Vedic Astrology (Jyotish): What Is It and How It Is Different from Western Astrology

Vedic astrology (jyotish) and differences with western astrology

Jyotish Shastra (Vedic astrology) is an ancient Indian philosophical tradition that studies the movement of stars and their influence on human life. Jyotish literally translates from Sanskrit as “the science of light.” Light, in this context, refers to the light radiation coming from stars and planets. 

While both Western & Vedic astrology have their merits, and in some respects are very similar, the Vedic system is thought to be a more refined system. Though the interpretation of planetary movements is generally similar in both systems, Vedic astrology offers an exceptionally sophisticated calculation process that results in nuanced detail. Vedic astrology also takes an interdisciplinary approach by drawing from the sister science of Ayurveda and therefore offers a more rounded approach.  

So, what is Vedic astrology, and what makes it different from western astrology? Let’s dive deeper. 

Vedic astrology (jyotish) and the difference between western astrology

Vedic Astrology and Ayurveda  

Jyotish is a sister science of Ayurveda, originating from the same great tree of Vedic knowledge. However, the relationship between both these sciences is not only historical; they also share some fundamental concepts. Just like Ayurveda, Vedic astrology is based on the understanding that the human body is made up of five elements. The 12 zodiac signs of Vedic astrology are also classified based on their ruling element, and the qualities of these elements are reflected in the individual personality traits of these zodiac signs. For example, fire is a predominant element of Aries and Leo signs, and this is reflected in the fiery temperament of these individuals.  

Vedic astrology is interconnected with Ayurveda in countless ways; a deep understanding of one complements the other in every way.  

Vedic Astrology: 12 Zodiac Signs and Personality Traits 

Each zodiac sign has some qualities that determine various aspects of an individual’s personality, such as temperament, relationships, emotional tendencies, and vulnerabilities. 

If you are new to this concept, read our introductory journal post on What is Vedic Astrology. 

Aries / Mesha (April 13 – May 14) 

Ariens are highly motivated, ambitious, and goal-oriented individuals. In relationships, they are very passionate and expressive of their intense emotions. The innate warmth of the fire element makes them very compassionate, open-hearted, courageous, and confident. However, their sharp tongue can mean they may easily offend, without meaning to. Since they are ruled more by emotions than rationality, they also tend to be impulsive and adamant. 

Taurus / Vrishabha (May 15 – June 14) 

Taurus sign is ruled by the earth element, and this is reflected in the grounded personality of those born under this sign. Their dependable, patient, understanding, and loyal nature makes them a comforting presence for those in their friends and family circle. Taurus individuals possess very strong willpower and display a great degree of perseverance, even in adversities. Though they have an analytical mind and excellent decision-making capabilities, they are somewhat resistant to change and like to remain within their comfort zone. Taurians value stability and ease in life and, hence, make slow but steady progress. 

Gemini / Mithun (June 15 – July 14) 

Gemini individuals are very creative, fun-loving, and possess a sharp intellect. They are excellent communicators and find it easy to make an interesting and varied friendship group. Being ruled by the air element, Geminis possess the versatility and adaptability to fit into any situation. However, this can also make them seem unpredictable, as this can be viewed as lacking in conviction. Geminis tend to suffer from frequent mood swings, and this can make them move frequently from one thing to the next, in the hope of feeling better. 

Cancer / Karka (July 15 – August 14) 

Cancer is ruled by the water element, and these individuals carry the same nurturing, caring qualities of water. They are passionate, sensitive, loving, forgiving, and wonderfully intuitive. In their relationships, Cancerians are straightforward, transparent, and clear. They value connections and are left deeply devoted to their loved ones. The converse is a resistance to change and pushing beyond their comfort level.  This can lead to holding onto outworn ideas, people, and situations, which can lead to physical and emotional burdens that are best released.  

Leo / Simha (August 15 – September 15) 

Leos are fiercely independent, courageous, confident, and domineering personalities. Their strong personality can make them insensitive to the feelings of others, yet being ruled by the luminous fire element makes them magnetic to all those they meet. However, they tend to be a bit inflexible to opinions that are different from their own. 

Virgo / Kanya (September 16 – October 15) 

Outwardly introverted, Virgos appreciate small things done well.  Highly observant, self-aware, intellectual, and thoughtful, they possess the same sensibility and groundedness of their ruling earth element.  Their need for perfectionism can make them critical of themselves and others, and this can take the joy out of living. 

Libra / Tula (October 16 – November 14) 

Libra individuals are very resourceful in their mental and intellectual capabilities, reflecting the attributes of the air element. They value balance and justice in life and have a level-headed nature. This balanced nature can make them a little too realistic, which can manifest as pessimism, even when life is good. 

Scorpio / Vrishchika (November 15 – December 14) 

Scorpio is a sign of the water element, and the spreading nature of water is reflected in the extreme emotions of these people. They are loving, fair, honest, and truthful but also secretive. Because of their short temper, they may frequently offend others. Scorpions can forgive but may not forget those who wrong them or their loved ones. 

Sagittarius / Dhanus (December 15 – January 13) 

Sagittarius individuals have a healthy attitude towards life. They are fun-loving, candid adventurers who like to explore. Sagittarians are honest, respectful, creative, and possess strong leadership tendencies. In their actions, they can be reckless as they have a tendency to act without much forethought. 

Capricorn / Makara (January 14 – February 11) 

Capricorn individuals are calm, composed, hard-working, dependable, goal-oriented, with a practical outlook. Work comes foremost in the life of a Capricorn, and they are known to maintain a high degree of professional ethics. Belonging to the earth element, they naturally seek stability and security in life. This makes them content with life’s simple pleasures but can equally make them procrastinate and slow to change outworn habits and ideas.  

Aquarius / Kumbha (February 12 – March 12) 

Aquarians are confident, quick-witted, creative thinkers, and excellent communicators. Those born under this sign have a strong rebellious streak and value their freedom.  Their charm and verve can draw many friendships, but these can be short-lived. Because of their ruling air element, they frequently seek new things in life. 

Pisces / Meena (March 13 – April 12) 

Pisces is a sign of the water element, and individuals of this sign carry the same versatile, adaptive nature of water. Some attributes of all other signs can be seen in them. They adapt to situations and can be sensible as well as intolerant, loving as well as dominating, courageous as well as timid, loyal as well as dishonest – it all depends on the situation at hand. Though they are generally less motivated for laborious tasks, they can be breathtakingly hard-working if they have their heart set on something. 

Difference between Vedic and western astrology 

Though both Vedic and Western astrology systems have 12 zodiac signs, they differ in their understanding of the position of constellations. 

Vedic astrology is based on the sidereal zodiac – a system in which positions of planets are calculated based on where they are actually observed in the sky in respect of constellations. Western astrology, on the other hand, uses the tropical (fixed) zodiac. This system relies on four seasons that represent the Sun’s movement, equinoxes, solstices, as well as the tilt of Earth on its axis. 

About 2,000 years ago, tropical and sidereal signs were in the same position. However, due to a phenomenon called the precession of equinoxes, tropical signs are drifting westward at a rate of one degree every 72 years. At present, western astrology’s Aries is about 24 degrees away from Vedic astrology’s Aries. As a result, these two systems have slightly different zodiac dates. 

Given that Vedic astrology is based on the laws of nature, some favour this as a more reliable and accurate method of prediction. While both Vedic and Western astrology have their merits, and to a large extent do overlap, many people now choose to move between them to further cement their findings.