Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Natural & Functional Lordships

A peculiar aspect of Indian astrology is the division of planets in natural and functional categories. Although, there are other classifications too, e.g., planets as karakas, planets as marakas etc., but the terms “natural” and “functional” appear more frequently in astrological books and blogs. Standard classical jyotish texts use saumya and krura; shubh and ashubh for this purpose. Although, saumya and krura are specific to natural lordship but the terms shubh and ashubh are often used for both natural and functional lords.

Natural Benefic and Malefic Planets

Out of navgraha (9 planets), Saturn, Mars are first rate natural malefic planets while Sun is malefic of secondary level, since it is more krura (cruel) than paapi (evil). Lunar nodes, i.e. Rahu and Ketu are again malefic by nature.

Among auspicious heavenly agents, Jupiter and Venus are all time benefic. However, there is difference of opinion whether Jupiter is more benefic or Venus. R. Santhanam, referring Parashar, says Venus holds greater amount of auspiciousness and Jupiter comes after Venus. In any case, both the planets are natural benefic.

By nature, Mercury and Moon are neither benefic nor malefic. Mercury can be benefic or malefic depending upon its association in the chart. With natural malefic planets, especially Saturn and Mars, it turns natural malefic, whereas in case of its association with natural malefic (especially Venus or Jupiter), Mercury behaves like natural benefic planet. The case of Moon is dependent upon its distance with Sun, or in simple words, upon the brightness of Moon. It is generally believed that Moon is natural benefic, if it lies 8th tithi of Shuklapaksh to 8th tithi of Krishnapaksh.

Now, there arises a logical question, about the rank or intensity of natural auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. Kalidasa in its monumental Uttrakalamrita answers this confusion. According to him, the planets can be rated as follows:

Planets Natural Benefic/Malefic
Jupiter and Full Moon: 100% natural benefic
Venus: 75% natural benefic
Mercury (well associated): 50% natural benefic
Moon (bright): 25% natural benefic
Moon (dark): 25% natural malefic
Mercury (ill associated): 25% natural malefic
Sun: 50% natural malefic
Mars and Rahu: 75% natural malefic
Saturn and Ketu: 100% natural malefic

Nonetheless, this classification is not espoused by all. Many medieval and modern astrology experts consider bright Moon as an effective agent of alleviating evils and spreading auspiciousness, not only for longevity, but also for luck matter as a whole. Resultantly, they rank Moon more potent than 25% naturally benefic as in above table. Similarly, there are some practitioners who always fear from Mars, more than Saturn. But, it should not forget that Kalidasa put down above rating for general purpose, and not for some specific purposes, say match-making, longevity, etc.

Functional Benefic and Malefic Planets

The second category of planetary behaviour is functional, which is also known as Graha Suabhava. Rather “functional benefic” and “functional malefic”, some writers also used the terms “temporary benefic” and “temporary malefic”. Sage Parashar thoroughly explained the functional nature of 7 planets for all 12 ascendants. Later, many a commentaries of BPHS deciphered the reasons behind labeling any planet as functional benefic or functional malefic. Even the famed script Laghu Parashar is entirely hinged upon the functional nature of planets.

Lets first dig out how a planet can become functional benefic or malefic. According to ownership, twelve houses of horoscope are categorized into four kinds.

House Groups for Functional Lordship
Kendra: Group of 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th houses
Kona: Group of 5th and 9th houses
Trishadai: Group of 3rd, 6th, and 11th houses
Parashraya: Group of 2nd, 8th, and 12th houses

Among navagraha, 7 planets are considered for determining whether a planet is functional benefic or malefic. Parashara did not consider ownership of Rahu and Ketu for this matter, otherwise later he explained Rahu/Ketu exaltation, ownership, etc.

There also exists a widespread confusion between dusthana and trishadai. It should be kept in mind that dusthana (duush+sthaan) means “evil place”, and it comprises 6th, 8th, and 12th houses. Whereas, the term trishadai or trishadayadhisas connotes, lords of 3rd, 6th and 11th. So the concept of dusthana is about evil houses and trishadai is about evil lordships.

Following rules are the summary of Parashar’s categorizations for weighing functional status of a planet for any ascendant.

Rule # 1.
Lords of kona (5, 9) can never be functional malefic while lords of trishadai (3, 6, 11) can never be functional benefic.

Rule # 2.
A planet, owning both kona (5, 9) and trishadai (3, 6, 11) houses, functions as admixture of good and bad, depending upon location of its mooltrikona sign.

Rule # 3.
A planet also becomes functional malefic when it simultaneously owns: (a) trishadai (3, 6, 11) and parashraya (12, 8, 2) houses; (b) trishadai (3, 6, 11) and kendra (1, 4, 7, 10) houses.

Rule # 4.
Best is the planet whose one sign be in kendara (1, 4, 7, 10) and another sign in kona (5, 9). And worst is the planet whose both signs lie in trishadai (3, 6, 11) houses.

Rule # 5.
A natural malefic as lord of kendra (excluding 7th-marakesh) turns functional benefic, but a natural benefic as lord of kendra (excluding 1st-lagnesh) turns functional malefic.

Rule # 6.
Lords of parashraya (12, 8, 2) may be functional malefic or benefic depending upon their ownership of second sign and relation with other planets. If second sign of langna lord lies in any of parashraya (12, 8, 2) houses then it does not turn functional malefic.

It is evident from above rules that functional or temporal lordships are dependant more on trishadi than dusthana. Saturn, neither own any of dusthana from Aries lagna, but Parashar holds it a first rate functional malefic and yoga-bhang-karaka. One the other hand, Mercury, however owns undesirable 8th house from Aquarius ascendant, but it is not completely functional malefic in the eyes of Parashar.

Purpose and Application

It is known to all that natural lordship of planet is the fundamental criterion of astrological interpretations. For natural benefic or malefic, planets manifest their natural significations. Say, Jupiter is the significator of dharma for all ascendants, irrespective of its lordships of good or bad houses. The karakattwas or significations of all natural benefic planets increase when (without malefic association) they occupy in kendra or kona. Similarly, all natural benefic planets enhance the favourable significations of houses they occupy or aspect.

Almost all chapters of “House Analysis” in standard Jyotish canons pay more attention to natural attributes of planets than functional. Suppose, if Saturn is occupied in 4th house in Leo, for a Taurus ascendant chart then one should not interpret this location as favourable, just on account of Saturn’s being functional benefic for Taurus. No, here Saturn may destroy domestic happiness and parental care (provided other factors do not strongly counter this bad placement of Saturn). It is different from above that native may simultaneously accrue good effect of lord of 9th and 10th in 4th house. Take another example. Parashar assumes Sun as functional malefic for Libra rising (since it owns one of the trishadai). Suppose the very Sun is occupied in 10th house (in Cancer) then one should NOT explain this placement as evil signature in 10th house because a functional malefic is there. No doubt, here Sun in 10th house as natural malefic means krura karma (taking other factors constant). But in friendly-benefic sign with directional strength, Sun in 10th house may augment native’s deed, career and social standings for said Libra rising.

On the other hand, functional lordship has certain specific purposes. Its first and foremost objective is figuring out good or bad planetary periods as per vimshottari dasa. But it ought to bear in mind that functional lordship is the first, but not the sole criterion of judging a dasa. Another objective of functional lordship is to weigh the strength of chart through yoga karakas in the nativity. Parashar maintains certain yoga karaka signatures along with functional lordship.


  1. Very good informative articles, Please clarify what would be the effect of Venus and Mercury for Scorpio Ascendant. Something like this

    Asc(Scorpio): Sun, Merc, Ven
    2nd : Ketu, Mars
    4th : Moon
    8th: Rahu
    12th : Jup + Sat

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