“Mars makes widows of women”.
Although the Mars-Ketu conjunction in Mula was largely responsible for triggering the full destructive potential of the World Trade Center in September, fulfilling the awful potential of Saturn in Rohini to cause war, Mars also has an extremely spiritual side. It is this side that we wish to promote as the world progresses in its current symphony of rage.
Mars is worthy of study in Hindu Astrology, because it can actually produce very benefic results when used properly by the individual and when understood properly. But the difficulty we encounter in interpreting the Hindu grahas, is that not many astrologers look below the surface when interpreting these planets. Mars in particular is misunderstood, as it is assigned the role of unthinking energy in Vedic Astrology, assuming the role of being, at best, a cruder form of the energy embodied by the Sun. One of the most frequently overlooked roles of Mars is its role in spiritual development, which I first encountered through the writings of the late M. Ramakrishna Bhatt–along with P. S. Sastri., one of the finest and best respected translators of Jyotish Sanskrit classics. Mars, according to Sri Bhatt, is the planet of those who avoid rebirth–certainly enough of a tantalizing hint to explore the spiritual dimensions of this planet.
Mars, according to the Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, is the most malefic planet — a role normally attributed to Saturn in other Vedic texts. It is with good reason that Mars assumes this status. Mars is a rapidly acting, rather violent planet. It is also in charge of logic, because logic is the intellectual weapon employed to win arguments. Mars is usually represented by several deities in Hindu mythology, including Shiva’s younger son Skanda (who also goes by the name of Murugan, Kartikeya, Kumara, or Subrahmanya). This God was created in order to defeat Tarakasura, a demon who was destroying the world and who had made a deal that they could only be defeated by an infant child (There are many similar passages in Indian mythology). This deity has the power to defeat enemies, but was not designed for human contact or companionship. The myths associated with him indicate that before conceiving him, his parents (Siva and Parvati) had to perform severe Tapas or austerities, born in a forest of arrow-like grass and reared by the six divine mothers (the Pleiades) and with his shining weapon (his lance or his shakti) he defeated Tarakasura easily. Allegedly, he also exposed Brahma’s ignorance of the Vedas and received the name Brahma-Sastra. Skanda (another name) means one who has acquired the power of chastity. His name Subrahmanya comes from his like of holy people and his goodness towards them. His other names are Guha (the secret one), Gangeya (son of Ganga), and, perhaps most significantly Svaminatha (the preceptor of his own father).
As Subrahmanya, he is depicted as having six heads and twelve hands. His six heads represent the five sense centers and the mind, which coordinates their activities. The six centers of energy also leads individuals to the crown chakra, which can grant liberation to those who attain this chakra. There is a great deal of Symbology connected with the deity representing Mars; according to one text, the peacock that this deity rides (Also referred to as Mars’ mount in certain texts) represents the glory of creation and Subramahnya is its ruler, hence, its “crown”. So this planet sits as the “crown of creation”.
Another representation of Mars (the incarnation of Vishnu through the planet Mars) is Narasimha, the lion-headed deity of the Hindus. Narasimha was born, like Skanda to destroy the demon Hiranyakashipu who had won many boons and became very powerful, eventually conquering and ruling the three worlds. The Devas became his servants. This demon was so powerful he threatened the cosmic order. The demon had made a deal with the energy of the Universe (God) that he would not be destroyed by human or animal; could not be destroyed either indoor or outside; could not be killed by any weapon; and could not be destroyed in the day or the night. This seemed to cover all of the possibilities, and the demon set about taking over the world, confident in the knowledge that he could not be harmed. The Devas petitioned Vishnu to correct this situation. Eventually, he became so cruel that Vishnu, preserver of the universe, vowed to end the demon’s rule.
Hiranyakashipu had a small son named Prahlada who was enamored of God. He would talk to his fellow students of God and became such a disruptive influence that Hiranyakashipu ordered Prahlada’s teachers to try to pull him away from God through his studies. This did not work and Hiranyakashipu ordered his own child killed. But the teachers were unable to kill the child. Finally, Hiranyakashipu became so exasperated at this that he told his five year old child that he was going to kill him. The accounts vary a bit as to what happened next. By one account, a young child appeared to the demon, and started chanting a mantra on the threshold of a temple. Initially the demon thought nothing of this, but the demon started being irritated by the child’s singing. The child’s singing of the mantra continued all day and eventually, at dusk, a wondrous being emerge from one of the temple pillars. Equipped with a lion’s head and claws, but with the body of a man, Narasimha emerged at the temple threshold, where the demon was lured. He was neither animal nor man; he emerged at dusk, which is neither day or night; and he emerged at a temple threshold, neither indoors or outdoors. Narasimha killed the demon with his claws (not using a weapon.). In another account, Hiranyakasphipu tells his son that unless the son ceased his devotion to God, Hiranyakashipu would kill him. Prahlada responded that God was everywhere and all powerful. When this was said, Hiranyakashipu said, “If God is everywhere, is he in this temple column?”Hiranyakashhipu has a small son named Prahlada who was enamored of God. ” Prahlada affirmed that this so. Hiranyashipu then struck the temple column and Narasimha emerged from the temple. Hiranyakahshipu battled this being with a lion’s upper body and a man’s lower body for a short while, but was disemboweled by Narasimha. So Vishnu as Narasimha fulfilled the criteria necessary for a being who could destroy a powerful demon capable of perverting the universe. He also defended a loyal devotee who was drawn to him and who was in danger of being killed by a being filled with desire for worldly gain (Hiranyakashipu)-not unlike the danger most of us find ourselves in day after day in encountering the temptations of the world. It is said that Yogis of certain sects grow beards and mustaches in order to look like Narasimha, and in order to give them the courage to defeat their own demons and (perhaps) save the world from demonic influences.
Hanuman is an extremely interesting character featured in the classic Indian text the Ramayana. He is the bravest and most powerful warrior of the army of monkeys who assisted Lord Rama in his fight against the demon king Ravana. Also known as Anjanaeya, Hanuman was considered by some to be a manifestation of Shiva’s power, sent to assist Rama because the demon Ravana was considered to be an extraordinarily powerful and disturbing threat to the universal order. (See Aghora, part two by Robert Svoboda) Hanuman served the role of Rama’s loyal supporter and servant in the epic tale the Ramayana, is also considered a manifestation of the planet Mars. He is totally devoted to Rama and Sita, Rama being a representation of the Sun and Sita being born of the earth. He is also superhuman; when Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, becomes ill, Hanuman is charged to find a certain herb which will cure him. Hanuman, uncertain as to the herb, lifted up the entire mountain and brought it to Lakshmana! Hanuman / Anjaneya also singlehandedly laid waste to Sri Lanka, the home of the Rakshashas. The strength and determination of Hanuman was enormous, and this represents the greatness of Mars at its best. If it has a goal and a service to pursue, it is a truly wonderful planet, capable of delivering us from our worst enemies.
Many myths connected with Mars reflect the planets’ great power. In Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra and in other texts, Mars is represented as the lord of the Sama Veda; the setting of the Vedas to chants that have a consciousness altering effect. In his translation of the Bhagavad Gita, (which has an incredible array of “fighting” motifs as an indicator of the path to liberation) Goswami Kriyananda has Krishna saying to Arjuna that, among the Vedas, he is the SAMA VEDA. Since the Gita’s entire focus is on liberation, and Krishna identifies the SAMA VEDA as being (like him) the highest, Mars is, by explicit implication, tied intimately to those who wish to achieve liberation in this lifetime. It is also connected strongly with bachelorhood (although Subrahmanya ultimately attains two wives) because of the error that Kartikeya made initially when he interpreted Shiva’s command too literally and circled the universe. (Ganesha correctly interpreted his parent’s order and circled the creators of the universe-Shiva and Parvati-and married first. When Kartikeya arrived home from his journey, he realized his mistake and renounced the world to meditate on this mistake-becoming, in essence, the first mendicant.
Mars is also the representative of brothers in a chart, and in P.S. Sastri’s translation of the Jaimini Sutram, the Bhatri Karaka, the planet third highest in degree regardless of sign, becomes the significator of the spiritual teacher, thus indirectly emphasizing Mars as the determinant of the spiritual preceptor. Also, this makes a great deal of sense, for, although a teacher can lead the student to liberation, it is the student’s responsibility to “conquer” desires alone. In the end, your liberation is between you and God. And one must die several deaths (one “dies daily” in meditation) in order to be free.
Mars’ very courage and inability to compromise, however, are also drawbacks when it comes to interpersonal relations. Individuals who possess strong Mars in certain houses, especially in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th and 12th houses in the chart, are, with certain exceptions, said to cause Kuja Dosha or “Mars Affliction”, a condition which either causes harm to the marriage partner or causes the individual to be attracted to individuals with whom he or she can not function for a very long period of time. There are cancellations of Kuja Dosha, said to occur when Mars is in the Ascendant in the signs of either Aquarius or Leo (according to B. V. Raman) or in Scorpio, Capricorn or Aries. These placements are supposed to nullify Kuja Dosha. In my opinion, they lessen but do not nullify Kuja Dosha. Similarly, Kuja Dosha is said to be inactive if the individual marries after the age of 28. In my experience, this is not true. However, Kuja Dosha is nullified if the marriage partner also possesses the affliction, in my experience. There are remedial measures for Kuja Dosha, and I believe these can work in certain cases as well. (I am in the process of writing a book on Vedic Astrology, a large portion of which is devoted to remedial measures for planetary afflictions that fall outside the norm of most Vedic Astrology texts published in the United States.)
In Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra, Mars is considered the worst malefic, the planet most capable of producing inauspicious results. There are several possible reasons for this status. The predominant reasons is probably Mars’ status as the military planet, the planet which makes widows of women. Mars is the Commander in chief of the planetary army. As such, this planet requires that we make sacrifices for the higher good — in some ways it acts as a metaphor for the realm of logic, because logic and rational thought often make us pursue paths that do not “feel” good. Yet while logic and rationalism can be used for constructive purposes, they must be used carefully. The significations of Mars can, like those of a knife, be used to kill or to cure. Mars is an aggressive planet, and it requires action and provides energy wherever it is located in a planet. Mars forces things to happen, yet many things of our technological age would not be possible without Mars, and its energy also applies to things that are heated (this applies to cooked food as well as metals and manufactured goods.). Mars is also essential for success in surgery; for success in engineering; and for success (the most unusual and surprising signification of Mars for most individuals) in spiritual practices. The reason for these three levels and needs is that many of these things require dedication, self sacrifice, and, I would insist, application of intellect (yes, even for spiritual practices, for the truth of the matter is that when we face God, it must be, at least in certain yogic traditions, through the use of a determined mind, and it is Mars as a planet, which allows us to control our mind in order to retain self control.
Interestingly enough, military domination and imperialism are actually judged by other planets in combination or conjunction with Mars. Venus, Saturn and Jupiter are far more territorial planets than Mars is. Mars may, in fact, eliminate lives, but it does its job because it must be done. It really does not care for possessions very much, but it likes to see the results of its labors, which is one of the reasons it is said to rule property. This is what makes it such a powerful planet for spiritual activity (because it has little attachment to anything except doing the best job it can) but is also what makes it such a dangerous planet, BECAUSE IT DOES ITS JOB WITHOUT CONSCIENCE AND WITHOUT REGARD FOR THE CONSEQUENCES. Logic, following orders, and spiritual sadhana (practice) must be followed with intelligence and judgment, otherwise destruction and despair will follow. In addition, spiritual sadhana, in its purest form, will usually tear families apart, detaching these individuals from their families and forcing them to live alone, in classical spiritual practice, destroying marriages and families in much the same way that war would. Mars, according to K. N. Rao, a well-respected astrologer from India, represents the wife in a man’s chart within the Bhrigu system of astrology, and also represents the inclination to worship Vishnu (many people for whom I have done charts who worship Vishnu or deities with Vishnu – like characteristics (including Christ and Buddha) have a very strong Mars either in the first house, in the ninth house, or aspecting the ninth house.) Mars also introduces disruptions and arguments in married life and in other interpersonal relationships, often forcing us to work alone, or, to take command and get the job done.
Mars in a Vedic chart, as in Western astrology, denotes the focus of aggressive action for the individual. Mars also rules contact with the Police and the military, and those who “live by fire” which includes a wide variety of occupations, including everything from metallurgy to cooking to guns. Things which are “burned” are said to be ruled by Mars.
The following are examples of individuals with possess a strong Mars in their charts. I have taken samples from very well known individuals who possess very spiritual and very worldly qualities
The first example is perhaps the most obvious example of a malefic Mars in a chart. Adolph Hitler would be an obvious example of the destructive capacity of Mars. If we look at Hitler’s chart, we can see a close conjunction between Mars and Venus (within the distance of planetary war), with Mars winning planetary war by being in the earlier degree. This combination, it is said, gave him a strong Ruchaka Yoga, causing his war like tendencies. While this may be true, I attribute his ability to execute these war like tendencies to an incredibly strong Saturn (his Raja Yoga Karaka planet) being placed in his tenth house, giving him the ability to rule, but also (along with his weak Mercury, as observed by B. V. Raman) causing his fall.
Mars is also actively present in the charts of many individuals who aspire to great spiritual heights. In the chart of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa it is exalted in his twelfth house, giving him direct access to Kali and to the Vedantic tradition. One will notice that this Mars is also his atmakaraka planet (the planet which is highest in degree in the chart, regardless of sign) and, in his Navamsa chart, Mars is placed in Cancer (its weakest placement for action and discipline) along with Ketu, the otherworldly, liberation giving planet. Now keep something in mind here…although I have seen other very involved explanations of Ramakrishna’s spiritual life, the exploration of the traits of Mars in his chart explains them in simple terms and could be a primer for the way one can evaluate spiritual potential in a Jyotish chart. First, the twelfth house lord (Saturn) is exalted; the Lord of the house in which Saturn sits is exalted, and Mars, the planet of isolation and solitude, is exalted. Mars is also called “the wanderer” because of the way it travels through the heavens. Ramakrishna is certainly famous for being an enlightened being, but the ways in which he attained enlightenment were unique. There are reports that Ramakrishna’s first teacher was a Tantric woman; that he was also initiated into Vedanta (a very non-emotional and “logical” system) and attained liberation through “wandering” through a variety of different religious paths. He also, at one stage in his life, was purportedly so enamored of Hanuman that he took to going into trees and losing his identity as a human and becoming Hanuman. The placement of his atmakaraka planet in houses other than the first, does allow him to personally identify with renunciation and intense spiritual sadhana. He went into blissful states very easily, and this “direct line” to God can best be explained by Mars’s conjunction with Ketu in the Navamsa chart, for Ketu blasts off the intellectual limitations in encountering God. Yet when Ramakrishna practiced Christianity or Islam and claimed enlightenment, he did not need to spend a great deal of time in these disciplines. He just thought a little and instant samadhi! In this system of planetary maturity — the system of in which each planet “matures” and show its full effects in a person’s life (Planetary maturity, by the way, seems to be a simplified derivation of the Bhrigu Naisarigka Dasa system used in Bhrigu astrology), his Mars ” matured” at age 27-28, which occurred for him between the calendar years 1863 and 1864; this is consistent with his attainment of nirvikalpa samadhi which is reported in Hart DeFouw’s and Robert Svoboda’s Light on Life as occurring in Ramakrishna’s Saturn Dasa, Rahu Bhukti. It is also extremely interesting to note that all three of Ramakrishna’s lagnas occur in Mars-ruled Dhanishta, the placement of Mars in its exalted state in the twelfth quite naturally leading to interest in spiritual life. Also the placement of Mars, being the ruler of his third house (his house of desires) and his tenth house (his house of career or action) naturally make his desires and career in spiritual life. In regards to Ramakrishna’s marriage, we can look at his twelfth house Mars affliction giving him an unusual marriage. Indeed, it has been stated that his marriage was never consummated, and that he worshipped his wife as the Divine Mother, so this gave the unconventional — but spiritual — marriage that Mars affliction can sometimes produce. Although most of our speculation here is on Mars, it should be noted that the ruler of his seventh house is in the first, so he thought about his marriage perpetually, but in the manner of a spiritual person, because the ruler of the nakshatra in which the Sun is placed is Mars, and Mars sits in the twelfth house!
In the 4:45 AM (GMT) birth chart of the Dalai Lama, it is in the Lagna, giving strong self-discipline, and the ability to meditate for hour upon end. One of the most fascinating phenomena I have noted since I started doing charts has been the extremely high incidence of individuals who adopt a spiritual practice — particularly meditation — during a Mars Mahadasa or Bhukti. The well-known astrologer James Braha, to use one example, has repeatedly discussed the intense meditative experiences he encountered during his Mars mahadasa. Mars presents the gift of solitude, the ability to follow the spiritual light within, and is often, in my humble opinion, the planet most responsible for rapid spiritual advancement. It also represents the will to bring the energy of the kundalini from our stomachs to our hearts, where the Venus chakra resides, and where we actually experience spiritual bliss for the first time, according to Yogic theory. Keep in mind that various martial arts and athletic activities (ruled by Mars) actually contain meditative procedures and after war (Mars) can bring us to “victory in war” — one of the many significations of the planet Venus (Shukra) the planet which is, at the lower level, responsible for material happiness, but, at the higher level, is also responsible for spiritual bliss. Any one who has encountered spiritual bliss or heightened levels of endorphins in the blood stream because of athletic exertion can attest to the feelings of joy both bring. And numerous medical tests have emphasized changes in physiology experienced after meditation or after an intense physical activity. Both activities change body chemistry (ruled by Venus) and are the result of a Martian exercise of effort, discipline or will power.
This planet is our gateway between the inner worlds (Venus, Mercury, the Moon) and higher knowledge (represented by Jupiter, Saturn, and Ketu. Its role as commander-in-chief of the planetary army (technically Rahu and Ketu) puts it in charge of our desires (Rahu) and our eccentricities (Ketu). It heeds Krishna’s call to “fight” to control and kill the hordes of desires which compete for our attention on the spiritual path, leading the way to wisdom (Jupiter) and renunciation (Saturn). And it does so without regard to the cost. There are sometimes, indeed spiritual widows in the world and Mars makes these as well.
Ramakrishna’s Birth Data: February 18, 1836; 6:23 AM LMT; Hooghly, India.
Source: From Defouw and Svoboda, Light on Life, Penguin Arkana, Penguin Books, London England, 1996.
Bhatt, M. Ramakrishna, Prasnapadavi: Principles of Horary Astrology, Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi, India, 1987.
Braha, James, AstroLogos, Hermetician Press, Hollywood, Florida, 1989.
Swami Harshananda, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, India (date not provided)
Kalidasa, Uttara Kalamrita (translated by S.S. Sareen), Sagar Publishers, Delhi, India,1989.
Goswami Kriyananda, The Song of God, the Bhagavad Gita, Temple of Kriya Yoga Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1989.
Maharshi Parasara, Brihat Parasara Hora Sastra (translators: R. Santhanam and G.S. Kapoor), Ranjan Publications, Delhi, India, 1989.
Rao, K.N. Learn Vedic Astrology Without Tears, Ranjan Publications, Delhi, India, 1994.
Svoboda, Robert, Aghora II: Kundalini, Brotherhood of Life Publishing, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1996.
Wilhelm, Ernst, The Vault of the Heavens, Kala Occult Publishing, California, 2001.
© Gary Gomes 2002