In Vedic Astrology, a retrograde planet is an important phenomenon. The term retrograde came from the Latin word ‘retrogradus‘, meaning going backwards. In Vedic Astrology, the retrograde state of a planet is known as Vakri. As we all know, all the planets move eastward while revolving around the Sun. In the Vedic Astrology realm, the chaya graha or Shadow planets, Rahu and Ketu, move opposite to other planets or, in other words, are always in a retrograde state. It is because Rahu and Ketu are mathematically calculated points (not real planets) in an ecliptic belt. So what exactly do we mean by saying a planet is in retrograde when in reality, an actual planet cannot move backwards? – In Astrology, Planets are viewed from the point of Earth, and when Earth passes by another planet in its respective orbit, a planet may appear moving backwards due to its varying speed and length of the orbit. Since Earth revolve around Sun, the Sun is never retrograde. The same principle is applied to Moon as Moon is revolving around Earth along with Earth’s revolution, we won’t feel any kind of retrograde movement happening to Moon. So Retrograde movement is applicable to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
The best example is two cars (Car A and Car B) driving on a multiple-lane circular road (like a test or racing track) in the same direction. Car A is moving behind Car B which is in the outermost lane, and Car A is in the inner lane. Each car has its constant but different speeds so that Car A will pass by Car B at some point. During this overtake, both vehicles are closer to each other and appear almost idle to each other for some time. Also, this brief window of overtaking time is when the drivers of each car can clearly look at each other. After this short idle window, Car B seems to move backwards when viewed from Car A. At this point, Car B is in retrograde movement, according to Car A. You may imagine Car A as Earth and Car B as a planet in retrograde.
In what respect a planet becomes important if it is in retrograde motion? – The simple answer is their proximity to Earth. Read the sentence in the above para, “drivers can clearly look at each other“. In Vedic Astrology, this part is crucial as the influence of a planet upon us will be greater during retrograde movement due to this close proximity. Suppose Saturn in a person’s horoscope is retrograde; it means Saturn is closer to him and is watching with a clear closer view. The important question is whether this state damages or benefits the person.
There are distinct disparities among great sages like Parashara and Agasthya and Vedic Astrology scholars like Mantreshwara (Phaladeepika), Varaha Mihira (Birhat Jataka), Kalyanvarman (Saravali) etc., regarding the character, benefic and malefic aspect of retrograde planets. Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra of Sage Parashara states that Natural Benefics like Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury attain full positive energy only in direct motion and tend to lose their power in retrograde motion. At the same time, Kalyanvarman in Saravali says that retrograde benefic planets are powerful and provide results equivalent to Raj Yogas and malefic planets in retrograde give adverse effects like aimless wandering. Mantreshwara in Phaladeepika says that a retrograde planet, even if posited in debilitated or enemy Rashi, behaves like a planet in exaltation (Ucha) and a retrograde planet if not posited in trik sthan (6,8,12 houses), gives out promising results during its dasha and antardasha. So you can see that even among prominent Vedic Astrology scholars, there are opposing views regarding the character of retrograde planets.
However, all the authors agree that retrograde planets possess the higher planetary strength known as ‘Cheshta Bala.’
Note: I have seen results as stated by Phaladeepika in most of the birth charts with retrograde planets.
Cheshta Bala is one among six planetary strength calculations known as Shadbala. Cheshta Bala, or the strength of a planet attained due to its motion, is calculated by its level and type of motion. Cheshta carries a meaning related to taking efforts (പരിശ്രമം, trying or taking efforts, प्रयास, முயற்சி) so as you can see here, Astrology is pointing us towards the human effort that needed to put in order to attain the positive strength out of a retrograde planet. Higher Cheshta Bala from a retrograde planet indicates, that a person if puts in the right effort can make matters related to a retrograde planet equivalent to Raja Yoga
Types of Planetary motions and Cheshta Bala associated with are listed below:
- Vakra is the full retrograde state and gets the highest cheshta Bala of 60 virupas. (Virupas are shadbala points related to planetary strength)
- Anuvakra is the retrograde state next to the vakra, but the planet is seen moved to the previous Rashi. Here a point of 30 is attained.
- Vikala is the state where the planet is stationary. It means the planet is between the end of the direct motion and retrograde or vice versa. 15 points are earned here.
The following types of motions are direct motions (or forward):
- Manda is when the planet attains its 50% speed towards its maximum forward motion speed. 30 virupas is gained here
- Mandatara is where the planet starts its direct motion and is relatively slow, like a vehicle starting from stationary. 15 points are earned from this type of motion.
- Sama is the normal state of the planet in motion (but faster than Mandatara), and 7.5 virupas are gained by the planet here.
- Chara is where we see the planet accelerating to its maximum forward speed but remaining in the same Rashi. 45 virupas is gained here.
- Athichara is the next state of motion where the planet is seen accelerating like Chara but entering the next Rashi. 30 Virupas is earned by the planet here.
Vakra and Anuvakra are the retrograde states of a planet. Types of motion under retrograde and direct do not carry much significance but the strength associated with each matters most. However, the result from a planet with 45 virupas of Cheshta Bala from direct motion will not be equivalent or similar to 45 virupas attained by the same planet under retrograde movement.
Even though there are many different opinions about the effects of retrograde planets, one common matter that all scholars agree on is the higher energy and potency of the retrograde planet.
Modern-day Vedic astrology researchers and scholars think that the presence of a retrograde planet in a horoscope may create challenges in one’s life primarily related to the house on which the planet is situated. The retrograde planet also represents past life connections. Imagine a student who got a bad score in a specific subject getting personal attention from a teacher to correct and improve the student’s performance. Similarly, a retrograde planet is giving us extra attention by being close and steady with us to guide us from fixing our mistakes in past life Karma. For example, if Saturn is retrograde in the 7th house for a Capricorn Ascendant, they may see tests and trials in their marital life as these people tend to make the same mistake they did in their past life. So Saturn is trying to provide warnings by being closer to the native.