The Jaimini Sutras, aka Upadesa Sutras, is an ancient Sanskrit text of Hindu astrology, attributed to the sage Jaimini. According to astrologer Gary Gomes, whose lectures I have been fortunate to attend periodically over the years, “I believe that Jaimini astrology is one of the truly great Vedic astrology traditions, capable of giving great depth of information for astrologers. In essence, Jaimini produces clusters of information which can give extraordinarily accurate traditions, through a different organization of basic astrological information.”
Early in the first chapter of his text, Rishi Jaimini explains how the zodiac signs (aka Rasi) are able to look at each other. There are the so-called “Rasi aspects.” The cardinal (movable) signs can see all the fixed signs, except the one adjacent. The fixed signs can see all the cardinal signs, except the one adjacent. The mutable (dual) signs can see all the other mutable signs. Planets within a sign that looks at (aspects) another sign are able to influence the sign being viewed and any planets therein.
Immediately after explaining the Rasi (sign to sign) aspects, Jaimini discusses the topic of argala, which pertains to whole-sign “houses” or places (what the Greeks called topoi and Jyotish calls bhavas) and the planets within them. In this system, one whole-sign “place” can either support or hinder another whole-sign place, depending on their relative distances from each other along the zodiac circle and a certain type of symmetry. The Rasi aspects deal with signs of the zodiac as signs; the argalas deal the the signs of the zodiac as places, “houses” or bhavas, which are created by the axial rotation of the Earth.
Before discussing the astrological meaning of argala, it will be useful to consider its various meanings in Sanskrit. A common dictionary definition, and one often quoted by astrologers trying to explain what Jaimini meant, is that an argala is a wooden bolt or pin used to latch a door or to fasten the lid of a vessel. In this sense, it is a kind of bar, check, external bolt, obstacle, restriction or impediment which keeps the door, or the lid, shut and prevents free movement.
Digging a little deeper into the etymology of the word argala, we find that it comes into English from the Latin argala, from Bengali হাড়গিলা (haṛgila), also transcribed hurghila. In this sense, argala refers to a bird, namely, the greater adjutant, (Leptoptilos argala, aka Leptoptilos dubius), a stork native to Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. In places where snakes were a threat to the human population, the Greater Adjutant stork helped and supported the community by keeping the lid on the population of dangerous reptiles.
How did the argala stork get its name, “the greater adjutant”? This stork was called “greater” because of its huge size, its average length being about 4 1/2 feet. Why “adjutant,” which is the name of a military officer who acts as an administrative assistant to a senior officer? Because of the bird’s resemblance to a human figure in stiff dress (like the uniform of an adjutant military officer) pacing slowly on a parade-ground. By analogy, a planet in an adjutant or “argala” position or place in the chart acts like an assistant, helper or supporter to a senior officer. Unfortunately, different Jaimini scholars offer differing understandings of what the sage meant by argala. For example, B.S. Rao, in the 1955 edition of his translation of the Sutras, states the following:
In the first line (Su. 5), Jaimini’s Sanskrit literally reads: 4th (dara), 2nd (bhagya), 11th (sula), places (sth), argala, nidhyatuh (ought to be be considered). In the previous section, Jaimini has just discussed the aspects of the zodiac signs. Here he is saying that from any of the zodiac signs considered as bhavas, the places (or the planets) which are in the 4th, 2nd or 11th from it [presumably in zodiacal order] ought be be considered argalas, which could be understood as a kind of bolt or fastener, or by analogy with the Leptoptilos argala stork, as a kind of adjutant bird, assistant or helper. Jaimini scholars agree that this type of argala, from the 4th, 2nd or 11th places relative to a zodiac sign, is a helpful influence to any planets in that sign. It is important to note that Jaimini specifies the order of places as 4th, 2nd and 11th.
In the next sutra, B.S. Rao explains that a predominance of malefic planets in the 3rd place gives rise to a kind of reverse argala, sometimes referred to as a “vipareeta” argala, which does not have a corresponding obstructer (as explained in the next paragraph). The translator believes that this type of argala is an “evil” influence. Other scholars regard argalas as supportive and beneficial, and thus the “vipareeta” argala, formed by malefics in the 3rd places, is beneficial to the native. It may be that the idea of the 3rd house populated by malefics is beneficial stems from the idea of “upachaya” houses which promote growth over time. Thus, malefics in upachaya houses may initially look difficult, but with time those “malefic” planets promote growth, utilizing the power and energy of the malefics to overcome obstacles and pursue the native’s ambitions.
Finally, certain places and obstruct the beneficial argalas of the 4th, 2nd and 11th place. Note again Jaimini’s order when he writes that planets in the 10th, 12th and 3rd places can obstruct or impede the argalas. Most scholars understand this to refer to a certain symmetry: planets in the 10th obstruct the argala of those in the 4th, planets in the 12th obstruct those in the 2nd, and planets in the 3rd obstruct those in the 11th. The following diagram illustrates this symmetry and raises a question about planets in the 5th and the 9th.
In the 1955 translation of B.S. Rao, Su. 9 states “Pragvastrikone” — pragvas meaning “similarly” and trikone meaning “at the trikonas” which are places 5 and 9 in trine with respect to the first sign containing “P” in the above diagram. This statement has led to confusion about which trine position is argala and which is its obstructor. If we follow the pattern already established by the sequence “4th, 2nd and 11th” as argalas, then the 9th place is the next in the sequence. In other words, the argalas and their obstructers are mirror images across an axis formed by the 1st and 7th places. Many Jaimini astrologers, however, use the 5th place trine as argala and the 9th place trine as its obstructer, which seems to violate the pattern of argalas which Jaimini established (4th – 2nd – 11th -> 9th) in the earlier sutra. The more logical inference from Jamini’s text and its use of symmetry is that the 9th place is argola and the 5th, its obstructer:
4th – 2nd – 11th – 9th are the argolas.
10th – 12th – 3rd – 5th are the symmetrically placed obstructers.
The pattern of argalas and their obstructers apparently ends at the trines. Places 6 and 8 in Western astrology are considered “inconjunct” or “in aversion” to the 1st place, and place 7 lies in opposition to place 1. Jaimini does not mention places 6, 7 and 8 in his discussion of argalas.