By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Jyautisa, JyautiSa, Jyautisha
Jyautiṣa literally means ‘science pertaining to light’, astronomy and astrology. It is also known as Jyotiśśāstra. It has two aspects:
The vedic aspect is considered as Vedāṅga. It is a subsidiary science of Veda that helps in the performance of Vedic sacrifices. Since yajñas or sacrifices were supposed to be performed at certain auspicious moments, it had to be determined first. Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa is the result of such efforts.
According to the Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa, the year was solar and had 366 days. A yuga or a cycle of 5 such years had been accepted for calculation purpose. These five years were known as:
A cycle of five years contained 1830 days and 124 fortnights which consisted of 62 full-moons and 62 new-moons. This type of calculation was useful in the performance of the well-known Darśa and Purṇamāsa sacrifices. Once in five years two lunar months used to be added to the lunar year to make it equal to the solar year.
Works on Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa
The works available on Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa are:
- Ārcajyautiṣa of the Ṛgveda with 36 verses
- Yājusajyautisa of the Yajurveda with 43 verses
- Atharvajyautisa with 17 chapters and 162 verses
They are assigned to the period 1400 B. C. Lagadha is the author of the Yājusajyautisa work. It also has a commentary by Somākara of South India. The verses are very terse and even the commentary does not explain much. Atharvajyautisa is considered a much later work.
Distinct Features of Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa
Some of the discreet characteristics of Vedāṅga Jyautiṣa are:
- This way of calculation probably disappeared by 100 B. C. as the post-Vedic astronomy and almanacs developed
- It was not very popular even in the earlier periods
- The basis for this Jyautiṣa was the 27 nakṣatras or asterisms and not the twelve rāśis or zodiacal signs
- It gradually transcended by the works of Āryabhaṭa I (b. CE 476), Varāhamihira (CE 580), Brahmagupta (CE 628), Bhāskara I (7th century CE), Āryabhaṭa II (circa CE 950) and Bhāskara II (b. CE 1114). These later works helped in the development of astronomy and astrology.
Astrology is generally termed as ‘Phala Jyautiṣa’. Astronomy deals with the physical movement of the planets and the stars that are seen directly by the eyes. Astrology deals with the unseen results and effects they have on our lives to be experienced in course of time.
The most important basis for the phala jyautiṣa is the belief that the stars and the planets at the time of the birth of a child have a profound influence on its life. It determines the duration of its life, general conditions of its body and psyche, important events in its life and so on. This is determined by mapping the janmarāśi and the janmalagna.
The zodiac comprises of the 12 rāśis from Mesa, or Aries to Mīna or Pisces in which the 27 nakṣatras or asterisms from Aśvinī to Revatī are distributed. Each of the seven planets, the two nodal points designated as Rāhu and Ketu and the twenty-seven asterisms, has its own effect. It affects the life of a human being in a good or bad way depending upon the janmarāśi and the janmakuṇḍali. Interpretation of these combined effects at a given point of time depends not only on the astrological calculations but also on a certain degree of intuition.
Hence, determining and predicting the future is the most difficult part of astrology. About 40 methods have been projected out of which the one known as ‘Vimśottaripaddhati’ has been widely accepted in South India. The Aṣṭottaripaddhati is more common in the North.
The praśnaśāstra or the science of answering questions is another interesting aspect of astrology. A horoscope is cast for the time when the question is asked and the results are predicted based on it.
Essential Works on Astrology
The ‘siddhāntas,’ secondary works on astronomy and astrology, came into existence in the later period. They have their source from Vedāñga Jyautisa. Works of Āryabhaṭa, Varāhamihira and Bhāskarācārya belong to this group. These works have their commentaries generally known as ‘kārikās’ further amplifying the subject. The most important works on astrology are:
- Works of Parāśara and Jaimini
- The Suryasiddhānta
- Varāhamihira’s Pañcasiddhāntikā
Some findings from Greek astrology seem to have been borrowed by the authors of astrological works though most of the development was indigenous.
- Astrology is the phala-jyautiṣa part of the science of luminary cosmic objects.
- Janmarāśi means the rāśi or zodiacal sign based on the nakṣatra or asterism at the time of birth.
- Janmalagna is the the rāśi in the eastern horizon at the time of sunrise, on the day of birth.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore