Pioneer of Astrology Journalism in India

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Prof. B. Suryanarain Rao

            The closing two centuries of the previous millennium will stand out in the history of astrology as producing two of the world’s most brilliant astrological savants – Prof. B. Suryanarain Rao and Dr. B.V. Raman – whose unstinted efforts led to the modernization of this ancient science.

The combined work of the grandfather and grandson resulted in restoring Jyotisha to its pristine glory after an interregnum period of neglect cleansed of the accretions of superstition and tantric practices that had come to be identified with it and which had pushed it into a pitiful state of despise and exploitation. It will not be difficult for the discerning student of astrology to identify several hereditary horoscopic features in the charts of the two great thinkers.

The Ascendant Taurus in Vargottama strength and the 10th occupied by Mercury and Jupiter as also the Sun made Prof. Rao (Chart 1) stand out like a colossus in the history of modern astrology. He rescued the science from the hands of charlatans where it had fallen after a glorious reign of several centuries as one of the most respected and influential sciences in ancient India. The court astrologer’s role in most states of the country about three to four hundred years ago and earlier was much the same as that of today’s scientific adviser to the prime-minister. It entailed great prestige and even greater responsibility as his advice was sought on every important decision and move of the ruler. Unfortunately for reasons that are not clear but need to be identified, astrology fell on bad days slipping into a state of gradual decay and degeneration until finally by the latter half of the 19th century or so, it came to be equated with superstition by an emerging breed of intellectuals, products of the British educational system. It was at this juncture that Prof. Rao arrived on the astrology scene.

Chart 1: Bangalore Suryanarain Rao: Born February 12, 1856 at about 12h.21m.  (L.M.T) at 18 N, 84 E with a balance of 8 years 10 months 17 days of Venus Dasa at birth.

BSR Chart

The concentration of three planets, Mercury, Jupiter and the Sun in Aquarius, a philosophical sign in the 10th, the Karmastana, made him a brilliant intellectual and practical philosopher. The Ascendant is a fixed earthy sign Taurus and derives strength from its Vargottama disposition in the Navamsa. A magnetic personality and fiercely independent spirit combined to make Prof. Rao an eloquent and forceful speaker who could sway his audiences with his powerful advocacy of the case for astrology.

The Moon is in the fiery sign Aries with Rahu aspected by a powerful Vargottama sign-dispositor Mars from the 5th, producing a restless spirit whose thirst for knowledge was unquenchable. Aries being the sign of intrepidity, his strength of mind and optimism stood him in good stead at several critical junctures in his life. It was this same fearlessness and confidence that prompted him to give up a highly lucrative and successful legal practice and take to the study of astrology. This choice in simple logic meant financial disaster but Prof. Rao was not one to be cowed down by any kind of uncertainly.

The sign-conjunction of Mercury with the Sun constitutes a powerful Raja Yoga. Jupiter as a natural benefic adds great dignity to the combination. Prof. Rao enjoyed a reputation for his knowledge of not only astrology but also of other Indian sciences and history as well. The exchange of houses between the 2nd and 10th lords, Mercury and Saturn, together with the disposition of the Yogakaraka in the 2nd conferred on Prof. Rao eloquence, logic and forceful argumentative powers. Jupiter’s aspect additionally on the 2nd conferred on him an unmatched ability to make correct astrological predictions. One of his most outstanding predictions covered the outbreak of World War I which was an event that no one, when it was made, could have imagined would take place. Writing in The Astrological Magazine, March 1914 and analyzing the planetary positions on April 13, 1914 for the commencement of the solar year Ananda he said:

The Moon in debilitation is in Scorpio, an evil sign and as the Moon represents the Mind and as he is situated in the house of destruction to the Sun and from him the Sun is in the 6th, a house which signifies debts, ruin, diseases and enemies, mankind will suffer much from these sources and from the displeasure of the royal will. There will be sudden outbursts of passion and excitement among the allies leading to anarchy and denunciation of old kingly authority….the war fever will be at its highest pitch.”

            After giving details of likely troubles in different parts of Europe, Prof. Rao continued:

Two deaths among European royalties are indicated and one will be from violence or treachery. Political relations all over the world will be highly excited during the months of August and September on account of the solar and lunar eclipses following one after the other within a fortnight.

            Exactly as foreseen by him, two attempts were made on the life of the Archduke Frances Ferdinand when he and the Duchess were driving to the Town Hall at Sarajevo in Austria. Garbrionovico, a compositer, threw a bomb at the Duke but luckily it did not explode until the car had passed.

When the royal couple was touring through the town, a student, Preizio, fired two shots at the Duke mortally wounding both him and the Duchess. Both were dead within a few minutes. The old King Emperor Frances Joseph suffered a terrible blow in the death of his son and future king of Austria. The war started in August 1914.

The striking feature of the chart is the combination of three planets in Karmastana, particularly of Jupiter and Mercury which made him an outstanding authority on whichever subject he applied his mind to. Such a powerful 10th house brought him into contact with Maharajas, Governors and Viceroys with all of whom he moved on equal terms. His spirit of independence evoked great admiration amongst even his detractors, thanks to the powerful influence of Vargottama Mars on his Moon. A prolific writer, he wrote about 70 books on a variety of subjects including history, astrology, biographies, novels and fiction. Several of them still remain unpublished.

The Ascendant Taurus Vargottama and its ruler Venus aspected by Yogakaraka Saturn made him a man of great conviction and tremendous magnetic power. Credit must go to Prof. Rao for creating a taste for learning in a subject like astrology in intellectual circles at a time when skepticism and derision had come to mark the majority of educated Indians when it came to ancient Indian sciences. He was able to profoundly influence all those who came into contact with him. And of those who came under his intellectual spell, none was more carried way than his young grandson Dr. B.V. Raman who would later don the grandsire’s mantle and take astrology to the rest of the world.

Chart 2: Dr. B.V. Raman: Born August 8, 1912 at 19h. 43m. at 12 N 59, 77 E 35 with a balance of 6 years 21 days of Mars Dasa at birth.

BVR Chart

While Prof. Rao made astrology respectable and rescued it from the cheap jeers of ignoramuses whose only qualification to criticize the subject was that they knew nothing about it, Dr. Raman ensured for it a permanent place in the hearts of the educated public with his brilliant presentation of the science as an academic discipline. There are certain interesting features in the charts that establish a celestial rapport between the two. The 10th house in Prof. Rao’s chart becomes the Ascendant of Dr. Raman. No wonder Prof. Rao’s work became Dr. Raman’s passion! Both have Jupiter in the 10th and Jupiter aspecting Saturn. Yogakaraka Saturn in Prof. Rao’s chart becomes the Ascendant lord of the other and vice-versa. Prof. Rao’s horoscope is unique in having no planets in Dwirdwadasa or Shashtashtaka positions. In Dr. Raman’s case, this somewhat unhelpful feature is present. However, this chart excels in more than one aspect. Six out of seven planets are in Kendras, a very unusual feature to be found only in those cases whose natives leave their footprints on the sands of time.

Dr. Raman was the first in nearly 2000 years after the first century astrologer and astronomer Varahamihira to give a face-lift and new orientation to Jyotisha and set the tone for it to fall in line with the changing needs of contemporary society. (Gayatri Devi Vasudev)

Gayatri Devi Vasudev

May 25, 2010