The Zodiac

Before We start talking about the actual signs of the zodiac, as written in the Vedic astrology books proper, it is good to revisit the mystical origin of the zodiac and understand what it actually is referring to.

The zodiac, as we know it, refers to a 12 fold division of the sky based on certain astronomical phenomena and / or groups of stars. The ancient seers of India realized the cosmic energy in certain star groups and constructed the 12 fold zodiac from those star groups (as opposed to a Tropical/Earth Based Zodiac). This stellar / constellational Zodiac was the basis of Indias most sacred texts, the Vedas.

* Below material was originally published by David Frawley in a commentary on the Astronomy of the Vedas.

Most of the astronomical information occurs in his (Dirghatamas) famous Asya Vamasya Hymn I.164. Much of this hymn can be understood as a description of the zodiac. It begins:

1. “Of this adorable old invoker (the Sun) is a middle brother who is pervasive (the Wind or lightning). He has a third brother, whose back carries ghee (Fire). There I saw the Lord of the people (the Sun) who has seven children.”

2. “Seven yoke the chariot that has a single wheel (chakra). One horse that has seven names carries it. The wheel has three naves, is undecaying and never overcome, where all these beings are placed.” The zodiac is the single wheeled-chariot or circle yoked by the seven planets which are all forms of the Sun or sunlight. It is the wheel of time on which all beings are placed. The Vedic horse (ashva) is symbolic of energy or propulsive force.

3. “This chariot which the seven have mounted has seven wheels (chakras) and is carried by seven horses. The seven sisters sing forth together, where are hidden the seven names of the cows.” The seven planets create their seven rotations or seven wheels. Each has its horse, its energy or velocity. Each has its feminine power or sister, its power of expression. It carries its own hidden name or secret knowledge (symbolically cows or rays). This refers to the astrological influences of the planets.

11. “The wheel of law with twelve spokes does not decay as it revolves around heaven. Oh Fire, here your 720 sons abide.” The circle of the zodiac has twelve signs. It has 720 half degrees or twins, (Karanas) making 360 total.

Shatapatha Brahmana

“The Father with five feet and twelve forms, they say, dwells in the higher half of heaven full of waters. Others say that he is the clear seeing one who dwells below in a sevenfold wheel that has six spokes.”

The five feet of the father or the Sun are the five planets or the five elements that these often refer to (to which Vedic thought associates the five sense organs and five motor organs in the human body). His twelve forms are the twelve signs. The Sun in the higher half of heaven with the waters is the signs Leo with Cancer (ruled by the Moon), with the other five planets being the five feet, each ruling two signs. The sevenfold wheel is the zodiac moved by the seven planets. The six spokes are the six double signs through which the planets travel.

The same verse occurs in the Prashna Upanishad

I.11 as a symbol for the year.

14. “The undecaying wheel (circle) together with its felly (circumference), ten yoked to the upward extension carry it. The eye of the Sun moves encompassing the region. In it are placed all beings.”

This may again refer to the ten signs ruled by the five planets, with each planet ruling two signs. The eye of the Sun may be the sign Leo through which the solar influence pervades the zodiac or just the Sun itself. The upward extension may be the polar region.

15. “Of those that are born together, the seventh is born alone. The six are twins (yama), Divine born rishis. The wishes that they grant are apportioned according to their nature. Diversely made for their ordainer, they move in different forms.”

The six born together are twins of the twelve signs, two of which are ruled by one planet (considering the Sun and Moon as a single planetary influence). The seventh that is singly born is the single light that illumines all the planets.

Zodiac Signs

Below are the Verses on Astrology signs from Briha Parashara Hora Sastra

3. Names of Rashis. The 12 Rashis of the zodiac in order are Mesh, Vrishabh, Mithun, Kark, Simh, Kanya, Tula, Vrischik, Dhanu, Makar, Kumbh and Meen.

4-41. Limbs of Kaal Purush. Kaal Purush (or Time personified) has his limbs, as under with reference to the 12 Rashis, respectively: Head, face, arms, heart, stomach, hip, space below navel, privities, thighs, knees, ankles and feet.

5-51. Classification of Rashis. Movable, Fixed and Dual are the names given to the 12 Rashis in order. These are again known, as malefic and benefic, successively. Similarly are male and female. Mesh, Simhand Dhanu are bilious. Vrishabh, Kanya and Makar are windy. Mithun, Tula and Kumbh are mixed, while the rest are phlegmatic.

6-7. Mesh described. The Mesh is blood-red in complexion. lt has a prominent (big) physique. It is a quadruped Rashi and strong during night. It denotes courage. It resides in the East and is related to kings. It wanders in hills and predominates in Rajo-Gun. It rises with its back (a Prishtodaya Rashi) and is fiery. Its ruler is Mangal.

8. Vrishabh described. Vrishabh’s complexion is white and it is lorded by Śukr. It is long and is a quadruped Rashi. It has strength in night and resides in the South. It represents villages and businessmen. An earthy Rashi, Vrishabh rises with its back.

9-91. Mithun described. The Rashi Mithun rises with its head and represents a male and a female, holding a mace and lute. It lives in the West and is an airy Rashi. It is a biped Rashi as well and is strong in nights. It lives in villages and is windy in temperament. It has an even body with a green (grass like) hue. Its ruler is Budh.

10-11. Kark described. The Rashi Kark is pale-red. It resorts to forests and represents Brahmins. It is strong in nights. It has many feet (i.e. it is a centipede Rashi) and has a bulky body. It is Sattvic in disposition (seen in gods) and it is a watery Rashi. It rises with its back and is ruled by Candr.

12. Simh described. Simh is ruled by Sūrya and is Sattvic. It is a quadruped Rashi and a royal Rashi. It resorts to forests and rises with its head. It has a large, white body. It resides in the East and is strong during daytime.

13-14. Kanya described. This Rashi is a hill-resorter and is strong in daytime. It rises with its head and has a medium build. It is a biped Rashi and resides in the South. It has grains and fire in its hands. It belongs to the business community and is variegated. It relates to hurricanes (‘Prabharanjani’). It is a Virgin and is Tamasic (a disposition of demons). Its ruler is Budh.

15-161. Tula described. Tula is a Seershodaya Rashi, rising with its head; Tula is strong in daytime. It is black in complexion and is predominant with Rajo-Gun. It relates to the western direction and resorts to land. It is destructive, or mischievous (‘Dhatin’). It represents Sudras, or the 4th Varna. It has a medium build physique and is a biped Rashi. Its Lord is Śukr. Vrischik described. Vrischik has a slender physique and is a centipede Rashi. It denotes Brahmins and resides in holes. Its direction is North and it is strong in daytime. It is reddish-brown and resorts to water and land. It has a hairy physique and is very sharp (or passionate). Mangal is its ruler.

17-181. Dhanu described. The Rashi Dhanu rises with its head and is lorded by Guru. It is a Sattvic Rashi and is tawny in hue. It has strength in night and is fiery. A royal Rashi, Dhanu is biped in first half. Its second half is quadruped. It has an even build and adores an arch. It resides in the East, resorts to land and is splendorous.

19-20. Makar described. Makar is lorded by Śani and has predominance of Tamo-Gun (a disposition, seen in demons). It is an earthy Rashi and represents the southern direction. It is strong in nights and rises with back. It has a large body. Its complexion is variegated and it resorts to both forests and lands. Its first half is quadruped and its second half footless, moving in water.

21-211. Kumbh described. The Rashi Kumbh represents a man holding a pot. Its complexion is deep brown. It has medium build and is a biped Rashi. It is very strong in daytime. It resorts to deep water and is airy. It rises with its head and is Tamasic. It rules Sudras, the 4th Varna and the West. Its Lord is Śani, Sūrya’s offspring.

22-24. Meen described. Meen resembles a pair of fish, one tailed with the head of the other. This Rashi is strong at night. It is a watery Rashi and is predominant with Sattva-Gun. It denotes resoluteness and is a water-resorter. It is footless and has a medium build. It rules the North and rises with both head and back. It is ruled by Guru. This is how the twelve Rashis, each of 30 degrees extent, are described to evaluate gross and specific effects.

This chart below gives several important attributes of each sign

Sign Ruler Element Modality Gender Size
Aries Mars Fire Initiating Male Large
Taurus Venus Earth Stabilizing Female Long
Gemini Mercury Air Dispersing Male Even
Cancer Moon Water Initiating Female Bulky
Leo Sun Fire Stabilizing Male Large
Virgo Mercury Earth Dispersing Female Medium
Libra Venus Air Initiating Male Medium
Scorpio Mars Water Stabilizing Female Slender/Hairy
Sagittarius Jupiter Fire Dispersing Male Even
Capricorn Saturn Earth Initiating Female Large
Aquarius Saturn Air Stabilizing Male Medium
Pisces Jupiter Water Dispersing Female Medium

Click here to read more about Planetary and Sign Elements