No Really, It’s NOT Sidereal

This is an excerpt from a continuing, but increasingly productive and scholarly, debate on the sidereal vs tropical zodiac IN Indian Astrology. If you are new to this debate, please first read this introduction.

Some people wish to discount my argument on the basis of  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.

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].

Some argue that the previous text (27) sets a sidereal context. I do not see why, unless we only read the Enlgish – which uses the name “Revatī.”  Even there Danavir Goswami’s version has a footnote admitting that “Revatī” is not literally in the text itself, and Burgess’ version has an elaborate comment which recognizes the same. 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 preceding 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:

If one wants to insist that the rasi and naskhatra are fixed to one another 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.”?

– Vic DiCara