Welcome back to Astrology 101. For this part of the series I will be going into detail about two astrological systems that are unique to Vedic Astrology: the lunar nakshatras and the mahadashas.
When people ask me what the difference is between Vedic Astrology and other astrology, I usually point to these two systems. The nakshatras, mahadashas, and their application in astrological assessments are nuanced and relatively advanced. The purpose of this article will be to give a quick overview of what they are and their function in chart analysis. The two systems are intrinsically connected to each other, so it is challenging to write about one without referring to the other. Let’s start with the nakshatras.
In a way, the 27 nakshatras are kind of like a second zodiac along the ecliptic. Where instead of the ecliptic being divided into 12 equal portions containing the zodiacal constellations, it becomes divided into 27 equal parts containing stars or asterisms that are part of various constellations. These 27 asterisms were used in ancient times as a form of time-keeping during the night – since you can’t use a sundial in the dark. Fixed stars are so-called because their positions are stationary relative to other stars in the sky, making them a reliable tool for navigation and timekeeping. One could track the movements of the fixed stars during the night to get an accurate sense of how much time has passed as each star rose over the horizon.
Some of these stars are actually part of the zodiacal constellations themselves, but not all of them. Like the zodiac, the myths surrounding these individual fixed stars inform the qualities associated with the nakshatras, and you will find that these qualities are often congruent with the qualities of the 12 zodiac signs:
|Nakshatra Name||Zodiacal Coordinates||Asterism||Ruling Deity||Dasha Planet||Symbol||Qualities|
|Ashwini||0° – 13°20′ Aries||β and γ Arietis||Ashwini Kumara – Twin gods of health||Ketu||Horse Head||Swiftness, Rejuvenation, Healing|
|Bharani||13° 20′ – 26°40′ Aries||35, 39, and 41 Arietis||Yama – god of death||Venus||Womb/Yoni||Death, Transformation, Rebirth|
|Krittika||26°40′ Aries – 10° Taurus||Pleiades||Agni – god of fire||Sun||Knife||Brilliance, Purification, Sharpness|
|Rohini||10° – 23°20′ Taurus||Aldebaran||Brahma – forefather and creator||Moon||Bull pulling cart; banyan tree||Passion, Creativity, Fertility|
|Mrigashira||23° 20′ Taurus – 6° 40′ Gemini||The head of Orion: λ, φ Orionis||Soma – god of immortal nectar||Mars||Deer’s head||Sensitivity, Curiosity, Creativity|
6° 40′ – 20° Gemini
|Betelgeuse||Rudra – god of storms||Rahu||Teardrop||Destruction, Anger, Frustration|
|Punarvasu||20° Gemini – 3°20′ Cancer||Castor and Pollux||Aditi – the universal mother||Jupiter||Arrow returned to quiver||Freedom, Wholeness, Expansion|
|Pushya||3°20′ -16°40′ Cancer||γ, δ (Asellus Australis) and θ Cancri||Brihaspati – god of prayer||Saturn||Udder||Growth, Nourishment, Success|
|Ashlesha||16°40′ – 30° Cancer||The head of the hydra: δ, ε, η, ρ, σ Hydrae||Naga – the dragons||Mercury||Serpent||Mysticism, Poison, Deception|
0° – 13°20′ Leo
|Regulus||Pitri – ancestral spirits||Ketu||Throne||Royalty, Guidance, Tradition, Afterlife|
|Purva Phalguni||13°20′ – 26°40′ Leo||δ and θ Leonis||Bhaga – god of love and marriage||Venus||Hammock||Fortune, Relaxation, Fulfillment|
|Uttara Phalguni||26°40′ Leo- 10° Virgo||Denebola||Aryama – god of vows and weddings||Sun||Fig tree||Friendship, Loyalty, Partnership|
10° – 23°20′ Virgo
|Corvus||Savita – god of sunrise||Moon||Hand||Intelligence, Awakening, Productivity|
23°20′ Virgo – 6°40′ Libra
|Spica||Tvasta – god of design & creation||Mars||Jewel||Creativity, Artistry, Technology|
|Swati||6°40′ – 20° Libra||Arcturus||Vayu – god of air||Rahu||Coral||Perseverance, Discipline, Independence|
|Vishaka||20° Libra – 3°20′ Scorpio||α, β, γ and ι Librae||Indragni – god of sacrifical fire||Jupiter||Finish line or Arch||Focus, Dedication, Options|
3°20′ – 16°40′ Scorpio
|β, δ and π Scorpionis||Mitra – god of devotion & friendship||Saturn||Lotus||Devotion, Love, Friendship|
|Jyestha||16°40′ – 30° Scorpio||Antares||Indra – Chief of the gods||Mercury||Earrings, umbrella, or amulet||Control, Protection, Desire|
|Mula||0° – 13°20′ Sagittarius||The tail of the Scorpion: λ Sco, υ Sco, ε Sco, μ1 Sco, θ Sco, κ Sco, ι1 Sco, and ζ1 Sco||Nirrti – goddess of destruction||Ketu||Roots||Roots, Disappointment, Healing|
|Purva Ashadha||13°20′ – 26°40′ Sagittarius||δ and ε Sagittarii||Apas – goddess of water||Venus||Fan||Purity, Invigoration, Victory|
26°40′ Sagittarius – 10° Capricorn
|ζ and σ Sagittarii||Visvedeva – all supernatural powers||Sun||Elephant tusk||Strength, Determination, Victory|
|Shravana||10° – 23°20′ Capricorn||Altair||Visnu – god of existence||Moon||Ear||Learning, Connection, Travel|
|Dhanistha||23°20′ Capricorn – 6°40′ Aquarius||α to δ Delphini||Vasu – primordial elements||Mars||Drum||Ambition, Wealth, Reputation|
|Satabhishka||6°40′ – 20° Aquarius||Sadachbia (γ Aquarii)||Varuna – god of night sky||Rahu||Empty/dark circle or 1000 stars||Equality, Occultism, Healing|
|Purva Bhadrapada||20° Aquarius – 3°20′ Pisces||Markab and Scheat (α and β Pegasi)||Ajaikapat – fire-dragon||Jupiter||Hearse||Detachhment, Purification, Awareness|
|Uttara Bhadrapada||3°20′ – 16°40′ Pisces||Algenib (γ Pegasi) & Alpheratz (α Andromedae)||Ahirbudhnya – water-dragon||Saturn||Water Snake||Depth, Transformation, Afterlife|
|Revati||16°40′ – 30° Pisces||ζ Piscium||Pusan – god of protection||Mercury||Fish||Generosity, Prosperity, Guidance|
Each nakshatra is associated with a Hindu deity and his or her related myths. The deities have direct rulership over their respective nakshatras, similar to how planets rule over the zodiac signs. In Vedic Astrology, the nakshatra in which your moon falls is of utmost importance and can tell an astrologer a lot about the mind and personality of the native. Not just because of the qualities of the nakshatra, but because the moon’s placement among the nakshatras also determines the mahadashas of the native. This comes about through the dasha planets associated with the respective nakshatras. So, what are mahadashas?
Mahadashas are a system used for assessing the timing of when planets will bear their results in a native’s life. They denote periods of time in a native’s life when they are under the influence of a given planet. The specific results are interpreted according to that planet’s placement within the native’s chart. There are numerous different mahadasha schemes, but the most common and universally applied scheme is the Vimshottari dasha system. The Vimshottari dasha system takes 108 years and divides it into 9 mahadashas for the 7 planets and the lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu. Each mahadasha is of a varying length of time and occurs in the following order:
|Mahadasha||Length of Time||Nakshatras|
|Ketu||7 years||Ashwini, Magha, Mula|
|Venus||20 years||Bharani, Purva Phalguni, Purva Ashadha|
|Sun||6 years||Krittika, Uttara Phalguni, Uttara Ashadha|
|Moon||10 years||Rohini, Hasta, Shravana|
|Mars||7 years||Mrigashira, Chitra, Dhanistha|
|Rahu||18 years||Ardra, Swati, Satabhiska|
|Jupiter||16 years||Punarvasu, Vishaka, Purva Bhadrapada|
|Saturn||19 years||Pushya, Anuradha, Uttara Bhadrapada|
|Mercury||17 years||Ashlesha, Jyestha, Revati|
Now, here is where the nakshatras get involved. As briefly mentioned above, each nakshatra is associated with a dasha planet that corresponds to the Vimshottari dasha scheme. This is commonly referred to as a ruling planet, but it is incorrect to think that the planets rule the nakshatras – it is the deities that rule the nakshatras, while the planets rule the zodiac signs. This is especially so because the dasha planets associated with the nakshatras change depending on what mahadasha system is being used. It’s important to keep this in mind if you get curious about trying to interpret nakshatras.
However, given the widespread applicability of the Vimshottari system, it is not far off to say that the planets have an indirect influence over the nakshatras. That is because the planet of the Moon’s nakshatra becomes the mahadasha that the native is born into, and thus has a significant impact on the native’s developing consciousness during their first critical moments of life. The dasha planet of the moon’s nakshatra also determines the sequence of mahadashas that will occur in the native’s life.
Dasha Sequence and Bhuktis
Going back to the table from before, we see that the sequence of the Vimshottari dasha system begins with Ketu and ends with Mercury. So what happens if someone’s Moon falls in a nakshatra that is associated with Mercury? They will begin their life in their Mercury mahadasha, which will be followed by their Ketu mahadasha and so on as per the Vimshottari sequence. This sequence is simply looped around depending on how the native’s lifespan pans out.
But wait, there is more! The mahadashas can also be further divided into sub-periods referred to as bhuktis. These bhuktis follow the same sequence, but always starting with the same planet as the mahadasha in effect. Thus, a mahadasha and bhukti cycle table would look like this:
|Mahadasha →||Ketu (7 years)||Venus (20 years)||Sun (6 years)||Moon (10 years)||Mars (7 years)||Rahu (18 years)||Jupiter (16 years)||Saturn (19 years)||Mercury (17 years)|
|Bhhukti Order ↓||Ketu||Venus||Sun||Moon||Mars||Rahu||Jupiter||Saturn||Mercury|
I think you can see why I said the use of mahadashas and nakshatras is intricate and advanced. Some astrologers even divide the bhuktis down further and further to make incredibly precise predictions. A lot of knowledge and skill goes into evaluating the results of a mahadasha or how a nakshatra becomes expressed in a native’s life. I hope that you now understand what these systems represent and what’s being referred to when a Vedic astrologer tells you about your dashas and planetary nakshatras.
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