Category Archives: Astrology

Navagrahas: The Nine Planetary System

The worship of nine planetary gods, the navagraha, is widespread among Hindu sects.  Nava is translated as “nine” and graha as “planets,” although it etymologically means ‘one which is seized’ (Yano 381).  The concept of graha as a heavenly body has evolved into the current nine planetary system, the navagrahas.  First, a demon which eclipses the Sun and Moon was recognized, which was later given the name Rahu and his truncating tail, Ketu, was considered separately.  Next, five planets were included in this system followed by incorporating the Sun and Moon which brought the count of celestial bodies to nine.

Navagraha (Nine Heavenly Forces) Temple, Assam

The nine “planets” in the system followed, in order by the days of the week, are the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, with Rahu and Ketu added as influential bodies but not lords over a weekday.  The order of the planets aligning with the days of the week is thought to have originated during the third century and became widespread amongst Hindus during the following century (Yano 383).  Most Sanskrit texts describing the planets in the weekday order, therefore, should be dated past the third century.  By this time, it became a general, widespread and unbreakable rule that the planets were to be named in accordance with their corresponding days of the week (Pingree 251).  Before this, many arranged the planets by how advantageous they were beginning with the most positive as Venus and Jupiter, the neutral planet of Mercury next, and then the unfavourable Mars and Saturn (Pingree 251).  The study of the heavens (astronomy) at this point in time in India was thought of as sacrosanct among the educated classes.  The celestial beings were thought of as gods and the worship of them is reflected in the Vedas (Das 197).

Navagraha (Nine Celestial Forces) Shrine, Veerammakaliamman Temple, Singapore

The nine grahas worshipped by the Hindus are seen as heavenly bodies that bring fortune or misfortune to people’s lives (Coleman 128).  The Hindus who worship these celestial bodies are mainly those who believe in astrological influences over their lives (Pingree 249).  Within Sanskrit texts, descriptions and characters of the nine planets are given in such a way so they can be applied to the lives of those born under the planets influence (Pingree 250).

The most powerful is the Sun known as Surya or Ravi.  Surya is seen as the personification of the orb of light and heat and is portrayed with a golden complexion and rays of glory surrounding his head.  He will sometimes be seen as having two or four arms and holds a lotus in one hand.  Some have even termed him “the lord of the lotus” (Coleman 128).  Surya is complex as he is believed to be tri-form; Brahma or creation in the morning (east), Visnu or preservation at noon and Siva or destruction in the evening (west) (Coleman 129).

The next graha is the moon known as Candra or Soma.  Candra is depicted as a young, beautiful male who has two arms, one holding a club and the other a lotus, and is generally riding an antelope drawn cart.  Occasionally, the moon is depicted as a female and is then known as Candri.  Candra is of the warrior caste and presides over Monday.  It is believed that those born under Candra will have many friends, high distinctions and an enjoyable life (Coleman 131).  The daily positions of the moon are considered the twenty-eight lunar mansions in the zodiac called naksatra.  They are thought to be invented by Daksa and are the personification of the daughters of Daksa and the mythological wives of Candra (Coleman 131).

Mangala, or Mars, presides over Tuesday.  This planet is also believed to be of the warrior caste and produced from “the sweat of Siva’s brow” (Coleman 132).  Mangala is represented as red of flame-coloured with four arms, holding a trident, club, lotus and spear, while riding on a ram (Coleman 132).  The disposition of Mangala is said to be fierce and those born under him are thought to undergo great misfortunes and losses.  However, to battle under him is considered to be fortunate.

Mercury is the next graha known by the Hindus as Budha, and rules over Wednesday.  He is thought to be the son of Candra/Soma and Rohini and thus the firstborn of the Candrabans which are considered to be the “lunar race of the sovereigns” (Coleman 133).  He is represented in many different ways including on a carpet, on an eagle, cart drawn by lions, mounted on a lion or mounted on a winged lion.  In some depictions he is holding a sceptre and lotus and in others a scimitar, club and shield.  Budha is the god of merchandise and the protector of merchants and being born under him is considered fortunate.

The regent of the planet Jupiter and preceptor of the gods, called their guru, is Brhaspati.  He is of the Brahmin caste and rules Thursday.  He is depicted in a golden or deep yellow hue, sitting on a horse holding a stick, lotus and his beads (Coleman 133).  Hindus are in strict worship of him and believe it is fortunate to be born under him.

The planet Venus and the god Sukra, comes next.  He is Brahmin as well and is the preceptor or guru of the ‘giants’ and is held in great esteem within Hinduism (Coleman 134).  Sukra presides over Friday and is thought to be the son or grandson of Brghu.  He is depicted as middle aged with a white complexion and is mounted in a variety of ways including on a camel or an animal resembling a rat or a horse and is holding a large ring, stick, beads, lotus or sometimes a bow and arrows (Coleman 134).  Being born under Sukra is said to bring great fortunes such as the gift of the power of omniscience and blessings of life which include many wives.

Sani, the planet Saturn, presides over Saturday.  He is of the Sudra caste and is depicted as a dark, old, ugly and lame with long hair, nails and teeth and an evil disposition.  He is usually clothed in black, mounted on a black vulture, raven or elephant holding a sword, arrows and two daggers in his hands (Coleman 134).  To be born under him is considered unfortunate as the tribulations of life are attributed to Sani’s influence and wickedness (Coleman 134).  Ceremonies held in worship of him are often just to appease him so no bad will come to those partaking in the ceremony.

Varuna, the planet Neptune, is the Hindu god of waters and regent of the west side of Earth.  He is illustrated as a four armed light skinned man riding a sea animal with a rope in one hand and a club in another (Coleman 135).  He is worshipped daily as one of the regents of the earth, especially by those who fish the lakes in Bengal before they go out.  People also often repeat his name in times of drought to obtain rain (Coleman 135).  It is believed that his heaven was formed by Viswakarma and is 800 miles in circumference.  Varuna and his wife, Varuni, are said to reside there seated on a throne of diamonds while they are attended by others (Coleman 135).

The next, and last of the navagrahas are Rahu and Ketu.  Rahu is thought to be the son or grandson of Kasyapa and is the planet of the “ascending node” (Coleman 134).  He is often worshipped to avert evil spirits, nasty diseases, earthquakes and other unfortunate events, and especially during an eclipse (Coleman 135).  He is portrayed in numerous ways including being mounted on a lion, flying dragon, an owl and a tortoise and sometimes with a spear in his hand.  As well, Rahu is generally portrayed without a head as it is thought to belong to the other part of him, Ketu.  Ketu is the planet of “descending node” (Coleman 135) and is described as sitting on a vulture or as a head on the back of a frog.  Ketu is thought to be Rahu’s tail by some while others believe Ketu to be comets (Yano 383).

Woman appeasing Rahu (Navagraha temple, Assam)

The navagrahas represent more than just a system of astrology within Hinduism, but a belief system that alters how the believers live from the moment of birth.  With the seven planets of varying fortune residing over each weekday, the timing of events is essential.  Within this study of the heavens has come a deeper understanding of the surrounding universe early on in Indian culture, as can be seen through further research, such as in Das’ Scope and Development of Indian Astronomy as well as in articles by Pingree (such as Representation of the Planets in Indian Astronomy and Indian Planetary Images and the Tradition of Astral Magic).  The magnitude of worship of the grahas is certainly rooted deep within Hindu practices as people strive to achieve the ultimate fortunes that each day offers in this life.


Coleman, Charles (1995) The Mythology of the Hindus. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.

Das, Sukumar Ranjan (1936) “Scope and Development of Indian Astronomy.” Osiris. Vol. 2. pp. 197-219.

Pingree, David (1965) “Representation of the Planets in Indian Astrology.” Indo-Iranian Journal. Vol. 8. pp. 249-267.

_____ (1989) “Indian Planetary Images and the Tradition of Astral Magic.”  Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Vol. 52. pp. 1-13.

Yano, Michio (2005) “Calendar, Astrology, and Astronomy.” In The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Gavin Flood (ed.). Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 376-392.

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Brishput or Vrihuspati
Shuni or Sani
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Article written by: Samantha Ludwig (2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

Hindu Astrology

Symbols are part of every culture and an essential part of astrology. Those who practice Hinduism believe that symbols reveal the relationship individuals have or should have with the universe. According to Hindu beliefs the “seers” [semi-Divine beings] created astrology, and believed that the purpose of astrological symbols was to understand everyone’s role in the cosmic order of things (Behari 21). They believed that symbols represented the various Divine beings and provided a way for the world to relate to one’s soul (Behari 21). Symbolism also allows for consistency among different time eras. A modern male on his way to becoming a renouncer will still learn the same concepts through symbols as a male in ancient times. As males and females advance to different stages in their own lives (sacred thread or a renouncer), symbols reveal more profound and significant meanings (Behari 22). Some symbols conceal their true meaning, and individuals can spend their entire life unveiling one meaning after another (Behari 23).

The cross, circle, and arrow are commonly used symbols (Behari 22). While they convey similar meanings, different cultures add their own values and beliefs to their representations. The Hindu cross symbolizes humanity. Its North, East, South, and West points represent birth, life, death, and immortality. The vertical line represents eternal matter and the male gender, Purusha, while the horizontal line represents one’s eternal spirit and the female gender, Prakriti (Behari 28). The horizontal line contains manifestation elements in a golden egg called Hiranyagarbha (Behari 28). Hiranyagarbha consist of the five sensory qualities know as Tanmantras, five sense organs known as Indriyas, five elements known as Bhutras, and three prime qualities known as Trigunas (Behari 28). All these aspects provide the potential to either undergo moksa [self realization and liberation] or hide one’s pure nature due to the illusion created by maya [ignorance] (Behari 28). The horizontal line represents an individual’s destiny ready to be fulfilled. The vertical line on the cross represents positive potential and commitment to fulfill cosmic duties (Behari 28). To achieve cosmic goals, sacrifices must be made and discipline must be followed. Manifestations of the vertical line consist of the Absolute dividing itself into two, Mula Prakriti (matter), and Daivi Prakriti (spirit) (Behari 28). Both the positive potential and destiny of an individual can only be met once the vertical and horizontal elements of the cross have intersected. The cross is significant across Hindu society. Brahmatma, a chief of Hindu priests, wore a head dress with two keys arranged as a cross, indicating its religious and spiritual value (Behari 26). It has also been noted that the ancient temples of Ellora, Elephanta, Varanasi and Mathura in India are all cross-shaped (Behari 26). The circle is another symbol that the Hindus believe represents the cosmos. It stands for unity and harmonious movements (Behari 30). The circle is where the sexless become female or male, and parts become whole. In Hindu astrology the circle also stands for polarity, and is demonstrated in the God Siva. In some myths, Siva shares his body with the Goddess Shakti. Male and female divine beings represent the polarity of the circle – also known as Ardha Nariswara (Behari 31). Lastly, the arrow also has a cosmic meaning with regards to direction and movement. The arrow is dynamic and similar to nature, always moving and always changing. In the Upanisads, the arrow is meant to be shot in the direction of one’s Atman [Divine Self] because reaching your Atman is the ultimate goal of Upanisadic life (Behari 34). The arrow represents the spiritual efforts and instrument in achieving liberation (Behari 34).

In the Hindu tradition, almost all symbols are representative of a god or goddess. Gods and goddesses can also be considered as symbols for the one supreme God Brahman (Gibson 28). The objects that the gods carry and the animals with which they associate, carry significant meanings as well. A symbol commonly linked with divine beings is the Swastika. This symbol means ‘well-being”, is supposed to bring good luck (Gibson 28). It is drawn on floors during festivals or ceremonies of importance. Its four arms stand for space, the four Vedas, the four stages of life, and time (Gibson 29). Om is another very important and significant symbol to Hindus, as it means “sound of creation” (Gibson 28) It is believed to be the first sound ever made, and the basis for which all other sounds are made. It is used in meditation and chants. The lotus flower represents purity, another central value of Hindus. The flower grows in mud, but flourishes into a beautiful pure blossom. Gods and goddesses are shown sitting or stand on this flower to display the idea that evil has no hold on them (Gibson 29). Ash represents an individual’s everlasting soul. The body deteriorates but one’s Atman is eternal. Lastly, water is seen as a source of purification and life. It is often sprinkled on the ground to eliminate evil (Gibson 31). These common symbols pertain to beliefs and traditions within the Hindu society. Specific rituals and ceremonies can sometimes be centered around these astrological symbols.

Astronomy plays a large part in Hindu astrology. In Hinduism, constellations and planets have religious significance, and exercise influence over mundane affairs. The belief is that all divine spirits move around the earth in the circular formation known as the zodiac (Charak 10). The zodiac serves as a border or boundary within which gods, goddesses, constellations and planets can move. There are 27 groups of stars in Vedic astrology known as the Naksatras which stand for “a means of worship” (Harness xv). The Naksatras are thought to be static divine beings that arc east to west on the zodiac. The moon is said to have divided the zodiac into these 27 Naksatras (Harness xiii). According to myth, the moon god Soma was given 27 wives by the god Prajapati (creator god) (Harness xxiv). Each wife is tied to Soma, and this symbolizes the connection that the moon has with each mansion or division of the stars (Harness xxiv). According to Hindu belief, the moon passes through each mansion at some point during a month. The Naksatras store and transfer karma for individuals, and represent the consequences of their actions on earth (Harness xvi). Hindu rituals and ceremonies such as weddings are only carried out if the Naksatras indicate an appropriate time. When an individual is making predictions for upcoming events, there are characteristics of the 27 groups of stars that should be taken into account. In Hinduism each Naksatra has certain powers related to a particular god or planet. Some groups of Naksatras are male oriented, while others are female (Harness xxiv). Lastly, the Naksatras represent the three qualities of life, Sattva (harmony), Rajas (high energy) and Tamas (dullness and darkness) (Harness xxiv). The combination of these characteristics helps decide what is to come. In addition to these static groups of Hindu divine beings, it is also believed there are also gods and goddess in constant motion around the zodiac. These beings are referred to as Grahas (Charak 10). They are thought to move west to east along the zodiac. There are nine of them: the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu (Charak 10). The Sun and the Moon serve as the most significant and powerful planets, while Rahu and Ketu are simply particular points on the zodiac.

In Hindu astrology the Naksatras and Grahas are strongly connected with 12 signs or Rashi along the zodiac, which represent existence (Charak 11). Throughout the day, six signs will rise above the eastern horizon and the other six will rise at night along the western horizon (Charak 19). Each sign is called a house, and is supposed to represents an aspect of existence. For example, the first house, also known as lagna, signifies the Sun and one’s own character – the way an individual chooses to live their life (Charak 84). Other house include materialism, family, education, karma, obstacles in life, desires, status of a women, religious wisdom, professionalism, acquisition, and loss (Charak 84-86). In Hindu astrology individuals read these houses to understand how they should conduct their everyday lives, rituals and religious ceremonies.

The Sun and Moon are two of the most significant forces in Hindu astrology. Both are associated with extremely powerful gods and are believed to hold great influence over the universe. The Sun is often referred to as Atman (Divine self), and is represented by the god Surya (Behari 40). According to the Vedas, the Sun was granted the power to create and destroy life. The name Loka Chakshu, “the Eye of the World” is given to the Sun because it watches all activity in the universe (Behari 39). According to Hindu belief it creates matter, and nurtures it while being a part of it. In today’s Hindu culture, spiritual healing rituals are centered on the power of the sun. As well, an individual’s experiences are directly affected by their relationship with the Sun. In Hindu mythology the Sun God, Surya symbolizes success and power. His relationship with women is vast, and represents cosmic expansion (Behari 43). He and his wife Sanja have many children; however he also conceives many illegitimate children. He creates many gods including, Yama, the god of death, which essentially brings about the end of life (Behari 43). The horoscope connected with the sun has to do with quality of life and the cosmic energy that flows through an individual (Behari 48). Hindus believe that the Sun is the motivating factor to match your internal desires with your external life (Behari 48).

According to Hindu astrology the Moon is a mysterious and complex Grahas. It is known as the “cosmic mother” and is represented by the goddess Chandrama (Behari 50). The moon is thought to influence emotions and provides goals that are to be achieved. The rays of light emitted by the moon are important to the lotus flower, a significant symbol in Hindu culture. They are able to guide the flower out of the mud and allow it to flourish. This symbolizes the moon’s ability to guide individuals down a path of purity and liberation (Behari 51). The phases of the moon are found within everyday life as well. The different phases have relevance to a woman’s body cycle as well as sexual impulses of both males and females (Behari 53). Meditation and rituals are connected with each phase of the moon (Behari 53). It serves as the creator of goals and emotions.

Hindu astrology is quite complex and detailed. The universe is always in motion, and individual lives are constantly changing. Unlike western cultures, horoscopes and astronomy readings are taken seriously when planning events and rituals. Hindu symbols are significant both in ritual teachings and everyday life.


Behari, Bepin (2003) Myths & Symbols of Vedic Astrology. Bangalore: Lotus Press

Harness, Dennis (1999) The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansion of Vedic Astrology. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press

Charak, K.S. (2002) Elements of Vedic Astrology. Unknown city: Institute of Vedic Astrology

Gibson, Lynne (2002) Hinduism. Unknown City: Heinemann

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Article written by Stefanie Brown (March 2009), who is solely responsible for its content.