Burmese zodiac

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The Burmese zodiac (Burmese: ဇာတာ ရာသီခွင် [zàdà jàðì ɡwɪ̀ɴ]) is the traditional Burmese system of astronomy and astrology. While it is still an important component of the Burmese calendar, today, the zodiac is closely identified with Burmese astrology, called Bedin (ဗေဒင်). Largely derived from Hindu astronomy and Vedic astrology, the Burmese zodiac consists of not only the same 12 signs of the Western zodiac but also 27 lunar mansions of the month and eight weekday signs.

Structure[edit]

Seasons[edit]

The Burmese zodiac, like the Western zodiac, is divided into 12 signs called yathi (ရာသီ [jàðì]). The Burmese signs are identical to Indian and Western signs as they were derived from Indian and ultimately Western zodiac. Each yathi is divided into 30 degrees (အင်္သာ [ɪ̀ɴðà]); each degree into 60 minutes (လိတ္တာ [leiʔtà]); and each minute into 60 seconds (ဝိလိတ္တာ [wḭleiʔtà]).[1]

Longitude
အင်္သာ
Sign
ရာသီ
Sanskrit Latin Ruling planet
ရာသီခွင်
Meittha
မိဿ
Meṣha
मेष
Aries Mars
30° Pyeittha
ပြိဿ
Vṛiṣabha
वृषभ
Taurus Venus
60° Mehton
မေထုန်
Mithuna
मिथुन
Gemini Mercury
90° Karakat
ကရကဋ်
Karkaṭa
कर्कट
Cancer Moon
120° Thein
သိဟ်
Siṃha
सिंह
Leo Sun
150° Kan
ကန်
Kanyā
कन्या
Virgo Mercury
180° Tu
တူ
Tulā
तुला
Libra Venus
210° Byeissa
ဗြိစ္ဆာ
Vṛścika
वृश्चिक
Scorpio Mars
240° Danu
ဓနု
Dhanuṣa
धनुष
Sagittarius Jupiter
270° Makara
မကာရ
Makara
मकर
Capricorn Saturn
300° Kon
ကုံ
Kumbha
कुम्भ
Aquarius Saturn
330° Mein
မိန်
Mīna
मीन
Pisces Jupiter

Lunar mansions[edit]

The zodiac month consists of 27 days, approximating the mean sidereal month of 27.321661 days. Thus each zodiac day, called nekkhat (နက္ခတ် [nɛʔkʰaʔ]), represents a lunar mansion, or a segment of the ecliptic along which the moon revolves around the earth. Though the names are Burmese adaptations of Sanskrit names, the Burmese system is not the same as the modern Indian system. The Burmese system uses unequal spaces for each segment (from 5° to 26°), and the first segment, Athawani, begins at 350° longitude. The modern Indian system uses equal segments of 13° 20' (360° divided by 27), and the first segment, Asvini, begins at 0°.[2] (The zodiac also recognizes a lost 28th constellation, called Abizi (အဘိဇိ; Sanskrit: Abhijit), which apparently made one revolution among these stars in 27 to 28 days.[3])

The nekkhats are usually used to calculate the zata (horoscope) of a person or an event. Many historical dates were represented with the nekkhat position, not with the more common calendrical date.[note 1]

Day Burmese Sanskrit Extent Range
1 Athawani
အဿဝဏီ
Asvini 18° 350°–8°
2 Barani
ဘရဏီ
Bharani 10° 8°–18°
3 Kyattika
ကြတ္တိကာ
Krittika 16° 18°–34°
4 Yawhani
ရောဟဏီ
Rohini 12° 34°–46°
5 Migathi
မိဂသီ
Mrigasiras 14° 46°–60°
6 Adra
အဒြ
Ardra 60°–65°
7 Ponnahpukshu
ပုဏ္ဏဖုသျှု
Punarvasu 27° 65°–92°
8 Hpusha
ဖုသျှ
Pushya 14° 92°–106°
9 Athaleiktha
အသလိဿ
Aslesha 12° 106°–118°
10 Maga
မာဃ
Magha 11° 118°–129°
11 Pyobba Baragonni
ပြုဗ္ဗာ ဘရဂုဏ္ဏီ
Purva Phalguni 16° 129°–145°
12 Ottara Baragonni
ဥတ္တရာ ဘရဂုဏ္ဏီ
Uttara Phalguni 145°–154°
13 Hathada
ဟဿဒ
Hasta 10° 154°–164°
14 Seiktra
စိတြ
Chitra 15° 164°–179°
15 Thwati
သွာတိ
Svati 13° 179°–192°
16 Withaka
ဝိသာခါ
Visakha 21° 192°–213°
17 Anuyada
အနုရာဓ
Anuradha 11° 213°–224°
18 Zehta
ဇေဋ္ဌ
Jyeshtha 224°–229°
19 Mula
မူလ
Mula 13° 229°–242°
20 Pyobba Than
ပြုဗ္ဗာသဠ်
Purva Ashadha 15° 242°–257°
21 Ottara Than
ဥတ္တရာသဠ်
Uttara Ashadha 257°–262°
22 Tharawun
သရဝဏ်
Sravana 13° 262°–275°
23 Danatheikda
ဓနသိဒ္ဓ
Dhanishtha 12° 275°–287°
24 Thattabeiksha
သတ္တဘိသျှ
Satataraka 26° 287°–313°
25 Pyobba Parabaik
ပြုဗ္ဗာ ပုရပိုက်
Purva Bhadrapada 10° 313°–323°
26 Ottara Parabaik
ဥတ္တရာ ပုရပိုက်
Uttara Bhadrapada 16° 323°–339°
27 Yewati
ရေဝတီ
Revati 11° 339°–350°

Weekdays[edit]

The Jupiter planetary post at the Shwedagon Pagoda, with the representative vehicle of the rat underneath

The Burmese zodiac employs eight signs in a seven-day week, with each sign representing its own day, cardinal direction, planet (celestial body) and animal.

Cardinal direction Burmese Sanskrit English Planet Sign
Northeast Taninganwe
တနင်္ဂနွေ
Aditya Sunday Sun Garuda
ဂဠုန်
East Taninla
တနင်္လာ
Chandra Monday Moon Tiger
ကျား
Southeast Inga
အင်္ဂါ
Angaraka Tuesday Mars Lion
ခြင်္သေ့
South Boddahu
ဗုဒ္ဓဟူး
Budha Wednesday a.m. Mercury Tusked elephant
ဆင်
Northwest Rahu
ရာဟု
Rahu Wednesday p.m. Ascending Lunar node Tuskless elephant
ဟိုင်း
West Kyathabade
ကြာသပတေး
Bṛhaspati Thursday Jupiter Rat
ကြွက်
North Thaukkya
သောကြာ
Shukra Friday Venus Guinea pig[note 2]
ပူး
Southwest Sanay
စနေ
Shani Saturday Saturn Nāga
နဂါး

While the eight signs are the most prevalent in modern Burmese zodiac, the zodiac officially also recognizes a ninth sign called Ketu (ကိတ် [keiʔ]), which rules over all of the signs. Ketu's sign is a mythical Animal of Five Beauties called Pyinsa Rupa (ပဉ္စရူပ [pjɪ̀ɴsa̰ jùpa̰]) with the antlers of a deer, the tusks and the trunk of an elephant, the mane of a lion, the body of a naga serpent, and the tail of a fish. Moreover, Rahu and Ketu, while borrowed from Hindu astrology, are different from their original versions. Hindu astrology considers Rahu and Ketu to be the ascending and descending lunar nodes but Burmese astrology considers them distinct planets.[4]

At any rate, the inclusion of Ketu is not due to astronomical necessity but rather cultural. (J.C. Eade points out that "there is no astronomical necessity" for Ketu, whose orbit can be derived from the value of Rahu, and suggests that Ketu was "superfluous to the system, and perhaps even as an entity that owes its origin to a mistake".[5] Htin Aung says the use of Rahu and Ketu in Burmese zodiac and astrology is for cultural, not necessarily astronomical, value, noting that the nine signs neatly fit the Nine Gods of Burmese animist tradition and indeed are an essential part of the "Ceremony of the Nine Gods" usually held when there is sickness in the house.[4])

The signs can be represented in a nine-square diagram. The exact arrangement is used to place the planetary figurines in the "Ceremony of the Nine Gods", with Ketu in the center, right behind a statue of the Buddha. All the planetary figures face the Buddha (as the animist practice has been absorbed into Burmese Buddhism).[4]

Northwest
Wednesday evening
Rahu
Tuskless elephant
North
Friday
Venus
Guinea pig
Northeast
Sunday
Sun
Garuda
West
Thursday
Jupiter
Rat
Center
Week
Ketu
Pyinsa Rupa
East
Monday
Moon
Tiger
Southwest
Saturday
Saturn
Naga
South
Wednesday morning
Mercury
Tusked elephant
Southeast
Tuesday
Mars
Lion

The Sunday, Tuesday, Saturday and Rahu planets are considered to be Malefics, or planets with an evil influence while the Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday planets are considered Benefics, or planets with benign influence. Ketu is considered to be the most powerful and a Benefic but as the chief planet, it cannot be grouped with any other planet. However, modern Burmese astrology rarely uses Ketu, and tends to use only the other eight planets.[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See the Zatadawbon Yazawin chronicle (Zata 1960) to see how nekkhats are used to represent kings' birthdays and important events.
  2. ^ (Htin Aung 1959: 12): In Shan tradition, Friday's sign is the Ox.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Irwin 1909: 7–8
  2. ^ Irwin 1909: 10–11
  3. ^ Luce 1970: 333
  4. ^ a b c Htin Aung 1959: 11–13
  5. ^ Eade 1989: 18–19
  6. ^ Htin Aung 1959: 15

Bibliography[edit]

  • Eade, J.C. (1989). Southeast Asian Ephemeris: Solar and Planetary Positions, A.D. 638–2000. Ithaca: Cornell University. ISBN 0-87727-704-4. 
  • Eade, J.C. (1995). The Calendrical Systems of Mainland South-East Asia (illustrated ed.). Brill. ISBN 9789004104372. 
  • Htin Aung, Maung (1959). Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism. Rangoon: Department of Religious Affairs. 
  • Irwin, Sir Alfred Macdonald Bulteel (1909). The Burmese and Arakanese calendars. Rangoon: Hanthawaddy Printing Works. 
  • Luce, G.H. (1970). Old Burma: Early Pagan 2. Locust Valley, NY: Artibus Asiae and New York University.