Vedic astrology is one of the oldest forms of astrology. It evolved over 5,000 years ago and is based on a body of knowledge known as the ‘Vedas,’ which translates to ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom,’ and is referred to as Jyotish, — the ‘light of the heavenly bodies’. Today, Vedic astrology is acknowledged as one of the most powerful forms of astrology in practice and is followed by millions around the world.
While Western astrology is known for its emphasis on the psychological nature and personality of the individual, Vedic astrology’s primary focus is on predicting cycles and events of the future, putting more emphasis on understanding when certain events are likely to take place. Vedic astrology gives a better view of: a person’s karmic tendencies and when such tendencies are likely to manifest for that person through a unique system of planetary time cycles, called ‘dashas,’ for which there is no corresponding method in Western astrology.
The planets in Vedic astrology are referred to as ‘grahas’ and ancient scriptures refer to them as the lords of karma and destiny. It is believed that the birth chart of an individual is based on their past karma, which is bestowed upon them by the nine planets. However, it is not Vedic astrology’s purpose to replace an individual’s responsibility to decide what is best for them. The role of astrology is to make one aware of the presence or absence of certain tendencies, and should be used as a tool for making better decisions. Ultimately, the purpose of astrology is self-knowledge, self-awareness and improvement.
Vedic astrology follows the same combinations of the houses, signs and planets as those in Western astrology. But for those of us familiar with the Western birth chart, there will be many differences. The Vedic birth chart is square, instead of the round chart wheel of Western astrology. The houses, signs and planets also take on different meaning under Vedic astrology. The more recently discovered outer planets — Neptune, Pluto and Uranus are not considered in Vedic astrology for the purposes of interpreting a chart, however, the Lunar Nodes are. The North Node is known as Rahu and the South Node as Ketu.
Each planet is also given rulership over a particular sign of the zodiac and it is referred to as its lord. The ruling planet transfers a large part of its influence upon the sign it rules and planet ruler ships play a very important part in Vedic science.
Another major difference between the two is that Western astrology uses the Tropical Zodiac, which is based on the equinoxes.
The beginning of the Tropical Zodiac or its first degree of Aries is always with the spring or vernal Equinox. Vedic astrology uses the Sidereal Zodiac which tracks planetary movements against the actual movement of the stars, and the first degree of Aries or the start of the Sidereal Zodiac starts approximately 24 degrees ahead of that of the Tropical Zodiac. So unless you were born between the 15th or 20th of any month, you will find that your Western Sun sign and ascendant, as well as some of the planets are moved back by one sign in your Vedic chart.
Western astrology considers the Sun as the center of our universe, and therefore the most significant influence in our lives. Vedic astrology, on the other hand, uses the 27 constellations of the Moon — called the Lunar Mansions or Nakshatras — as the primary source of predictive techniques. The Sun represents one’s soul while the Moon represents one’s mind. Both are important, and both have a significant place in astrology.