In Western Astrology the Grahas are the Planets. In Eastern Astrology or Jyotish they are better translated as Heavenly Bodies. This is a much more encompassing term since the nine “planets” that are primarily used for most Jyotish reads, aren’t all planets. Five of them truly are planets: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. But the remaining four planetary entities are; the Sun, the Moon, and Rahu and Ketu (the North and South Node of the Eclipse).
There are so many things to memorize with any lineage of astrology, so let’s make it simple on ourselves and just agree to call them Grahas or Heavenly Bodies.
Note that Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto aren’t included as part of the Heavenly Bodies. This is not by mistake. Thousands of years ago the Rishis (Seers or Teachers) weren’t able to see these planets with the naked eye. (And yes, it may be controversial, but damnit, I grew up with Pluto as a planet and I will still call it as such!). There are some more modern Astrology lineages and texts that will give meaning to where these three planets fall in the chart. However, most Jyotish practitioners agree between the 12 Bhavas (Houses), 9 Grahas (Heavenly Bodies), 12 Rasis (Zodiac Signs) and 27 Nakshatras (Lunar Mansions) provide the extra lessons that could be gleaned from Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto.
This article series is a fun way to incorporate all the different characteristics, representations, and meanings each Graha can convey. Each Graha alone can indicate several different categories including psychological difficulties, karmic baggage, family relationships, animals, sexual unions, colors, vegetation, and maturation ages. These categories start the basis for a Jyotish practitioner’s client story. That story becomes more refined when the practitioner considers where in the chart the Graha is located (which Bhava or House), who is in charge of that house (Rasi or Zodiac Sign) and how the Grahas interact with each other.
It can definitely become quite complex and a lot to keep track of!
A good place to start is by getting to know the Grahas on a personal level. You might be thinking …. Ummm… they are Heavenly Bodies, how in the heck do I do that!? It helps to think of the Graha as a person or an Archetypal myth. Once you get to know him or her through their likes, dislikes, triggers, happy memories, etc. then you get a feel for how each Graha will act in different environments. Think about your best friend; now think about them in different places. Maybe they are shy and really hate having to go to social events, put them in the middle of a mosh pit and they will not at all be happy. But that same friend may flourish in a one-on-one setting. Once you start to think of the Grahas in that way, the contexts provided by the other chart components don’t seem so overwhelming to think through.
This series is my own personification of the Grahas, a fun way to get to know them on a personal and creative level. I used descriptions for each Graha from the book “Light on Life; An Introduction to the Astrology of India” by Hart de Fouw and Robert Svoboda. If Jyotish is something you are interested in, I would highly recommend this book.