Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes jyotisha (astrologer) which is the second Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 2 - The Jyotiṣa (astrologer)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Note: A Jyotiṣa is one who is versed in Saṁhita, Astronomy and Horoscopy.

1-6. We shall now proceed to give a brief description of (the qualifications of) a Jyotiṣaka. He must be of noble birth and of agreeable appearance; meek, truthful and without jealousy; of proportional limbs; of joints well built and of good growth; have no physical defects; be of fine hands, feet, nails, eyes, chin, teeth, ears, forehead, eye-brows and head; of fine physique and of high, sonorous voice.

Generally speaking do not virtues and vices follow the body?

The Virtues:—He must be of cleanly habits, able, noble-minded, eloquent and of originality and imagination; must possess a knowledge of place and time; be meek and without nervousness, must be difficult of conquest by his fellow students; must be able and devoid of vices; must be learned in matters of expiatory ceremonies, of Hygiene, of Occult Magic and of ablutions; must be a worshipper of the Devas and an observer of fast and penance; must be of remarkable genius and capable of solving any difficulties save in matters of direct divine interference; and finally, he must be learned in astronomy, natural astrology (Saṃhitā) and horoscopy.

In Astronomy:—He must have studied the works of Pauliśa, Romaka, Vasiṣṭha, Sūrya and Pitāmaha; he must have a correct, knowledge of a Yuga (43,20,000 Solar years), Varṣa (a solar year), Āyana (6 solar months), Ruthu (2 solar months), Māsa (a solar month), Pakṣa (15 solar days), Ahorātra (a solar day), Yama (one-eighth of a solar day), Muhūrtha (one-thirtieth of a solar day), Nāḍī (one-sixtieth of a solar day or 24 minutes), Vināḍi (one sixtieth of a Nadi or 24 seconds), Prāṇa (4 seconds) Truṭi (33, 75th of a second) and parts of a Truṭi and other divisions of time and also of divisions of space.

He must have a clear knowledge of the causes of Solar, Savana, Siderial and Lunar months as well as of intercalary lunations and intercalary days.

He must have a knowledge of the beginning and end of Śaṣṭyābda (a cycle of 60 years) [Ṣaṣṭyabda?], a Yuga (5 years), Varṣa (a year), Māsa (a month), Thina (a day) and Horā (an hour) and of their lords.[1]

He must know the solar and other divisions of time, their similarity and dissimilarity and must be capable of propounding the fitness or unfitness of each for particular purposes: these divisions of time are—of Man, of Devas, of Jupiter, of Pitṛs, of Star (Siderial). of the Sun (Solar), of the Moon (Lunar), of the Earth (Terrestrial) and of Brahmā.

If the methods of calculation given in the five Astronomical works mentioned above should produce different results he must be able to calculate correctly the places of the sun and planets by actual observation (by means of shadow and water level and with the help of astronomical instruments) of the termination of their āyana (northward and southward course), of their being due east to the observer after rising and of their altitude at any time.

He must know the reason for the correction required for the conversion of the heliocentric into geocentric longitude and vice versa; the causes of the āyana of the sun and planets and of their slow and rapid movements at different times.

In solar and lunar eclipses, he must be able to calculate the times of the commencement and end of the eclipses, the places of first and last contact, the magnitude and duration of the eclipse; in total eclipses, he must be able to calculate the time between middle eclipse and the beginning or end of total phase, (this period being technically known as Vimarda). He must also know the colour of the eclipsed lunar disc. He must be able to calculate before hand the times of the Moon’s conjunction with the planets as well as of planetary conjunctions.

He must know the length, in yojana (5 miles), of the daily motion of each planet in its orbit and of the orbit itself, and generally the length, in yojanas in every ease.

He must know the Earth’s revolution round the sun and its rotation round its axis; its shape, size and the like; the latitude of a place and its complement; the nature of the hour circle; the cāra dala kāla [the difference between six hours and half a day], the times of the rising of the Zodiacal signs. He must also be able to calculate time from shadow and shadow from time and to convert longitude into right ascension and right ascension into longitude.

He must be able to meet objections and questions in clear and distinct language and must be capable of explaining the science in its purity in just the same way as separating the pure gold [from all dross] and making it capable of retaining its value when submitted to the touch stone, to the fire and to the hammer.

How can one, who is incapable of entrapping others with a hard question or of answering any that is put to himself or of explaining his views to his students, expect to become an astronomer?

The fool whose exposition is at variance with the text and whose illustration is opposed to such exposition is not unlike one who addressing Brahmā as Pārvatī (Goddess) begins his praise by recounting the vices of a prostitute.

The predictions of one, who knows astronomy well, who is able to calculate the exact Lagna with such helps as the shadow, water and astronomical instruments and who is well-versed in horoscopy will never fail.

Viṣṇugupta says—“Flying with the speed of the wind, one might find it possible to cross to the ocean’s opposite shore; but a non-Ṛṣi can never, even mentally, reach the opposite shore of the vast ocean of Jvotiṣa-śāstra.”

And in horoscopy[2], the Jyotiṣaka must know such divisions of space as rāśi (a sign of Zodiac or a space of 30°), horā (15° or half a sign), drekkana (10° or one third of a sign), navam saka (3° 20' or one-ninth of a sign), dvādaśāṃśaka (2° 30' or one twelfth of a sign), triṃśāṃśaka (one-thirtieth of a sign), and their strength or weakness considered horoscopically; he must know the horoscopic strength of the planets with respect to their Dik[3] (direction), Sthāna[4] (place), Kāla[5], (time) Ceṭā[6] (motions, conjunctions and the like).

He must know the temperament of the planets; the parts of the body lorded over by each; the mineral division of each; the caste, sex and authority of each and the like; he must be able to state, from the time of conception or birth of a person, particulars connected with these occasions so as to insure belief; he must be able to say in what cases a child will die in infancy, and to calculate the period of one’s existence; he must be able to divide one’s life into planetary divisions and sub-divisions; he must be able to use the Aṣṭakavarga[7] tables to a given horoscope. He must know how[8] the several Raja, Candra, Dvigraha, and Nabhasa yogas affect the fortunes of men. He must also know how the fortunes of men are affected by the position and look of planets. He must be able to calculate the cause of one’s death and discover his future life.

He must be able to discover auspicious periods for marriages and the like.

In Yātrā[9], he must know the fitness or unfitness of a Tithi (lunar day), Vāra (week day), Karaṇa, Nakṣatra, Muhūrta, and Lagna (a sign of zodiac) and Yoga for particular purposes. He must be able to interpret natural gestures and dreams;[10] he must be able to state when a prince ought to start for battle to secure success in war; he must be learned in rules relating to ablutions and sacred fire ceremonies in honour of the planets and offerings to evil spirits; he must be able to interpret phenomena connected with such sacred fires and with elephants and horses while mounting the same.

He must be able to interpret the language and gestures of fighting men and the like; he must be learned in the Ṣaḍguṇa[11] and Upāya[12] policies; he must be able to predict the success or failure of an undertaking; he must be able to interpret omens; he must have a knowledge of favourable halting places for the king’s army; he must be able to interpret the colour of ceremonial fires; he must know when to employ the ministers, spies, messengers and forest men; he must be able to give directions touching the captures of the enemy’s fortress.

On all the above subjects, works of learned men exist. The predictions of one to whom the truths of the science appear as if spread before his eyes, written on his mind and planted in his breast will never fail.

A true Astrologer is also one who has thoroughly mastered the Science of Saṃhitā.

It treats[13] of the motions of the sun and planets; of their size, color, rays, brilliancy and shape and changes in the same of their disappearance and re-appearance; of their courses and deviations therefrom; of their retrograde and reretrograde motions; of their conjunction with the stars and of their places among the stars and the like.

It treats of the effects of agastya cara[14] and saptaṛṣi cara[15] on particular parts of India, corresponding to particular portions of the ecliptic; of the stellar divisions of every substance, animal and plant, and of their increase or decrease according to the motion of the planets among the stars; of the formation and interpretation of various figures presented by the planets when meeting together; of planetary conjunctions; of planetary years; of monsoonish indications of the weather; of the moon’s conjunction with Rohiṇī (5th constellation), Svāti (15th constellation) and the two Āṣāḍhas (20th and 21st constellations), on particular week days of the month of Āṣāḍha and of predicting the nature of the coming weather and crops from the same.

It treats of the prediction of immediate rain from surrounding phenomena; of judging the nature of the future crops from the growth of plants and flowers; of the halos round the sun and moon; of lines of clouds crossing the solar disc at rising and setting; of the winds; of meteoric falls; of false fires; of earthquakes; of the red sky immediately before sunrise and after sunset; of the fanciful shapes of clouds; of dust storms; of thunderbolts; of the price of food grains; of gardening.

It treats of Indradhvaja,[16] of the rainbow and of architecture; of the prediction of events from casual words and gestures and from the cawing of crows; of the formation of zodiacal circles for purposes of horary astrology.

It treats of the prediction of future events from phenomena connected with the deer, the dog and the motions of the wind; of the construction of temples, towers and palaces; of the casting of images and of founding the same; of the growth of plants and trees; of under currents; of certain annual ceremonies to be performed by princes for success in war.

It also treats of the prediction of events from the flight of the kañjana (a small black bird—the gracular religiosa) and from the appearance of various abnormal phenomena, of expiatory ceremonies; of miscellaneous planetary phenomena; of ghṛta kambala;[17] of the royal sword; of paṭa;[18] of the features of a house cock, a cow, a sheep, a horse, an elephant, a man and a woman.

It also treats of the treatment of women; of moles in the body; of injuries to shoes and clothes; of hairy fans; of walking sticks: of beds and seats; of lamplight; of tooth brush and the like.

Generally, the determination of the fortunes of men and princes depends on matters enumerated above and changing every moment. It therefore behoves a prince to employ astrologers solely upon this work. As it is impossible for a single astrologer to observe and determine all the phenomena occurring day and night, the task must be assigned to four competent and well paid astrologers; one of them is to observe the east and south-east; another the south and south-west; a third the west and north-west; and the fourth the north and north-east. The fall of meteors and the like is sudden in its nature and the determination of one’s fortunes depends on the shape, color, gloss, size and the like of these falling bodies and upon how they approach or cross planets and stars.

And Bhagavān Garga says—

7. That prince meets with ruin who does not support a Jyotiṣaka well-versed in all the Divisions and Subdivisions of Saṃhitā and in Horoscopy and Astronomy.

8. Even men who, having conquered their passions and cut asunder all ties of family, live in woods, desire to question a learned Jyotiṣaka regarding their future.

9. As is the night without a lamp and the sky without the sun, so is a prince without a Jyotiṣaka and he gropes his way in the dark.

10. If there were no Jyotiṣakas, the muhūrtas, the tithis, the nakṣatras, the ruthus and the āyanas would go wrong.

11. It therefore behoves a prince who loves success, fame, wealth, happiness and renown, to secure the services of a learned Jyotiṣaka.

12. He who loves prosperity ought not to live in a country devoid of a Jyotiṣaka. He (the Jyotiṣaka) forms as it were the eye of the land and where he dwells, sins exist not.

13. A learned Jyotiṣaka not only escapes hell but (after death) goes to the Brahma-loka and obtains salvation.

14. That Brāhmin Jyotiṣaka who has mastered both the text and the purpose of the entire science deserves to be respected and fed first on occasions of Śrāddha and he purifies the party of diners.

15. Even the Mlecchas and the Yavanas (Greeks) who have well-studied the science are respected as Ṛṣis. Such being the case, if the Jyotiṣaka should happen to be a Brāhmin, who will deny him respect?

16. A pretentious Jyotiṣaka whose knowledge of the science has been picked up from what has occasionally fallen on his ears ought not to be consulted.

17. He who, not having studied the science, passes for a Jyotiṣaka is a sinner and a disgrace to society.

18. He who ridicules the words of a Jyotiṣaka, as well as the person who sneers at the science itself, will suffer miseries in the hell of darkness.

19. To question an ignorant man is not unlike begging of a clod of earth at the gate of a city for a gift: whatever is truth will finally triumph.

20. One that, after the occurrence of an event, pretends that his prediction already meant so much, and one that wanders away from the subject as well as the person who is proud, having only an imperfect knowledge of the subject shall be rejected by a prince.

21. He, who well knows the Horā, the Gaṇita and the Saṃhitā śāstras, ought to be respected by the prince who loves victory and admitted into his court.

22. That service, which a single Jyotiṣaka, having a knowledge of place and time can render to a prince, cannot be rendered to him by a thousand elephants or by four thousand horses.

23. The evils of bad dreams, of sad thoughts, of ill omens and of evil deeds and the like will vanish immediately when one hears of the moon’s motion among the stars.

24. Neither the father nor the mother nor the relations nor friends of a prince will desire so much his well being and that of his subjects as a true Jyotiṣaka.

Footnotes and references:


Vide ślokas 23 and 24, Chapter VIII.


Here follow a number of technical terms which might appear forbiding to persons not conversant with the subject.


Mercury and Jupiter have dik bala when situated in one of the these signs, Meṣa (Aries), Siṃha (Leo) and Dhanuṣa (Sagittarius), technically known as the eastern signs. The Sun and Mars have it if in one of the three signs, Vṛṣabha (Taurus), Kanyā (Virgo), Makara (Capricornus) known as the southern signs. Saturn has it in one of the three signs, Mithuna (Gemini), Tulā (Libra), Kumbha (Aquerius) known as the western signs. Venus and the Moon have it if in one of the three signs, Karka (Cancer), Vṛścika (Scorpio) and Mīna (pisces) known as the northern signs.


A planet has Sthāna-bala if he is in his own sign, in a friendly sign, in his ucca sign or in his own navāmśa or drekkana.


The Moon, Mars and Saturn have Kalabala at night, Mercury has it at all times, the other planets during the day, the malefic planets in the waning moon and the benefic ones in the waxing moon. A planet has also Kalabala in his year, month, day and hour.


The sun and moon have ceṣtā bala when in one of the six signs from Makara: the other planets have it when retrograde, when in conjunction with the Moon, or when in their greatest brilliancy. In conjunctions the northern planets have it.


The object is to discover from the positions of the planets in one’s nativity how the planets affect one’s fortunes as they pass through the several zodiacal signs.


These are particular positions of the planets.


This literally means journey—evidently royal marches and forms a section of horoscopy.


To ascertain the king’s fortunes in war, the practice was to direct the minister, the astrologer and the priest to sleep in the temple and then to interpret their dreams.


These are six—1. Sandhi or reconciliation with the enemy. 2. Vigraha or open battle. 3. Yāna or proceeding to battle or other strategic movement, 4. Āsana or stopping in the capital, 5. Dvayidham or of two enemies to join one with a view to defeat the other. 6. Āśraya or submission.


These are four—1. Sāma or reasoning with, 2. Dāna or gift, 3. Bheda or bringing about dissension among the enemies, 4. Daṇḍa or punishment.


The following is by no means an exhaustive list of the subjects treated of.


Heliacal rising of Canopus.


Heliacal rising of the Bear.


This refers to the erection of a flag staff on occasions of certain annual ceremonies performed by princes.


A certain ceremony of ablution on the occasion of a sovereign’s coronation.


A gold ornament for the forehead.

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