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Laghu Jatakam

English Translation and Commentary by Dr. K S Charak

Varahamihira is considered the greatest authority on Vedic astrology after the era of the sages like Parashara. He was born near Ujjain. His exact time is perhaps not known but he is strongly believed to have existed during the sixth century AD and to have embellished the court of the king Vikramaditya. His most popular works are the Brihat Jataka and the Brihat Samhita. The Laghu Jatakam is a rather abridged version of the Jataka text. Presented in the ‘Arya’ metre, like the other works of Varahamihira, the Laghu Jatakam is a highly useful classic composed by a master of unparalleled astrological wisdom. Easy to comprehend and rich in substance, it is a classic that must be studied alike by the novice and the master.

Shloka 1: Victory unto the Sun, of brilliant rays, to whom, at the occasions of his rising and setting, (even) lord Shiva (the three-eyed), whose feet are rubbed by the crowns of the gods, with folded hands offers worship.

Comments : The Sun is of supreme importance to the astrologer. Before undertaking this work on astrology, Varahamihira offers his obeisance to the Sun-god whom even the three-eyed lord Shiva offers worship at the time of its rising and setting, the lord Shiva to whom the gods offer their obeisances by bowing low to Him and rubbing their heads (with their crowns) against His feet!

Shloka 2: Herein I present the essence, in the ‘Arya’ metre, of the (larger) Hora text which I have compiled after a careful study of the classics.

Comments : Varahamihira refers to his larger text, the Brihat Jataka, which he has compiled after studying the works of the ancient classical writers. The essence of that work he presents here in the form of the Laghu Jataka.

Shloka 3: This branch of science (the Hora Shastra) reveals the good and bad results earned as fruits of Karmas done in past lives, just like a (glowing) lamp (reveals) the objects placed in darkness.

Comments : The Hora Shastra is a discipline which enables one to reveal what is not obvious to an ordinary individual. In that sense, it is comparable to a lamp which reveals the objects lying in darkness. The Hora Shastra is the Jyotisha or astrological wisdom as applicable to an individual. It involves the study of a native’s horoscope. By such a study, an assessment of good or adverse events that lie in store for an individual is possible. The good and adverse events in a native’s life are actually the fruits of past Karmas indulged in by the native. These Karmas may belong to his present life or to an earlier lifetime. Astrological wisdom thus reveals the results (fruits) of past Karmas of an individual. Varahamihira is careful here to link a native’s future to his past Karmas, even those indulged in during his previous lifetimes. He thus emphasises on the existence of past lives and their influence on our present one, and by derivation the influence of our present life on our future ones. Here is a wonderful emphasis on the cause and effect phenomenon which is the basis of all events in the manifest world. The stress here is not on destiny or fate but on the cause and the effect.

Shloka 4: The (twelve) rashis from Mesha onwards are the head, mouth (face), upper limbs, heart, (upper) abdomen, waist, lower abdomen, private parts, thighs, knees, legs and feet (of the Kaalapurusha).

Comments: The zodiac of 360 degrees is divided into twelve rashis (or signs) of 30 degrees each. These twelve rashis are Mesha (Aries), Vrisha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Karka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Tula (Libra), Vrishchika (Scorpio), Dhanu (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces). These twelve rashis represent the various body parts of the Kaalapurusha (the Eternal Time represented in human form). Kaalapurusha in a way is the concept of imagining a human form stretched along the whole zodiac, from zero degree to 360 degrees (i.e., back to zero degree). Mesha, the first rashi, represents the head of the Kaalapurusha. Vrisha represents the face while Mithuna represents the two upper limbs. Heart (along with the Chest) occupies the sign Karka. The upper part of the belly, the upper abdomen, falls in the sign Simha. In Kanya falls the waist while in Tula the Vasti or the region below umbilicus (including the pelvic organs). Vrishchika represents the private parts or the external genitalia, Dhanu indicates the two thighs (and hip joints) while Makara indicates the two knees. The two legs, below the knee joints, fall in the Kumbha rashi. Meena, the last sign, represents the two feet of the Kaalapurusha.

Thus we see that the first four signs represent the body parts from the head to the level of the diaphragm, the muscular partition that separates the chest from the abdomen. The next four signs of the zodiac govern the region below the diaphragm upto the perineum. Thus, the whole abdomen, pelvis and external genitalia occupy the middle four signs of the zodiac. The last four signs represent the lower limbs, from the level of hip joints to the feet. See the accompanying table for clarification.

Table 1: Various Rashis and Body Parts
Rashi English name Extent in zodiac Body part represented
1. Mesha Aries 0°-30° Head
2. Vrisha Taurus 30°-60° Face
3. Mithuna Gemini 60°-90° Upper limbs
4. Karka Cancer 90°-120° Heart (Chest)
5. Simha Leo 120°-150° Upper abdomen
6. Kanya Virgo 150°-180° Waist
7. Tula Libra 180°-210° Lower abdomen and pelvis
8. Vrischika Scorpio 210°-240° External genitalia
9. Dhanu Sagittarius 240°-270° Thighs
10. Makara Capricorn 270°-300° Knees
11. Kumbha Aquarius 300°-330° Legs
12. Meena Pisces 330°-360° Feet

There is a little conflict of concepts here. Some authorities believe that while Karka represents the chest of the individual, the heart actually falls in the region of Simha (Leo). Varahamihira, however, considers the heart to fall in the sign Karka.

We have seen that the twelve rashis represent the various body parts of the Kaalapurusha. The twelve houses of the horoscope may also be treated similarly. This means that what is represent by the first sign of the zodiac is also represented by the first house of the horoscope. What is represented by the next zodiacal sign in also represented by the next, the second, house of the horoscope. Thus, the twelve houses of a horoscopic chart represent what is respectively represented by the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Shloka 5: One should take into consideration the body parts of the Kaalapurusha at the time of a native’s birth. The body parts represented by rashis associated with benefics are healthy while those represented by rashis associated with malefics are diseased.

Comments: A knowledge of the rashis and the body parts they represent is important. Those rashis which are under the influence of benefic grahas (planets) are healthy while those influenced by malefics are likely to be diseased. Of the nine grahas from the Sun to Ketu, the benefics are Jupiter, Venus, (well-associated) Mercury and the (full) Moon. These planets grant health to body parts that they influence. The remaining ones are malefics. According to Varahamihira, the body parts of the Kaalapurusha represented by the different rashis are to be taken into consideration. This principle can be extended to the different houses of the horoscopic chart also, as we have already pointed out. Thus, malefics in the lagna or the first house may adversely affect the head, those in the second the face, or the ones in the twelfth the feet, etc. (To be continued)