Is “Vedic Astrology” Really “Vedic”?

“Vedic Astrology” sounds so cool! It sounds so ancient and mystical.

In actuality, however, there are very few ancient texts dealing with jyotish. You may balk at that statement, but please allow me to define how I am using the terms “ancient” and “jyotish.” 

By ancient I mean: not the modern era (which can stretch all the way back to the end of the dark ages), nor the classical era (which stretches back all the way to Christ), but the period of time before that, (the “BCE” dates). Most of the texts on Jyotish cannot be definitively dated as being prior to the middle and late classical era.

When people say “ancient” sometimes they mean, “Older than my grandma” but that’s not what I mean here. I mean, “A lot older than your granma… as in ‘older than Christ.'”

Now, let’s define jyotish. By jyotish I mean what people nowadays call “jyotish” or “Vedic astrology.” It is specifically jātaka-jyotish – astrology for personal interpretive and predictive purposes.

Maybe there are a few ancient texts on jyotish but this jyotish is not jātaka, it is vaidhika-jyotish – astrology for determining when to perform the rituals and observances prescribed in the Veda. This is a valid aṅga (appendix) to the Veda itself, and is thus known as Vedāṅga-jyotish.

In truth, jātaka-jyotish is not an “ancient Vedic” science like Ayurveda. Ayurveda is legitimately an ancient Vedic science, part of the Four Veda, along with the science of music, architecture, and warfare. Jyotish – but only the Vaidhika type – is also a legitimately ancient Vedic system, a vedāṅga along with the sciences of phonetics, poetics, grammar, lexicography, and ceremony.

This is why you can find very clear, definite, non-conflicting definitions for Vedic music, Vedic medicine (Ayurveda), Vedic grammar, and so on, but when you come to jātakajyotisha (interpretive astrology), you suddenly find yourself without the same clarity, and awash in a flood of vaguery, conflicting opinions, etc.

Many people want others to believe that “Vedic astrology” is an essential and integral part of the Ancient Vedic Yogic tradition – because the Ancient Vedic Yogic tradition is very cool, and very powerful – but it’s not. I’m not saying that the interpretive astrology developed in India in the middle-classical period isn’t very, very cool and very, very powerful. It is! And I am not saying its not relevant and even very, very complimentary with the Ancient Vedic Yogic tradition. It is! All I am saying is that its not an essential, integral part of the Veda.

– Vic DiCara (