Vimśottari Daśa: the Numbers Behind It

As I have recently been reading Jyotisha literature more intensively. I would like to share some of the material I find of interest, particularly as not every book is easily obtainable. I was fortunate in coming across a copy of ‘Astrology and Jyotirvidya’ by Viswanath Deva Sarma (published in 1973 and never reprinted it seems). He provides a wonderful overview, complete with tables, on the division of Vimśottari into its Daśas or periods and also provides a unique insight into how the periods came to have the divisions that they have.

In a later article I want to look more closely at how this fascinating system is applied.

First, Vimśottari literally means ‘120’. So Vimśottari Daśa simply means the divisions of 120. Quite straight forward. These are the divisions and also their order:

Sun 6 years
Moon 10 years
Mars 7 years
Rahu (North Node) 18 years
Jupiter 16 years
Saturn 19 years
Mercury 17 years
Ketu (South Node) 7 years
Venus 20 years

If you add everything up you arrive at 120. But just why Venus should have 20 years and the Sun only 6 is much more mysterious. But be assured. There is a logic behind it. First where does the number 120 come from? Hindu astrology uses 27 lunar mansions known as Nakśatra. Each Nakśatra is 13 1/3 degrees long.  (13 1/3  × 27 = 360). There are nine ‘planets’ (including Rahu and Ketu). 13 1/3 × 9 = 120.

You might already have noticed that the lunar month, roughly 27 days, is brought in relation to the solar year, 360 days. This is the first clue as to how the divisions are arrived at. We have an interaction between two major divisions of time, that of the Sun (360) and that of the Moon (13 1/3) with the planets (9).

The solar year is composed of 12 months which each have 30 days.  Now if we convert to the lunar month each day is equal to 1 nakśatra which can be divided into 60 danda. (the danda is equal to 60 pala which are equal to 6 prāna which are equal to 10 guru-aksara which are equal to 27 nimeṣa which is equal to one blink of the eye which is roughly a second.) 😉

The crucial step is to bring into relation the time it takes the Sun to make a complete circle of the ecliptic and the time it takes for the Moon to make a complete circle. You could say that a lunar ‘year’ is equal to a solar month. V.K. Sarma describes it thus:

solar period lunar period
1 year 360 ‘years’
1 month 30 ‘years’
1 day 1 ‘year’
1 danda 6 days

and the reverse:

lunar period solar period
1 year 1 day
1 month 5 danda
1 day 10 pala

The last two numbers are the ones we want. 6 defines the length of the Sun’s Daśa and 10 that of the Moon. Now all that is left is to determine the periods for the rest of the planets. V.K. Sarma describes it thus: the inclination of the Moon to the axis of the earth is 24 degrees (cosmologically) or 23 1/2 degrees (astronomically). If we subtract the solar and lunar periods from 24 the difference is 14 and 18. 14 and 18 divided in half gives us 7 and 9. So the basic numbers we can work with are 7 and 10 for the Moon; 6 and 9 for the Sun.

I’m going to put the results in tabular form as I think it is easier to understand what happens:

As you can see there are some interesting interactions going on. The two outermost planets make use of the Moon’s major number (10) and the major and minor number for the Sun while the inner planets only use the Moon’s major and minor numbers. Rahu doubles the Sun’s minor number and Ketu uses the Moon’s minor number as does Mars.

Saturn 10 + [(24 – 6) ÷ 2] = 10 + 9 = 19 years 10
Jupiter 10 + 6 = 16 years 10
Mars (24 – 10) ÷ 2 = 14 ÷ 2 = 7 years 7 Moon
Rahu 18 years 18 Sun
Ketu 14 ÷ 2 = 7 years 7 Moon
Sun 6 years 6 Sun
Moon 10 years 10 Moon
Mercury 10 + [(24 – 10) ÷ 2] = 10 + 7 = 17 years 10
Venus 10 + 10 = 20 years 10

A Prolog for the Barker, l.m.

I don’t want to give the impression that planetary positions in the lunar mansion as Simak are necessarily prominent in charts that deal with revolution. Revolution is only one possibility for how ideals find their expression in the sub-lunar realm. So that means that any major cultural upheaval whether peaceful or militant may find signification there, but it is too early to say whether this is exclusive, after all there are still 27 mansions to explore!

Now unlike the signs of a zodiac, the mansions have no subdivision into elements (fire, air, water, earth) and qualities (mutable, cardinal, fixed). There is another principle of order. Instead of 3 x 4 we have 4 x 7. The first seven mansions show the movement of the Divine Essence to the Divine Throne. The next seven mansions express the supra-solar spheres, from the Divine Footstool to the Sphere of the Sun. The next sequence encompasses the inner planets and the Spheres of the Elements with the last seven mansions reflecting the Spheres of created Being; Minerals, Plants, Animals, Angels, Jinn, Humanity and lastly the Degrees of Existence. Unlike the zodiac signs – where planets in succeeding signs do not form aspects – succession is important to understanding the mansions. This means that in order to understand one mansion better it is a good idea to also look which mansions are on other side of it and also the one directly across from it. For example the Sphere of the Throne has the element Earth as its counterpoint.

Al Simak should therefore be compared to the mansion across from it, al Batn al Hut, the mansion before it, al Awwa, and the mansion following it, al Ghafir. This also means that once one has a reference point of understanding one can expand into one of the next mansions –which we will do when we look at the mansion al Awwa.

Here in table form:


As it is important to understand the mansions as articulations of the Divine Breath we need to look at the sounds first and that means at the basic level of how they are physically produced – remember Man is an image of God.

The sounds “L”, “N”, and “R” are pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the ridge of the gums. With “N” the airflow is stopped suddenly. With “R” it is a trilled or rolled like the “R” in the Italian word terra. With “L” and “W” it narrows but never really is brought to an abrupt stop. “W” is spoken through an open mouth with slightly rounded lips. Then again “N”, “R” and “W” share air flowing over the tongue instead of around the sides as is the case with “L”.

Our starting point for the lunar mansion al Awwa, the Barker will be the following: the sound “L”, the Sphere of Mars as counterpoint to the Realm of Humanity, the Arabic letter lam and the Prophet Aaron.

As-Simak and yet another Revolution

In my last article I wrote about the French revolution and its connection with the lunar mansion of As-Simak. I would like once more like to draw your attention to another revolution where this mansion is prominent. This is the Chinese revolution.

If you recall I described, “…Nun and the lunar mansion As-Simak an expression of how ideals come to realisation.” If you focus your attention on the sound “n”– you can do so by pronouncing it – you will notice that the tongue touches and then draws away from behind the upper teeth. The sound is like tapping on a counter or when applied to mental processes, like a tapping or pecking at different thoughts.

Now As-Simak is entirely in the sign of Virgo (17*54 – 29*59), where Mercury has both its domicile and exaltation. Mercury is very strong here. Most revolutionary leaders, at least since the French Revolution, can be characterised as intellectuals, critical and with the ability to clearly vocalise, who have tapped on very high ideals. But intellectual “tapping” tends to be schematic when not tempered with wisdom and compassion (for though seldom we shouldn’t discount such “revolutions”). But if Mercury takes on a militant Mars or a plotting Saturn character it tends to be more comfortable in expressing itself either in slogans or cold formalism. In a sense the Red Book, in the context of the Chinese Revolution, can be considered a symbol of Mercury coloured by Mars – the Cultural Revolution with its extreme militancy is a case in point.

If you look at the founding chart for the Chinese Communist Party, Saturn is at 18* Virgo. It has just moved into As-Simak, and if you take the noon chart as being representative, it has moved into the 12th house. In the noon chart Mars is in Fall in Cancer on the MC and combust a peregrine Sun. Saturn receives Jupiter into his Detriment and Venus into her Fall, so the benefics are not welcome to this Saturn. Saturn is received by Mercury in its Fall at 19 Cancer. This is precisely the degree of the 2oo7 annual eclipse. It is also the degree that is picked up again by Mars in the 2008 and Saturn in the 2009 eclipse. In 2009 this particularly significant testimony of an eclipse on the Saturn return is compounded even further by the eclipse path being exclusively over the People’s Republic of China! I think we can expect turmoil within the Chinese Communist Party and by extension, turmoil in the politics of the country.

My main intention is not so much as give a prognosis for Chinese politics, etc. but more to point towards an understanding of this particular lunar mansion. The next few years will show how close this might be. It might be important to look at other major revolutions, the Russian for example. What might also be of interest is that As-Simak is just before 0 Libra. You can see it as an upset of the scales. What happens after most upheavals of a political nature is that it takes time for the scales to come into balance again. I shouldn’t be forgotten that the scales are always in movement, they are cardinal not fixed!

Now there are a few charts you might want to look at. I will pull out only the essential positions for each of the immediately relevant charts, but there is much more!

Solar eclipse 1921 (April 8, 1921, 9:04 am, Peking) Asc. 28 Virgo 56, Saturn 19 Virgo 26. antiscia Sun/Moon 12 Virgo

foundation of Chinese Communist Party (July 1, 1921, 12:00 Shanghai) Jupiter 13 Virgo 15, Saturn 19 Virgo 22

Grand Conjunction 1921 (Sept 10, 1921, 11:16 am, Peking) Sun at 16 Virgo 52, Jupiter/Saturn 26 Virgo 35 (in tenth house), Mercury 1 Libra 41(11th)

Foundation of People’s Republic of China (Sept. 21, 1949, 12:00, Peking)*
Sun 27 Virgo 50

Proclamation of People’s Republic of China (Sept. 21, 1949, 3:15 pm, Peking )*
Saturn (Lord 1) 13 Virgo 08, square Jupiter/Saturn of Grand Conjunction 1901, 13 Capricorn 58
Mars (Lord 10) 14 Leo 53 square Jupiter/Saturn of Grand Conjunction 1949, 13 Taurus 43,
antiscion of GC conjunct Mars

Saturn was at 13 Taurus 59 when the last Emperor of China abdicated in Feb. 12, 1912

Solar eclipse 2007 Sun/Moon 18 Virgo 24
Solar eclipse 2008 Mars 18 Virgo 41
Solar eclipse 2009 Saturn 18 Virgo 21

* Data from Campion’s “Book of World Horoscopes”

As-Simak and the French Revolution

I think that the use of mundane charts is the most helpful when one is trying to establish the nature of an astrological quality, in this case the nature of the lunar mansion, As-Simak. This is not an empirical statistical examination but one that is true to the nature of astrology. The charts used are illustrative, they are a window into the symbol that is As-Simak. The charts are mundane because they cover a larger period of time and a whole epoch with all its different manifestations. If we were first to use an individual birth-chart or a group of natal charts we might be more tempted into cataloguing similar configurations which then serve as “proof” of the thesis.

What I would like to do here is point your attention to certain characteristics of the French Revolution to illustrate what has already been looked at in a more symbolical fashion in the last essay. We see with Nun and the lunar mansion As-Simak an expression of how ideals come to realisation. The highest ideals and human spiritual striving is almost invariably accompanied by its shadow side. This can take on two forms which usually go hand in hand: the fever of fanaticism or the cold calculation of formalism which more often than not is an instrument of power politics. Whereas the ideal or spiritual striving is like the central point of the arabic letter Nun with all the implications of pure potentiality and focus, the shadow expressions usually express only one potential and that one-sidedly, to the exclusion of other possibilities.

Consider the leaf-form of a particular plant, let us say for example the dandelion. The individual plant often grows under different conditions. If you examine a dandelion that grows under a tree in a more moist environment and one that grows on an open field in a dryer environment you can see that the size and character of the leaves are slightly different yet the species is immediately identifiable. Both are dandelions! Now if there were a formalism in Nature that would eradicate dandelion plants that did not conform to a particular leaf form and size and colour, the dandelion as a species would become extinct as only one set of very limited conditions and these alone would determine whether a particular plant is viable.

I do not need to go into detail describing the French Revolution. It is characterised in its most bloody phase by the reversal of its ideals; freedom, equality and fraternity. The central core became overbalanced in different directions that strove with deadly intent to eradicate everything that did not conform absolutely to their one-sidednesses. I think it very significant that As-Simak is the lunar mansion that leads in to Libra. It is in the middle at the balancing point!

Now mundane charts always come in bundles, so dear reader you will have to calculate the charts yourself as there isn’t enough space in this blog, you can’t be imposed upon to scroll meters back and forth to look at everything! The charts that I will be referring to are the chart of the first Republic, the solar ingress chart for Aries, the previous full Moon, the eclipse chart, and in this case also the New Moon chart of 16 Sept. 1792. I can’t go into depths, you should be able to dig out more when you look at all of these charts. I just would like to point out a few highlights. Mars Lord of the Asc is on the inside of the 11th house in the lunar mansion As-Simak at 24 Virgo 46. Mars is the Significator of the people and 24 Virgo is an important focus point. What happens to Mars in 1792 and what is focused around 24 Virgo? At the Full Moon on August 31st Mars is at 11 Scorpio and the North Node occupies 24 Virgo. The solar eclipse of 1792 and September New Moon is at 24 Virgo 07. The Asc is at 3 Scorpio 47 and Mars is in the 1st house at 22 Scorpio. The eclipse takes place inside the 11th house with Mercury Lord of the eclipse combust at 25 Virgo. Five days later the 1st Republic is proclaimed. The Sun is at 29 Virgo, that is just about to leave the lunar house As-Simak and enter into Libra. Mars is at 25 Scorpio conjunct the Midheaven. Mars is elevated and strong in his own sign. The people have the Ascendancy and the Sun the Lord of the MC of the ingress chart, the king, is just about to enter into his fall in the 8th house. He has been eclipsed and replaced by Mars who occupied the eclipse point during the solar ingress into Aries. The North Node still occupies 24 Virgo.

Lunar Mansions Light

If one looks closer at Arabic astrology one finds that the lunar mansions have a status that is far more important than the motion of the Moon itself. Most modern western astrologers who occupy themselves with the lunar mansions, and that includes those of a traditional bent, orient themselves on texts based on Dorotheus or on the Picatrix or a combination of both. This however blurs their real importance. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Islam spurns sorcery (Christianity and Judaism also) and this applies to any form of magic which misuses the Divine Names or which is intended to manipulate and address Angelic Intelligences for whatever form of personal gain. This is in fact a corruption of the science of the Divine Names.

There are twenty-eight letters in the Arabic alphabet, the same number as the lunar mansions. Now here comes the tricky part. It is assumed that because of this one-to-one status that each of the letters was then assigned to one of the lunar mansions. It is however the other way around. To understand this one has to place the letters in their symbolical context. The sounds of the letters are reflections of the Divine Word. They are aspects of the Breath of God and express one of the outstanding capacities of the human being (as God’s Image) that sets him apart from the rest of creation – the ability to articulate, to use language. The Qur’an for example uses the image of sounding vessels of clay to describe the human being.

The twenty-eight Arabic lunar mansions should also not be confused with the twenty-seven Indian Nakshatras which appear to serve the same function. Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his book on “Islamic Cosmological Doctrines” formulates this most concisely:

“…the 28 Mansions are the macrocosmic counterparts of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet which form the language of the Divine Word…Thus the cosmos may also be considered, like the Revelation of God in his Sacred Book, as the manifestation of the Divine Word and a book in which the Divine Mysteries are revealed … The significance of the lunar mansions in Islamic astrology is fundamental… as it is related to the science of the Divine Names… The Moon itself, however, is not so important as in Hindu astrology… ” p. 162