Jyotisha – the lord of light

For the earth, the stars and the planets are the natural and large scale sources of light. The amount of natural lights we get impacts all the living beings on earth in terms of health and mood. On closer examination we find that some activities are best suited for morning, some for midday, some for evening and some for night. So there is a time for everything. Time and amount of natural light are connected and amount of natural light is connected with stars and planets.

When it started Jyotisha Shastra concerned itself with finding out auspicious time for agricultural activities and vedic rituals. Later on it branched out to find out how each individual got influenced by the movement of various stars and planets in relation to their position at the time of the birth of the individual. Today in popular culture it is the later part that has come to be associated with Jyotisha. Like yoga it has become a commercial enterprise so much so that news channels that fight against superstition in the evening have regular programs on Jyotisha in the morning to ramp up revenue and TRP.

For Jyotisha, some English commentators use the word ‘astronomy’, while some use ‘astrology’ depending upon whether they want to give it a scientific connotation or an esoteric twist. I feel so many things come under Jyotisha that either astronomy or astrology does not represent Jyotisha properly and it is time the word Jyotisha entered English dictionary. Jyotisha Shastra includes the study of astral bodies, study of individual and group destiny based on their positions, preparation of calendars, and finding out auspicious time for various worldly and religious activities.

Vedic society was basically an agrarian society. Crops being of seasonal in nature, it was important for the common man to know before hand the onset of seasons. As we can see even today most of our festivals are related with agriculture directly or indirectly. It was important that accurate predictions were done for onset of seasons for not only religious rituals but also for agricultural activities.

Vedanga Jyotisha compiled by Sage Lagadha is said to be the first text of Jyotisha Shastra. It dealt with finding auspicious times for various vedic rituals keeping in view the positions of stars and planets. This was a rudimentary work and scholars still find it difficult to decipher many stanzas of this work. Later on Jyotisha Shastra was refined. It is interesting to note that many prominent Jyotisha Shastris like Aryabhatta, Bhasakra, Brahmagupta, Varahamihira and others were also top mathematicians.

Expertise in mathematics helped one in mastering Jyotisha. Many of them pioneered not only in inventing mathematical formulae but also in ingenious ways of using simple instruments to measure the distance of heavenly bodies and their relative movements. Pathani Samanta, born in Odisha in 19th century used pieces of bamboo and wood to measure the shadow and then extrapolate the data using complex mathematical formulae to find out the distance of the sun from earth. His discoveries in the field of astronomy was recognised by the scientific community of the west and his almanac is the one widely used in Odisha.

In Indian there must have been a large number of regional experts of Jyotisha. That is how different almanacs or Hindu calendars are followed in different regions. The zodiac systems followed in India is also different from the one followed in the west. That is how your rashi determined by an Indian astrologer will be different from the one determined by his western counterpart.

Coming to that part of Jyotisha concerned with auspicious times and sacred places, even though there are controversies as to its scientific aspects, its psychological aspects have some significance. When time, place and activities are considered as sacred mind has a tendency to be more aware and respectful.

A large part of inspiration for the achievements of ancient scholars in the field of mathematics must go to Jyotisha Sashtra. In fact many of the Jyotisha Shastras accompanied notes about the mathematical formula used there in. There is another field, an unlikely field that gave rise to amazing achievements in the field of mathematics. That field is music. Maybe, in another post I will explore details about it.

When I say ‘Lord of Light’ something may tick in the minds of the GOT fans. Of course the disciples of the ‘Lord of Light’ of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame mostly use fire and heat and never talk about stars and planets. But, like the modern day astrologers, they are soothsayer. Further, like today’s celebrity astrologers having their own fan following in the form of secular politicians and liberal celebrities, the disciples of the ‘Lord of Light’ have their own royal fan following. Hope now you understand Ekta Kapoor’s obsession with alphabet K.

By the way, predictions are welcome for my next post which will be on alphabet K.

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This is the alphabet J post of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.

24 thoughts on “Jyotisha – the lord of light

  1. Your observation that eminent astrologers were redoubtable mathematical geniuses speaks volumes about the complexity of the art and science of Jyotish Shastra.. The colourful breed that pass off as jyotishis today are not a patch on the masters of yore. You are also right when you say that the word ‘jyotish’ should find its own place in the dictionary.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me smile: “news channels that fight against superstition in the evening have regular programs on Jyotisha in the morning”
    Thank you for illuminating some facts about Jyotish Shastra in an easy to read post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have heard the elders say this about the ancient mathematical geniuses and the skill of Jyothi Shastra unlike who pass as ‘geniuses’ today. You post is really informative and this series is wonderful. You should definitely compile it into a book format.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jyotish Shastra has much more than astronomy and astrology can explain. Very logical statement. I had always wondered- if the predictions ( about auspicious time and place etc.)were only based on calculations, then what could be the reason they varied from person to person?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. this is very informative and logical. Jyotish shastra nowadays is seen as superstition by many but the fact that it is based on mathematics and has such vast coverage is amazing to know.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had read about the relation between mathematics and astrology before but I didn’t know it had all started with the prediction mechanism adopted for agricultural activities. The book ‘Autobiography Of A Yogi’ also gives a very interesting and logical perspective about this field of astrology.

    Liked by 1 person

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