Omens of Ill Portent

Today I considered one astrological omen of evil, found in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 3.17.14.

grahān puṇyatamān anye
bhagaṇāṁś cāpi dīpitāḥ
aticerur vakra-gatyā
yuyudhuś ca parasparam

“Inauspicious planets moved retrograde into inauspicious constellations, to overlap and conquer the light of the auspicious planets.”

By the way, this occurred amidst a string of many other omens in the earth and weather during the birth of the two original Demon-kings, Hiraṇyākṣa and Hiraṇyakāśipu. Another astrological omen coincident was unusual repetition of eclipses (see 3.17.8)

If I analyze this statement, the underlying condition is a graha-yudha, a “war of planets.” This condition occurs when two planets try to move into the same space.

Next, the outcome of the war is that all the auspicious planets are defeated by the inauspicious planets. Defeat in war occurs to the planet who has lower declination, and/or is otherwise very “dim” (without bāla). It is rare for Venus to be defeated, but Mars may have been able to have significantly higher declination and significantly higher ṣaḍ-bāla and accomplish the task. Or, Venus may not be included here. After all there are three auspicious planets (Mercury, Jupiter and Venus) and there are three inauspicious planets (Sun, Saturn, and Mars). The Sun is not very inauspicious and also does not get involved in these planetary wars. So there are only two inauspicious planets for graha-yuddha, Saturn and Mars. Therefore probably Venus was somewhere else, perhaps combust and involved in the repeated eclipses. Most likely Mercury was defeated by Saturn and Jupiter by Mars.

Finally, there may be another stipulation regarding the stellar location of these planetary battles. The Sanskrit seems to indicate that the defeat of auspicious planets took place in inauspicious constellations. It is not clear to me exactly what this means, as different constellations are auspicious for some things and inauspicious for others. However, my best guess is that it refers to the cruel nakṣatra: Bharani, Magha, Purva Phalguni, Purva Ashadha, and Purva Bhadrapada. And perhaps could also include the fierce nakṣatra: Ardra, Aśleṣa, Mūla, Jyeṣṭhā.

The most abstract lesson to take away is (1) multiple bad signs is a lot more important than a single bad sign — here we have the same bad thing (defeat of a benefic by a malefic) happening twice. (2) When bad things happen in bad surroundings, its even worse (here we have these wars happening in difficult constellations).

This second principle shouldn’t be confused with “bad things happening to bad things/places.” That generates good results. We are talking about bad things happening in bad places.

– Vic DiCara