Andrew Foss’ Attempt to Debunk the Tropical Zodiac

Dr. Andrew Foss wrote an article appearing in the March 2017 edition of Gocara, the Journal of BAVA (British Association of Vedic Astrology) in which he attempts to debunk the use of a tropical zodiac in Vedic astrology. The complete article is here: I will quote relevant portions and reply directly.

He writes:

In Jyotish, we use the sidereal zodiac for birth charts and the tropical zodiac for matters pertaining to the weather.

According to who?

Both zodiacs are entirely valid and the precession of the Vernal equinox, which defines the difference, has a key role in the destiny of mankind.

Thank you. I almost agree but there are not “two zodiacs.” There are two ways of dividing space. The authentic sidereal way consists of 27 divisions (determined primarily by the Moon). These are the nakṣatra. The authentic tropical zodiac consists of 12 (determined primarily by the Sun). These are the rāśī.

One Vedic Astrology teacher has espoused the novel concept that, as he considers the nakshatras sidereal and the rashis tropical, both of these are to be used simultaneously in the chart in the different zodiacs.

I hate when people intentionally make snide hidden denigrations, especially when those denigrations are false.

A) There is not “One Vedic Astrology teacher.” There are at least four very active practitioners and teachers I can immediately think of off the top of my head – and there are hundreds of people experimenting with and accepting the theory.

B) It’s not a “novel concept” that some “Vedic Astrology teacher” invented. It’s the concept of 14.7 in Sūrya Siddhānta, 5.21.3 in Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 3.2-5 of Bṛhat Parāśara, etc.

This is partly based on his interpretation of the Surya Siddhanta that computes sidereal positions for the grahas and then converts them to tropical for certain calculations such as computing the Lagna.

Yes, that’s part of the issue, but not the main part. The main part is that Sūrya Siddhānta explicitly defines the zodiac as tropical. Bha-cakra-nabhau viṣuvat dvitiyam samasūtragam (SS 14.7) literally means, “The core of the zodiac is the line drawn between the two equinoxes.”

In the Spring 2016 edition of Gochara, I showed how the interpretations of the rashis that are related to the weather must logically have arisen in North India.

Interpretations of rashi that are related to hemisphere-specific weather are not offered by anyone who truly knows the science of astrology. Anyone who understands the mechanics of the zodiac knows that the character of the rashi are defined by four factors, in descending order of importance:

  1. The planet who rules the sign
  2. The element of the sign
  3. The “mode” of the sign
  4. The sequential order of the sign

Of these, only the third factor is related to weather, but even then only indirectly and  not in any hemisphere-specific manner. This third factor, the mode of the sign, is determined by the Sun’s direction of movement after crossing what Surya Siddhanta 14.7 calls the four most important points in the zodiac (catasra pratithāstuta): the two equinoxes and two solstices.

Because some concepts about the rashis are related to seasonal factors, some people seize on this to say that the rashis are therefore tropical.

I don’t think anyone using tropical rāśī does so because they think the rāśī are “seasonal.” For myself, I consider the “seasonal” thing a load of bunk. The first of many reasons I say the rashis are tropical is because that’s what the Sanskrit texts say. After all, people claiming to be Vedic astrologers ought to care about what the Purāṇa’s ( have to say about the astronomy involved in calculating birth charts.

What is truly bizarre is if one tries to use sidereal nakshatras with tropical rashis. Consider gandanta: this is where the rashi and the nakshatra both end in the same degree. With both the nakshatra, the rashi and all the vargas ending at the same place, it creates a huge gap. That is what we mean by gandanta. If the rashis are floating and the nakshatras are fixed, all the gandantas are gone.

Gaṇḍānta means “the end (anta) of a segment (gaṇḍa).” There are at least two reasons the borders between Pisces/Aries, Cancer/Leo, and Scorpio/Sagittarius are noted as “the ends of segments”:

  1. Since there are four elements in the zodiac, every four signs is a new segment repeating the previous pattern of elements. The border between the segments  is particularly difficult to cross it moves from the most extremely feminine element (water) to the most extremely masculine element (fire).
  2. The navāṁśa of Pisces – the end of the zodiac – falls at the end of its sign only in these three places.

It is true that welding nakṣatra and rāśī together (as modern Vedic astrologers mostly do) creates a 3rd factor: that the border of a nakṣatra also falls cleanly on the border of a sign. However, to say that without this third factor “all the gandantas are gone” is really just to betray lack of awareness of the other two factors that define the gaṇḍānta.

Consider the Vimshottari dasha. As anyone who has studied this knows, especially if they have read the last chapter of the book Yoga of the Planets, the whole basis of the interpretation of Vimshottari is based on the equality of the navamsha and the nakshatra pada. If, for example, Mrigashira was not split equally between Taurus and Gemini, then the whole system is broken.

I have seen Andrew describe this chapter of his book as revealing “secrets not published before.” Yet here he says that everyone should know this – as if it’s a widely accepted fact. The truth is that he explains Viṁśottarī daśā as being based on “the equality of the navamsha and the nakshatra pada” – others do not. So it is not a major deal to anyone except his dedicated students if in truth the navāṁśa and nakṣatra are not intrinsically bound together.

In fact the glory of the number 108 is that it marries the nakshatras and the rashis through the numbers 9 and 4 (12×9 = 27×4).

This is irrelevant and off topic. The “glory of the number 108” doesn’t supercede the literal definitions given in Sūrya Siddhānta, Purāṇas, etc. Anyway, the “glory of the number 108” (from an astrological perspective) is not dependent on the nakṣatra having four divisions. It stems from the fact that 9 planets x 12 signs = 108 and 9 navāṁśa in 12 signs = 108 total aṁśas.

This gives rise to the 9th house as that of the father and the 4th as that of the mother.

This is completely tangential, but it’s another contradiction of Bṛhat Parāśara, which states that pita (father) is known from vyoma-sthana (10th House). The 9th house is the House of guides, so Father and Mother also fall into that house, but the father himself is a matter of the 10th house, according to Parāśara’s text.

Anyway, now, back to the real topic…

If Magha drifts out of Leo then where is the king’s throne?

It is in Maghā.

If Magha is not in Leo, how is it the royal sign?

Because it belongs to the Sun (the king) and is made of Fire (the most masculine element).

Leo may be the heat after the rains of Cancer

If you want to make the rāśī “seasonal” and correlated to North India, please get the North Indian seasons correct. North India has the hot season first and the rainy season second. If you are going to make stuff up (as in “seasonal zodiacs”) at least get it straight.

but [Leo] is also the lion and that is the pattern of stars of sidereal Leo. In fact, every sign is named after the pattern of its stars.

Fanciful connect-the-dots of stars is not the basis of Astrological science. If it is then:

A) Astrology is awfully silly

B) Why are there 12, not some other number? (like 13 for example, since there are 13 recognized constellations in the zodiac region)

C) Why are the rashi not the same sizes as their constellations (Like 7º for Scorpio, 45º for Virgo)?

The truth is that the zodiac signs get their symbolic character from the planet, element, mode, and sequence involved in each – and an image was formed by ancient astrologers to express that character in a succinct symbolic manner. Then, when locating them to the visible sky, the dots of the stars were connected accordingly (hence a box becomes “a crab,” a dim straight line becomes “a ram,” and so on)


I have no “bone to pick” with Andrew Foss or anyone else, but in the interest of science and truth, I am stating facts openly.

Vic DiCara