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History of Astrology

Astrology, the study of influence of Planets & Stars on mankind, is the oldest science known to mankind. According to the Hindus, it originated with the creation of mankind. Hence it is but proper to begin the study of the History of Jyotisha from the Vedas.

The Vedas belong to a remote antiquity. There are four vedas The Rig Veda, The Yajur Veda, The Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. The Pranava Mantra "AUM" is the culmination of the three vedas Rig, Yajur and Sama vedas. The Aakara from the Rig, the Ookara from the Yajur and the Makara from the Sama Veda resulted in the Pranava Mantra "AUM".These vedic hymns were revealed to Rishis by God when they were in a state of inspiration. For millennia, they were passed on to posterity through memory and hence vedas are called Srutis.

They are the source of all knowledge. Jyotisha is called the Eye of Veda Purusha. All great sages beginning from Manu, Patanjali, Kamada, Kapila and Jaimini down to the modern sages like Dayananda, Sri Aurobindo, Swami vivekananda etc., have admitted the superhuman quality of the vedas.

The vedas are broadly classified into 6 branches.

  1. Shiksha (Phonetics).
  2. Kalpa (Ritual).
  3. Vyakarana (Grammar).
  4. Nirukta (Etymology).
  5. Chhandas (Metrics).
  6. Jyotisha (Astronomy & Astrology.

The word Veda has been defined as a book which reveals the knowledge of supernatural methods for the achievement of desired objects and avoidance of the undesirable ones. So it is called the Book of Eternal Knowledge.

The propounders of Jyotisha were Brahma, Surya, Vasistha, Atri, Manu, Paulasha, Lomasha, Marichi, Angira, Vyasa, Narada, Sanaku, Bhinyu, Chyavana, Yavana, Garga, Kashyapa and Parashara.

Brahma, the creator of the universe had originated Jyotisha and hence it is impersonal and revealed knowledge. It is not possible to ascertain the time of the sages who gave birth to Jyotisha. But for the vedas, this knowledge was passed on to posterity from teachers to disciples.

Astronomy and Astrology are dealt within almost all the Hindu Scriptures. They are of 6 kinds viz.,

  1. Srutis - Vedas including Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aryankas and Upanishads.
  2. Smritis - Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parashara etc.,
  3. Ithihas - Ramayana, Mahabharata, Harivamsa etc.,
  4. Puranas - Puranas and upapuranas are 18 in numbers.
  5. Agamas - Manuals of worship, including Tantra
  6. Darsanas - They are 6 in numbers.

The Hindu scriptures claim that civilization originated in India. In Mahabharata, it is mentioned that the first man appeared in mountain Meru (Himalayas). The Hindus gave the vedas to the world. The vedic hymns are probably the earliest important religious documents of the human race.

Astrology also originated from Bharatvarsha because -

  1. It is a Karma Bhoomi where the human beings reap the fruit of the work.
  2. Rishis and Munis have performed yajnas to make it a Karma Bhoomi.
  3. To adjust oneself according to the surroundings both physically and mentally and reap the benefits for ones doings is called Jyotisha or is also called Vedanga.

Jyotisha is broadly divided in 2 categories viz., Astronomy and Astrology.

Astronomy deals with the detailed descriptions of heavenly bodies including planets and stars their existence, size and movement as well as their role in determining time, day and night.

Astrology, on the other hand, deals with the influence of heavenly bodies on mankind.

Sage Parashara is the father of Astrology. He seems to have belonged to the 5th millennium before Christ. After him the next important astrologers were Bhrigu, Garga, Jaimini, Varahamihira to name a few.

The Indian Astrology has its roots as far back as 5000 BC if not earlier. There is a mass of literature in Sanskrit about Astronomy and Astrology that has no parallel in any other country. A list of Jyotirvids with their year of birth and their works are given below.

Year of Birth
Varahamihira - The Jambhavan of Indian Astrology
505 AD
Brihat Samhita, Brihat Jataka, Pancha Siddhantika
Prituyasas - Son of Varahamihira
578 AD
Shad Panchasika, Horasara
Brahma Gupta
598 AD
932 AD
Brahma Manas, Laghu Manas
850 AD
Jyotisha Patal, Ganita Sara Sangraha
967 AD
Commentary on Shad Panchasikas of Brithuyasas, Commentary on classics of Varahamihira
Kewal Gnana Hora
999 AD
Pati Ganith (arithmetic), Bija Ganith (Algebra), Siddhanta Sekar (all on astronomy), Ratnasara, Ratnamala (astrology)
around 10th Century
Treatise on astronomy and astrology, Jataka Tilak in Kannada.