The Dreaded Shadow Planets of Vedic Astrology, The Upagrahas Part 1 of 3

The non-luminous planets, the Upagrahas, are shadow planets like Rahu and Ketu.  They are sensitive points in space, and those points in space correspond to our inner zodiac as it relates to the chakras. When planets come near these shadowy points, it is thought that our inner light becomes less than, those planets lose their ability to function in their highest capacity.

Richard Fish and I touched upon the Upagrahas in the Art and Science of Vedic Astrology Volume II. While there is not a large amount of information on these shadow planets, Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra does go into some detail about their influence within the astrological chart.

In Chapter 25 of Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, titled “Effects of the Non-Luminous Planets” Parashara states:

“Thus I have explained the effects of the seven planets. Now I tell you about the effects of the non-luminous planets.”

There are three groups of Shadow Planets. These are:

Group 1 – Rahu and Ketu – The points where the Moon passes through the ecliptic.

Group 2 – The Dhuma Group – Points calculated based on the degree of the Sun.

Group 3 – The KalaVelas – The shadowy sons of the embodied planets.

The Dhuma Group includes Dhooma, Vyatipata, Parivesha, Indra Chapa and Upaketu. These shadow planets are all derived from one single point, the exact degree in which the Sun falls in the chosen chart. (The exact calculations of these planets can be found in The Art and Science of Vedic Astrology Vol. II and also Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra.)

sunBecause each of these shadow planets are derived from the Sun, this reveals not only their true nature but also their role within the astrological chart.  The Sun is the light of the sky that divides the heavens into the zodiac. By its movement the signs are created. (Click here for an article reviewing how the Sun creates the Zodiac.) These signs are related to the chakras within our spine. It is due to the Sun’s movement through this space, and the other planets simultaneous movement, that our deepest stored karmas are released into our experience. As the planets move through the zodiac, their energies are simultaneously felt within our inner zodiac of the chakras.

Since the Dhuma Group is derived from the position of the Sun, this reveals that these shadow planets may indicate our weak or blind spots karmically. The houses in which these planets are placed will give us insights into areas of our life that we may have more difficult karmic merit to work out. It is more difficult, because it is obscured or shadowy, like the shadow planets essential nature. If there are embodied planets near these points, their qualities too will be obscured. The shadowy effect hinders our self-awareness. Those areas where our self-awareness is lacking, are areas of life where problems are more likely to arise.

Consider driving. When another vehicle is in your blind spot, and you go to turn, you are more likely to experience a crash. This is how the shadow planets work, and why it can be very helpful to come to terms with them.

However, as we will see, not all of the shadowy Upagrahas cause such problems. We will also see, that in the proper circumstance, they can all give great boons.

Parashara gives a glimpse into how these Shadowy Forces can affect our consciousness as represented by the embodied planets. In Chapter 3, verse 65 he states, “If one of these afflicts the Sun, the native’s dynasty will decline, while the Moon and Ascendant respectively associated with one of these will destroy the longevity and wisdom.  So declared Lord Brahma, the lotus-born.” This statement is applicable to all three groups of shadow planets.

Some sources also give exaltation, debilitation and own sign for these shadow planets. As with the embodied planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn) the potential dignity can give insights into how conscious these forces act within our lives.

Upagraha Exaltation Debilitation Own Sign
Dhooma Leo Aquarius Capricorn
Vyatipata Scorpio Taurus Gemini
Parivesha Gemini Sagittarius Sagittarius (?)
Indrachapa Sagittarius Gemini Cancer
Upaketu Aquarius Leo Cancer

Should one of these Shadow Planets fall into its own sign, debilitation or exaltation, it may not have as detrimental of an effect on the horoscope. Like Rahu and Ketu though, it is ultimately the dignity of the lord of the sign in which these forces fall that will determine the type of influence they exert.

It has also been said, that the strength of the Ascendant, Ascendant Lord and AtmkaKaraka play a role in how the shadow planets act within a horoscope. This is due to the principle that the Ascendant and AtmkaKaraka acts as a “Master of Bondage or Liberation”.  (For a more detailed analysis of the strength of the planets within a chart please see the downloadable Astrological Principles I course. For more details on the Atmakaraka, please see The Atmakaraka and Soul Planet in Relationships course.) The “Master of Bondage or Liberation” principle simply indicates that the stronger the foundation and essence of who we are, as indicated by the Ascendant and Atmakaraka, the greater capacity we have to keep the Kingdom of our life in order.

Consider a strong healthy government. There may be criminals within that kingdom, but if the government is strong and effective, those criminals will not be able to do much harm. The opposite is true in a weak or ineffective government. Criminals and rule breakers can sew more chaos and anarchy.  In the same way, the stronger our ascendant or Atmakaraka, the greater capacity we have to effectively manage the Kingdom of our horoscope, criminals and saints alike.

Once more we see, that before jumping to conclusions about the influence of the dreaded Upagrahas, a healthy understanding of the foundation of the horoscope is essential. Knowing the state of the Ascendant, the Ascendant Lord, the Atmakaraka, and the dignities of the lords of the signs of each Shadow Planet will give us the most accurate insights into how they may affect our life.

In our next post we will explore the specific effects Parashara gives for the Dhooma Group.

Click Here for Part 2 of this Series…



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