WE OFTEN speak of nine planets and we have the mantras and stotras for the nine planets. In Sanskrit the word graha means a planet which has a gravitational pull (Graha), the power to attract. The constellations of our zodiac are called Nakshatras. The others are called stars (tara). What are the nine planets ? The Sun is a star, not a planet. As the “Aditya Hridaya” taught by Agastya to Sri Rama observes: Nakshatra graha taranam adhipah.
The Sun is the lord of the constellations, planets and stars. The Moon is a satellite of the earth, not a planet (graha). Rahu and Ketu are the northern and southern nodes of the Moon, not planets. Thus four of the so-called nine planets of the modern Hindus are not planets at all. We have thus Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn alone as the planets. We need four more to make the number nine. The stotras and the mantras of these four must be different from those we now attribute to the Moon, Rahu and Ketu; or they may refer to other ones.
The Mahabharata gives the positions of the planets during the period of the Great Fratricidal War.
Along with the five planets, there are statements about some other planets in this greatest epic poem of the world. In the “Bhishma Parva” (3.13 to 15, 34 and 43) we are told that Mars was retrograde in Makha, Jupiter was in Shravana, Saturn was in Uttara, Venus was in Poorvabhadrapada, Ketu in Pushyami, and the Sun was in the second quarter of Sravana. When the sage Bhishma chose to die, the Moon was in Hasta, the Sun was in Revati, Saturn was in Poorvaphalguni, Mars in Anuradha, Jupiter in Shravana and Rahu between Chitta and Swati.
The Mahabharata gives more details about other planets which were discarded or ignored by later astronomers and astrologers of our country. We are told that Mahapata was in Sravana. By calculating backwards we find that this was the name given for the modern Uranus. We also learn that a planet called Sweta was in Poorvabhadrapada. This is now-a-days known as Neptune. The great sage Vyasa also stated that some astral body was striking then the constellation Krittika. This can be Pluto. Thus Vyasa has given an account of eight or seven planets; and a more careful reading of the text can give us the ninth planet also.
In this context we may be asked about the ownership of signs. It is not unknown to Indian astrology that a sign can have two or more owners. In Jaimini’s system of Astrology Aquarius is owned by Saturn and Rahu, while Scorpio is owned by Mars and Ketu. We also know that the Sun is a part owner of six signs from Leo while the Moon is a part owner of the other six signs.
Careful and painstaking research by some western astrologers has shown that Aquarius may also be owned by Uranus, Pisces by Neptune and Scorpio by Pluto.
There are some powerful voices arguing that Indian Astrology is a self-contained and perfect science and that there is no need to incorporate into our system the findings of Western astrologers. Before we examine this spacious argument, we will request them to read Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita.
There the great Mihira observed:
“The Mlecchas (foreigners, non-Vedic ones) are Yavanas (natives of Ion, an island near the mainland of Greece). It is in their hands that this sastra (science) of astrology is firmly well-rooted. Even they are adored like Rishis. What then should we say about the twice-born (dvija) who knows the art of divination or prediction (daiva-vid) ?”
In Brihat Jataka he gives the Greek equivalents of the signs and planets. He did not mind referring to western astrologers. He refers to Manittha who is Manetha of Egypt. He quotes Yavaneswara who was Sphujidhwaja, an Indian settled for some time in a part of Greece. He was called Yavaneswara , probably because he ruled over the Ionians. By accepting some of the valid findings of the westerners, we are only following the footsteps of Varahamihira.
Next, let us ask whether Astrology is a science in the accepted meaning of the term. If it is not a science, we have no quarrel with them since their subject Astrology is not our science of Astrology.
If, however, it is a science, no science can be self-contained and complete. Otherwise, Copernicus could not supplant Ptolemy, nor could Einstein amend Newton and Kepler. Any science is a growing concern. It is always open to corrections, amendments and the like. Refusal to accept the extra-saturnine planets is running contrary to Veda Vyasa, Varahamihira, and the very nature of science. Moreover, the available text of Parasara’s Hora Sastra has many later additions and omissions. The early chapters dealing with the Bhava chart are clearly later interpolations.
We give a few pointers in order to make the students of Astrology realise the importance of Uranus and Neptune. Mars and Neptune jointly afflicting the 5th house give rise to still-births. Uranus refers to electronics, computers nuclear studies, sudden upheavals or revolts, and undiagnosed ailments. Uranus afflicting the 7th house is worse than angaraka-dosha.
Possibly, Pluto is not a planet, but a satellite. A careful astronomical and astrological study can also reveal that Mercury may not be a planet but a satellite. More about Mercury at a later time. To make up the number or plants nine, we await future astronomical observations and findings.