Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

There was a question on the movements of the planets and I love math and geometry so couldn’t resist writing this high on numbers post.

Planets move around the Sun in at a constant speed and in one constant forward motion. (Heliocentric model). But when we see them from earth, they seem to go through various types of movements in the sky (Geocentric model). It is all about perspective, your position, the ‘frame of reference’ which we studied in physics in school is ultra-important. The path of the planets as seen from the Earth is called the geocentric epicycloid motion and it is a beautiful geometry, it is a spiral in space, ever evolving. Here are some images I picked out from the internet, but I suggest that you try to find some animated models so that you can appreciate the true beauty of the planet’s apparent motions.

Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

This above is the annual motion of the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Mars as seen from the Earth. One circle is the path of one complete revolution of the planet around the Sun but as seen from the Earth.

Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

This beautiful geometry above is the apparent movement of Venus as we see from the Earth. As Venus revolves around the Sun 5 times, its path makes this lovely 5 pointed star around the Sun from our perspective from Earth.

Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

This is the geocentric epicycloid path of Jupiter, it is 12 Earth years long, Jupiter makes one revolution around the Sun in 12 Earth years. So his path makes this springy design as seen from the earth in 12 of our years. And Saturn’s path around the Sun as seen from the earth, he makes one revolution in about 30 Earth years, so his path is even more springier! The outermost circle is the 360degrees of the zodiac (Bhaa-chakra).

Life apparently and quite visibly goes in spirals!

When we look out from our Earth, we see that the Sun and the Moon move only in the forward direction. They move elliptically so their speeds vary a bit, but not very much, they can be considered to be moving at a constant speed. The 5 Tara graha, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn move in these following eight types of movements (as listed in the Suryasiddhant written by Mayadanav). The two chhaya graha, Rahu and Ketu are a bit confusing, unless you have your astronomical concepts clear. Rahu and Ketu are mathematical points where the orbit of the Moon cuts the ecliptic. Generally people average out this calculation and use a ‘mean’ Node value. If you use Mean Nodes you will always have them moving retrograde at constant speed. And for horoscopes of souls at lower levels of evolution (post here), this much is enough. But if the chart is of a soul on a higher plane of evolution or you are analysing your own horoscope, you must calculate the ‘True’ node, ie the exact value of the nodes at the moment of your birth. These then true nodes can be in any of the eight motions as below.

The eight types of movements of the graha in the Geocentric model are,

  1. Vakra – Retrograde, when the planet in the motion reverse to the usual forward motion and apparently moves backward into the zodiac. e.g. Saturn goes retrograde on 11th May 2020.
  2. Anuvakra – When a retrograde planet goes back into the previous sign continuing in its retrograde motion. His speed has now slowed down a bit. Jupiter will do this when will reverse direction on 14th May 2020 and go back to Sagittarius on 30th June 2020.
  3. Vikala – no movement, the graha seems to be stationary. This can be for hours or upto 5 days days depending on the planet. e.g Saturn seems to stop /stambhit, for about 5 days before he changes his apparent direction of motion while Mercury is stationary for just a few hours. The True nodes can be stationary for days during a series of eclipses.
  4. Mandatara – forward motion but very slow
  5. Manda – slow forward motion but faster than than Manda
  6. Sama – the regular average speed forward motion
  7. Chara – is faster than the previous Sama
  8. Atichara – when a planet in forward motion is moving really fast and often enters the next sign moving really very fast, e.g. Jupiter had entered Sagittarius in Nov 2019  and he moved really fast and entered Capricorn in Mar 2020 covering one entire sign in 5 months!

If you have a sense for figures this is a useful diagram where you can see how the motion of the planet in the spiral goes apparently faster, slower, stationary, forward or retrograde etc. The numbers 1 to 8 are the above 8 motions of the planet in the curving spiral of the apparent motion. This spiral below would be the spiral section of the planet’s geocentric epicycloidal path which I have put above.

Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

So now you know how the 8 types of motions are generated in the planet’s path as seen from the Earth.

The average time taken by the planets/ graha to cover 1 deg of the zodiac from the slowest to the fastest., ie Saturn = 29days 18hrs, Mean Nodes = 18days 21hrs, Jupiter = 12days, Mars = 46hrs, Sun = 1day, Venus = 15hrs, Mercury = 6hrs, Moon = 1.45hrs.

And the mean distance the graha cover daily in arc-degrees, arc-minutes and arc-seconds, from the slowest to the fastest, Saturn 2’, Mean nodes 1’15”, Jupiter 4’52”, Mars 37’, Sun 59’8”, Venus 59’8”, Mercury 59’8”, Moon 13deg10’36”

Now you have to find out what was the speed of the planets at the time you are interested in. Eg 12th Apr 2020, 9am Delhi, (you have to find this speed data online, this data is from Parashar Light).

Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

So now if you compare it with the mean speeds which I have given above. Sun is moving a bit slower than average. Moon is moving a slightly faster than average. We would say that Sun and Moon are in ‘sama’ motion. Venus has slowed down, ‘manda’. Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter are moving significantly faster than their average speeds.

We need to check the speed of the graha to analyse its results, but very few astrologers will get into such analysis depths. The direction of its motion, retrograde/forward is also quite important to make sense of its effects in our life.

I have written on the current Saturn retrograde in this post, about Jupiter going retrograde in this post and about Venus retrograde in this post here.



Movements of the Nine Planets/Graha

True nodes stationary during eclipses

There are two chhaya-graha/ astral planets, Rahu and Ketu. There is a mathematical oddity which is which needs to be considered before we analyse them. These two are the two points where the orbit of the Moon cuts the ecliptic. They represent the influence of the Earth on the individual. They are the mathematical relationship between the Sun, Moon and the Earth. They are mathematical points and move with time and in space.

The nodes are generally an averaged calculation, thus are called ‘mean nodes’. Mean nodes are always in retrograde motion. ie They move in the direction opposite to the direction travelled by the Sun/Moon. Their speed can change, they get slower or faster, but they are always retrograde. Their retrograde movement slows down during every eclipse. And twice a year their speed slows down to such an extent that they seem almost stationary at one degree of the zodiac.

Then there is the mathematical calculation which gives ‘true nodes’. Now if the calculations were not averaged and if their positions are calculated for a specific time, then they would be referred to as ‘True nodes’. These true nodes move in retrograde  motion generally but can move in forward motion only around major eclipses or during a cluster of back-to-back eclipses. And their forward motion is generally quite slow. That means that during these sensitive periods around eclipses, the true nodes move in the same direction as the Sun/Moon’s direction of movement.

I use true nodes while seeing charts. There is a distinct difference in people born with true nodes in forward motion and in retrograde motion. Especially so if the question is related to spiritual, astral or occult stuff or a prashna or connected to sudden rise/ fall in life or extreme events.


The nodes are especially important as they define the flow of our life-experience through several lives. They mature late so we are aware of their role in our lives only after the late 40s.

  • Rahu is the desire which we have ignored for the past several lives and now its become so urgent that it is our this life’s focus. He indicates qualities which need to be developed so as to achieve our karmic targets. He demands that his target for experience be met asap. His challenge is to consciously be aware when the targets have been achieved and to stop.
  • Ketu is the experience which we have had to our fill in our past lives and in this present life holds no novelty for us. We have with us the deepest lessons related to those experiences deep in our sub-conscious. We use these lessons as our fail-safe but we are unaware of them in our conscious life. The challenge is to become aware of them and then use them consciously.

Rahu and Ketu generally move in the direction opposite to the Sun and Moon, ie are retrograde. Their energies move in the direction opposite to the energies of the luminaries. Most of us have true nodes retrograde in our charts. Their this retrograde motion indicates that there is still a significant desire for enjoying stuff related to the manifested creation.

If you remember, Sun is linked to the Sahasrara chakra and Moon to the Ajnya chakra. Rahu and Ketu are not linked to any chakra because these are the forces which destabilise the perfection of the chakra geometry. But if you use their energy consciously to ‘churn’ the geometry you can set it back to its perfect alignment which is the Moksh. (This is the theme of the story-allegory of the Samudra manthan).

But for about 10% of us, the true nodes will be direct in the birth chart. If, in your birth chart, you have the true nodes direct, they indicate that a fair share of the accumulated karma has been rebalanced. The lessons of the past lives are less burdensome. And the drive towards the internal illumination is more. The nodes are moving the same direction as the Sun/Moon. The flow of the desire to experience is in the same direction as the luminaries. There is very high scope for further and fast spiritual growth in this life.

Here you will try to complete your karmic burden in this life itself. However a typical thing is that life upto the late 40’s goes in a haze, things become more clear only after Rahu/ Ketu mature. The personality is dynamic, but not deeply interested in anything. You might be well off, with a good job, family, children etc but these things seem hollow. You are not unhappy, it is not a depressive thing, but you are not focused on these material achievements. If you understand that your inclination is towards the inner worlds and you start your spiritual practice, you will feel more ‘alive’ while doing it. You are capable of working towards your spiritual goals with a single-minded focus.

If you have your true nodes direct in your birth chart, you will have been born around eclipses. The huge energy linked to that eclipse will be available to you as per your birth chart. And coupled to this the slowly moving or even apparently stationary True Nodes. If by by chance your Rahu Ketu position is poised to give auspicious results you should use them proactively. You should try to do some spiritual practices during every eclipse that you see in life. And during these periods in life when the true nodes go direct pay more attention to your dreams, visions and spiritual experiences.

Now even if you do not have Rahu/ Ketu in direct/ forward motion in your chart, do look out for these periods in transit. The planets give their results as per their speed and their direction of motion always. The nodes slow down and change their direction, go forward, there are eclipses and then they again go slow, turn around and resume their normal retrograde motion. This event happens generally twice a year, about six months apart. It is a massive potential, concentrated at a specific degree of the zodiac and it will release a huge amount of energy here. This is a highly magnifying effect on these degrees of the Zodiac. It is during this period that Rahu/Ketu have great powers to create events which have far reaching consequences. Thus they will power the actual eclipse event too. If this is happening in a sensitive house of your birth chart or over an important planet in your birth chart, there will be some important event during this period which will change your perceptions and your outlook in a very fundamental manner.

In this current time, from 29th Nov 2019 to 22nd Jan 2020, for almost 2 months, the true nodes are in forward motion and are moving extremely slowly, practically stationary. Rahu will remain in the 14th deg of Gemini during this entire period. And Ketu will remain in the 14th deg Sagittarius during this entire period. The Gemini – Sagittarius axis is already under severe stress with Ketu, Rahu, Saturn, Juipter, Venus and Mercury/Sun will be joining them soon. Moon will do his routine transits so will pop in and out. The energies are intense.

If you have your rising degree around these degrees or any of your planets at birth around these degrees or even in Gemini and Sagittarius sign, you might see some typical events connected to them. During this period there is to be a major total Solar eclipse on 26th Dec 2019 and a partial Lunar eclipse on 10th Jan 2020. Both these eclipses will be visible in the eastern hemisphere and more importantly will pass over India. There will be an extended negative impact on India and other nations of the eastern hemisphere where the eclipse falls. There will also be a negative impact on the oceans which lie in the path of these eclipses. So for all those who live in India or in some place where these eclipses are to cross over, use they energies. Channelise them so that they are productive, else such a big burst of energy can often cause problems.

So in short, use true nodes instead of mean nodes in your calculations. Especially if you have true nodes direct at birth you have a one-up in this life. And most importantly for everyone, use every time period where the true nodes go in forward motion in transit around eclipses.