. According to the purists of this stream of thought, vargas MUST only be used as measures of qualitative and quantitative strength of planets and for the consideration of the deities and primal forces those represent BUT not in the form of a horoscope and certainly no serious consideration must be given to aspects and bhavaconsiderations. Just for clarity, they would maintain, for instance, that while the 2nd house lord in navamsha is an important indicator, the fact that it is placed in the 2nd navamsha varga from the navamsha lagna (essentially in 2nd house innavamsha chart) is not significant. Or, for instance, if Mars is in Aries sign and Libra navamsha, and Saturn is in Gemini sign and Libra navamsha, the two planets are not related (though they would be depicted as being conjoined in the same navamsha varga in a navamsha chart).
  • (b) Regardless of whether overtly described or not, the other stream of thinking maintains that varga kundalis have an important role to play in Jyotish and possibly are of significant utility in discerning primary mandates matters pertaining to the prescription given by sages. In other words, navamsha chart, for example, would hold a significant sway over matters of marriage and spouse, while saptamsha chart would be of similar import in the examination of children in a given nativity’s reading. These vargas should be examined in a chart format.

I do not recall anyone in the ‘camp (b)’ saying that the first part of (a) is not correct, namely, the varga positions must be considered, per se, for examination of strength and quality of a planet as prescribed within the Jyotish framework. In fact most of them utilized concepts from both (a) and (b) streams. There seemed to be a few other individuals who totally denied the veracity of thought stream (b) and a few were a bit taciturn about it, perhaps to avoid acrimony and getting ensnared in the controversy. Or perhaps there were some other reasons, known only to them.

What do the Classics Say 

While the purists and historians duke it out as to what constitutes a Classic and what not, there seemed to be no significant resistance to accepting Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, described – by a very accomplished and brilliant, jyotishi who is an excellent writer and teacher and a very wise person beyond his years – as ... a remarkably well-preserved and reasonably intact, well-organized compendium of Jyotish knowledge. So I spent a few minutes going through it after Chapter 5 was brought to our attention as a strong indication of bhavas only being considered inrashi and in none of the other vargas since the Sage had not explicitly stated so. On the surface, this indeed seemed to be the case! However a further stroll into the magnum opus brought me to the chapter on Karakamshas In this Chapter 35 (Karakamshaphalaadhyaaya), BPHS describes the effects of planets that are in 2nd or 5th from karakamsha (sloka 30-31 for instance) and other houses also fromkarakamsha in subsequent slokas. Additionally, in sloka 33 BPHS mentions about the aspects (drishti) of Moon and Venus on the 4th from karakamsha and also in sloka 13.

Now, here lies the quandary

BPHS has to the best of my understanding not clarified if the karakamsha kundaliis to be read in the navamsha arrangement or the rashi arrangement (even though in both case the karakamsha sign will be taken from the navamsha where AK is placed). Modern jyotishis are split over this matter.

This, therefore, will be the deciding factor. If you see planetary arrangements for thekarakamsha chart in rashi after finding the seed orientation (atmakaraka innavamsha), then you would say that the above citation in BPHS does not clarify or indicate the use of varga kundali or of bhavas in sub-rashi vargas. On the other hand, if you continue to use the navamsha positions of other planets for thekarakamsha examination, then there lies the less explicit (than Chapter 5) but important recommendation that houses matter and should be studied in vargas. By extrapolation, as in the navamsha, so in the dashamsa and the remaining 13 (Rashihaving being unequivocally accepted as suitable for studying houses in a horoscopic manner: Chapter 5, BPHS!). However, there still was no evidence or classical indication for the use of drishtis in amsha varga kundalis. A case was made about it “just not being astronomically correct” because drishtis were based on angular distances (even though Vedic drishtis are more lax in orbs than their western tropical astrology counterparts, but angular all the same). There was more searching that needed to be done, obviously!

At this juncture, someone mentioned that Kalyan Varma, the jyotishi king was a reputable source and had dealt with navamshas in a brilliant manner and had not recommended the use of varga kundali. It was indeed a cue from the Universe! My next focus of attention was – Saravali, a text that I absolutely love! Anyways, I recalled something in Saravali that I was a bit bothered by early on during my Jyotish learning. Indeed, soon I was looking at Chapters 22 onwards where effects ofdrishtis between planets were mentioned by Kalyan Varma.

Before I got into it, though, I needed to make sure what a drishti means to jyotishis. Most jyotishis writing in English use the term ‘aspects’ for drishtis, just like their tropical brethren. However, there are some differences. Conjunction is an aspect, however yugma or more specifically yuti (coming together of planets) is not adrishti. Several references in Satyacharya’s writings mention “Yuto Drishto” and other grammatical forms of these two terms. Now Satyacharya is economical in the use of words, if nothing else. He would not use two words that mean the same thing next to each other. This then would imply that Yuti (conjunction) is separate fromDrishti (aspect) in Jyotish parlance. Yuti is not drishti, though the effect or influence might be similar. 

Next, looking into the mathematical consideration of drishti in drig bala, conjunctions do not come into consideration when determining aspect strengths. In fact the planets have to be greater than 2 signs in order to get a aspect strength value. This allows an unambiguous cuff of separation between two planets and yutior conjunction not getting aspect strength at all. An indirect but important confirmation that conjunction is not meant when ancient jyotishis referred to ‘drishti’. 

How come, then, Kalyan Varma in several slokas (e.g., Chap. 22, sloka 6, 7, 14 ..., Chap.26, slokas 25, 29, on and on in similar slokas – talks about effects of drishtis(no mention of conjunctions or yutis) between Sun and Mercury and Sun and Venus, and Mercury and Venus? Once or twice could have been a mistake or error committed by a dozing student of Kalyan Varma who was taking dictation but there are too many instances there! Now, even a neophyte in astrology would agree that Venus and definitely Mercury would never get so far from Sun to enter into a drishti sambandh! UNLESS, obviously, Kalyan Varma was not referring to the rashihoroscope but also to amsha varga horoscopes! Yes, this makes sense!!

Putting 2 and 2 together – Parashara indicating house relationships in varga charts in the karakamsha examination and Kalyan Varma even more directly and at several places referring to something that can be an astronomical reality only in varga charts – are providing firm indication of Jyotish classics recommending the use vargas in akundali, chakra or horoscope form with consideration of bhavas as in rashi as well as aspects, or drishtis

A good beginning! Now we would all need to study further and find practical applicability for this information. Even more than what has been shown in the past by way of demonstration of use of varga charts in practical Jyotish. Not so much to convince a few individuals who would rather hang on to their pegs of comfort and conviction, but to create more light and less smoke in the caverns of Jyotish. A much admired jyotishi generally signs off his messages with, “May Jupiter’s light shine on us”. To that I would like to add, “Maybe we should invite the soul-karaka Sun too – for the cavern needs all the light it can get!” 

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