Astro – Locating the grahAs

As I am fond of repeating, graha must not be translated as planet.

graha is one that holds or is held … and is like the grav in gravitation.

The Sun is a star. The Moon is the Earth’s satellite. rAhu and kEtu are chAya grahAs or shadow-grahAs. And that leaves the famous five which are, in fact, planets. Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn.

The nakSatrAs are not stars as is commonly mis-understood, but definite equal areas of the sky associated with constellations. These are more “fixed” than the others who move about. So they are our frame of reference. We locate our grahAs with respect to them.

There are 27 nakSatrAs. Please do read my story on dakSa who named the fixed stars. There are schools who use 28.

While the grahAs do move, they do not move all over the sky of their own free will (as the movie magadheera may lead you to believe).

All grahAs rise and set, just like the sun and moon and nakSatrAs. But not always at the same time and definitely not at the same pace. In addition, they also have a little, limited north-south movement. And while the Sun, Moon, rAhu and kEtu seem to move past each nakSatra in the same direction, the other five often slide back and forth past the nakSatrAs as the Earth merrily orbits around the Sun.

Astrologers of the yore also had to be very good astronomers and mathematicians, to calculate and predict the future (and past) positions of the grahAs. Over time, the hard work was left to the pancAnga kartAs or almanac makers. Now, the app writers on smartphones and computers have made this work ever so much easier. And their own work has been eased by a permanent move to helio-centric calculations instead of geo-centric calculations.


The image above and others that follow are  Screenshots from Apps written for Android by Alok Mandavgane (Hindu Calendar, Indian Sky Map… )

The advantage of course, is that he uses Sanskrit names, except for Uranus and Neptune which have do not have popular saMskRta names yet. I am sure someone is working on this, it just hasn’t reached me yet.

The belt that the grahAs move around in has been called the zodiac belt in English.  This has been variously divided into 27 nakSatrAs, 12 rAs’Is and 360 degrees. The image above shows you the location of the grahAs in degrees.

The two images below show you the location of the grahAs in rAs’Is and nakSatrAs and nakSatra pAdAs. each nakSatra is divided into 4 quarters or pAdAs.

So we have 27*4= 108 nakSatra pAdAs in all.

At the time of the Screenshot, the Sun was in the 4th pAda of dhaniSTa and the Moon was in the 1st pAda of mRgas’Irs’a.



How does this look like in the sky?





In the maps above, let us look for the grahAs first. s’ani, in the upper right corner. The hindu way is to look east. Saturn is to the South in the map and Surya is to the North of the map. You can also see s’ukra (Venus) , budha (Mercury) and kEtu. s’ani rose earlier than sUrya and is therefore higher up in the picture.

Okay. You can see  the constellations mUla, pUrvASADa, uttarASADa, progressively to the north. Then s’ravaNa, s’atabhiSa and dhaniSTa.  You can also note that, even though sUrya is in the fourth pAda of dhaniSTa nakSatra, he has risen much later. And though s’ani is is in the second pAda of jyESTha, he rose earlier.

You can see the rAs’Is, vRs’cika, dhanu, makara and kumbha, going from South (dakSiNa – or Right) to North (uttara).

You can see that nakSatrAs and rAs’Is have a span in the north-south as well as east-west directions. As also rAs’Is.

Degrees, Minutes and Seconds are more precise, then nakSatrAs and pAdas and finally rAs’Is. For more precision, rAs’Is are divided into nava-ams’As or nine parts. There are many other measurement units both ancient and modern which can be more or less precise as required.

A general thought :

Some people think that planets “control” events. Others pooh-pooh it. And generally they try to force you to take sides or push you into the opposite category. Because the only view points considered are self and other.

I have been saying that the graha-motions are so predictable that intelligent humans of all cultures and times have been predicting them. No one has seen them take off in a direction of their own volition (except in the movie magadheera).

What Astrologers could predict with 100% accuracy was the movements of the celestial objects, the lights in the sky. That was the best clock of the ancient times. You could predict seasons and weather with this clock. You could define the best time for planting seeds. You could predict when animals would breed. There was and is great advantage in predicting seasons and thus the environment.

You could also select good times for human affairs like weddings and travel. And school openings and holidays. And diets. And building houses.

It is also now being accepted that the seasons of conception and birth also influence our nature and expectations of the world. Animals of all species have seasonal variations in moods, including humans.

While some are preserving the old knowledge, and some are seeking to actively destroy it, some are seeking to see what value it has and how to use, re-use, adapt or enhance it.

I am trying to understand it and share my understanding. This helps me and I hope it helps those I care about as well as those who care to understand.