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A Tale of Two Zodiacs

Sunday, 21 October 2012 / Published in Articles / 10,021 views

By Antardwipa Dasa, (edited by ShyamasundaraDasa)

Over the course of 2012, a number of articles have been published regarding the tropical and sidereal definitions of the zodiac, and which of these is to be used for Vedic astrological purposes. These publications have mostly urged for a new approach to jyotish (Vedic astrology); although the authors generally claim that their presentations are actually the most traditional. One such article is, The 12 Signs of the Zodiac, by Vraja Kishor das. Some of the ideas presented therein are misleading, and therefore, for my own edification, and for the satisfaction of those who are knowledgeable, I would like to present the following to the esteemed readers.

For those not familiar with this ongoing discussion, the basic question under debate is, “Where does the circle of the zodiac begin? ” Or, framed in greater detail, “When constructing a horoscope, do we use the longitudes of planets as measured from the position of the sun when it is at the vernal equinox (tropical zodiac) or from a specified fixed star (sidereal zodiac)?”

This question has at times been hidden behind the inquiry as to whether the sidereal rasis (signs of the zodiac) match the constellations that exist as patterns of stars in the sky. Vraja Kishor presents the argument that there are thirteen constellations that make up the zodiac, and that they are of varying sizes; some larger than thirty degrees and some smaller. As such, these constellations do not match the twelve rasis of the sidereal zodiac. He concludes, therefore, that the zodiac signs (rasis) have nothing to do with the stars, and as a result:

    “Once we realize that the zodiac signs have nothing to do with stars, we don’t really feel compelled to use the stars to define where they begin. In fact we feel quite compelled to use the point where the center of space is, where the equinox is, where the ecliptic crosses the equator.”

Although it is unclear what is meant by the term ‘center of space’, we shall ignore that and focus on his rejection of sidereal rasis. Vraja Kishor clearly believes that the rasis have nothing to do with the stars. This can be seen in another of his articles, Reconciliation of the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs, where he states:

    “There is a sidereal zodiac in Indian astrology, and probably in all ancient great astrological systems. Yet this sidereal zodiac is not twelve but twenty-eightfold!”

We must note, however, that the statements of the Jyotir Veda reveal this assertion to be false, and that there is in fact an authentic twelve-fold division of the stars. To prove this, we may begin by referring to the Surya-siddhanta 1.28. Vraja Kishor also quotes this verse, and correctly points out that it describes a rasi as being the geometrical division equal to one-twelfth of the circumference of a circle. Unfortunately, it appears that he has not fully grasped the significance of this.

All circles may be divided in this twelve-fold way, with the first thirty degree arc being known as Mesha, the second known as Vrishabha, and so on; covering the twelve familiar names of the rasis used in jyotish. This is the standard treatment given to arcs in traditional Indian geometry. Being applicable to all circles, it is nonsensical to claim that the circle of stars is not similarly composed of these same twelve rasis. Thus, it is irrelevant whether or not the visible constellations match the twelve sidereal rasis, because the sidereal zodiac is a circle, and therefore it naturally contains twelve divisions known as rasis.

More importantly though, this verse describing the layout of rasis on a circle comes immediately after a verse stating that planetary revolutions are to be counted from the end of Revati nakshatra. That the nakshatras are constellations of stars is undeniable and is accepted by all authors. Thus, in Surya-siddhanta 1.27, a specific point amongst the fixed stars is referenced as the point of zero degrees longitude, or the beginning of the circle of revolution, and then in the next verse, the divisions of that circle into twelve rasis is described. Considering the content and placement of these verses, it is unwise to conclude that the rasis have nothing to do with the sidereal zodiac, or that sidereal rasis are not presented in the Vedic texts.

To make this argument even more compelling, we may consider the Sanskrit terminology used. Surya-siddhanta 1.27 states:

tesam tu parivartena pausnante bhaganah smrtah

    “The planets’ revolutions are counted complete at the end of Revati nakshatra.”

Thus, a bhagana (planetary revolution) is counted as complete with respect to the end of a constellation of stars, Revati, which is also known as Paushna. After Revati comes Ashvini, and therefore, Ashviniis taken as the first nakshatra when considering the longitude of planets. Then in verse 1.28, it is said:

vikalanam kala sastya tat sastya bhaga ucyate
tat trimsata bhaved rasir bhagano dvadasaiva te

    “Sixty seconds (vikala) make a minute (kala); sixty of these, a degree (bhaga); thirty of the latter is composed a sign (rasi); twelve of these are a revolution (bhagana).”

The term ‘bhagana‘ has been used in both of these verses. The circle of one revolution of a planet is known as a bhagana. After being described as beginning at the end of Revati nakshatra, it is then said to be composed of twelve rasis, each of which is thirty degrees. Thus, it is clear that these two verses, when taken together and understood correctly, indicate that the zodiac of twelve rasis, through which planetary movement is to be reckoned, has a beginning that is fixed in relation to the stars. Hence, it is clearly a sidereal zodiac composed of twelve rasis.

Furthermore, the term ‘bhagana‘ indicates that planetary longitudes are to be reckoned against the background of the stars. ‘Bhagana‘ literally means ‘the multitude of stars’, and thus it indicates the circle of the stars, or sidereal zodiac. That this very same term is used to describe a single revolution of each of the planets indicates that their movements are measured on this sidereal zodiac.

Aside from this, Vraja Kishor quotes other verses from the Surya-siddhanta to establish that a tropical definition of the rasis is given in that authentic text. Importantly, these other quotations do not nullify the explanation just given. Rather, it must be acknowledged that the Jyotir Veda describes both the nirayana cakra (sidereal zodiac) and the sayana cakra (tropical zodiac), and that each of these zodiacs is composed of twelve rasis. Thus, providing instances of a tropical definition does not discredit, nor override, the other statements that present and define the sidereal zodiac.

From the above, it is evident that simply knowing of the existence of the two zodiacs is not sufficient; one must also know how and when to use each appropriately. In this regard, we find in the Surya-siddhanta, 3.10, that the tropical zodiac is described as being used for the determination of kranti (declination), chaya (the shadow of the sundial) and caradala (length of time for signs to rise). Of course, other unspecified applications are also implied in this verse by the use of the word ‘adikam,’ which means ‘beginning with’ or ‘et cetera‘. Verses 3.46 − 49 describe some of these other calculations that are made with the help of the sayana cakra; in particular, the calculation of the lagna (ascendant) and madhyalagna (meridian).

What is important to note, is that planetary longitude is not listed amongst the items that are to be calculated using the tropical zodiac. Rather, Jyotir Veda presents the sidereal zodiac as the fixed basis of calculation, and all longitudes are naturally determined according to that measure. This is highlighted by the arrangement of chapters within the Surya-siddhanta: the first two chapters provide all calculations for determining the true longitude of the planets. It is only after such longitudes are calculated, that the topic of ayanamsa is presented in the third chapter. This calculation (the ayanamsa) is then used to calculate the tropical zodiac, which in turn is necessary for determination of the other elements mentioned above. Thus, ayanamsa plays no part in the calculation of planetary longitude, and because of this, it is logically impossible for the tropical zodiac to play any role in the calculation of such longitudes. Thus, the sidereal zodiac is the basis of longitude calculation and expression.

We may add that, by themselves, the terms ‘nirayana‘ and ‘sayana’ provide evidence that the longitudes of planets are to be measured against the sidereal zodiac. Before illustrating this, however, it should be noted that some speak of the use of the sayana longitude of the sun to calculate the lagna as some sort of evidence that the tropical zodiac is actually the only correct one. For example, Vraja Kishor states:

    “The ascendant is by nature tropical, and is the very foundation of a natal horoscope. That the thing upon which the entire horoscope revolves is intrinsically tropical is surely a profound point for consideration.”

We agree that one should consider the implications of this method for calculating the lagna, but not for the same reason as Vraja Kishor. Rather, by careful consideration of the terminology used, one will see that actually it is the sidereal longitudes of planets that are to be used in a horoscope, not the tropical.

It is clear from the astronomical texts that the lagna is to be calculated by using the sayana (tropical) longitude of the sun. There is no confusion about this. The lagna thus calculated is, however, properly called the “sayana lagna. ” This can be seen from the Bengali translation of Surya-siddhanta given by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. In the translation to 3.47, which is the final verse in a series that describes the calculation of the lagna, he parenthetically includes the word ‘sayana‘ before ‘vlagna‘ to clarify what is being referred to.

So, by Surya-siddhanta we calculate the longitude of the sayana lagna. Considering that the term ‘sayana’ means ‘ with ayana’, it follows that the sayana lagna is equal to ‘lagna with ayanamsa‘ or ‘lagna plus ayanamsa‘. A natural consequence of this is that the longitude of the lagna (alone and without addition of anything) is equal to the sayana lagna minus the ayanamsa. [ie. lagna = (lagna + ayanamsa) – ayanamsa] Thus, the Sanskrit terminology actually makes it clear that the ayanamsa needs to be deducted so as to arrive at the lagna that is used along with the sidereal planetary longitudes that were calculated in the previous chapters.

These terminological subtleties are usually missed by the casual reader of sastra; partly due to the incorrect approach that they take and partly due to the esoteric presentation of the texts themselves. However, both of these causes for misunderstanding can be eradicated by studying under the guidance of a bona fide teacher. Indeed, this is the prescribed manner in which the sastra is to be approached. Thus, for those who neglect the teachings of previous authorities, the verses of the Vedic scriptures are impenetrable. For this reason, we must follow our revered preceptors in order to understand what is actually being given.

This is nicely illustrated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s translation of Surya-siddhanta 3.17 – 19. Therein, the process is described for calculating the corrected longitude of the sun from the shadow of the sundial. This is stated by our most esteemed translator as being the sayana longitude of the sun; which is natural as the size of the shadow on the sundial changes according to the sun’s movement on the tropical zodiac. While this is straightforward, the potential misunderstanding arises in the final verse of this section, where a further process is described for finding the mean longitude of the sun from his corrected longitude. In this verse (3.19), the corrected longitude of the sun is simply referred to with the pronoun ‘tat‘, meaning ‘that’. Thus, it may appear to be referring to the very same sayana corrected longitude that was used in the first half of the sloka. However, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura places the word ‘nirayana‘ in parentheses to show that the measure being referred to is the corrected longitude of the sun without the addition of the ayanamsa.

Thus, after dealing with sayana longitude, the Surya-siddhanta again reverts to the use of nirayana longitude in the same verse, without any definite specification of this use within the verse itself. Without the guidance of a learned teacher, this reversion is easily missed. Thus, we should conclude that when the Surya siddhanta is studied under the authority of one who actually knows the subject matter, then all such topics are easily understood by the student. In contrast to this, it is due to a lack of proper training that the present trend towards incorrect conjectures is manifesting amongst today’s astrologers.

Furthermore, within Vedic astrology, the sidereal zodiac is established as the fixed zodiac. Because it is considered fixed, it naturally follows that it is the basis upon which all measures of movement are considered. The tropical zodiac, on the other hand, is not fixed, and therefore, it is not the appropriate circle upon which to measure the longitude of planets. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in his Bengali translation of the Surya-siddhanta, 3.11, confirms the movable nature of the tropical zodiac. Therein, he states in connection with the calculation and measurement of the ayanamsa:

antaramsa parimane krantivrtta calita haya

    “By the degrees of difference the circle of the sun’s declination has moved.”

Thus, he has described that it is the kranti-vritta (the circle of the sun’s declination) that moves. This kranti-vritta is the tropical zodiac. As such, the sidereal zodiac is fixed, and the tropical zodiac moves with respect to it. Being of changeable longitude itself, it is not appropriate to consider the tropical zodiac as the basis for measuring longitude. Therefore, it must be the sidereal zodiac alone that is employed as the circle of longitude for describing planetary movements and constructing horoscopes.

This fixed nature of the sidereal zodiac is also presented in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. For example, in 5.22.11, it is said:

tata uparistad dvi-laksa-yojanato naksatrani merum daksinenaiva kalayana isvara-yojitani sahabhijitasta-vimsatih.

    “There are many stars located 200,000 yojanas [1,600,000 miles] above the moon. By the supreme will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they are fixed to the wheel of time, and thus they rotate with Mount Sumeru on their right, their motion being different from that of the sun. There are twenty-eight important stars, headed by Abhijit.”

Herein, the nakshatras are described as being fixed to the wheel of time. The reason for their fixity is also given; it is the will of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus, it is established by the Lord that the sidereal zodiac is a fixed measure of the wheel of time. Being the sole fixed measure of this movement, it is a natural consequence that they remain the reference point to which all other movements are made.

Like the other planets, the sun moves with respect to this wheel of time, as can be seen from Srimad-Bhagavatam, 5.22.2:

sa hovaca
yatha kulala-cakrena bhramata saha bhramatam tad-asrayanam pipilikadinam gatir anyaiva pradesantaresv apy upalabhyamanatvad evam naksatra-rasibhir upalaksitena kala-cakrena dhruvam merum ca pradaksinena paridhavata saha paridhavamananam tad-asrayanam suryadinam grahanam gatir anyaiva naksatrantare rasy-antare copalabhyamanatvat.

    “Sri Sukadeva Gosvami clearly answered: When a potter’s wheel is moving and small ants located on that big wheel are moving with it, one can see that their motion is different from that of the wheel because they appear sometimes on one part of the wheel and sometimes on another. Similarly, the signs and constellations, with Sumeru and Dhruvaloka on their right, move with the wheel of time, and the antlike sun and other planets move with them. The sun and planets, however, are seen in different signs and constellations at different times. This indicates that their motion is different from that of the zodiac and the wheel of time itself.”

Here, it is noteworthy that the rasis and nakshatras are described as moving with the wheel of time. As we saw above, it is the stars that are fixed to this wheel, and consequently moving with it. Therefore this verse indicates that the rasis and nakshatras are being defined in relation to the stars that are fixed to the wheel of time. Hence, in Srimad-Bhagavatam, a sidereal definition of the rasis is also given.

The sun, in his orbit, moves through these sidereal rasis in the course of a year. Thus, a year of the sun is being defined with respect to the fixed, sidereal zodiac. Additionally, this verse states that the motion of the planets is different from that of the zodiac. As such, the zodiac being referred to cannot be based on the orbit of any of the planets, including that of the sun. It must therefore be the zodiac that is made of the stars; the sidereal zodiac. Considering these points, it is again evident that the sidereal zodiac is the fixed reference point from which measures of movement are considered, and this is the conclusion presented within the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Furthermore, in 5.22.5, we find the following:

atha sa esa atma lokanam dyav-aprthivyor antarena nabho-valayasya kalacakra-gato dvadasa masan bhunkte rasi-samjnan samvatsaravayavan masah paksa-dvayam diva naktam ceti sapadarksa-dvayam upadisanti yavata sastham amsam bhunjita sa vai rtur ity upadisyate samvatsaravayavah.

    “The sun-god, who is Narayana, or Visnu, the soul of all the worlds, is situated in outer space between the upper and lower portions of the universe. Passing through twelve months on the wheel of time, the sun comes in touch with twelve different signs of the zodiac and assumes twelve different names according to those signs. The aggregate of those twelve months is called a samvatsara, or an entire year. According to lunar calculations, two fortnights—one of the waxing moon and the other of the waning—form one month. That same period is one day and night for the planet Pitrloka. According to stellar calculations, a month equals two and one quarter constellations. When the sun travels for two months, a season passes, and therefore the seasonal changes are considered parts of the body of the year.”

Here it is stated that the sun god passes through twelve months on the wheel of time, and in so doing passes through the twelve rasis beginning with Mesha. It has already been established that the stars are fixed to the wheel of time, and hence the sidereal rasis are also fixed to the wheel of time. Therefore, the twelve divisions of the wheel that are being referred to in this verse must also be measured with respect to the stars. Consequently, the division of zodiac into twelve rasis that is being described is sidereal.

Furthermore, in this verse it is said, “According to stellar calculations, a month equals two and one quarter constellations.” The Sanskrit terminology for ‘two and a quarter constellations’ is ‘sapadarksa-dvayam‘ and many of the authorized commentators make notes regarding this. Srila Sridhara Svami, Srila Vijayadhvaja Tirtha, Srila Viraraghava Acarya, Srila Jiva Gosvami, Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Öhakura and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura all state that with regards to solar measures, a month is the time taken for the sun to cover two and a quarter nakshatras. Thus, there is no doubt that solar time is measured with respect to the sun’s movement against the stars, and that the twelve rasis are also defined according to the same stars. Srimad Vijayadhvaja Tirtha is very explicit with regards to the rasis, and he states in his commentary:

krttika-pada-yukta-asvini-bharanyau mesa ityadi kramena boddhavayam

    “It should be understood that Mesha is Ashvini, Bharani and the first quarter of Krttika. The other rasis follow similarly.”

Thus we have shown that the Vedic scriptures describe a sidereal zodiac consisting of twelve rasis that remain aligned with the fixed stars, and that the calculation of solar time is based upon the sun’s movement through this fixed zodiac. Similarly, the movement of all other planets is calculated in the same way.

At this point, it should again be noted that the Srimad-Bhagavatam does provide descriptions of the tropical zodiac. There is however, no need for me to quote these as Vraja Kishor has done so nicely. But as mentioned above in relation to the Surya-siddhanta, evidence in favor of a tropical zodiac does not refute the evidence for the sidereal zodiac, as both the sidereal and tropical zodiacs are factual and are described in the Vedic literatures. The important point is using them for the correct purposes, and from the above statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Surya-siddhanta, it is clear that the sidereal zodiac is the correct basis for measuring planetary longitude.

As if the aforementioned were not enough, we may also quote from the writings of Varaha Mihira, who lived some fifteen hundred years ago. He wrote extensively on all areas of Vedic astronomy and astrology, and in his Brihaj-jataka, 1.4, he states:

mesasviprathamanavarksacaranah cakrasthitarasayah

    “The signs of the zodiac, Mesha etc., are represented successively by the nine padas (quarters) of the several nakshatras commencing with Ashvini.”

Here, this great authority clearly states that the rasis are each composed of nine quarters of the nakshatras. This is equal to two and a quarter nakshatras, which is the same measure as sapadarksa-dvayam that was quoted above from Srimad-Bhagavatam. As previously stated, everyone accepts that the nakshatras are groups of stars. Thus, the rasis, as defined by Varaha Mihira, are divisions of the sidereal zodiac.

While this is clearly in support of the authenticity of the sidereal rasis, some may claim that by Varaha Mihira’s time, knowledge of the true nature of the rasis had already been lost. Indeed, Vraja Kishor has posited that some time in the last two millennia, astronomers in India forgot how and when to distinguish between the two zodiacs, and as a result of this ignorance, began to describe rasis according to the fixed stars. He has suggested that, due to the decline of knowledge in Kali-yuga, astronomers and astrologers in India “became locked into thinking that the tropical measurements and the stars were identical.”

However, this proposition is not supported by the writings of Varaha Mihira; an author of such repute that astronomers and astrologers have been studying his writings ever since he penned them. In his Brihat-samhita, 3.4, Varaha Mihira states:

    “If the sun should change his course before reaching Makara, he will bring evil in the west and south; and if he should do so before reaching Kartaka, he will bring evil in the north and east.”

In this text, Varaha Mihira is describing the directional changes that occur at the solstices. These changes in the northward and southward movement of the sun are fixed in relation to the rasis of the tropical zodiac; as it is in relation to the solstices and the equinoxes that the tropical zodiac is defined. Therefore, the sun always turns north at the beginning of tropical Makara.

However, in this verse it is described that the change from southward movement to northward movement can occur before the sun reaches the beginning of Makara rasi. The Makara rasi being referred to must, therefore, be the sidereal rasi, as it cannot be the tropical counterpart. It is clear from this that Varaha Mihira correctly distinguished between the two zodiacs, and as such, his definition of the rasis as being sidereal was not a case of a lack of knowledge on his part.

Therefore, at a time when the sidereal and tropical zodiacs were closely aligned, this renowned author was describing rasis as being fixed according to the stars and that the tropical zodiac was moving with respect to them. This is the same conclusion that we have drawn from the Srimad-Bhagavatam and the Surya-siddhanta.

Finally, even though the ayanamsa was small, perhaps even zero, during Varaha Mihira’s life, it is clear from his writings that he was fully aware of both the sidereal and tropical zodiacs, and did not confuse one with the other. His ongoing fame has ensured that his writings have remained prominent till the present day; including his distinguishing between the sidereal and tropical zodiacs. Indeed, his works are still considered to be essential studies for anyone who is serious about learning the science of astrology. This is very significant evidence that Vraja Kishor’s ‘decline in knowledge’ theory is patently wrong.

In conclusion, it is foolhardy to claim that the Jyotir-veda does not use a sidereal zodiac that is divided into twelve rasis. Rather, we have shown that an authentic sidereal zodiac certainly existed in the Vedic astronomical and astrological tradition. Furthermore, we have seen that it is this zodiac that is the fixed basis upon which planetary movements are measured. Therefore, it is the sidereal zodiac, and not the tropical zodiac, that should be used for constructing a horoscope, as the longitudes of planets are properly measured only on the sidereal circle.

Having established all this, we are now in a position to respond to the following question posed by Vraja Kishor das:

    “Beside force of habit, injured pride, the paralysis of shock, or fear of change – is there anything that would stop us all from embracing the unequivocal tropical definitions of the zodiac found in all the ancient and classical literature of the world?”

By the grace of guru and Krsna, we can confidently answer that the statements of sastra and the previous acaryas safely stop us from making such a grievous error.

About Antardwipa Prabhu (by Shyamasundara dasa)

He is a qualified Medical Doctor, and has a Masters degree in Education, he was principle in the ISKCON’s Australian gurukula.

Currently he teaches English, mathematics, and jyotish (astrology and astronomy) at the Bhaktivedanta Academy in Sridham Mayapura

He is also the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium’s consultant for Vedic Cosmology . He has studied both Puranic and Siddhantik astronomy in depth and is currently doing his Master’s degree in Astro-physics at James Cook University, Australia.


A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, 1987. Srimad Bhagavatam: Fifth Canto. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust: Los Angeles, California

Chatterjee, H. P., 1912. The Brihaj-jatakam of Varaha Mihira. The Panini Office: Allahabad

Iyer, N. C., 1884. Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira. South Indian Press: Madura

Krsnasankara Sastri, 1965. Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana: Pancama Skandha. Ahmedabad

Shyamasundara Dasa, A Response to – The Argument for the Tropical Zodiac in Vedic Astrology, Part 1

Shyamasundara Dasa, A Response to – The Argument for the Tropical Zodiac in Vedic Astrology, Part 2

Sri Bimala Prasada Siddhanta Sarasvati, 1896. Mula Sri Surya Siddhanta. Bhakti-bhavan: Kolkata

Vivasvan. The Surya Siddhanta.

Vraja Kishor Das, The 12 Signs of the Zodiac

Vraja Kishor Das, Reconciliation of the Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs

Iskcon Eugene
Feeding the 5,000 Paris 13 October 2012

36 Responses to “A Tale of Two Zodiacs”

  1. Somayaji says :

    Dear Antadwipa Prabhu,

    Hare Krsna.

    I had been following the discussion on and was eagerly awaiting this article, it is really excellent. It successfully and conclusively deprecates the idea of using Tropical zodiac in Vedic astrology. You have provided excellent pramana from many authoritative sources like Surya Siddhanta Siddhanta, Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahat Samhit and Brhat Jataka.

    You have shown that sastras mention both sidereal and tropical systems and when they are to be used. It was a breath of fresh air to see the actual facts presented in a convincing manner by someone who actually knows the subject.

    I want to also thank Shyamasundara Prabhu for encouraging Antardwipa Prabhu to write this article I am sure it will be read by many astrology students such as myself in the future to clear their heads from the fog of confusion that others have created.

    Yours gratefully


  2. Vraja Kishor says :

    Dear Antardwipa Dasa and Shyamasundara Dasa,

    Respectful thanks a well written and knowledgeable article. I will reply to a few points.
    You expressed uncertainty about my phrase “center of space.” I use that phrase to refer to the point at which the ecliptic intersects the equator, providing a “center” for observational space.

    The fact that there are not 12 equal-sized constellations among the stars is only one of several observations depreciating the concept that the 12 signs are intrinsically stellar. But even so, you proceeded on with your article without offering any specific counterpoint to this particular observation.

    I agree that the rashi system (12 sections of 30 degrees) can be, and often is, abstracted to a mathematical principle of circular geometry, including the measure of sidereal phenomenon. However, the actual rashi themselves are intrinsically tropical (i.e. defined with reference to solstice and equinox) as per Surya Siddhānta 14.7-10 and the Puranas viz. Bhāgavatam 5.21.2-6.

    Thus SS 1.28 states that such a system of seconds, degrees, signs, etc. can be used to measure sidereal space. But SS 14.7-10 makes it explicitly clear that the 12 signs themselves (not as mathematical abstractions, but the signs themselves) are tropical. SS 1.28 does not say that the signs are sidereal, merely it states that 12 divisions of 30 degrees is used to measure sidereal space. Thus I agree that both tropical and sidereal space can be measured in 12 30 degree sections. However, the origin of the 30 degree system is tropical – and thus the 12 30 degree signs are inherently tropical, although they have sidereal mathematical application.

    I agree with and appreciate your statement that certain calculations (declination, rising signs, etc) are impossible to make without a tropical zodiac.

    You make an interesting statement that planetary longitude is not included among the tropical calculations indicated in Surya Siddhānta. My reply: (a) As you noted, the Siddhānta uses the word “etcetera” (adhikam) in its list of this to be tropically figured. (b) Planetary positions amongst the sidereal nakṣatra is very important, in fact far more important to the original indigenous Vedic astrology, than planetary positions among the 12 signs.


  3. Vraja Kishor says :

    I agree that calculations of planetary revolutions per Surya Siddhānta are done with reference to Revatī, and that these reference points are observably fixed and stable. As you noted, this data is calculated first (in chapter 2), and then the lagna is calculated tropically (in chapter 3). If one wants planetary positions in reference to the nakṣatra, there is no further work to be done. If one wants the sidereal location of the lagna, the ayana must be subtracted from it. If one wants planetary positions in reference to the rashi (not as mathematical sections, but as actual rāśi themselves, divisions of space relative to the equinox), one must add the ayana to the previous calculations.

    You quoted Bhāgavatam 5.22.2, but I feel you have misrepresented. It does define the planets moving differently than the signs and nakshatras. However, it does not state that the signs and nakshatras do not move with respect to one another. This is an implication which you infer, it is not in the text itself.

    It is misleading in the extreme to say that 5.22.2 gives a sidereal “definition” of the zodiac signs. A definition has already been given in 5.21.2-6 (and that definition is tropical). Definitions are explicit. They are not analogies. Furthermore, your inference from the analogy certainly does not qualify as a “definition.”

    5.22.5 explains that a solar month is equivalent [not identical] to 2.25 nakshatras. Sripad Vijayadhvaj Tirtha is from the 15th century and explained this according to the prevalent custom of his time.

    Varaha Mihira also spoke accurately of the correlation of stars and signs extant at his time. As he pointed out, the size of a navāmśa and the size of a nakṣatra pada are identical, and therefore the size of a rashi equals 9 nakṣatra pada.

    I agree that Varaha Mihira was aware of the distinction between the tropical and sidereal chakra. I believe the confusion amongst Indian astrologers gradually arose over the several following centuries.


  4. Vraja Kishor says :

    Your article was well written and researched. Thank you for the excellent effort. In it you have clearly demonstrated that 30 degree units called rashis can also be used to make sidereal measurements. However you failed to counter-argue the fact that rashis by definition are inherently tropical, as presented in my argument (

    If this discussion of the zodiac helps us remember Krishna it is useful. Since you are both, Syamasundar and Antardwipa, dear servant of the servant of Krishna, my hope is that the dust of your feet will always be falling towards my lowered head. Please forgive the academic nature of discussion in which this person speaks up with an equal voice in a spirit of healthy debate.

    Hare Krishna.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  5. Antardwipa wrote:

    Vraja Kishor presents the argument that there are thirteen constellations that make up the zodiac, and that they are of varying sizes; some larger than thirty degrees and some smaller. As such, these constellations do not match the twelve rasis of the sidereal zodiac. He concludes, therefore, that the zodiac signs (rasis) have nothing to do with the stars, and as a result:

    “Once we realize that the zodiac signs have nothing to do with stars, we don’t really feel compelled to use the stars to define where they begin. In fact we feel quite compelled to use the point where the center of space is, where the equinox is, where the ecliptic crosses the equator.”

    To which Vraja Kishore responded thusly:

    The fact that there are not 12 equal-sized constellations among the stars is only one of several observations depreciating the concept that the 12 signs are intrinsically stellar. But even so, you proceeded on with your article without offering any specific counterpoint to this particular observation.

    I had also observed and mentioned the same to Antardwipa Prabhu somehow my suggested answer was not incorporated in his paper. I should have included it as my own editorial comment within “[ ]” I will do so now within the limitations of the comment field.

    The assumption that is made is that followers of Vedic civilization used the same groups of stars (constellations) that the Babylonians, and Greko-Romans did. But why should we make such assumption? The word “Rasi” doesn’t mean a particular constellation such as what the Romans called Aries or Virgo but rather it just means a “heap” or group of stars. According to MM Williams Sanskrit dictionary.

    1 rAzi m. (L. also f. ; once m.c. in R. %{I} , f. ; derivation doubtful , but cf. Un2. iv , 32) a heap , mass , pile , group , multitude , quantity , number RV. &c. &c. ; (in arithm.) a sum or the figure or figures put down for an operation (such as multiplying , dividing &c.) Col. ; a measure of quantity; a sign of the zodiac (as being a certain sum or quantity of degrees) , one-twelfth part of the ecliptic , an astrological house MBh. VarBr2S. &c. (cf. IW. 178) ; a heap of corn L.


  6. Part 2

    Thus a Rasi is simply the group of stars that subtend an arc of 30 degrees of space. You would have to prove that there was a one to one correspondence between Ptolemy’s catalog of 48 constellations with those used in Vedic civilization. Therefore it doesn’t matter to Vedic astrology if Greko-Roman constellations are not equal sized or if there are 12 or 13 or even 14 or more of them on the ecliptic because the definition of Rasi is not dependent on the Greko-Roman definition.

    Even if there was a one to one correspondence between Greko-Roman zodiac and that of Vedic Civilization still it has no bearing on how the Rasis are defined. Varaha Mihira in Brhat Jatakam 1.4 clearly states the relationship between the Rasi and the Nakshatras, that Mesha comprises all of Asvini, Bharani and first pada of Krttika. Thus he clearly defines that Rasi is bound to the sidereal nakshatras.

    mesasviprathamanavarksacaranah cakrasthitarasayah
    “The signs of the zodiac, Mesha etc., are represented successively by the nine padas (quarters) of the several nakshatras commencing with Ashvini.”

    We remind the reader that Varaha Mihira did not only write on astrology but was a foremost astronomer and author of Pancasiddhantika, the five siddhantas (astronomical texts), one of which was Suryasiddhanta. This strongly suggests that his definition of Rasi is based on his authoritative knowledge of the siddhantas and is not contradictory to the Suryasiddhanta.

    In the above definition of Mesha etc Varaha Mihira doesn’t refer to the Greco-Roman constellations as his base line nor to a tropical definition but rather to Vedic Nakshatras, which are clearly sidereal.

    So to base an argument of how Vedic civilization defined Rasi on Greko-Roman (or Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Meso-American, etc.) definitions of constellations is fallacious.

    dasa dasa anu dasa

    Shyamasundara Dasa

    krsne matirastu

  7. Vraja Kishor says :


    Why should we assume anything? We know from Atharva and Rg that the Vedics had 27 ecliptic constellations, into which Vega (Abhijit) was also often included.

    This very simply and obviously illustrates my point that the sidereal chakra has 27 divisions [not 13, or 14, and certainly not 12].

    With respect,
    Vraja Kishor das

    PS. Regarding the quote from Brhat Jataka, you are repeating that from the article itself and I have already stated my opinion of your use of that quote.

  8. Antardwip says :

    Hare Krsna,
    One question for Vraja Kishor Prabhu. Previously (July 17) you mentioned:

    I myself have also posted a challenge in several public forums to this effect: “Show me a single sidereal definition of the zodiac in any classical or ancient Indian literature. On the contrary I can show you several tropical definitions.”

    No one could reply.

    Following the above article, you have now (Oct 22) written:

    Thus SS 1.28 states that such a system of seconds, degrees, signs, etc. can be used to measure sidereal space.


    In [A Tale of Two Zodiacs] you have clearly demonstrated that 30 degree units called rashis can also be used to make sidereal measurements.

    By these latest comments, are you indicating acceptance that your challenge has been successfully met?

    Your servant,
    Antardwip das

  9. Vraja Kishor says :

    Dear Antardwipa Prabhu,

    Thank you for participating directly! It is kind of you.

    No, in my opinion you have certainly not demonstrated a sidereal definition of the 12 signs in Vedic literature. You have, however, demonstrated the use of an application of 12 rashi segments in circular geometry applied to the sidereal ecliptic.

    What I mean: Shastra defines the rashis as segments of the Sun’s travel from solstice to equinox. That is what the rashis inherently are. The same system of mathematics dividing the 360 degrees of a circle into 30 degree segments, and dividing each degree into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds, which derives from the 12 segments of the Sun’s travel from equinox to solstice, etc., is used to calculate / describe sidereal positions. That is not what the rashi are, it is just one application of their principle.

    That is my understanding. How do you feel about it?

    Thank you.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  10. ggdasa says :

    Dear Shyamasundara & Antardwipa Prabhus,

    Please accept my humble obeisances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    I’m very thankful to both of you taking your valuable time to masterfully explain those important topics in regard to Vedic astrology which might create confusion for those not so knowledgeable about Vedic astrology.

    Shyamasunda Prabhu cites Varahamihira:

    “The signs of the zodiac, Mesha etc., are represented successively by the nine padas (quarters) of the several nakshatras commencing with Ashvini.”

    which makes things very clear demonstrating which zodiac is to be used for astrological purposes.

    Here I can mention excellent article by Shyamasundara Prtrabhu published in the Astrological Magazine where he writes:

    “…that in South India, especially Kerala, one was not considered a scholar of jyotish unless he had memorized both Brhat Jataka and Prasna Marga not BPHS…Indeed Brhat Jataka and its author Varaha Mihira were so famous and adored by the Jyotish Pandits that when it came to eulogize Dr. B.V. Raman he was honored by calling him the modern Varaha Mihira.”

    So, the position of Varaha Mihira and his authority in the bona-fide astrological circles is well established without the need for cofirmation from the modern scholars and the verse quoted above is appearing at the very beginning of his famous work.

    Respected readers can learn more about this Jyotish giant by reading this gem.


  11. ggdasa says :

    Part 2
    How is it possible that there is another opinion represented here by Vraja Kishor Prabhu?

    He himself gives the answer(bold added by myself ):

    “No, in my opinion you have certainly not demonstrated…That is my understanding…”

    which is already ‘predicted’ by Antardwipa Prabhu saying:

    “However, both of these causes for misunderstanding can be eradicated by studying under the guidance of a bona fide teacher.”

    However, we know “Nothing New In The West”, so we can cite famous mahajano yena gatah sa panthah verse from Mahabharata:

    Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of unadulterated self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate.

    your servant,

  12. Vraja Kishor says :


    Your previous post has completely ignored that Srimad Bhagavatam and Surya Siddhanta (not Vic DiCara / Vraja Kishor) define the zodiac tropically.

    All things must be understood in context. We have clear, undeniable definitions from absolutely essential shastra stating that the zodiac is tropical. Other statements must be understood within that context. The statement of Varahamihira was a true statement at the time it was made. To insist that it is a true statement today requires that you devalue the definitions of the zodiac in Srimad Bhagavatam and Surya Siddhanta. I therefore don’t accept that opinion.

    Yes, I talk about “my opinion”, “my understanding”, and “my belief” because thanks to the hard work of the Vaishnavas I have come to admit that I can always be wrong, and that everyone has their own opinion. Even Krishna acknowledges this and speaks in this manner.

    I should not engage in controversy and argument with anyone, especially not great souls such as yourselves. Therefore I purify myself with the dust left behind from your exalted footsteps. I aspire that it is in the humble spirit of service that I do not wish to allow this point to go undefended. However I must now acknowledge that I have said everything I have to say on the subject – between my original article ( and the comments here. I will now beg your permission to allow my departure from this conversation.

    If anyone wishes to know my opinion on any new facet of this discussion, please contact me personally. It is easy to find me on the internet.

    It has been an honor to discuss the subject with devotees of Sri Hari. I hope that after all, in some way you will be pleased with me and give your blessings to me for the cultivation of Sri Krishna prema.

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor

    Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
    Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare

    Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
    Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

    Vanca kalpa tarubhyas ca
    Krpa sindhubya eva ca
    Patitanam pavanebhyo
    Vaishnavebhyo namo namah

  13. Antardwip says :

    Dear Vraja Kishor Prabhu,

    Although you have signaled your intention to sign off from this discussion, I should nevertheless answer your question regarding what I think of your explanation (comment 9, October 24).

    The problem lies in the way that you have defined the term ‘rasi’. You are taking the tropical rasis to be the only natural meaning of this term; and any other use as merely a secondary derivation from the original. In support of this stance, you present Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.21.3-5, and Surya Siddhanta 14.7-10. In this limited space, I will only consider the Bhagavatam verses, but the same analysis equally applies to those from the Surya Siddhanta.

    In the Bhagavatam verses under discussion, you will find that the rasis are always mentioned in the locative case. In verse 3 as ‘makaradisu rasisu’, in verse 4 as ‘mesa-tulayoh’ and ‘vrsabhadisu pancasu ca rasisu’, and in verse 5 as ‘vrscikadisu pancasu’. Thus, being locative, they are indicating the time at which the sun is located at these certain parts of his orbit. This indication is highlighted by the use of the word ‘yada’ (when) in verses 4 and 5.

    These verses are stating, “When the sun is in such a such rasi, the lengths of days and nights etc. is… ”. As such, this is not giving the definition of what a rasi is. Rather it is a conditional definition of the lengths of days, etc. The situation of the sun in one of the rasis is the condition, and the length of days, nights, ayana, speed of movement, etc. are the items that are being defined. Having the rasis as the condition for another definition is not the same thing as a definition of those rasis. This is a very important point to grasp. We should not, therefore, take these verses as providing a definition of the rasis.

    Also, as the rasis are being referred to as the conditional part of the definition, it follows that their own definition should be available elsewhere. For such a definition we should turn to the Jyotir-veda, as it is the science of time and covers this amongst its topics. The definition of a rasi given in all such texts is the same as that which is provided in Surya Siddhanta 1.28. This verse is clearly a definition as the statement is in the form of “A rasi is thirty degrees”; with ‘rasi’ being in the nominative case. It is worth noting that there are no conditions placed upon this definition. Thus, in all astronomical and astrological matters, this is the definition of a rasi.


  14. Antardwip says :

    Part 2

    Though you have minimized SS 1.28 to a mere mathematical abstraction, it is actually the genuine definition of a rasi. Therefore, we should all understand that, “Rasis are thirty degree arcs beginning with Mesa.”

    In summary, the statements that you claim to be definitions of rasis are actually conditional definitions of something else. And based on this, you have confused the actual definition to be an application of the principle, and the application of the principle to be the definition. As a result of this mix up, you are unable to accept the proof of sidereal rasis that is presented to you.

    While we are speaking of the Bhagavatam, it may also be worth noting the following. In Chapter 21 of the Fifth Canto, the movement of the sun is being described. Importantly, this chapter comes after five chapters describing the details of the earthly realm. Thus, having just heard about bhu-loka, the movements of the sun are described in chapter 21 in relation to the earth, and this description naturally involves the tropical rasis (as they begin when the sun crosses the terrestrial equator on its northward journey).

    After this, in chapter 22, the sun’s movements are described with respect to the stars; which are higher than the earth and are dealt with after it. Thus, in this chapter we find there is a sidereal definition of the rasis given in relation to the movement of the sun. This is confirmed by a close reading of the verses and the commentaries of acaryas (as shown in A Tale of Two Zodiacs).

    Therefore, the order of topics within the Bhagavatam provides for both definitions of the zodiac to be given, and, as stated previously, it is up to the student to understand which is being referred to in both cases. We should not claim that because tropical rasis were mentioned first, therefore the later mention of rasis must also be tropical. Rather, we must look at the context and statements and understand everything in proper order.

    Also, you have claimed that I have misinterpreted and provided extremely misleading explanations of verse 5.22.2. I should address this. This verse is not providing a definition of the rasis, and I do not claim that it is. Rather it is stating, quite clearly, that the naksatras and rasis are fixed to the wheel of time.


  15. Antardwip says :

    Part 3

    Please don’t let the fact that this verse is providing an analogy throw you off. Analogies are used for taking an unknown point and explaining it with reference to a known situation. The unknown here is how the sun has two opposite movements. The known is how small insects move on the potter’s wheel. Within the analogy, the rasis, naksatras and kala-cakra are all taken together as being compared to the potter’s wheel. Thus, like the potter’s wheel, they form a consistent and uniform platform upon which the movement of other objects can be compared. Thus, the verse is specifying that the naksatras and rasis are fixed to the wheel of time. Hence, the stellar zodiac consists of twelve rasis, as they must be fixed in relation to each other.

    You have expressed the concern that I have inferred that the rasis and naksatras are fixed with respect to one another. Therefore, let us consider further. Both the rasis and naksatras are said to move with the wheel of time, and the appearance of planets in different rasis and naksatras indicates that the planets themselves have their own separate movement. This is the analogy.

    Taking the naksatras first, if we assume that they were moving on the wheel of time, then the appearance of a planet in a different naksatra would not indicate that the planet had moved on the wheel of time; for such positioning could be a result of the movement of the naksatras themselves whilst the planet remained stationary. Thus, the movement of naksatras on the wheel of time is precluded by the analogy, for if they did move, then the analogy would be faulty; ie. the presence of the planet in a different naksatra would not indicate the planet has its own, second motion. Hence, the naksatras are fixed.

    Similarly, it also states that the presence of the planets in different rasis indicates that the planets have their own movement on the wheel of time. If the rasis moved on the wheel of time, then the presence of a planet in a different rasi would not necessarily indicate that the planet had moved on the kala-cakra; for it could have been the rasis that moved while the planet stayed stationary. Thus, for the analogy to hold true, it must be that the rasis are also fixed to the wheel of time; for if they were not, then the proper conclusion could not be reached.


  16. Antardwip says :

    Part 4

    Thus, for the analogy to be accurate, both the rasis and naksatras must be fixed to the wheel of time. And we certainly accept that Srila Sukadeva Gosvami’s analogy is both perfect and accurate. Therefore, both rasis and naksatras being fixed in relation to the same object, the kala-cakra, it follows that they must also be fixed in relation to each other. Hence, the rasis being described are definitely sidereal. This is not some conjecture on my part, but the direct meaning of the verse.

    Indeed, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, in his commentary to this verse, states that the kala-cakra is deduced from the rasis and nakshatras. Thus, there should be understood to be no movement between any of them, and therefore, the rasis being described are stellar.

    Anyway, I did not expect to write this much, and may have gotten carried away. The subject is certainly fascinating, and has absorbed my thought for some time now. Nonetheless, I respect your need to withdraw from this discussion and fully understand if you choose not to respond further.

    Your servant,
    Antardwip das

  17. ggdasa says :

    Dear Vraja Kishor Prabhu,

    Please accept my humble obeisances.
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Your previous post has completely ignored that Srimad Bhagavatam and Surya Siddhanta (not Vic DiCara / Vraja Kishor) define the zodiac tropically.

    Not at all…

    All things must be understood in context. We have clear, undeniable definitions from absolutely essential shastra stating that the zodiac is tropical. Other statements must be understood within that context.

    …I simply did not want to repeat what was already stated clearly:

    At this point, it should again be noted that the Srimad-Bhagavatam does provide descriptions of the tropical zodiac. There is however, no need for me to quote these as Vraja Kishor has done so nicely. But as mentioned above in relation to the Surya-siddhanta, evidence in favor of a tropical zodiac does not refute the evidence for the sidereal zodiac, as both the sidereal and tropical zodiacs are factual and are described in the Vedic literatures. The important point is using them for the correct purposes, and from the above statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Surya-siddhanta, it is clear that the sidereal zodiac is the correct basis for measuring planetary longitude.

    So, the same ‘context’ about which you speak, is essential for proper understanding.

    Let me offer modern example which creates lot of controversy within our ISKCON movement due to not understanding things in a proper context…it’s “varnasrama issue”.

    Srila Prabhupada’s Bhaktivedanta purports contain references which seemingly give pro/cons in regard to the necessity of establishing varnasrama-dharma.

    For instance:

    The system of caste, or varnasrama-dharma, is no longer regular even amongst the so-called followers of the system. Nor is it now possible to reestablish the institutional function in the present context of social, political and economic revolution. (SB:2.4.18p.)


  18. ggdasa says :

    [Part 2]

    Otoh, we can find quotes like:

    It is this daiva-varṇasrama that should be established all over the world to continue a perfect society for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This may be astonishing to foolish critics, but it is one of the functions of a Kṛishna conscious society.(SB:5.1.24p)

    Now, for the ‘uninitiated’, it may seem confusing or looking as Srila Prabhupada gives His opinion according to the phase of the Moon, but in the above quotes it’s clear since he used context-relevant attributes like the system of caste and daiva, so it’s clear that Srila Prabhupada is against asuric and for daiva varnasrama which is totally according to his statement about unfinished “50% of my work”.

    Unfortunately, many of our leaders are still confused about and speculate “whether it is true?”, or “what did Srila Prabhupada mean?” etc.

    However, just rewinding two sentences back in the 2nd purport reveals things very clearly:

    Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura, however, wanted to reestablish daiva-varṇāśrama.

    and Srila Prabhupada as the perfect disciple of His Guru Maharaja just wanted to fulfill this instruction.

    The statement of Varahamihira was a true statement at the time it was made. To insist that it is a true statement today requires that you devalue the definitions of the zodiac in Srimad Bhagavatam and Surya Siddhanta. I therefore don’t accept that opinion.

    So you believe that Varahamihira is a conditioned soul like our humble self prone to commit mistakes and wrote his Brihat Jataka sastra to be relevant for a couple of years when both zodiacs were close together?

    We’re too tiny souls and it’s better to use our intelligence trying to understand how it is? instead of whether it is? following in the footsteps of previous Acaryas.

    your servant,

  19. Vraja Kishor says :

    Dear Antardwip Prabhu,

    Your devotion in responding, and the clarity and honesty with which you did so, has moved me to respond. Thank you very much for your clear statements, I deeply appreciate your effort.

    I enjoy discussing this topic with you. Clearly your heart and mind are pure. It is a pleasure to be in your association.

    Some notes, please respond to them if needed:

    You rest your argument on Sanskrit declinations, saying that SB 5.21.3-5 cannot be a “definition” of the rāśi because the declination used there is locative, but that SS 1.28 is a “definition” of the rasis because the declination used there is nominative.

    First, is there a grammatical rule or principle that nominative case must be used in a definition and locative case cannot? If so, what if we are defining a location – how shall we word the definition? The rashi’s are locations through which the planets move. Naturally when being defined the locative case must be used.


  20. Vraja Kishor says :

    Honestly, let’s compare the statements up for election as the definition of “rāśi”…
    SS 14.7-10 says they are tropical:

    “It is well-known that the circle of signs is split by two diameters. One is the line from equinox to equinox. The other is the line from solstice to solstice. Between each solstice and equinox are two other markers. Each solstice /equinox and the two following markers represent the three strides of Vishnu.

    “The Sun has entered Capricorn when it begins moving north for six months. It has entered Cancer when it begins moving south for six months. Seasons last for two signs each, beginning from Capricorn with the frozen season. The twelve signs named Aries, etc. are the months which altogether comprise the year.”

    SB 5.21.3-5 (mirroring Viṣṇu, Matsya and perhaps other Puranas) says they are tropical:

    “Outer space is measured by relation of heaven and earth. The Sun is the king of all the planets, in the center of everything, keeping everything together. It moves to the north, crosses the equator, and moves to the south. When it goes north of the equator days get longer. When it crosses the equator days and nights are equal. When it goes south of the equator days get shorter. On this basis the Sun moves through the twelve divisions called Capricorn and so forth.

    “The Sun is at Aries and Libra when the days and nights are equal. Passing through Taurus, etc. the days become longer and then decrease until again equal with the night. Passing through Scorpio, etc. the night becomes longer and then decrease to again become equal with the days.”

    I think these are very explicit and straightforward definitions of what the rāśi are. You want to dismiss these are being secondary to SS 1.28:

    “60 seconds (vikāla) make a minute. 60 minutes (kāla) make a degree. 30 degrees (bhaga) make a sign. 12 signs (rāśi) complete the circle/orbit (bhagaṇa).”

    This is obviously a lot less explicit and complete a definition than the previous two statements. But even if we accept this as another definition of rāśi, I find nothing in it stipulating that the seconds, minutes and degrees of the rāśi are relative to a specific star [sidereal] and not to the equinoxes and solstices [tropical].


  21. Vraja Kishor says :

    In your original article you argued that the previous text (27) sets a sidereal context. I do not see why you say that, except that in the translation presented by Danavir Goswāmī the word “Revatī” is used. Even then it has a footnote admitting that “Revatī” is not literally in the text itself. The text itself only says, “antebhagaṇa” – the end of the orbit / circle.

    It seems straightforward that SS 1.28 shows how to measure the speed of the planets by dividing their orbit into units of seconds, minutes, degrees, and “groups” / rāśi. This is the context set by the verses immediately proceeding and following 1.28. Thus there is nothing inherently sidereal or tropical about SS 1.28, except that it demonstrates that rāśi are mathematical constructs, not literal stars or constellations; which detracts from the motivation to consider the rāśi stellar phenomena.

    On to another topic:

    You want to demonstrate the 22nd chapter to conclude that the rāśi and nakṣatra are fixed to one another. If so how will you avoid contradicting the principle of ayanāṁśa based on SS 3.9: “In one age (yuga) the circle of stars lags behind 600 revolutions towards the east.”?

    Glad to have the blessing of your association in this discussion,

    Your servant,
    Vraja Kishor das

  22. amalagaura says :

    I apologize for interjecting in this. There is a lot of scholarship here and I think it is a very useful discussion by the devotees.

    I have a unrelated question for Antardwip prabhu regarding the Mayapur planetarium. Is their some preview of the model which will be used in the Mayapur temple? Will it be earth centered or sun centered? I was following some of Danavir Maharaj’s publications and know that there are different opinions on this more important topic.

  23. Abhirama das says :

    Antardwipa Prabhu, I find no reason to respect an article that quotes only those shlokas that support the view of an author and conveniently ignores all tropical definitions of the Zodiac given in the various shastras. Shyamasundara Prabhu did the same in his articles. We all can do this. It is easy.

    This is not a research. Research is collecting facts and then making conclusions. You already have a conclusion and then you select quotes to prove it. I can do the same.

    I don’t know why you are doing this. If this is to convince in your views, it is not working and does the opposite actually. Because using such an approach proves the lack of actual proof.

    A serious approach would be to present ALL the definitions that are available and then to try to show why one quote is stronger than another or where those quotes should be used and where not. And all this should not be based just on author’s own logic but he should show that a guru and sadhus have interpreted the shastra in this way.

    And before quoting any guru it would be nice to make sure that he is actually a guru. Which means he should belong to bona fide parampara. Unfortunately most astrologers who call themselves Vedic, are following a Lahiri apasampradaya.

    If I am wrong calling this an apasampradaya then somebody please present the disciplic succession of that sampradaya going back to the times of Vedic texts.

    It is so easy to say that someone lacks proper training and that without a teacher one can not penetrate into the meanings of Vedas and so on. It is so easy to make such a statements but it seems to me that followers of Lahiri haven’t even understood what the parampara is and that a guru should have a guru too.

  24. Antardwip says :

    Dear Amala Guru Prabhu,
    Thank you for your question, and yes it is a more important topic.

    The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will depict the cosmology of the Bhagavatam. You can’t really say it is earth centred or sun centred. Rather, the earth is the large plane of Bhu-mandala, and the sun, moon, stars and other planets are deities in their chariots who are circumambulating the central axis in their orbits above Bhu-mandala. The central axis is the ‘line’ connecting Dhruvaloka and Mount Meru.

    There was a small representation of what has been done that was presented in a video that was shown to the GBC and assembled devotees at the Mayapur Festival this year. The layout of the planetary model is complete, and we are now about to make a physical model. When that is done, there will be more to show to the devotees.

    Your servant,
    Antardwip das

  25. Sugriva das says :

    Dear Antardvipa Prabhu,

    Hare Krsna. I wanted to thank you and also Shyamasundara Prabhu for your very nice explanation it is by far much more authoritative and convincing than that of the antagonist. After reading your explanation Vrajakishore’s text by comparison was nebulous at best, disorganized, simplistic and unscientific. I also found his comments to be of the hairsplitting variety and unable in any way to nullify your presentation. In fact they made your case even stronger.

    Again I thank both you and Shyamasundara Prabhu for your efforts to enlighten us and remove the doubts created by others.

    Sugriva das

  26. amalagaura says :

    Antardwipa Prabhu

    Thank you for your response. I didn’t get a notification, but just saw it.

    I have no scholarship in this department, I was only involved with Danavir swami’s movie (I did some of the video graphics and animations).

    This central axis which the sun revolves around also passes through the earth? The earth is the plane a planet at the center of the plane? So we do depict the sun revolving around the earth? To me it is very interesting because scientists use the motion of the earth around the sun to deduce trigonometric calculations for the distances to the observed stars. (vastly simplified of course)

    I suppose a simple question to ask is, why do we have day and night? Is the earth is stationery and the movement of the sun causes day and night? Or does modern science have it correct and the earth is spinning? Curious if there is a consensus amongst at least our scholars. I know Maharaj’s research did not agree with some previous research.

    This is of course very complicated work because we are trying to reconcile descriptions of different realms and dimensions with physical laws and measurements but curious what is happening with the understanding.

    your servant,
    amala gaura das

  27. Balakrsna das says :

    Dear Antardvipa Prabhu,

    Hare Krsna.

    Thank you (and Shyamasundara Prabhu) for your superexcellent article.

    I recently picked up a book on Suryasiddhanta in Delhi called: Suryasiddhanta—An Astro-Linguistic Study by Dr. Sudhikant Bharadwaj written in 1991, the author is professor of Sanskrit at a university in Haryana as well as an astronomer. On pages 142-143 he discusses the zodiac and makes the same point as you have made in your article. He solidly backs up your statements that the Suryasiddhanta is based on sidereal zodiac but for certain purposes only uses tropical zodiac, those uses do not include positions of the planets. Planetary position is strictly sidereal.

    Your humble servant

    Balakrsna Das

    V. 19 The Zodiac

    The zodiac in the real sense is the circle of asterisms. It is divided into 12 parts, each division consisting of 2.25 asterisms or 30 degrees. The names of the divisions are: Mesha, Vrshabha, Mithuna, Kataa, Simha, Kanya, Tula, Vrschika, Dhanu, Makara, Kumbha, and Mina… (gives English equivalents).

    The ecliptic is also divided into twelve parts and these divisions are also named as above. The vernal equinox is considered as the beginning point of the Mesha sign. In the European system of astronomy, these signs are variable points. In the Indian system of astronomy, the signs are the fixed points on the ecliptic and correspond to the divisions of the sidereal sphere. Thus the beginning point of the Mesha sign is the same as the beginning point of the Asvini asterism. In the Suryasiddhanta also, the signs are fixed as the instructions are given to take the precession of the equinox into consideration while determining the places of the planets. But for certain purposes as the determination of the northward and southward progress (Uttarayana and Dakshinayana) of the Sun, seasons, duration of day and night, declination, etc the real positions of the equinoxes and solstices are considered and the names of the signs are used regardless of their correspondence with the sidereal sphere. The word “Rasi”-sign- is also independently used as a unit of measurement equivalent to 30 degrees.

  28. Dear Baladeva Prabhu,

    Hare Krsna. I was given the same book by a friend a couple of weeks ago. I have only briefly looked at it but what I have seen is interesting.

    On pages 41-42 he gives a list of some of the wrong conclusions that Whitney came to and then later gives the counter argument.

    In #6 page page 42 he says that Whitney makes the following proposition:

    “(6) In the Greek system the signs are used to certain fixed arcs of the ecliptic, being derived from the constellations occupying these arcs. In the Hindu system they are used for successive arcs of 30 degrees counted from any point indicating the borrowing of the system with the original significance of the system being forgotten.

    When I read that I could not help but think that the current thinkers among us who claim that some how the original teaching of the ancients was lost and that they are here to restore them to their pristine original form seem to have gotten this idea after reading Whitney’s commentary and became persuaded that he was right and thus they are now in the Whitney sampradaya.

    Dr. Sudhikant Bharadwaj counters Whitney’s argument on page 45:

    “(6) Whitney is utterly erroneous in stating that the Indians did not use the signs for the fixed arcs. The study of the Suryasiddhanta shows that the Indians made use of these signs in three ways:

    1: in connection with the sidereal sphere beginning from the first point of Asvini.

    2: in connection with the equinoctial point which marked the beginning of the Mesha sign and other signs coming successively in order, each measuring 30 degrees.

    3: in connection with the measurement of arcs, Mesa denoting 30 degrees, Vrshabha 60 degrees, and so on.” …

    The use of the signs in Greek [astronomy] is only in connection with the tropical sphere irrespective of the form and not the sidereal sphere. …”

    This is a reiteration of what you previously quoted. It again supports Antardvipa Prabhu’s main thesis that the Suryasiddhanta uses both the tropical and sidereal zodiac but for different purposes. It was the Greeks who forgot the original sidereal system not the followers of the Vedic civilization.

    dasa dasa anu dasa
    Shyamasundara Dasa
    krsne matirastu

  29. Antardwip says :

    Hare Krsna,

    One thing in particular that I really appreciate in Sudhikant Bharadwaj’s text is the analysis he gives in Chapter 1 (p. 24) wherein he rejects the idea of a modern Surya Siddhanta and older Surya Siddhanta that differ significantly from each other. Though his exposition may not be complete, it is the best that I have read.

    Your servant,
    Antardwip das

  30. Atmavidya Dasa says :

    Re# 23

    Abhirama das wrote:

    Antardwipa Prabhu, I find no reason to respect an article that quotes only those shlokas that support the view of an author and conveniently ignores all tropical definitions of the Zodiac given in the various shastras. Shyamasundara Prabhu did the same in his articles. We all can do this. It is easy.

    If you had actually read Antardvipa’s article he already admits that both Suryasiddhanta and Srimad Bhagavatam talk about the tropical zodiac and states in various places that since Vrajakishore has already quoted passages about tropical usage there is no need for him to quote them again. So your complaint suggests that you never actually read what he wrote otherwise why such a complaint?

    Neither Antardvipa nor Shyamasundara Prabhus deny that the sastras refer to the tropical zodiac, but they are saying that the sastras also refer to the sidereal zodiac something that both you and Varaja Kishore religiously deny despite references that both Antadvipa and Shyamasundara provided from various sources.

    Vraja Kishore even went to the extent of saying:

    “Therefore where is the “guru” who has the bile to say that it is “Vedic” to use a sidereal zodiac.”

    So Antardvipa has shown that the sastras do in fact explicitly mention the sidereal zodiac and what it is used for. Specifically it is used for locating the position of the planets. Thus sidereal system is to be used in astrology. Tropical zodiac has other uses not related to astrology.

    In Shyamasundara Prabhu’s two articles he just specifically responding to the claims of the antagonist article he is refuting and does an excellent job of demolishing and reducing it to atomic particles and ultimately demonstrating that Tropical system of astrology is absurd by its own definition.

    In your comment #6 at you imply that only you and Vrajakishore are “scientific” and that those who disagree with you are “religious fanatics.” But it seems that even after so much proof is given you still deny the reality and cling to your religious beliefs that Vedic culture only uses tropical zodiac and that there is no place for sidereal zodiac. So who is actually scientific and who is not?

  31. Bahushira Dasa says :

    Hare Krsna,

    Shyamasundara Dasa and Antardwipa should be applauded for their well thought out and clear presentation of their responses and articles. Vrajakishore Dasa was very determined to present his “Tropical Truth” as he saw it, but Shyama and Antardwipa presented both views of the Sidereal and Tropical issues in proper context. This debate should be printed up and made available as a booklet in the TOVP. May Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura, Srila Prabhupada, and Virahamahira bless them with long life and wonderful offerings for many years to come!

    Bahushira Dasa(ACBSP)

  32. Rohininandana says :

    Hare Krsna,

    It was a really great scholarly exposition by Antardwipa Prabhu and Shyamasundara Prabhu regarding the originality and superiority of the sidereal zodiac.

    All my lingering doubts are now vanished.

    Thank You!

    May this knowledge be preserved intact in TOVP, so that when the zodiacs coincides next time around in 24 200 years, that people will stick to the real, the sidereal.

    Your servant,
    Rohininandana Dasa

  33. Vraja Kishor says :

    Here is rather surprising hard evidence that Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, Gaudiya Math members including Sridhara Swami (and even Srila Prabhupada) used the Tropical Zodiac for rashi calculations:

    PS: SS 1.28 says that the circle is made of 12 signs, each of 30 degrees, each of 60 minutes, each of 60 seconds. I think it is silly that anyone will accept this as a sidereal definition of the zodiac. Sidereal means in reference to a star. There is no mention of a star in SS 1.28. On the other hand my quotes from Bhagavatam and Surya Siddhanta explicitly show the 12 signs achored to equinoxes and solstices (the definition of “tropical”). The tropical definitions I have quoted are very clear and thorough and straightforward. The SS 1.28 this article quotes does not make a sidereal reference at all.

  34. jaggydas says :

    Modern science does not agree with the Tropical Zodiac:

    Physicist Georges Charpak and Professor Henri Broch, in their scientific book “Debunked”, published in France, seek to “unmask” mystical philosophies and beliefs, together with certain paranormal phenomena like levitation, walking on coals, and so forth. They use the following argument to demonstrate the alleged falseness of astrology:

    “In fact, the zodiac birth signs so common in astrological columns, along the supposed personal qualities for those born under them, are mostly based on astronomical positions traced out thousands of years ago. The problem with this is that the axis of the Earth’s rotation is in continual change. The axis pivots, in a way similar to a spinning top, completing a revolution in about 25,790 years. As a result the zodiac signs in use today by astrologers do not correspond at all to the constellations represented when the charts were originally drawn up”

    The authors conclude that modern society is infected with thoughts that have little to do with science and that it is not so rational or scientific, after all.

    Hare Krishna

    Jambavan Das

  35. Though this is a bit late, but after rereading it I just wanted to clarify that in this article Antardvip Prabhu did 95-98% of the work so that it is not really correct to give me what appears to be equal credit with him. My only real credit aside from some editing was to get him to write it in the first place. But after that he did all the heavy lifting.

  36. Balakrsna das says :

    This is a little late but I just came across this website dedicated to the purvapaksin and it does reveal a lot of things to put his actions into perspective. It is always good to know the opponent’s history.