Who is Parāśara and What is His Relevance to Vedic Astrology?

Parashara in Javanese Wayang
Parashara in Javanese Wayang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parāśara is one of the Mahā Ṛṣi (greatest sages), grandson and foster child of Vaśiṣṭha (one of the primordial seven sages). He is mentioned from the earliest text, Ṛg Veda (see 1.65-73). He is credited as conceiving the Viṣṇu Pūraṇa and thus ushering in the Purāṇik era. Although he conceived Viṣṇu Pūrana, it is said that it was his son, Vyāsa, who put it in its tangible form. This is quite similar to the final Purāṇa, Bhāgavata Purāṇa, which was conceived by Vyāsa but put into tangible form by his son, Śuka.

The classic and ancient culture, not just in India but around the world, was for students to attribute their works to their teachers. Thus the founders of schools are attributed for many things written by others under their name. In any case, the works attributed to Parāśara are:

1.65-73 of Ṛg Veda.
Parāśara Smṛti (a dharma-śastra)
Viṣṇu Purāṇa
Vṛkṣa-ayurveda (a text of botany)
Bṛhat Parāśara Horā Śāstra (a text on classical astrology)

Parāśara’s astrological text was lost for many centuries, but sewen back together from scraps as somewhat of a Frankenstein in the 19th century. The language style seems to place its origin around 600AD, and as early as the 10th century Bhattotpala noted it as being a fabled or lost text. However, the contents in the version we have today as garbled and subject to interpolation as they undeniably are, are nonetheless uniquely systematic and mathematical in their approach to the art of divination, warranting Parāśara his much deserved place as one of the most important two “founding fathers” of Indian Astrology (the other being Jaimini).