Grahas are not Planets – Nava Graha is not the same as Nine Planets

One of the “scientific mistakes” which people who argue against ancient Indian science point to is that, ancient Indian astronomers “wrongly” classified Sun and Moon as Planets, and did not include Uranus and Neptune in their list of 9 planets.

The very first common sensual mistake here is to assume that the definition of Graha is the same as that of modern planets. This was assumed just because there were 9 Planets and there are 9 Grahas. Now let us see the actual definition of each of these.

Definition of a Planet

Planet is defined as an astronomical body in the solar system that moves around or orbits the Sun.

Definition of a Graha

But Graha is defined as an astronomical body in the sky “that moves”. The very meaning of the word Graha in Sanskrit is “the one that moves”.

Did you see the difference? It is only “the one that moves” in the sky. No reference to things like “around Sun”.

Graha – The one that moves

What is so special about the movement of these Grahas? If you look at the sky, the position of stars is always the same, it is the position of Grahas that keeps changing because of their near vicinity to Earth. Not only planets, but even Sun and Moon keep changing their positions in the sky.

Surya (Sun), Budha (Mercury), Shukra (Venus), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Guru (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) – they all are in constant motion in the sky, they all are hence Grahas.

What about Rahu and Ketu?

The other argument made  against Grahas is that, two of the grahas – Rahu and Keu, do not exist at all!

Well yes, where have they claimed that Rahu and Ketu can be “seen”. Rahu and Ketu are actually classified as Chaya Graha (meaning shadow grahas, not the real ones). Rahu and Ketu are actually the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon as they travel in the celestial sphere. Rahu is the north lunar node and Ketu is the south lunar node.

It is also a well known fact that eclipses occur when Sun and Moon are at one of these lunar nodes (Rahu or Ketu). Hence you have this story in India about Rahu swallowing the Sun.

Rahu and Ketu are included in the list of Grahas, even though they don’t have any physical presence in the sky. This is because their positions were used in Indian astronomy to calculate the occurrence of eclipses. Nevertheless all those classified as Grahas move in the sky, and not all are physical bodies, two of them are shadow objects (Chaaya Graha). The term “Shadow” is used because moving into their position causes eclipses for Sun and Moon.

The common phrase used in Indian languages, “why are you sitting as if Rahu has caught you” while referring to people looking blank, is because even the Sun goes blank when Rahu catches it.

Why no Uranus and Neptune ?

Not just because they are not visible to the naked eye in the night sky. But because even when observed through telescope they don’t “move” with any observable speed in the short term as they are lot more far away than the farthest Graha Saturn.

Why no Earth ?

Again because, we don’t observe earth moving in the sky. We stay on earth, and the definition of a Graha is the one which moves in the sky.

What about Pluto? Sorry, not a Planet anymore.

Coming back to modern astronomy, for those who are unaware, the number of planets today is not 9, but 8. Pluto was removed from the list of planets in 2006, and a new definition has been given to planets today which only applies to the solar system. According to this definition a planet in its orbit around the sun should also have cleared its orbits of any competing bodies for the orbit. Now since Pluto keeps crossing into Neptune’s orbit every now and then, and is dictated by Neptune’s gravity, Pluto is no longer classified as a Planet.

So while all these days modern astronomy taught us that there are nine planets in the solar system, today we are being told that there are only 8! The 9th one was a mistake.

Ok fine, but by the new definition of “clearing the neighborhood”, shouldn’t even Neptune be removed from the list of Planets? After all Pluto keeps crossing over into Neptune’s orbit every now and then. Neptune might be controlling Pluto’s orbit, but it definitely hasn’t cleared Pluto out of its neighborhood isn’t it?

We still have 9 Grahas and a consistent definition even after thousands of years, while planets have ranged from 7 Planets to 8 Planets to 9 Planets and back to 8 Planets now in just past 2-3 centuries ;)

  • Krishnan

    I am always disturbed by this competitive attitude between science and ancient knowledge; in my opinion both exist and both exist in different worlds; there is no need to prove one to be superior. Trying to prove superiority reveals inferiority complex. The former is search and later is wisdom. Let us say, a grand dad is not in competition with his own grand son.

    Hindu Ancient Wisdom existed with the available tools of those times and they seem to have done a tremendous job; they need to prove nothing to anyone and there seems to have been some knowledge beyond what the assumed tools can deliver. Something more is there and we have no way of finding out.

    But Quantum Physics is finding out. It is searching and searching hard. Unlike our ancient wisdom that is ‘given’ – scientific search needs hard validity. It is a path of constant discovery. Many modern scientists are now amazed by the apparent similarity of Hindu texts, particularly Advaitha and Patanjali Yoga Sutra – of what they discover in their path to knowledge. There are books by Scientists on this and one book particularly is on how entanglement is some way could be what Patanjali Yoga Sutra achieves finally. This is where probably Science will reach. Connected consciousness and what you see by our eyes are but maya; these are not what you see; everything is unstable & an illusion – is something Quantum Mechanics tells us today. Rishies told us long back. Unfortunately, we cannot bridge the gap of that knowledge Rishies possessed to a demonstration today. We can only harp that they knew.

    Coming back to Astrology of earlier times: think of it this way: it is but an attempt to understand in what way humans will be affected by the interplay of the known objects, that are moving. Earth was centre point, – not because scientifically it was centre point, – but because it was a science for humans and humans lived in Earth. The purpose was to make it human-centric.

    Now we know that space-time is a continuum; we know that gravity distorts space-time; and we live in that space time. All planets are connected through this and entire universe is connected with a dark energy or whatever. So moving planets as our ancestors could observe over a period of number of years, is what Astrology is. Nothing wrong and there is but no conflict.

    You cannot expect a naked eye observer with just meditation to help him, to do what a Hubble telescope or large hadron collider can assist in.

    Our Ancient wisdom operated on a different plane and was so accurate that it is but sheer fascination that it evokes. Our Ancestors knew a lot more and we wish they are one day able to tell us when science breaks the time barrier.

    Concluding this, I am always fascinated by this saying: “Those who know will not tell; those who tell do not know’. There is something there and final merging of humans with the complete consciousness (or black hole!!), while alive, is the ultimate resolution.

  • Centauro Centauro

    graha in sanskrit means to seize, to grasp, to hold

    • Petruchio Padua

      You are correct.

  • Blackholesun

    Pretty much a crap. The so called shadow planets invented to make astrology look authentic. According to some these shadow planets plays major role in solar and lunar eclipse.

    Though NOT everything ancient is WRONG and NOT Everything MODERN is RIGHT. We have been believing such type of things and see were we stand today compared to the rest of the world.

    Many people seems to believe that almost all of the ancient knowledge came from India, Well I think people should read the Esoteric History of the Earth, they will then realize that almost everything came from the two lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis.

    • Anonyplatypus

      The word “Lemuria” is a modern creation.
      During the last ice age, while water was locked in polar glaciers, precipitation fell only on the coastlines, where human civilization was settled worldwide. Modern day Indonesia was a great continent (“Lemuria” if you like) with a great civilization. There was a continent south of India, too. But there were established cities and trans-oceanic mariners worldwide. Then the polar lakes burst their banks, triggered by a comet, causing the great deluges. (There were 2 – one about 13kYa, and one at 10.5kYa.)

      See the works of Graham Hancock.

    • Petruchio Padua

      You are revealing your ignorance.

      • Blackholesun

        Lol ;-D seems like my ignorance is hurting you ! Hindu scriptures does contains lot of good stuff and at the same time it has lot of crap too and astrology is one of them. Next time you write to me check your graha positions and interpositions so that you don’t get back from me.

        It’s unbelievable that people still believe in such nonsense even today. I have no problem in what you want to believe. But if you are judging me unnecessarily you will hear from me. So take a chill pill and relax.

        • maverick

          I am not a believer in Astrology, but Rahu and Ketu are nothing but Northern and Southern nodes (places where the moon’s orbit crosses the sun’s orbit). These nodes also move every year to the extent of about 18-20 degrees. These are used for predicting solar eclipses. Read about the Saros Cycle and you will realise its imporatance in Astronomy

  • Saurabh

    Where does it say that Graha means “that moves” in Samskrita?

    It means ” seizing , laying hold of , holding” and similar. Source Monier Williams.

    • Siddharth

      Good one Saurabh. My exact sentiments. Even today tamil Brahmins use a localized version of the word “Graha” as Grahicchuko (meaning, “Grasp it”) when they tell their kids to understand a concept in some subject. The reason Sun, Moon, Rahu and Ketu are Grahas are not because they move but because they literally seize us-i.e. our fates-and control us. That is the context in which these entities are said to be Grahas.

    • Anonyplatypus

      Even “planet” means “wanderer” etymologically, something the author neglected to mention.
      Astronomers can be pompous arses. If a dwarf galaxy is still a galaxy, a dwarf star still a star, and a dwarf human still a human, what gives them the right to say that Pluto is not a planet? It is, as is Eris and Sedna and all the many other planets out there (both astronomically and astrologically).

  • Shankar

    Dear Guruji, That was a fantastic article. And your defense and counter explanations in the comments section. Thank you. Best wishes.

    • itzguru

      Thanks Shankar.

  • RS

    After Einstein revealed the frames of reference – we don’t need to discriminate the heliocentic v/s geocentric theories. We know nothing moves absolutely in Universe/Multiverse/Whatever.

  • itzguru

    No, that conclusion not correct. Eris was known long back, so were many larger asteroids.

    Read that link itself again. There are some conditions required by IAU for an astronomical body in Solar System to be called a Planet. Of them the one which Pluto does not satisfy is

    It needs to have “cleared the neighborhood” of its orbit.

    Pluto has not cleared its neighborhood as its orbit is influenced by that of Neptune. Hence it is no more a planet.

    • Neel

      Although your argument is indeed correct Sir, but your very first line is flawed. “Eris was known long back, so were many larger asteroids.”….First of all, Eris is not an asteroid at all. It is a trans-neptunian object, kept under the category of dwarf planets much like Pluto. And secondly, Eris in fact, came to light as late as in 2005 & its discovery was the sole reason that motivated the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define the “planet” for the first time.

      • albert

        AN eris by another name would still stand, would it not..? shows how ignorant you are! trans neptunian? no one said Asteroids were the sole posession of hte earth! they can orbit neptune too before giving in to its gravity and crashing in or going off orbit…

        • Shubham

          Albert, you are an idiot! Trans Neptunian Object isn’t another name of Eris! It’s a category of all celestial objects lying behind the orbit of Neptune. And your lines after that…they didn’t even made any sense. Your english sucks just like your knowledge of astronomy!

  • vijirak

    What about the asteroids? is there no mention of asteroids in astrology as well as astronomy?

    • Anonyplatypus

      Visible planets (in the astrological sense) have a stronger influence on human psychology. Invisible planets determine deeper subconscious influences and influences that are only becoming conscious now as our eyesight improves.

  • Varun

    Excellent work. But Ive come across the vigraha vakya yam gruhathi thadh grahah. Our Indian science is so deep and subtle that it was built on both spiritual and scientific backgrounds. According to astrology talking Earth as reference point the whole of the cosmos influence every being its rather interconnected in the most hideous way. Hence out of all the cosmic bodies which exert influence on us only prominent ones are considered. so why Neptune Uranus are not considered as a deal of great distance their effect is so very feeble. It is just like infinite series of 1+0.5+0.25+ 0.125 +0.0625 ………… to get the complete answer which is 2 you must add all the infinite series of numbers so to give accurate astrological calculations you must consider the hole of cosmos keeping Earth as the reference point. But instead for practical purpose you can consider the first few which are very prominent 1+0.5+0.25+0.125+0.0625~=1.9 which is considerably accurate. So instead of whole cosmos consider the first Nine. And what more speak of heliocentric theory why Aryabhata just see in the temples where nine planets are worshiped and see whose in the center. This actually the symbolic representation of heliocentric theory and why else is Sun praised as the lord of the grihas? And what a pity our own Indians are doubtful enough to completely refuse this amazing science and run after the west so very pitiful of the people who are rich enough and think they are poor and beg to the rest poor.This is indeed good work

  • ursri

    Correction -

    Please read
    “Dear Anonymous:- Gurudev already responded with lack of knowledge ”

    ” Dear Anonymous:- Gurudev already responded about lack of knowledge on history of science….”

  • pras83

    Hi, i am from Mauritius,where things have been quite distorted to fit our Mauritian Indian culture, and most priests give their different versions of things, which has somehow caused the younger generation to distract from from religious matters. i keep seeking the true meaning of things explained in our religious books on the net, since in Mauritius it is almost inpossible to have them. i gone through your blog, the facts you have given me some answers, i thank you for the info you have published. keep it up. these facts can enlighten lots of doubts in the mind of many people who knowingly or unknowingly try to distort the ancient scriptures.

    • rao subbu

      Ok , they might not have known details of the planets and their orbits but they knew these celestial bodies existed . They even namedr 7 days of the week on them .
      what I meant was , our Hindu scholars had a fair knowledge of the planetary system , with their bare eyes , thousands of years before Galelio was even born .

  • Anonymous

    I’d rather trust modern science which is ready to correct itself based on scientifically verifiable evidence, than a system of underdeveloped science which turns a blind eye and refuses to change even after thousand years. While these are interesting from a historical perspective, they have no value in modern world and cannot be trusted with education of astronomy. So much for the claimed scientific accuracy, people back then didn’t even know earth revolves around the sun. So why still cling on it? The worst part is the stupid claim by astrology that the position of these grahas affect the life of every single individual on earth and shapes their lives. I sense that this article is trying to promote such unproven claims. The URL suggests this is in science and technology topic, which is even more inappropriate. History would’ve been the right place.

    • itzguru

      First please get your facts right about history of science. Ancient Indian astronomers were the first to state that earth revolved around the Sun long before it was even debated in the west. Galileo was tried and Giordano Bruno was burnt alive in 16th century for claiming that Earth moves around the Sun. On the other hand a thousand years before this incident, in the early 5th century, Indian astronomer Aryabhata in his book Aryabhatiam not only proposed the helio-centric model of earth revolving around the Sun, but he also accurately calculated astronomical constants like the periods of the planets, times of the solar and lunar eclipses, and the instantaneous motion of the Moon.

      Now, coming to Grahas, what are planets? What is so much scientifically accurate about a planet which doesn’t make the largest asteroid a planet? Planet is not a classification which exists out there in the Universe. It is a classification which we humans have devised based on a set of rules for our convenience. So are Grahas, which are classified as astronomical bodies which move in the night sky as observed by naked eye. So there is nothing unscientific about this classification, unless and until you prove that planets visible to the naked eye dont move in the night sky.

      And from where did you get this information about astrology and astronomy being the same in ancient India? It is like saying manufacturing computer mother boards is the same as quantum mechanics. Astrology was only an applied form of astronomy, and most texts on astronomy are completely void of any astrological inferences.

      Did you even find an iota of reference to anything related to astrology in the above article? Just because the concept of Grahas is used in astrology doesn’t make it astrological, just like the misuse of Swastik by Hitler doesn’t make it a bad symbol.

      And what is there clinging to it? It is a classification, more easily understandable to the common man than the definition of planets. And for that matter what is so scientific about the definition of planets, I can modify it to include asteroids as well as pluto. These definitions and classifications are just man made, and they are valid as long as there are no contradicting implications in it. So if Planets are valid, so is the definition of a Graha.

      And how does this not become a science and technology topic, while something about just the planets can? Just because it is a Sanskrit term? We are not talking events here for it to be history, we are discussing scientific definitions.

      In fact you forgot to appreciate the understanding of lunar nodes in this concept of Graha, that the ancient Indians understood how eclipses are caused, at what points, about the shadows, is all so clearly evident from the definition of Grahas. If this is not science, then what is?

      BTW, one of the major introductions of astrology to India came from Yavanajataka which is based on an ancient Greek work.

    • Anonyplatypus

      You should study the “Electric Universe” and the electromagnetic connections (“gateways”) that exist between all planets and the sun, then study the effects of electromagnetism and plasma on human psychology.

  • Pranav Ainavolu

    Interesting indeed! You always write intriguing stuff :)

    • itzguru

      Thanks Pranav!

  • Suresh Balaraman

    the seven days in a week,starting with sun ending with saturn,has to do with the distance from earth,i all culture have the same order unlike months.

    • itzguru

      Hmm, After Sun comes Moon in the weekdays. and even if we ignore sun and start with moon then still venus (friday) comes after jupiter (thursday).

      • Petruchio Padua

        How the order of week days is arrived at is explained in the Surya Siddhanta.

        Briefly the order of planets in terms of distance is Sani, Guru, Mangala,
        Surya, Sukra, Buddha, Chandra. These 7 planets are each assigned one
        hour to a day. The planet ruling the 1st hour at the time of sunrise
        gives its name to that day. 24 modulo 7 = 3 thus the succeeding day
        names will be the 3rd from the one in the list who rules current day. An
        example will suffice to demonstrate what I mean. Suppose the first hour
        after sunrise is ruled by Surya then that day will be Suryavara. Three
        cycles of 7 hours will pass, the 22nd hour will again be ruled by Surya,
        and the 25th hour, that is the 1st hour of the next day at sunrise will
        be ruled by Candra who is the 3rd from Surya in the list. Thus the next
        day will be Candravara. You can then continue the same process and 3rd
        from Candra is Mangala, (Mangalavara) 3rd from Mangala is Buddha
        (Buddhavara), 3rd from Buddha is Guru (Guruvara), 3rd from Guru is Sukra
        (Sukravara), and 3rd from Sukra is Sani (Sanivara) and 3rd from Sani is
        Surya (Suryavara) at which time the cycle repeats. Hence that is how
        the order of the days of the week are arrived at according to the
        Siddhantik method.

  • Mohan Suswaram

    Graha in Sanskrit also has the meaning of attractive power (grAhaka) or influencing power. Since only the ones listed in navagrahas influence us …they alone are considered and no other planet as advocated by modern astronomy

    • itzguru

      You are speaking astrology, but here we are speaking astronomy,

      • Petruchio Padua

        That doesn’t change the meaning of the word graha. And besides astronomy only existed for the purpose of astrology.

  • Mohan Suswaram

    Ancient Indian astronomy and astrology follow geocentric theory where earth is not only “considered” stationary rather believed as a matter of fact and hence no motion.

    • itzguru

      Do not mix astrology and astronomy, they both are not one and the same. It was astrology which believed about other planets influencing human behavior on earth, not astronomy.

      • Anonymous

        Back then people didn’t differentiate astrology from astronomy. Astronomy is something that is developed purely based on modern science around 16th century AD. Before that, people who talk about stars and grahas were astrologers and what they studied was called astrology.

        • itzguru

          Very wrong information about history. Most ancient Indian works on astronomy dont even mention about astrology. Aryabhata first laid the foundations of astronomy more than a thousand years before the church burnt scientists alive in the west for claiming earth moves around the Sun. And Aryabhatta was not punished for claiming that Earth moves around the Sun, unlike Galileo was a thousand years after Aryabhatta.

          • Petruchio Padua

            Jyotish has several angas one of which is astronomy. You do not know the subject. I am sorry I have wsted my time reading and commenting on this thread. Surya Siddhanta mentions about the interpretaional part of astronomy. And why do you think Arya Bhatta was calculating position of planets just for fun – for astrology. The British may have left the country but still reside in your head. You really are a intellectually colonized person.

  • Jai Mandloi

    Hi Guru,

    Yet another excellent post!! :)

    many thanks for sharing these insights. I’ve been a regular visitor to hitxp. I have seen your wordpress blog and its great to see it getting evolved into this wonderful site. Lots of intellectually stimulating posts resting here are a treasure house of knowledge, i wonder if such precious sites should get insured ;)

    It has become a daily routine for me, when ever in the night i surf net i do check hitxp, hoping to read a new article from you. Some time back you had stopped posting for long and i was like where has the dude gone…has he got engaged and giving time to his new life or something :p

    At last, i would tell you that i’m still eagerly waiting for that unfinished series of “Alien twist to God”. I think you were aiming for a consolidated book instead of divided articles on this special subject. So, when can we expect more of it coming….i think it would be much better candidate of a bestseller, as compared to those fictitious book being written on Indian mythology today. Waiting :)

    • itzguru

      Haha, Thanks for all your interest and concern :)
      I cant promise an exact date on the book, but its definitely going to happen, thats for sure.

      • itzguru

        Also Jai, yes was quite busy in between and couldnt post for quite some time. Hopefully there will be lot more and more frequently in the future.

  • raj shekhar

    The definition of Graha as the one that moves in the sky is a very wide definition in my opinion. With such an open bracket definition; asteroids, comets, moons of other planets should have become Grahas. One of the legitimate definition we find for Graha is from its own word – Grahya (like GrahaNa Shakti – Grasping/receiving power). It implies a heavenly body or geometrical point which has force of attraction on earth.

    • itzguru

      Its not about bodies that appear once in a blue moon. We dont see comets in the sky everyday, nor are asteroids or satellites of other planets visible to the naked eye.

    • itzguru

      Also note that the definition of planets till yesterday was “bodies which orbit around the Sun”, and even comets and asteroids around the Sun as well. But they are not classified as Planets. So its not something that is quite straightforward in such classifications, and its the context that matters more than the textbook definition.

  • raj shekhar

    Why Mangala was omitted and Bhumi was added in the following shloka ??

    “Brahma Murari Tripurantkari, Bhanu Shashi Bhumisuto Budhasch !! Gurusch Shukra Shani Rahu Ketuvah Sarve Graha Shanti Kara Bhavantu !!”

    Looks like man was on Mars at that time if we go with your definition of Graha:)

    • itzguru

      Hello boss, it is Bhumisuto, not Bhumi, Mangala or Mars is considered the son of Earth which is what Bhumisuto means.

    • K R Iyengar

      Dhanyavad for all emotional views. But it is a fact that the knowledge of Astronomy and Astrology blessed by various Rushies is yet to be studied in depth to understand a speck of it.

  • Praveen Kumar

    admin u r awesome !

  • Kaustubh Dixit

    Hats off !!!! What an analysis…. superb… awesome !!!