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Fact Check of the Varga Chart system

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Hindu astrology surpasses western astrology in its scope and detail. An area of distinction is the Varga system of deep-dive analysis. Hindu texts from two millennia ago contain a description of the Varga system. Many things including Karma is a part of the Varga chart! However, one can ask the question – “did an astrologer then have the tools to make full use of the Varga system”. Certainly astrologers depend on astronomers. An astronomer alone can tell the accurate positions of planets. What methods did ancient astronomers follow to track planets? How accurately could an ordinary citizen tell time two millennia ago? Let us fact check the Varga Chart system.

People familiar with a basic astrology chart understand a few simple facts. Firstly, there are twelve divisions or houses in an individual’s astrology chart or the horoscope. Each house corresponds to a 30 degree arc in the sky. Secondly, each house represents a specific aspect of one’s life. For example, the 7th house represents partnerships and the 10th house represents profession. Thirdly, planets bring strength or weakness to houses based on which house they occupy. Lastly, an individual’s time of birth determines the horoscope, namely its houses and planets. An horoscope is a reflection of the astronomy of the sky at the time of birth.

The Varga system divides a house into smaller chunks. In other words. the 30 degree arc in the sky is further divided. Therefore, an astronomer must make more refined observations. In summary, the smallest division measures 0.5 degree. This corresponds to sixty Varga subdivisions for each house. There is enough evidence that Hindu astronomers observed planetary movements to this granularity. However, could a midwife tell the birth time to the accuracy of 2 minutes?

The Varga subdivision and predictions

The Varga chart demands a more accurate record of a person’s birth time. However, the basic unit of time in the past was only 24 minutes, a Ghati or a Ghatika. Consequently, a village astrologer created Varga charts with up to 10 subdivisions. Certainly, a palace employed astronomers. A palace astrologer could therefore create Varga charts with 60 subdivisions. Consequently, the royalty alone benefited from the 60 subdivision Varga predictions. But what was this prediction about?

An astrologer uses the 10 unit Varga subdivision chart (Dasamsa) for refined predictions related to actions in society and profession. However, he uses a 60 subdivision chart (Shastiamsa) to peer into a person’s past life and Karma. Indeed, past Karma is the most difficult to predict. This was the belief in the past in India. There are also 12, 16, 20, 24, 27 and 30 subdivision charts. These too were accessible, likely only, for towns folk. However, the situation is different today. We have more accurate birth records. Consequently, Is one’s Karma more clear now from a Varga chart ?

Ghatika pot measured time in 24 minute units
The word for time in Hindi is Gadi which is derived from Ghati or Ghatika (24 minutes)
Was a Hindu astronomer able to observe planet movement to the accuracy of 2 min?

An astrologer needs the birth time to an accuracy of 2 min to create the 60 Varga subdivision chart. However, an astronomer needs to detect planet movements to a 0.5 degree granularity. For example, the moon can move 0.5 degrees in about an hour or two Ghatikas. Astronomers could make an observation at 2 Ghatika intervals. They also took the help of formula based tables.

Suggested reading SriSri’s talk on Space and Time, Ghatikasthana School

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