House Divisions in Indian Astrology
There are many ways of dividing up the signs of the zodiac into houses, and different reasons we would do so. Indian astrology traditionally divides the zodiac into 12 equal parts, no matter the location or time of year.
This is called the Rāśi Cakra; rāśi (Sun signs), meaning a ‘measure’ of degrees, and cakra meaning ‘wheel’; thus, dividing up the 360 degree zodiac into 12 sections of 30 degrees each. This could be termed the ‘natural zodiac’ and is used by most ancient systems of astrology.
The Rāśi or ‘whole sign house’ approach in Indian astrology uses each sign as a house, no matter where the ascendant degree falls. If you were born with Pisces rising, no matter the degree, Pisces is your 1st house, Aries, your 2nd, Taurus, your 3rd, etc.
There are many ways to divide the chart using the houses, depending on time and location, including the KP house system, akin to Placidus, and Sripathi, much like Porphyry.
There are many more, too, including Koch (derived from Placidus), Regiomontanus, Morinus, Alcabitius, Campanus, Topocentric, Meridian, and Vehlow.
To keep it simple, there are essentially 3 ways used in traditional Indian astrology, as listed below; the Rāśi, Bhāva and Calit Cakras, the ‘sign’, ‘house’ and ‘moving house’ systems.
1. Rāśi Cakra
The Rāśi Cakra simply calculates each sign by dividing the zodiac in 30 sections of equal length, no matter where you are in the world or the time of year. Whatever sign is rising, regardless of degree, that whole sign is taken as the 1st house. In other words, each sign is a house.
This is not only a clear and easy way to divide the zodiac, it is the perfect timing tool, as if using the zodiac like a clock. Could you imagine using clocks with uneven hours, hours which change length throughout the year?!
While some modern astrologers may call this is simplified view of the zodiac, any other calculation would complicate already complex calculations to the point where no practical use could be extracted.
Indian astrology typically uses the Rāśi Cakra because sign aspects, planetary aspects and yogas (combinations), as well as lordships with an even view of the chart are easily incorporated.
Rāśi is the ‘natural zodiac’, how things really are. How much we align with how things really are depends on where and when we were born in relation to the Rāśi Cakra.
Not only is it an easy way to calculate houses, it works like a dream — well, usually, that is.
A common issue that arises is when someone is born on the cusp of two signs. Although tradition uses this as the 1st house, no matter if someone is born at the very beginning or very end of the sign, the houses can be calculated in different ways (see below), depending.
2. Bhāva Cakra
The Bhāva Cakra once again divides the zodiac into 12 equal signs, but usually places the rising degree in the middle of the first house. You can also use this degree as the beginning of the house, but this is not as common.
Bhāva means ‘state’ and shows how we experience each sign. In this context, it is used to mean ‘house’, i.e. how and where we experience a sign.
The Bhāva Cakra calculates the first house by taking the exact rising degree, usually mapping out 15 degrees on either side of this point. So, if someone were born with the latter degrees of a sign rising, their first house would take in the latter half of that sign and the first half of the following sign. This is the 1st house, NOT the first sign. You cannot have 2 signs rising. That would be very greedy now, wouldn’t it?!
The Bhāva Cakra reflects more how we view ourselves, in relation to the signs. This can differ from the natural zodiac, i.e. the Rāśi Cakra. The Bhāva Cakra may or may not reflect the natural zodiac position, and how things really are.
Lorships and signs aspects, as well as yogas, cannot be used the same way as you would with the Rāśi Cakra, although you can use planetary aspects.
Lordships would be confusing, as you could end up with two rulers for your rising sign if you were born at the beginning or end of a sign. For example, if you were born with late Cancer rising, taking the second half of Cancer and the first half of Leo as your 1st house, you would end up with the Sun and Moon ruling your chart. Again, this is not practical. Not only that, it’s greedy!
If you were born with the last degree of Cancer rising, that is your sign, no matter how you calculate the houses.
In the case of someone born at the very beginning or end of a sign, it will, however, draw on either the pervious or subsequent sign. Someone with the first degree of Libra rising would have the latter half of Virgo as their first house in the Bhāva Cakra, while someone with the last degree of Libra rising would incorporate the first half of Scorpio.
The Bhāva Cakra shows how we perceive ourselves, which is often different to the natural zodiac, unless someone is born slap bang in the middle of a sign.
It makes a difference when calculating the placements of planets. You may have the Sun in the 1st house in the Rāśi Cakra, but this may be placed in the 12th or 2nd house when using the Bhāva Cakra or ‘House Chart’, changing how and where you experience the Sun by house position, despite the sign remaining in the same sign.
My own chart example below is a good example of this.
3. Bhāva Calit
There is another calculation called the Bhāva Calit, calit meaning ‘movement’, which in this context considers the movement throughout the globe and the time of year. Using this calculation, the signs are of different lengths, depending on the time of year and latitude, or location.
It places the rising degree at the center of the 1st house and the midheaven (top of the chart) at the center of the 10th house, dividing up the remaining houses according to their actual sizes. Some signs are much bigger than others. Scorpio is the smallest. Virgo is the biggest (see below).
Illustration by Nick Anthony Florenza — RIP
This way of dividing up the houses is not common in Indian astrology, as many of the calculations used in traditional approaches, such as lordships, yogas and sign, as well as planetary, aspects, will not work — unless we only factor in exact planetary aspects and close orbs.
Think about it as if the hands on a clock and imagine hours were of different lengths, changing throughout the year and when travelling about. It wouldn’t be a very easy clock to read!
There is, however, a growing trend among some astrologers who use a ‘true sidereal’ zodiac to calculate transits of planets through the various sized constellations. I don’t know exactly how they use it other than for discussing transits.
Here is an explanation of ‘true sidereal’ by Athen Chimenti over at Mastering the Zodiac:
The calculations for houses are different, of course. Signs are different to houses; constellations are not signs.
Although we may superimpose the houses onto the signs, whatever house calculation we use, the signs of the zodiac are signs, NOT houses, and do not change.
In other words, however we experience the signs, it does not alter their natural order.
My Rising Sign
My own rising sign and the position of the Sun in Libra is a good example of using the various house calculations, as I was born at the tail end of Scorpio.
I can just as easily identify with Sagittarius as I do with Scorpio — just in different ways. One thing to note is that the Bhāva Cakra relates to the Tropical zodiac and how we may view ourselves. According to Indian astrology, this is not how we actually are, but perhaps a more symbolic view of ourselves, which is what ‘Tropicalists’ often refer to.
Sagittarius is symbolic of how I operate on a certain level, certainly; my love of freedom and of travel, as well as my philosophical nature. This is how I view myself, at least. However, I am more physically Scorpio; a typically lean ‘Mars type’. Parasara describes Scorpio as having a ‘slender’ and ‘hairy’ physique. Although only a general indication, this is certainly true in my case.
If I were to be honest with myself, Scorpio describes who I truly am. Secrets have formed the bulk of my life experience. If you were to look at how I lived, you would see me as Scorpio very quickly, not Sagittarius. Sagittarius may be how I like to view myself, but it is not true for a more objective standpoint.
This is the difference between the Rāśi Cakra and the Bhāva Cakra.
Hevelius, Firmamentum, 1690
I can add a third ‘sign’ into the mix, as I was born with Ophiuchus rising, too!
If you watch Athen’s video (linked above), you will see that Ophiuchus, the so-called ‘13th sign’ of the Zodiac, is used in this approach because it is seen to cut through the path of the Sun, or ecliptic.
I strongly identify with the symbolism of Ophiuchus; the ‘serpent bearer’, having spent my life struggling to contain the Kundalini Shakti (primal energy), which can so often become too sexual and destructive for those with Scorpio rising. This has been the main theme of my life; struggling to contain the sex impulse and elevate it to something higher.
The end of Scorpio is where we find the constellation of Ophiuchus, and the lunar mansion Jyeṣṭhā, ruled by Indra, the chief of the gods; the deity that compels us to take control of our earth-based desires; to elevate us higher on a spiritual quest.
That describes the struggles of my life in a nutshell.
Here is my Rāśi Cakra (how I truly am):
Notice that Venus and Neptune are placed in my 1st house when using the Rāśi Cakra, with the Sun in Libra in my 12th house. This describes me better than anything I would say; when I’m being objective about myself.
My Bhāva Cakra tells another story (how I sometimes view myself):
Here my 1st house (not sign) contains Venus and Rahu, not Neptune, which moves to my 12th house, while the Sun moves to my 11th house. My Sun is still in Libra, but has now changed to the 11th house. This chart reflects how I view things, which is not how they truly are.
And yet another view of my chart is reflected in my Bhāva Chalit:
Here my 1st house still contains Venus and Rahu, but now my Sun moves to my 10th house. This is a very different picture to that of my Rāśi Cakra, with my Sun in the 12th house, and one, which, although I would prefer, and may even see myself as such sometimes, is simply not true of my experience of the Sun.