( 7 ) The Jyotir and Nimitta Shastra (Section Two)
Saravali: The Saravali is a summary study of the Brihat Jataka, written by King Kalyana Varma in the sixth century A.D. As with other astrological texts it assigns Mercury and Saturn to the worship of Vishnu and Brahma, respectively, as well as to the third or neutral gender (4.13-14). In a chapter discussing the conception of children, the Saravali mentions six astrological indicators of the third sex: 1) the Sun and the Moon are in male signs and aspect each other; 2) Mercury and Saturn are in male signs and aspect each other; 3) the Sun is in a female sign and aspected by Mars; 4) the ascendant is in a male sign and occupied by the Moon; 5) Mercury is in a male sign and aspected by Mars while the Moon is in a female sign, and 6) the Moon and Mercury occupy a male ascendant and navamsa while aspected by Venus and Saturn (8.18-20). Other indications of the third sex mentioned in the Saravali include: having Saturn, the Sun and Mercury posited in the same house (16.12); the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn in the same house (18.15); the Sun in Leo aspected by Saturn (22.41); Venus in Capricorn (28.20), and Jupiter in an enemy sign of Gemini, Virgo, Taurus or Libra (45.19-21).
Further references to the third gender from the Saravali are as follows: When Saturn is in Taurus or Libra and aspected by Mercury, the native will be equal to the third sex (29.35). When the Sun, Moon and Mercury are together in the ninth house, the native will appear like a person of the third sex (32.53). When Saturn is in Virgo, the native will resemble a person of the third sex (shandha) (29.11). When the Sun is in Capricorn or Aquarius and aspected by Mercury, the native will have the nature of a third-gender person (shandha) (22.60). When the Moon is in a navamsa of Cancer and aspected by Venus, the native will be inimical to women and resemble a man of the third sex (napumsa) (24.11). With Venus in the sixth house, a native will greatly dislike his wife and, according to the Harivamsa, be averse to sexual acts even in the presence of beautiful females (30.67). When Saturn, the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter are in the same house, the native will have the mannerisms of the third sex (17.18). When the Sun, Moon, Venus and Saturn are in the same house, the native will have the mannerisms of a female and be very weak or timid (17.10). When the Moon is in Leo and aspected by Mercury, the native will have the characteristics and grace of a female (23.31-36). When a man’s ascendant is in Virgo, he will have a female’s disposition (48.22-25). When a man’s ascendant is in the sixth navamsa of Aries, he will be soft in disposition, timid and of the third sex (shandha) (51.7). When a man’s ascendant is in the first navamsa of Pisces, he will be soft in disposition and akin to a female in mind and behavior (51.101). When Saturn is in Gemini or Virgo and aspected by the Moon, the native will do women’s jobs; when aspected by Mercury, he will be a master of dance, art and song, and if aspected by Venus, the native will be expert in beautifying women (29.37-42). When Saturn is in Leo and aspected by Mercury, the native will do women’s jobs (29.49-54). When the Sun is in Virgo, the native will have the physical traits of a female (22.42). When the ascendant is in Cancer, a man will possess a physique similar to that of a female (48.14-17). With the ascendant posited in the third navamsa of Cancer, the native will have a soft body akin to that of a female (51.31). According to Saravali translator, R. Santhanam, having the Moon in the sixth navamsa of Cancer indicates the native will be devoid of progeny, resemble a female in appearance and have no moustache on the face.
In a chapter describing Moon signs, the Saravali states that if a native has the Moon in Gemini he will befriend people of the third sex (23.16); so also when the Sun, Moon, Mars, Venus and Mercury are posited in the same house (18.2). A person will have dreams of the third sex if his temperament is predominantly bilious and fiery (pitta) (38.18-19). When a person is in his Mercury period and Saturn subperiod, he will strongly seek out sexual gratification “like a third-gender man or a bull” but be deprived of children (42.35). When Mercury is in Leo and aspected by Mars, the native will be impotent (26.49-54). When Mercury is in Virgo, the native will have little virility (26.12); so also when Jupiter is posited in the sixth house (30.55). With Mercury posited in Capricorn or Aquarius, the native will be impotent (26.19, 22). Similarly, a native will have no children if Mercury is posited in Pisces (26.23).
Regarding the charts of women, the Saravali states that when a woman’s Moon and ascendant occupy male signs, she will be male in appearance and disposition (46.4). When Cancer is occupied by either the Moon or ascendant in a trimsamsa of Mercury, a woman will have the nature of a male (46.6-10). Should the ascendant occupy Taurus or Libra in a navamsa of Saturn while Venus and Saturn aspect each other or exchange navamsas, a woman will unite with another female taking the role of a male (46.14). When the woman’s ascendant is in a male sign and occupied by Mercury, Venus and the Moon, which are weak with a moderately strong Saturn, she will be similar to a male in appearance and acts (46.29). When the Moon rules a woman’s seventh house or its navamsa, her husband will be sexually tormented and soft in disposition (46.21-24). Should Mercury or Saturn occupy a woman’s seventh house, her husband will be of the third sex (46.15-17). When Gemini or Virgo is occupied by either the Moon or ascendant in a trimsamsa of Saturn, the woman will be impotent (46.6-10). According to R. Santhanam’s commentaries on the Saravali, if a woman has Venus in the ninth house she will be important in society, strong-willed and resemble a male (30.70).
Sarvartha Cintamani: The Sarvartha Cintamani is one of the most important astrological texts of South India and was compiled in the thirteenth century A.D. by a brahmana named Venkatesa Daivagnya. It assigns Mercury and Saturn to the third or neutral gender and associates them with the worship of Vishnu and Brahma, respectively (87, 89).
In a section discussing the birth of children, the Sarvartha Cintamani lists nine astrological indications of the third sex: 1) the ascendant is Gemini or Virgo, occupied by the lord of the sixth house and joined or aspected by Mercury; 2) the ascendant is Gemini or Virgo and occupied by both Mars and Saturn; 3) the Sun and Moon occupy male and female signs respectively and aspect each other; 4) Mercury and Saturn occupy female and male signs respectively and aspect each other; 5) Mars is in a male sign while the Sun in a female sign and at least one of these planets aspects the other; 6) the ascendant is in a male sign and occupied by the Moon while aspected by Mars in a female sign; 7) the Moon is in a female sign while Mercury is in a male sign and both are aspected by Mars; 8) the ascendant is in a female sign while the Moon is in a male sign and both occupy male navamsas aspected by Mars, and 9) the lord of the ascendant is posited in the same house as Mercury with no benefic aspects. The Sarvartha Cintamani states that in the first indication both the native and spouse will be impotent; otherwise, all of the remaining eight denote impotency for the native alone (199-203).
In his commentaries on this section, B. Suryanarain Rao (1856-1937) translates napumsa as “eunuch” and defines it as “one who has not the virility of a purusha or male.” He further describes such people as those with ill-developed sex organs, nervous disorders or weak sexual appetites; those who are impotent due to excess or abuse; those with “peculiar magnetic currents that keep them away from the opposite sex,” and those who are sexually strong but lose their potency with women after initial contact. Rao states that all of these types occur naturally to varying degrees and equates napumsa to kliba, which he similarly defines as “impotent men or women.” Rao furthermore ponders: “Whether impotency is a curse or a blessing is a delicate question that each man has to answer for himself.” Nevertheless, he acknowledges that people in general view impotence as a curse.
Further references to the third sex in the Sarvartha Cintamani are as follows: When the third house, its lord, and Mars are all posited in signs or amsas ruled by Mercury and Saturn, the native will have siblings of the third sex (428). When the lord of the fifth is Mercury or Saturn and posited in a sign or navamsa of either, the native’s first-born child will be of the third gender (636). When the lord of the sixth house and Mercury join in the ascendant, the native will suffer from diseases of the sexual organs (654). When the lord of the sixth house and Saturn join in the ascendant with no beneficial aspects, the native’s sexual organs will be amputated (655). When Venus and the lord of the seventh house are posited in the sixth, the wife of the native will be of the third sex (shandha) (656). Regarding worshipable deities, the Sarvartha Cintamani states that a person will have devotion for goddess Sarasvati when Mercury joins or aspects the fifth house. Should Saturn do the same, the native will worship Lord Siva (996-997).
Jataka Parijata: The Jataka Parijata is another important astrological text of South India, written in the fourteenth century A.D. by Vidyanatha Diksita. Diksita is considered by many scholars to be the son of Venkatesa Daivagnya, the author of the Sarvartha Cintamani. As with other texts, the Jataka Parijata assigns Mercury and Saturn to the third sex (2.27) along with the worship of Lord Vishnu and Brahma, respectively (2.20).
In a chapter discussing various types of births, the Jataka Parijata provides several indications of successful conception but states: “These planetary conjunctions fail for those devoid of virility (vibijanam), just as the Moon’s beams fail the blind” (3.13). It further adds that when Mars and Saturn are in the seventh sign from the Sun, a man’s generative organs will be afflicted with disease and become sterile. The same is true for a woman when these two planets are in the seventh sign from her Moon (3.14). The text declares that when a woman conceives on the seventh night of her cycle (the first four being the time of menstruation), the child born will be a barren female (3.18). The Jataka Parijata then lists six planetary alignments said to produce third-gender offspring or kliba: 1) the Sun and the Moon are in opposition (purnima); 2) Mercury and Saturn are in opposition; 3) the Sun is in a female sign aspected by Mars; 4) the Moon and ascendant are in male signs and both aspected by Mars; 5) the Moon is in a female sign, Mercury in a male sign, and both are aspected by Mars, and 6) the Moon, ascendant and Venus all occupy male navamsas (3.23). These indications refer to the adhana chart, which is calculated according to the time of conception. Verse 3.31 reiterates that when the Moon and Sun oppose each other at the time of conception, they tend to produce a third-gender child; so also in the case of the Moon and Saturn. The first indication refers to a full moon or purnima and is a time forbidden to brahmanas for sexual intercourse. Chapter Three also describes how Mercury indicates the birth of twins and multiples; if these are not produced, then third-gender children result and in such cases a prominent Mercury indicates the birth of a third-gender girl whereas Saturn, a third-gender boy (3.30). The Jataka Parijata similarly states that when the ascendant and sixth house lord are posited in Gemini or Virgo while Mercury occupies the sixth house, the child born will be a third-gender girl. Likewise, if the ascendant and sixth house lord are posited in Gemini or Virgo while Saturn occupies the sixth house, the child born will be a third-gender boy (3.33).
When Mercury, Rahu and the sixth house lord are all posited in the ascendant, the fourteenth-century Jataka Parijata declares that such a native will cut off his sex organs of his own accord (6.75). A similar verse states that when the lord of the sixth house, Mercury and Rahu conjoin in one house and connect in some way to the lord of the ascendant, the person will be of the third sex (shandha) (13.71). A person born in the year of Sukla will be effete (9.11) and a person born in the tithi of Riktha will become barren (9.74). When the Moon is in Libra and aspected by Mars, the Sun or Saturn, the native will be impotent (8.50) and when the lord of the seventh house occupies the sixth with Venus, the native will be impotent with his wife (13.72). When Venus and the Sun are together in the seventh or first house, the native will have a barren wife; if the Moon is in a male sign, his wife will have a masculine form, and should the Moon be joined with or aspected by both male and female planets, his wife will have both masculine and feminine qualities (14.6). When the seventh house is occupied by the Sun, a native’s wife will be barren (14.11) and should Ketu occupy the same, the wife will be barren but virtuous (14.13). When the lord of the seventh or fifth house is strong, aspected by a benefic planet and conjoined with or aspected by the lord of the sixth, the native’s wife will acquire a son through her paramour. The husband himself, although possessing many wives, will be childless (14.16).
Regarding women, the Jataka Parijata states that when the Moon and ascendant are in masculine signs, a woman will be masculine in form and bearing (16.7). When her ascendant is in Gemini or Virgo and posited in a trimsamsa of Saturn, the woman will be a widow, have children that are stillborn, or possess a third-gender nature (kliba) (16.14). When the Moon or ascendant is in Leo and posited in a trimsamsa of Mars or Mercury, the woman will be masculine in disposition and behavior (16.16). When the ascendant is strong in Capricorn or Aquarius and posited in a trimsamsa of Venus, the woman will be licentious but barren (16.18). When Mercury occupies a woman’s seventh house, her husband will be of the third sex (kliba) and if Saturn is associated with Mercury in the same, the woman will be barren or loathed by her husband (16.48).
Further sections of the Jataka Parijata state that when Mercury occupies the fourth house, a native will enjoy the company of his spouse in theatres or similar places of public entertainment; should Saturn, Rahu or Ketu occupy the same, the places of enjoyment will be the favorite haunts of Sri Hariharaputra or, in other words, forested mountaintops (14.40). When Mercury is the strongest of four or five planets forming a kendra or trikona, the native will become a jivaka—a mendicant that is talkative and a voracious eater; if Saturn is the strongest, the native will attain the stage known as vivasa—a naked ascetic dwelling in the hills and forests (14.16). Regarding worshipable deities, the Jataka Parijata states that when a person’s fifth house is occupied or aspected by Mercury, his object of adoration will be Lord Vishnu. If the same occurs with Saturn or Ketu, the person will worship various other deities (13.23).
Prasna Marga: This well-known astrological text was composed in the seventeenth century A.D. by an unnamed brahmana from the southwestern state of Kerala. The Prasna Marga states that if an astrologer first sees an ascetic or third-gender person when beginning his craft, the omen is bad (3.17). Similarly, if any of the five third-gender consonants known as anunasika are first uttered at a query, the omen is extremely harmful (2.107). The Prasna Marga also mentions a curious type of third-gender devata or demigod invoked by another god or brahmana to afflict the native. Such a third-gender devata is indicated in a querent’s chart when Jupiter is posited in the sign of Gemini or Virgo (15.214). In regard to worshipable deities, the Prasna Marga associates the third-gender planet Mercury with the worship of Lord Vishnu and Saturn with Lord Sastha or Ayyappa (24.12).
Concerning marriage, the Prasna Marga declares Mrgashira, Mula and Satabhisa to be third-gender stars and states that when a man’s birth star is feminine and a woman’s third-gender, or when a man’s star is third-gender and a woman’s masculine, the combination is unfavorable for marriage. Similarly, if the birth stars of both man and woman are third-gender, the marriage is not favored (21.31). The Prasna Marga stresses the following consideration in regard to all marital arrangements: “If the couple loves each other they can enter into wedlock, even if there is no agreement in other ways. This is very important in the matter of marriage” (21.54). When third-gender planets occupy the seventh house and two planets occupy the eleventh, the native will remarry (20.37). Similarly, when the sanatana-sukra (the longitude of Venus multiplied by five) falls in a third-gender navamsa or third-gender planets aspect this navamsa, the native will have to marry three times before any child is born (18.146). Several verses in the Prasna Marga mention indications of no marriage that may or may not involve the third sex. For instance, when Saturn is aspected by a malefic planet and posited in the seventh house, a woman will die a virgin with no one ever agreeing to marry her (20.55).
Regarding childbirth, the Prasna Marga states that when the chart of query (arudha) has the fifth house in a female sign and its lord in a third-gender sign, the child born will be of the third sex (19.52). When malefic or third-gender planets join or aspect a man’s bija-sphuta or a woman’s ksetra-sphuta (astrological positions indicating male and female potency, respectively), the strength of these is reduced (19.11). Nearly a dozen verses from the Prasna Marga cite indications of childlessness; for example, when Gulika occupies the fifth house, the native will be deprived of all offspring (14.68).
Modern Prejudice In Hindu Astrology: In his book, Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer, James T. Braha writes the following in regard to Mars occupying the seventh house: “Ancient Hindu scriptures declare that the person will be ‘immoral and indulge in sexual perversions such as kissing the private parts of another.’” The problem with this quote and others like it is that the “ancient Hindu scriptures” themselves only mention men “kissing” the private parts of other men. The added expressions “immoral” and “sexual perversions” are the work of modern Hindi and English translators. Unfortunately, such biased renditions lead readers to assume that the great preceptors of Vedic astrology were similarly prejudiced against third-gender people when, in fact, their statements are neutral and contain no such derisive comments.
A thorough study of the Jyotir Shastra reveals that later texts become increasingly inimical toward the third sex and are more likely to omit references about them. While the ancient classics of Bhrgu, Parasara, Varaha Mihira, etc. generously include third-gender men and women in their works and discuss them in mostly neutral terms, modern Hindi and English texts typically omit these references entirely, misinterpret them, cloak them under vague words or inject mean-spirited and derogatory comments. Modern translators also limit the third sex to physically deformed neuters and castrated eunuchs despite all Vedic evidence to the contrary.
Regarding the use of derogatory terms, let us refer to the astrological indication cited at the beginning of this section. Mars or Saturn in the seventh house is a common indicator for male homosexuality in Vedic astrology and mentioned in most of the major texts. The native is described “kissing” or “touching with his mouth” the genitals of other men and the Sanskrit itself is simple and nonjudgmental. Modern texts, however, either omit these indications altogether or attach derogatory adjectives to them such as “unnatural,” “sinful,” “perverted,” and so on. Books such as Mantresvara’s Phala Dipika and William R. Levacy’s Beneath A Vedic Sky omit these references entirely whereas G. S. Kapoor, in his Bhrgu Sutram translation, attaches the phrase “sexual perversions” in regard to these acts. Worse still, R. Santhanam’s translation of the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra describes the same-sex “kissing” as follows: “the native will have ugly relations with another male, for subduing his mad lust.” Similarly, in a section of the Saravali describing lovemaking between women, Santhanam selects for his title: “Beastly Lust of a Female.” Such derogatory renditions portray more the Victorian attitudes of their twentieth-century authors than those of the Vedic acaryas themselves. Modern translations of the Jyotir Shastra must therefore be carefully scrutinized for accuracy and fairness in regard to descriptions of the third sex.
Third-Gender People As Omens of Good Luck: There are different opinions regarding whether people of the third sex are omens of good or bad luck. Such opinions reflect a person’s attitude about gender minorities as well as their level of cultural refinement and spiritual advancement. In general, people that view members of the third sex as symbols of bad luck tend to emphasize their association with Saturn whereas those who see them as good luck stress their connection to benefic Mercury.
In Vedic astrology, people negatively influenced by Saturn are described as lowborn and unfortunate, particularly in regard to the hardships they experience in terms of being unmarriageable, childless and socially disparaged. Thus, in a material sense, ascetics and the impotent are associated with ill fortune and considered bad luck. The Prasna Marga, for example, states that if an astrologer first sees an ascetic monk or impotent man along his path, it is a bad sign (3.17). The Sushruta Samhita and Caraka Samhita also mention the same in regard to physicians. Mundane religionists typically exaggerate these negative indications and use them as an excuse to shun ascetics and third-gender people at all costs. They declare such persons outcastes, refuse them offerings, avoid touching their shadows and even spit at them as they walk by. Such prejudiced, shallow-minded people are especially prominent in the present age of Kali Yuga.
Liberal-minded Hindus and Vaishnavas, on the other hand, hold a much more positive and spiritually focused view of the third sex. They associate such people with the planet Mercury and see them in terms of their many talents, artistic abilities, cultural refinement, gentle behavior, efficient management, dual-gender nature and connection to revered hermaphrodite deities. They readily engage third-gender people in the service of God and society, invite them into their homes for blessings, and award them with fine donations, opulent foodstuffs, etc. Renowned Vaishnavas such as Jagannatha Misra and Maharaja Virata, out of their natural magnanimity and kindness, exemplify this more spiritually advanced point of view.
Yet another opinion is as follows: Since ascetics and people of the third sex are powerful and potentially harmful portents according to the Nimitta Shastra, it is better to invite them in and please them with offerings rather than risk their wrath. This counteracts any possible bad luck and transforms it into good fortune. From such a viewpoint, the third sex can be seen as good or bad omens according to how they are received. If people of the third sex are welcomed and treated kindly they bestow favorable blessings and good luck but if they are neglected or treated with contempt they pronounce curses and invite misfortune. In this way, Hindus and Vaishnavas hold various opinions about the third sex according to their own character and level of spiritual realization.
(Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex, pp. 113-123)