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Nicholas Campion and Ronnie Gale Dreyer

Abstract

In India jyotiṣa, which includes mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and divination, is one of the six vedāṅgas, ancillary branches of the Vedas necessary for understanding them. The technical tradition visible today has recognisable roots in Vedic hymns and calendars dating from the late second to mid-first millennium bce. In the second century ce, however, the use of horoscopes (planetary positions at the moment of birth) to portend the fate of the individual was introduced from the classical west, thus integrating with the Vedic tradition to form a uniquely Indian astrology. Today, astrology is invariably concerned with questions of destiny, serving a variety of functions designed for people to manage the present and inquire into the future. Oftentimes, there are corresponding rituals, intended to facilitate harmonisation with the flow of time, or to amend a predicted future. This article highlights the history of astrology in India (from the Vedas through the introduction of horoscopes); its technical and interpretative procedures in light of Vedic tradition; planetary deities; temple ritual; concepts of soul, karma and time; pilgrimage (especially the Kumbha Mela); philosophical contexts (including those articulated in, and inherited from, the classical and Hellenistic world); archaeoastronomy (city design and temple architecture related to the stars); sociological contexts, political functions, and notions of world ages. Finally, it will consider colonial dynamics and the modern western adoption of Indian astrology in the context of theories of enchantment, and the postmodern in western ‘alternative’ spiritualities and New Age ideology.