This article is about Indian vs Western Horary Astrology and how the 17th century Indian horary book Prasna Marga differs from the classical horary works of the West.
I have been recently dealing with horary Astrology. As I was doing some charts, I felt like revisiting horary’s Astrology’s philosophical and metaphysical dimensions. As I was rereading parts of Bonatti, Sahl, Umar, Al Kindi, Masha’allah and others, one thing led to another and I came across a book on Indian horary called Prasna Marga. Prasna is the term the Indians use to denote horary. So whether you call it Jyotish horary, Indian horary or Prasna, it refers to the same branch of interrogations/questions: the lowest one in the astrological science.
The Indian Astrology book Prasna Marga
Prasna Marga was written in 1649. It is translated by the very famous astrologer Bangalore Venkata Raman and has been reprinted a few times due to the strong interest in it. This is the first book I have read on Indian horary Astrology. Thus, I want to make it clear that I will be judging Indian horary Astrology based upon Prasna Marga and from the perspective of one who practises Ancient Western horary Astrology.
I will disregard the Zodiac question because horary is divination to a great extent. In horary Astrology, it is more important what system one chooses to follow, and to stick to it, rather than some differences in methodology. Needless to say, no one can blatantly disregard the fundamental rules. And yet, horary allows a far greater leeway than electional Astrology, the next branch, let alone natal or mundane.
For those that do not know, this is how a (Northern) Indian astrological chart looks like:
And this is how a South Indian astrological chart looks like:
My thanks to this website for the free charts:
My goal in writing this article is to stimulate Western/non-Indian Astrology practitioners, not just horary ones, to read Prasna Marga. I could write a very long article to do this book justice, but I am not going to. I want you to read the book, which I strongly recommend. As such, you yourself will judge its philosophical as well as practical merits.
My purpose is not to frame the question of Indian vs Western Horary Astrology, in the sense which one is superior. It is to note the differences in the Indian approach and to appreciate them.
Advantages of the book Prasna Marga
Prasna Marga is a very big and extremely detailed book. I have to say that it not only deals with horary but with natal Astrology as well. After all, a lot of the rules and aphorisms in horary can be, and should be, applied in the natal branch.
I had read about Jyotish horary from Hart de Fouw and how comprehensive it can be, but I have to say I did not expect it to be that thorough. Even if you have read the largest Western horary book, namely the Nine Judges translated by Ben Dykes, plus Bonatti, Lilly, etc, in reading Prasna Marga you will be amazed at the amount of detail that is given. I am not one to be easily impressed, but this Indian book is something that can take one’s breath away. I read all the horary parts for a few hours without taking a single break.
By “impressed”, I mean not so much the astrological rules pertaining to the chart, the intra-chart rules, the hundreds of aphorisms on pretty much any topic one can think of. I don’t mean them, because they are preserved in the Western horary books. (Some of them are similar to those on thought interpretation given by Herman of Carinthia in the Search of the Heart translated by Ben Dykes).
What I mean with Prasna Marga is the totality of the Indian approach to horary Astrology. This approach considers the moment of asking the question to be unique. As such, not only the astrological chart but the world outside, as well as inside, gives all kinds of information on what is asked about. Here are some of the factors that are considered:
- The astrologer’s breath (not just on this day but the previous ones as well)
- The direction occupied by the querent;
- The querent’s bearing
- The querent’s mood
- The querent’s clothes
- The astrologer’s departure and what omens they see on the way
- Indicative signs when entering the querent’s house
- Judgment according to the lamp and the flame
Indian vs Western Horary Astrology: my issues with Prasna Marga
As much as I am impressed, I have to mention what I consider to be the negative side not just of Prasna Marga but of Indian Astrology in general. There are so many rules and aphorisms that, at best, could, theoretically at least, allow the astrologer to reach an amount of detail that seems impossible. At worst, howevr, they could turn the astrologer into an absolute slave/zombie to these authorities and rules.
And I am not even getting into the worshiping part which is oriented towards the lower astral plane and its repercussions. My point in criticizing Prasna Marga is that one is given hundreds, if not thousands, of rules. They are probably for any conceivable topic, and from a number of angles. And yet, what does this leave the astrologer or student himself/herself?
What about his/her own contribution? I am not talking about reinventing the wheel. I am talking about the uniqueness that every human being brings into their practice. I am talking about one’s individuality. Again, there are dozens if not more rules in Prasna Marga which tell the horary practitioner not to judge the chart because the outcome will be negative. I am not just talking about intra-chart rules. I am talking about prior to meeting the client and drawing the chart itself!
Why this strong need to control the environment? What will happen if the answer is indeed negative? After all, given how many factors can be taken into account, the odds are higher that the final result will be unfavourable. So what? Hearing bad news is not the end of the world. What about learning from the negative outcome? How about accepting fate and being open to what you are presented with next? These are very significant questions which deserve a discussion.
Conclusion on Indian vs Western horary Astrology: the need for Metaphysics and Philosophy
In the interest of impartiality, I am not saying the ancient Western horary books are the opposite and full of advice for the querent. What I am saying is I had never come across such fervent desire to make the outcome known before even meeting the client and erecting the chart. What I mean is the obsession of looking for the positive outcome. It is here where Metaphysics and Philosophy must come in.
In conclusion, I do recommend that my readers read Prasna Marga but be prepared for a strong response. This book will either appeal to you greatly or it will be a big turn off.
2 thoughts on “Indian vs Western Horary Astrology”
Response to the criticisms : –
1. As far as too many rules are concerned in my opinion it is this thing which makes Jyotish comparatively better than Western or non Indian astrological traditions – that human lives and the circumstances which affect it are numerous and complex and thus the method of astrological prognostication cant be simple and its rules less in number. If from the book Tetrabiblios or that of Valens all unnecessary writings of their authors are removed and only the essential parts are kept and if those are written in simple sentences then the books will hardly exceed 100 to 150 pages(or even less than that).
Anyways as far as remembering the rules are concerned the traditional astrologers are trained from childhood to do that. Thats why any treatise on any subject be it medicine, astrology, astronomy are written in verse form(shloka) or in cryptic sentences(sutras) which can be easily conmited to memory unlike in Western traditions where they don’t write things in simple way but in an convoluted complicated manner.
And last thing Prasna Marga is not a text which represents the horary doctrine of whole of India but that of the Kerala school( that school which nvented calculus five centuries before Newton or Leibniz). There are many schools of astrology in India. For example the north Indian schools held the view that any horary chart is to be interpreted independently while the south Indian especially the Kerala school hold the view that horary chart is to be seen along the natal chart(like in regard to an inquiry on marriage both the natal and horary chart is to be seen). Also Prasna Marga is not begginer text on Horary. The author himself mentions that the student should be well acquainted with the Brihat Jataka of Varahmihira(especially the “Dasadhyayi” commentetary) and Krishneeyam of Satyacharya(another text on horary held in high esteem in the kerala tradition). So to complain about its large size is not correct.
2. Regarding what about the students own contribution that is one of the most laughable thing I ever heard. Why will the student try to contribute something himself when the rules given in the text are enough to predict.
3.Negative means that which is injurious to the astrologer or disastrous to the the querent. Suppose a lady comes asks a query regarding the whereabouts of her missing husband and if the astrologer after studying the horary chart finds that the husband is dead and says it to the lady then it can definitely be disastrous. What if the lady commits suicide unable to bear the shock. Who will be responsible then.
One important thing I forgot to write regarding the fact that there are too many rules given in Indian texts. The thing is they are not really hard to remember if one understands the basics. For example if some author says that a person born with Aries rising will be inimical toward his relatives and his own mother then it is to be understood to because te Lord of Aries gets debilated in the fourth house(and fourth rules relatives and mother). Those who know such basics will understand why such and such combinations give such and such results and hence won’t need to remember much. In Prasna Marga itself there is a verse which states that the results of a horoscope are governed by the six factors which are :-
1) A Sign as a House (Aries as the first house)
2) A planet in exaltion or debilitating, mooltrikkn etc. (Sun in Aries)
3) A planet in particular Sign (sun in aries)
4) A planet in a particular house(sun in 1st house)
5) A planet in particular house in particular sign(sun in 1st in Aries)
6) A planet in a house as a lord of another house( sun in 1st as the Lord of 5th)
Those who know how to decipher through the above six conditions will be able to predict anything without any need of remembering the result of so and so combinations. All such things in texts are given as demonstrations and nothing else.
And finally if you one to read a concise book on Indian horary then read the book Prasna Tantra of Neelakantha(translated by B V Raman).
First, I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a long and thorough response. I learned some new things about Jyotish.
Please keep in mind that we are overwhelmingly discussing horary/prasna, not the other branches. Also, that we are from different cultures, use a different language, alphabet, etc. With that caveat, my responses are as follows.
1)I am not in a position to say whether the horary of Jyotish is better or worse than the horary of Traditional Western Astrology. The reason is while I have studied every single traditional book on horary, I have only read Prasna Marga. So it would not be fair. What are you basing your opinion on? Have you studied the traditional Western horary texts?
The fact that Jyotish contains more rules does not necessarily make it more accurate. On the contrary, with horary, you want simplicity and clear determination of the significators, be they acccidental or universal. What I happily and gratefully concede here is Nimitta/the science and art of omens that is part of Indian prasna and was lost in Western horary. I am very grateful to the Indian people for preserving this knowledge! Of course, as the author of Prasna Marga implies, once the student has mastered the basics of Nimitta, he/she will not have to be bound by all many, many specific Indian cultural omens. Instead, the student can learn from other sources and cultures. And by the way, some Chinese divination methods ala horary also take the external environment into account. By that I mean, sounds, colours, animals, birds, weather, direction, location, how the client looks, what the client wears, etc, etc. So this is not strictly Indian, though I admit that I don’t know which predates which.
If you have truly read Claudius Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, you would not have made such an argument. You are calling my argument laughable in your point 2, and you yet you are claiming that the most succinct and sparse in delineation among the leading Western astrological authors has unnecessary writings? As for Vettius Valens, if you had read all the 9 books, you would have understood the need for secrecy and cryptic writing. More than that, you would have noticed the blood-chilling oaths he extracts from his students. Do any of the Jyotish astrological books contain oaths with curses?
Point taken that Prasna Marga is not for beginners. It was my mistake.
Point taken for the calculus. Then it is also fair to point out that the oldest calendar in the world is the Bulgarian one. It predates the the Chinese and Viatnamese one.
2)I don’t know anything about you, how long you have been practising, how many tricky charts you have dealt with. If you truly believe that you will find the answer to EVERY question in an Indian horary Astrology book, then I think you have a false sense of security and possibly a superiority bias as well. There are so many possible permutations that, unless one is Divinely Inspired as the ancients said, you WILL have to make judgement calls. Of course, they will be based on the solid, eternal rules. That is how you grow and THAT is how you contribute should you decide to share and teach your knowledge with students some day. I challenge any astrologer to solve some of most difficult horary charts, namely those that involve lost animals, objects or people. I mean cases whether the astrologer cannot afford to be half-right. I mean cases with known outcomes. In my astrological practice over the years, I have uncovered horary insights that no traditional Western astrological author has mentioned, let alone elaborated. Let me be clear, I do not claim that no author in history did not know these. However, the point is, in the case he wrote about them, that text did survive and/or remains untranslated.
3)Your argument, strangely enough, coincides with the approach modern psychological astrologers practise: in the rare cases when they see something negative in the chart, they do not dare tell it to client. As if the client were a small child. No. If the client is asking a given question, he/she should have the maturity to handle the truth. If not, then he/she should say upfront than that he/she only wants the good news. Everyone is responsible for his or her thoughts and actions. The reason we are in today’s global mess is because of the victims that refuse to take personal responsibility.
We are in agrement in the last part. Traditional horary astrology has very similar rules:
1)Determine the significators of the querent/client and the quesited/what is asked about;
2)See whether there are planets in the relevant houses;
3)Analyze the essential and accidental dignity of the significators;
4)Check to see whether they connect in an applying aspect and that aspect actually perfects. The type of aspect will show the manner in which the matter happens or not;
5)Check whether accidental or universal significators connect or signify the perfection of the matter in case point 4 fails;
6)Examine the images of the significators to determine the timing of the prediction as well as whether the thing asked about will be recovered whole, or whether it will happen once or twice, etc.
7)Unify the information and make the prediction.
Thanks for recommending the Indian horary book Prasna Tantra of Neelakantha(translated by B V Raman).
And thank you for the discussion.