Updated: Aug 21, 2021
The natal chart is like a blueprint that helps us understand an item of interest, be it an individual, a company, a nation, a pet animal, a science experiment, a cricket match or an election to name a few. It has the capacity to throw light on all aspects of the item in question, for the entirety of its existence. The meanings of each Planet, Sign and House will change depending on what the chart is made for, and with it, the interpretations get modified accordingly.
At the base level, Vedic Astrology has 9 bodies (known as the Navagrahas), 12 Zodiacal Signs (or Rasis), 27 Lunar Divisions (Nakshatras) and 12 Houses (Bhavas). Due to the revolution of the planets around the Sun, coupled with the rotation of the Earth, the Navagrahas can be placed in any Sign and in any House, making each moment in time, and therefore each natal chart absolutely unique.
While analyzing a horoscope, most Astrologers start with the Ascendant. The classical works of Vedic Astrology provide several other starting points, including Surya Kundali, Chandra Lagna, Arudha lagna, Hora Lagna, Ghati Lagna, Varnada, Bhava Lagna, Upapada and Karakamsha to name a few. Of all of these, the one's that I work with the most are Surya Kundali, Chandra Lagna, Lagna and Dasanatha, in that order. The way the chart is analyzed depends on the starting point, and the manner in which they are brought together. It is necessary that several starting points are considered in order to get a thorough understanding of the chart. Let's consider these one by one and then combine them into a single archetype.
The Sun is the largest among the Navagrahas, and the center of our Solar System. All planets circumambulate the Sun, each taking their own time to make one complete revolution. The Sun is the giver of all light, life and energy in our Solar System. Hence, even in the natal chart, the Sun becomes the natural center holding all other planets accountable to their agendas, giving light and energy to everything in the person's life - the natural Atmakaraka or the significator of the Soul. A loose translation for the word "soul" is one's innermost drives and desires. So understanding how the Sun is placed in the horoscope can help us understand that which is at the core of our beings, the innermost drives and desires that gives light, life and energy to our world. If you decide to read the chart from the standpoint of the Sun, then the interpretation will speak to the innermost drives and desires of the person, that which is likely to be hidden from view to most others.
For instance, if the Sun is in Gemini, then the innermost self will find fulfillment in reading / writing / acquiring knowledge and engaging in a vast array of subjects. The 2nd from the Sun will denote the resources that support the growth and expression of this innermost self. The 3rd from the Sun will denote the activities that the innermost self wishes to engage with, and so on. All this is further enhanced if the functional Atmakaraka (the graha that has traversed the most in the Sign) also points to the same.
The Moon is the smallest amongst all the grahas, but appears to be the same size as the largest graha, the Sun. It emits no light of its own; instead it reflects the light of the Sun, illuminating the night sky. In other words, something in our lives has become as significant as the Sun, and helps us understand the darker areas of material creation - in Vedic Astrology, the Moon represents the sensorial mind or manas, the mind that has become as significant as the Soul, and experiences and makes sense of the world around us. Reading the chart from the Moon enables us to understand mental attitudes, and how the individual experiences his/her world. As you can see, this is very different from the innermost drives and desires (a.k.a. The Sun).
For example, if the natal Moon is in Leo, then the individual will have a royal and a regal outlook to life, capable of managing/delegating work to others and overseeing projects - an attitude of ruling what they consider to be rightfully theirs. The 2nd from the Moon will indicate the resources that support the development of the mind; the 3rd will denote the attitude of the mind to activities that it engages with, and so on.
Taking the Moon as the starting point becomes a prerequisite if a nakshatra based dasha system is used, since the planetary periods are calculated from the Moon's longitude. Also, Mantrashwara states in Phaladeepika that Chandra Lagna (sign in which the Moon is placed), is most important for assessing the effects of gochhara (transits). Hence, studying the chart from the Sign occupied by the Moon becomes necessary before transits are studied.
As the Earth rotates, the whole sky rises in the East and sets in the West. The Ascendant, or Lagna is the Sign that was rising in the East at the time when the chart was made, viz. just coming above the horizon. This is the Sign that was coming into view, or coming into this world at the moment of birth. Hence, the Ascendant represents the tangible reality that the person attempts to manifest during their lives, that which can be seen and touched. Some astrologers opine that it represents what the person shows the world about themselves.
For example, if the Ascendant is Aquarius, then how others view the person will be as someone who serves society with something that is essential for life, working independently and frequently traveling, and not hesitating to go against established norms. The 2nd from the Ascendant will indicate the resources that support these activities; the 3rd denotes how the person will use his/her energy, hobbies and interests to manifest what the Ascendant represents, and so on.
In Chapter 20 Shloka 63 Mantreshwara states that, "There will not be much difference between the Prasna Lagna and the Janma Lagna in the matter of making predictions."
Hence, in the absence of accurate birth details, the date, time and place of question can also be used as the primary starting point.
In Uttarakalamrita Section 6 Shloka 21.5-22.5, Kalidasa suggests using the Lord of the Planetary Period (Dasa) as the Ascendant.
Doing so helps in understanding the time period in question, and the interpretation depends on the Dasa system being used. If it is Vimsottari Dasa, since the periods are calculated from the standpoint of the Moon, and the interpretation builds on the position of Moon / mind. The Lords of the antar dashas, and their disposition from the Lord of the Maha Dasha will indicate the attitudes and outlook to life in those sub periods. For example, in the mahadasha of Saturn, the mind (since the Moon is the starting point) finds itself in situations where it is forced to learn the importance of humility, patience and hard work (signified by Saturn). If a Rasi based Dasa system is used, Chara Dasha for instance, then the interpretations of the Maha Dasha and the Antar Dasha will be tied to the Ascendant, or the tangible reality that the person is attempting to manifest in this lifetime.
Although I don't use these as starting points, I include them here for the sake of those who may. be interested in them. These are given by Maharishi Parashara, in Chapters 4, 5 and 29 of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.
Bhava Lagna - the personality in the etheric level (different from taking Bhava as Lagna)
Hora Lagna - for matters concerning the 2nd and 4th (financial and material prosperity for instance)
Ghati Lagna - for matters concerning the 5th and 10th (power, authority, success, influence)
Nishek Lagna - experiences and influences while in the womb of the mother
Arudha Lagna - how the world views the individual
Varnada - complements the Lagna and Hora Lagna
If you have experience in using any of the these, pl share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Bringing it all together
Think of the chart as a jigsaw puzzle with the Planets, Signs and Houses representing different pieces of that puzzle. Understanding the pieces individually, and then joining them all together is necessary for the overall picture to emerge, i.e. The findings from several different starting points need to be integrated in order to get a fuller understanding of the person/event.
Integrating the findings, and then communicating them in a manner that helps the client visualize/remember them can be challenging. One of the ways this can be accomplished is to "build" on the archetypes, taking the unique Sun-Moon-Ascendant-Dasanatha combination into account.
For instance, if we consider the examples given in this blog - Sun in Gemini, Moon in Leo, Ascendant in Aquarius and Saturn as the Dasanatha - then the archetype becomes the royal and princely (Leo) intellectual (Gemini) person, who challenges social conventions (Aquarius) learning patience, perseverance and hard work (Saturn) during the period in question. Another could be the youthful and carefree (Gemini) person, with an aptitude for managing large scale (Leo) social welfare projects (Aquarius) learning the importance of humility and service (Saturn). There can be several such interpretations, all depending on the individual keywords that is used to construct the archetype. Note that the significations of the planets and Signs get modified from chart to chart based on other accompanying factors, such as the Nakshatras, Graha Bala and Bhava Bala, placements in the Varga charts, Ashtakavarga bindus, gocchara positions, and so on.
An understanding of the Planets, Signs and Houses is thus a good starting point for learning how to interpret a natal chart. Any standard book on Astrology can be consulted for this purpose; I have also uploaded several videos, where I introduce these archetypes in a story telling format: https://www.allthingsvedic.in/learn.
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