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Atharvana Jyotisha

Atharvana Jyotisha is a system of astronomy associated with Atharva Veda. The earliest Hindu work, which exclusively deals with astronomical calculations, is Vedanga Jyotisha (1370 BCE). It appears in three recensions – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. Rig Jyothisha and Yajur Jyothisha, the works produced or redacted by Lagadha, are dominantly astronomical in character. Atharvana Jyotisha, which is stated to have been recited by Pitamaha for the benefit of Kashyapa, includes the muhurta branch of astrology.

Atharvana Jyotisha has fourteen sections, with 162 verses. The text clearly recognizes the significance of the science of reckoning of kala (time) for the timing of sacrifices. Firstly, the division of time is given as follows –

  • 1 ahoratra (full day) = 30 muhurtas,
  • 1 muhurta = 30 trutis
  • 1 truti = 30 kalas
  • 1 kala = 30 lavas
  • 1 lava = 12 nimeshas

The names of weekdays stated in the text, Aditya (Sun), Soma (Moon), Bhauma (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Bhrigu (Venus) and Shanishar (Saturn) are obviously associated with the planets and the luminaries. These point to the possibility of their Hindu origin.

Atharvana Jyotisha also mentions (ulka) meteors, as well as (vidyuta) lightning, and the fears associated with them.

Rahu and Ketu and the twelve zodiac signs are not mentioned in Atharvana Jyotisha, which shows the antiquity of the text.

In contrast to the modern Hindu panchanga, only four parts – tithi, muhurta, karana and nakshatra are described in Atharvana Jyotisha.

Though the gnomon is mentioned in Atharva Veda and Aitareya Brahmana, the first clear reference to its use is found in Atharvana Jyotisha

The names of 15 muhurtas and the duration of each are given by the length of shadow of 12 angula (finger) shanku (cone). These follow up to the noon in the following order – Raudra (96), Shveta (60), Maitra (12), Sarabhata (6), Savitr (5), Vairaja (4), Visvavasu (3) and Abhijith (nil), the number within the brackets denoting the length of the shadow of the gnomon in the unit of angula. Abhijit is that in which shadow gets fixed, i.e., noontime. In fact, at noontime, the shadow does not disappear, but would be less than three angulas. In the afternoon they follow in the reverse order.

The instruction on muhurtas is that aggressive jobs should be done in Raudra muhurta and soft and friendly jobs in maitra muhurta.

In the fourth section, karanas of a lunar day are given, which follow the same system and names as of today. However, the karana called kimstughna is replaced by kaustubha in Atharvana Jyotisha. Karanas are also categorized into auspicious and inauspicious types. Different jobs are divided according to the nature of the karanas. Various presiding deities of the karanas are mentioned, the majority of them being Vedic gods. Dhanadhipa and Manibhadra are mentioned for Kaustubha and Vanija Karanas respectively.

Tithis too are divided into auspicious and inauspicious categories in Atharvana Jyotisha. Special names of tithis like nanda and Bhadra, appear in the ext.

Each nakshatra is divided into nine parts in Atharvana Jyotisha. These are also divided into auspicious and inauspicious categories for various types of activities to be undertaken. Besides, the strength of the moon is determined on the basis of its phases.

The latter part of Atharvana Jyotisha contains the seeds of jataka (native branch of the astrology). A short description of the conception of jiva (self) is also given at the end.