Q.When is a planet called retrograde?
A. When a planet appears to be moving in the opposite direction as compared to its normal movement, it is
called a retrograde planet. To understand this better we should look into the movements of planets. In Vedic
Astrology all astronomical observations are done considering the earth to be the reference point. This
system of observation is called ‘geocentric’. In any system of measurements, the reference point is
considered stationary, though it may actually be moving. This may be likened to everyone’s common
experience while sitting in a moving train. If the train you are sitting in passes by another train which is
moving in the same direction, but slower than your train, this other train seems to be moving backwards
against the backdrop of distant trees. This is so because you consider yourself to be the reference point and
hence stationary. Largely, a similar phenomenon takes place with the planets also, when they appear to be
moving backwards. In our solar system, the planets are orbiting around the Sun with varying speeds. The
earth is also doing likewise. Inner and outer planets: The planets that lie between the Sun and the earth are
called inner or inferior planets. These are Mercury and Venus. They can never go too far away from the Sun.
Mercury can go a maximum of 27 degrees form the Sun and Venus cannot go beyond 47 degrees from the
Sun. These two planets retrograde when they are between the earth and the Sun. The planets whose orbits
lie outside the orbit of the earth are called outer or superior planets. These are Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The extra-Saturnine planets, i.e., Herschel Neptune, and Pluto are also in this very category. Outer planets
retrograde when the earth is between the Sun and the planet.
Q. Ignorance about Mangala Dosha causes a lot of anxiety in many home. It is justified?
A. Ignoring Mangala Dosha is also not right. Matching of horoscopes by a competent astrologer can save
calamitous results in many cases. Mangala Dosha by itself is generally not so serious unless the 7th house,
its lord and karaka have other severe afflictions too. Therefore, the entire horoscope must be scruitinized as
a whole. After all, besides Mars, there are eight other planets in the horoscope which may also have some
bearing (benefic or adverse) on the houses related to marital harmony. An isolated Mangala Dosha should
not cause much concern. One is likely to find as many happy couples with Mangala Dosha as without it, in a
real world.
Q. Do all planets become retrograde?
A. Except for the Sun and the Moon, all planets become retrograde once in a while. Since the Moon is
essentially a satellite of the earth, its apparent and real movements are one and the same. Rahu and Ketu,
which are not physical planets are always in retrograde motion.
Q. Can one spot a retrograde planet in a horoscope without it being specifically mentioned?
A. Since Mercury and Venus are always quite close to the Sun (as viewed from the earth) it is difficult to
know from the chart alone when they are retrograde. But the outré planets are definitely retrograde when
they are in the 6th, 7th or 8th house from the Sun. Sometimes they are retrograde even when they are in the
5th or 9th house from the Sun, but not always.
Q. Does a retrograde planet behave differently in predictive astrology as compared to a direct one?
A. The classics have vexed eloquent about the position (longitude) of a planet in the zodiac as far as
predictive is concerned. That is the reason we have detailed descriptions of deepest points of exaltation,
debilitation, own rashi placements, and what not. But they are generally silent on the velocity of the planet.
Velocity has two components, one is speed and the other is direction. On speed there is silence again,
except when it becomes atichari; and on direction there is very little to go by. A planet is termed atichari
when it gains unusually fast motion immediately after it becomes direct.
Q. It does not seem possible that there is no reference to velocity of planets in predictive astrology.
Isn’t astrology supposed to be dependent on astronomy which is essentially a study of motion of
planets?
A. Cognisance of velocity of a planet has been taken only in Shadbala which is the actual strength of a
planet arising out of six difference sources. Out of these six sources, one is termed Cheshtabala. It can
loosely be translated as ‘attempt’ or ‘intent’ of a planet due to its motion. A retrograde planet gets full 60
shashtiamshas as its Cheshtabala. All other states of motion get 45 or less. This strength is added to the
strength of a planet derived through a host of other sources. Thus its relative importance is very low in
Shadbala. Nevertheless, Venkatesha in Sarvatha Chintamani gives the results of the dasha of retrograde
planets, as under: The Sun and the Moon are never retrograde.
Mars: During the dasha-antardasha of Mars in retrogression, the native will be full of fear and trouble from
thieves, fire and snakes. He ay fall from the position held and may go to the forest, to live in solitude.
Mercury: In the dasha of retrograde Mercury the native gets good luck, wife, son and wealth. He also gets
to hear the sacred texts from Puranas and engages in acts of charity and bathes in the sea.
Jupiter: The dasha of a retrograde Jupiter bestows on the native much wealth, wife, sons, victory in battles,
friendship with the ruling elite and perfumes. He indulges in luxuries of speech.
Venus: During the dasha of retrograde Venus the native gets much honour from the ruler. He gets vehicles
fitted with excellent music systems, fine clothes and ornaments and ruling powers.
Saturn: Retrograde Saturn in its dashas causes failures in actions, frustrations in undertakings, sorrows and
loss of brothers. These results should not be applied verbatim as they will be modified due to other factors
present in a chart. But one thing is clear from these results that the author of Sarvartha Chintamani has
made a sharp distinction between malefics and benefics, and they remain so even if they are retrograde in
the natal chart. The view given above is that of one author. Another author, equally acclaimed, if not more,
Shri Mantreshwara of Phaladeepika, offers a strikingly different opinion. According to him a retrograde planet
has the status of an exalted planet even if it is posited in an inimical sign – no distinction between malefic
and benefic. This view may have some astronomical justification. The planet that is on the verge of
becoming retrograde is almost stationary; and so is the case when it is about to become direct. To
understand this better, one may imagine a child on a swing. When the swing is at its highest point, it is
momentarily stationary, since it has to change the direction of its motion. Even in-between these extreme
points, the planet is rather slow in motion as compared to its average speed. Thus it is possible for it to send
its radiations more strongly to the earth. This view that a retrograde planet acquires an element of strength
and beneficence is supported by Amsayu method of calculation of longevity. In this method the age
contributed by a retrograde planet is to be trebled. Such additions, or bharanas as they are called, are to be
done only in the case of those planets which are either exalted or retrograde. Howeve, our experience points
out that the result of a retrograde planet are contrary to expectations, they are erratic, inconsistent and
unpredictable. It may be so due to it native velocity. Predictive astrology seemingly assumes direct motion of
planets and the results are based on this tacit assumption. But results become unexpected when this
assumption is not true.
Q. Does it matter which sign the planet is retrograde in?
A. Yes, it ought to. There is a principle that states: a planet that is moving towards its sign of exaltation,
(uchchabhilashi) acquires beneficence and the planet that has crossed its sign of exaltation and is now
moving towards its sign of debilitation (neechabhilashi) sheds some of its power to do good. With this
principle in mind, imagine a Jupiter retrograde in Leo and a Mars retrograde in Leo. As is obvious, though
both the planets are posited in the sign of a friend, but while Jupiter is moving towards its sign of exaltation,
Cancer, Mars is moving towards its sign of debilitation. Another principle that must be borne in mind is that
the retrograde planet is supposed to exert its influence from its preceding house also. Now take another
example, that of Mercury and Venus, both getting retrograde in Virgo. While the exalted Mercury would be
exerting its influence from Leo, a friendly rashi, Venus which was already debilitated, will now be deemed to
be in Leo, its inimical rashi. Therefore, which rashi the planet is retrograde in, is an important consideration.
Q. What happens if a planet becomes retrograde when it is exalted or debilitated?
A. There is an opinion held by some astrologers that a retrograde planet, if debilitated, acts like an exalted
planet; and an exalted planet getting retrograde behaves like a debilitated planet. The genesis of this opinion
probably lies in the fact that a retrograde planet does not behave as it is expected to. Therefore, results from
the other extreme are attributed to it. However, this opinion is not universally accepted.
Q. Does it matter which house the planet is retrograde in?
A. Yes. Imagine a planet in the 9th house. This is one of the best placement. Now, if it is retrograde, it would
be considered to be in the 8th house. This is one of the worst placements for a planet. Thus, a planet which
was the bhagya-vidhata, now becomes the mrityu-data; the planet that was to determine the ‘extent of luck’
now has to determine the ‘mode of death’ Take another example, that of a retrograde benefic in the 5th
house. It will exert influence from the 4th house also, thus covering a Kendra and a trikona both. It will also
influence the houses that this planet aspects from both these positions. Thus, the influence of such a planet,
particularly, if it si Jupiter, can change the total complexion of the chart. Yet another feature, this time of a
retrograde malefic, takes effect when it is involved in causing a Paap-kartari yoga. Suppose, there is a
malefic in the 12th house and a retrograde malefic in the 2nd house. Together they would breathe down the
neck of the 1st house and asphyxiate it!
Q. Does a retrograde planet have any influence on the health issues of the native?
A. The results of a retrograde planet are definitely felt on the health and generally these results are adverse.
One of Parashar’s dicta is that benefics in the kendras promote sound health. But experience suggests that
a retrograde benefic is not capable of doing so. In fact it would certainly cause some health problem
appropriate to its significations during its dasha. Our scrutiny of retrograde planet’s influence on the health of
the native clearly confirms that even if a benefic lagna lord is in the lagna and is retrograde, it cannot protect
the native from the disease peculiar to the planet. Malefic retrograde planets are, of course, worse.
Moreover, the retrograde planet passes on its adverse influence to other planets by association or aspect.
The reader is referred to Chapter III of Subtleties of Medical Astrology by Dr. K.S. Charak for a detailed
exposition of this very important issue, with many examples.
Q. Can the retrogression be extended to vargas (divisional charts) too?
A. Most of the rules of analyzing the varga chats are the same as the birth chart, be these aspects, transit or
dasha. Therefore, one would expect no harm done if retrogression is applied on varga charts too. An
additional feature of retrogression that may have some relevance to varga charts is that retrogression is free
from the controversy of ayanamsha. Retrogression and direct motion will take place at the same time
irrespective of the choice of the ayanamsha. It is not the same with vargas. With a different ayanamsha, the
varga position of a planet often changes. This means that predictive work done based on a retrograde planet
stands on surer footing as compared to other parameters.
Q. You have addressed yourself to the role of retrograde planets in a natal chart. How about their
behaviour when they are retrograde in transit?
A. The predictive astrology has two major limbs to stand on. One is ‘dasha’ and the other is the ‘transit’. A
retrograde planet in transit may have a different meaning, though there may be some resonance between
the natal retrograde planet and the same planet getting retrograde in transit. For example, a native who has
his 6th lord Saturn (R) posited in lagna has repeatedly suffered problems from one or the other employee
whenever Saturn is retrograde in transit. During the retrogression it has given him a lot of mental anxiety.
Once the planet assumes direct motion, the problem evaporates, as if by magic. Please note that Saturn
and 6th house both denote employees. Generally, retrograde planets cause a repeat activity or the decision
is revoked, for the time being. Often the promotions or transfers are stayed for some time. Once the
retrogression is over, the concerned event moves ahead to its logical conclusion.
Q. What is the role of a retrograde planet in Prashna (Horary) or Varshaphala (Annual Progression)
Charts?
A. Both the charts are essentially transit charts. The rules of their analysis resemble the Parashari system in
many ways. But there are significant differences too, i.e., in aspects, yogas and dashas, etc. Both these
charts in this respect are governed by Tajika Shastra. One of the most used yogas in Tajik is the Ithasala
yoga. If this yoga is present between the lagnesha and the karyesha (significator of the event in question), it
is a favourable situation for the event. To appreciate the role of a retrograde planet in these charts, let us
examine the Ithasala yoga. It literally means the yoga of ‘intermixing’. The yoga is said to occur when:
1. The lagnesha and the karyesh aare in mutual aspect. (Tajik aspects are different from Parashari
aspects: the 3, 5, 9, 11 positions from each other are friendly aspects; 1, 4, 7 and 10 positions are
inimical aspects; the remaining 2, 12, 6, 8 positions are neutral to each other and, therefore, do not
constitute an aspect).
2. These two planets are within the orb in influence from each other. (The orb is deterined by the
average of deeptamshs of the two planets. The deeptamshas are: Sun 15, Moon 12, Mars 8,
Mercury 7, Jupiter 9, Venus 7 and Saturn 9 degrees).
3. The faster moving planet is behind the slower moving planet. (Planets in order of decreasing
motions are: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). Retrogression has some
bearing on this third and the most important condition of the Ithasala yoga:
1. retrograde fast moving planet at lesser longitude does not produce Ithasala yoga since its motion is
in the opposite direction to that of the more advanced slow moving planet. They are actually
moving away from each other, therefore, they are not likely to intermix.
2. The intensity of Ithasala is increased if the slow moving planet is retrograde and has higher
longitude.
3. When both the lagnesha and the karyesha (or even one of them) are retrograde, debilitated,
combust or otherwise weak, another yoga takes over this yoga. It literally means ‘cancellation’ of
the Ithasala yoga. It is an unfavourable yoga and does not allow the event to fructity favourably.
Q. What are the results of benefic or malefic retrograde planets?
A. If in a Prashna or Varshaphala chart:
1. a benefit retrograde planet is a lord of an auspicious house and has a relationships with lagnesha
or karyesha, some repeat action is likely, e.g., an interview or promotion exercise will be repeated
and the result will be favourable.
2. The result will remain favourable even if the planet involved in a malefic one, but besides the repeat
action there would be obstacles and tensions.
3. If the benefic retrograde planet is a Trik lord, the favourable result becomes doubtful due to
problems and obstacles.
4. If a malefic retrograde planet is a Trik lord, then cancellation of the event takes place due to various
impediments.
Thus we see that the retrograde condition of the planet, whether in natal chart or transit has specific and
strong repercussions on predictive astrology.