The circle of the nakshatras is one of the earliest elements found in Vedic astrology. Because the Moon returns to the same stars every 27 days, the ancient Jyotishis divided the sky into 27 sections and gave each a name. Initially, the nakshatras were used primarily for muhurta, the practice of choosing the best time to initiate an action, such as getting married, starting a war, building a house, and so on. Over time, the nakshatra placement of the Moon became the core element in the calculation of many dasa systems, and was also used to indicate the major life themes in a natal chart.
The placement of both planets and the Lagna in nakshatras reveals pervasive patterns in an individual’s life. Because they occupy even smaller spans of the sky than the signs, the nakshatras indicate what is at the core of each individual.
Part One: Which nakshatras are important?
Of primary importance in a person’s life are the nakshatras of the Ascendant and Ascendant lord (Lagna and Lagnesa). The nakshatras occupied by the Moon and the Sun are also significant.
Historically, the nakshatra of the Moon has been given primary emphasis in Jyotish simply because natives of Indian/Vedic culture were given birth names using the letters corresponding with their lunar nakshatra. While one’s Ascendant might not be known, his Moon’s nakshatra was evident.
The nakshatras of the other planets are of lesser importance, but if several planets occupy the same nakshatra, then its themes become more salient. The nakshatra of the current dasa lord can indicate the prevailing life themes.
Finally, the nakshatra occupied by Saturn often indicates where major karma resides.
Part Two: The importance of placement
A planet’s placement affects its nakshatra’s expression. A positive placement elicits the good themes that a nakshatra represents, and a negative placement elicits the challenging themes that a nakshatra represents. The importance of this principle cannot be overstated.
The four elements of placement are:
1. Strength. Strong planets (vargottama, own sign, exalted, dig bala, retrograde, and bright Moon) are well-placed, and weak planets (debilitated, in planetary war, combust, and dark Moon) are poorly placed.
2. House occupation and rulership. Planets in or ruling bad houses (6, 8, 12) are poorly placed. Planets in or ruling good houses (1, 5, 9 and 1, 4, 7, 10) or neutral houses (2, 11) are well-placed. (House 3 occupation or rulership is a mildly poor placement.)
3. Influence of other planets. Planets with or aspected by benefics (Moon, Venus, Jupiter, and sometimes Mercury) have much better placement than planets with or aspected by malefics (Mars, Saturn, Rahu, Ketu and sometimes the Sun).
4. Yogas. Planets participating in positive yogas are very well-placed, and in negative yogas very poorly placed.
Each Nakshatra represents certain gunas. And it does so not only on one level, but on three levels.
- First, we have a group of 9 Nakshatras that represent Rajas energy on a primary level. These Nakshatras coincidence with the signs Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. Aries is the first firesign, Taurus the first earthsign, Gemini the first airsign and Cancer the first watersign.
- Then there comes a groups of 9 Nakshatras which represent Tamas on a primary level. These Nakshatras coincidence with the signs Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio. Leo is the second firesign, Virgo the second earthsign, Libra the second airsign and Scorpio the second watersign.
- Finally, we have a group of 9 Nakshatras which represent Sattva on a primary level. These Nakshatras coincidence with the signs Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Sagittarius is the third firesign, Capricorn the third earthsign, Aquarius the third airsign and Pisces the third watersign. .
Now each group of 9 Nakshatras can be divided into 3 groups of 3 Nakshatras. This represents the gunas on a secondary level.
In each groups of 9 Nakshatras the first three Nakshatras represent Rajas on a secondary level, the second three Nakshatras represent Tamas on a secondary level and the third three Nakshatras represent Sattva on a secondary level. We see that the order of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, which we saw at the primary level, repeats itself on this level.
There are 3 groups of 9 Nakshatras. Because each group of 9 Nakshatras has been split into 3 groups of 3 Nakshatras we have a total of 9 groups which consist of 3 Nakshatras.
These groups of 3 Nakshatras represent the tertiary level. The first Nakshatra of such a group represents Rajas, the second Nakshatra Tamas and the third Sattva.