History of Astrology


Astrology is the practice of mapping planetary positions for a given date, time and place for the purpose of determining correlations between celestial phenomena and events on earth. These configurations are then interpreted to the context in which they apply.

As a subject, astrology can trace back its roots to Brahma (the creator in Indian mythology), who as per Garga Rishi, had handed him the concepts to be propagated among the masses – to its current stage when astrologers, astrology, astronomy and astronomers are referred to in the same breath.

During the bygone days, the right to study the science of astrology was a privilege of the priesthood. Astrology was employed more for the needs and benefits of daily life and the running of a successful kingdom. Astrologers were deemed astronomers, who were consulted for their star-gazing skills in so far as astronomy assisted astrology in religious functions, which the latter, who also took the cudgels of official priesthood, had to perform in connection with particular deity worship, navigational and agricultural pursuits. That somewhat explains why astrology was placed in such a divine “godlike science” pedestal, far away from the reach of the common man. The early civilized races, considered the stars to herald events still in the womb of time.

Astrology has become more accessible now, and people no longer find its principles esoteric. For one thing, it’s easier to read about astrology in your mother tongue. Proficiency in classical languages is no longer a pre-requisite. Accurate time-keeping and calendars have brought it within the purview of the common man.

A certain veil of mystery engulfed astrology and the occult sciences (the two are often mistakenly equated together) & this has enticed man to delve deep into the mysteries of creation. Man looked to the Heavens in order to find answers to their mundane questions; how to construct symmetrical alters for worship, the best time for sowing seeds, when to venture into the seas, etc. Gradually, men who could answer such questions were given an elevated status in society so much so that they soon assumed roles of policy makers. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Chaldeans, Sumerians, Akkadians, Arabs, Indians, etc have left a legacy of myths and legends and archeological evidence which goes to prove that the ancients were fascinated by astrology.

During the times when men were unable to fathom the mysteries of nature which defied rational understanding, such happenings were given a fatalistic hue. Till modern medicine, with its vaccinations decimated germs and viruses which caused epidemics in the past, people had no recourse but to depend upon astrologers for succor. Any indefinable phenomenon was imbibed with a divine colour and wish. To illustrate a very common disease, chicken pox, was thought to reflect the fury of goddess Sitala. Now it’s a vaccine preventable disease. But if any one is inflicted with chicken pox, they consult a doctor and would also undertake all the traditional rituals required.

However all said and done, astrology was and will remain, the one branch of knowledge that will forever continue to entice man’s needs to know more. The more one delves into its realms, the more his appetite is whetted. Erudite and authoritative texts compiled by sages like Agasthya, Vasistha and the like, such as the Panch Siddhanta Kosha, Soorya Siddhanta, Nityananda, Brhat Jataka, Aryabhat, Bhrigu Samhita, Mansagari, Ranveer , and the Laghu Parashar made for fascinating reading, even today. Interestingly, the records of the early astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon on clay tablets dating back to nearly 500 years can still be found in the British museum.

  1. The Greeks cast horoscopes based on the time of birth giving details about the finance, family, fate and future of the individual. One such horoscope from Greece , return on papyrus, about 2000 years old, is preserved at the British Museum.
  2. Pharonic Egypt too rated astrologers very highly. The pharaohs consulted astrologers to read the charts of the rival claimants to the throne, who were later put to death.
  3. One of the pre-requisites for claiming kingship in China was the knowledge of astrology. In 2513 B.C. Cheuni was elected king in this manner.
  4. Even Alexander the Great took along his astrologer, Calisthenis, on all his campaigns. He incorporated the astrological traditions of whichever country they happen to attack.

Thus every nation is credited with the knowledge of astrology. However, despite its ancient glories and triumphs, the relentless march of scientific enquiry has turned the astrologer into a soothsayer. No school of astrology can be the last word of authority and no two astrologers have the same perceptions. It relies more on the law of probability. Moreover there is hardly any governing body that will separate the wheat from the chaff. No wonder that charlatans abound to cheat the people.

All said and done, astrology does provide a certain amount of solace to people buffeted by the slings and arrows of an uncertain life. It gives them hope that their troubles will disappear and provides them confidence to carry on with life amidst all ills.

01 Aug 2012

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