Ruling, Exalted, and Debilitated Planets in Vedic Astrology

The Sun

I have noticed that many people express confusion about terms used in Vedic Astrology, such as rulership, exaltation, and debilitation of planets. So I think that it is important that we define and understand these terms.

  • To have rulership of a zodiac sign means that the ruling planet and its energies are the main influence on that sign.
  • When a planet is exalted in a sign, it means that it can have its greatest power to cause maximum impact.
  • A debilitated planet is the opposite situation. It means that you are in a zodiac sign where you cannot have your normal power and only have minimal impact. The term impact, in these cases, has a double meaning. It refers to the beneficial influences that the planet imparts to the sign and to the protective forces that act as a shield against adverse external influences from other celestial bodies.

Now that we have definitions for each of these terms, let’s take a closer look at what each means for you.

The Rulership of a Planet


An interesting thing about Vedic Astrology is that our zodiac signs correspond to constellations of stars that are very far away. However, the planets in our solar system are much closer and therefore have a massive influence on us.

Each of the planets in Vedic Astrology rules either one or two zodiac signs. When we speak of ruling, we mean that it simply exerts more influence over a given sign than the other planets. It is the owner of that sign. In other words, the characteristics and symbols of that planet govern that sign.

Let’s examine each planet and the zodiac sign, or signs, that it governs.

PlanetZodiac SignZodiac Sign
N/A = not applicable

As you can see, the Sun and the Moon only rule one sign, while the others rule two signs, and Rahu and Ketu rule none.

I am going to provide an example that will help you to understand the concept of regency. For this, let’s use an imaginary restaurant kitchen. Our imaginary kitchen is fully equipped with a wide variety of cooking implements, along with a vast selection of different ingredients and spices to prepare delicious dishes. But the kitchen itself cannot make any food. You need a chef to run the kitchen. It is the chef’s creativity and skill that give unique flavors to the prepared dishes.

You may be wondering at this point, why is the zodiac sign necessary when the planets are so strong? The example above provides the answer. Both are necessary. A kitchen without a chef means no meals are prepared. Similarly, a chef without a kitchen also means no meals are prepared.

The influence of the planets is powerful. But each planet needs one or two signs to exert its influence. Without the basis of the signs, the power of the planets would be wasted.

The Exaltation of a Planet


To learn more about the effects of a planet on the natal chart, the sage Parashara Muni taught thousands of years ago about the Avasthas or states of the planets. I explain this so that you will know the reason for the existence of a state of exaltation, in its own sign or another sign, and the state of debilitation.

When a planet is exalted in its own sign or another, we say that the planet is awake. The planet feels very comfortable in these signs. Therefore, more evolved characteristics of that awakened planet will be displayed in the life of a person.

In this way, the term exaltation refers to a fully awake, conscious planet.

Let’s go back to the imaginary restaurant and its chef. The chef’s job is to cook and he does it very well. He also enjoys being in the restaurant’s dining room. He likes to meet people and to connect with families.

You can imagine his restaurant as a very nice place, where there is a great kitchen, with everything he needs to make different kinds of recipes. He has different kinds of pots, pans, spices, flours, legumes, meats, and cereals. In short, everything he needs is there when he needs it to make each delicious dish that his clients order.

Everything in our imaginary restaurant is abundant. This is the difference between regency and exaltation. In regency, everything is adequate, whereas in exaltation there is abundance. Our chef is very comfortable in his restaurant. He can express what he does best. His job and his restaurant is a nice place.

When a planet is in exaltation, all that the planet is, its potential, is fully expressed.

Now I’m going to give you another example that is specifically related to the planets.

The Sun is the planet that means the Soul. its job is to illuminate and purify. There are different types of evolution of the Sun in people.

The Sun in a natal chart can be a representation of the self. But the perception that a person has of themselves can be wrong. In this way, the evolution of the Sun of a person can consist only of obtaining worldly power, in being a father (or mother) of a family, or of having a successful career. These life goals that a person has posed for themselves have arisen from their perception of identity.

The ultimate search for the Sun, for the soul – the most evolved expression – is the search for God, the search for truth. When we undertake this search, we begin to be more aware of our identity. We begin to realize that we are spiritual beings.

This is why the Sun is exalted in the sign of AriesOpens in a new tab..

Aries is in the 1st house of the natural zodiac. It is related to being, to the self. In this sense, the presence of the Sun in that house indicates that the soul is more aware of its identity. Aries is ruled by Mars, the planet that leads us to do the right thing, to seek the truth. The Sun is awake in Aries and that is why it is exalted in this sign.

Are you saying that having planets in exaltation or in your own sign is always positive?

Yes and no.

If we only focus on exalted planets and fail to consider the broader context of the zodiac, then it is true that they always tend to bring something positive to the life of the person born with these in their own sign or other houses. But the context of the zodiac is of paramount importance, so other factors must be evaluated as well.

On many occasions, it is possible for a person to experience periods that are difficult despite being under the influence of exalted planets. However, these difficult experiences cannot be considered negative if they helped to expand the consciousness of that person, and helped to transform him into a more evolved being. All planets bring something positive, even the so-called malefic planets.

In Vedic Astrology, the Sun and the Moon, as well as the nodes of the Moon, which are Rahu and Ketu, are referred to planets even though they are not actually planets per se. Vedic Astrology knows that the Sun is not a planet. Instead, the Sun is a star. It also knows that the Moon is a satellite of the Earth and not a planet. However, the term planet is used to simplify things for ease of understanding. Collectively referring the Sun, Moon, Rahu and Ketu as planets, along with the actual five planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter), also reflects a commonality in the ways that they influence the Earth and human experience.

In ancient Vedic writings there is evidence that the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were known thousands of years ago, but they were not taken into account to make the natal charts of people. It really does not mean that Vedic Astrology views these planets as lacking the ability to orient people. Instead, Vedic Astrology views these outer planets as not having a significant role in orienting people at this time. However, a cosmic event potentially could change this in the future.

The Debilitation of a Planet


When a planet is debilitated in a zodiac sign, it is in a dormant state. In other words, it is asleep. The manner in which the debilitation manifests is different for each planet and is based upon its nature. However, suffice it to say that planets are uncomfortable in a debilitated environment.

Let’s return to our chef. But in this new example, you are in a restaurant where the kitchen is very small, there is only a stove, a plate and a spoon. In this place there are few ingredients to use in cooking.

Moreover, in the kitchen you find a lumberjack’s work tools: axes, hammers, knives, scattered here and there. The place belongs to a lumberjack. It is not the kitchen of a chef.

However, he must work and live there. His potential cannot be achieved because there are so many limitations. He will be frustrated in this situation. The same is true for a planet that is in a debilitated state. It is outside of its comfort zone.

As before, now I’m going to give you an example specifically related to the planets. I had mentioned that the Sun is exalted in Aries, because in Aries it is possible for the Sun to find its identity and seek the truth.

Now we are going to examine the Sun in its debilitated state in Libra.

The zodiac element of Libra is air and it is ruled by Venus. The Sun is a masculine energy with a fire element, whereas Venus is a feminine energy with the water element. As you can see, the Sun and Venus contrast with each other. Venus is also the planet of the pursuit of pleasures. This means that the Sun cannot be comfortable in Libra and is debilitated.

Libra, in the natural zodiac, corresponds to the 7th house, which is related to relationships with others. This means that the Sun in Libra will try to listen to others first. But remember that finding yourself must be a solitary process, rather than a collective one. Therefore, the Sun’s search for identity and truth is made exceedingly difficult in this sign.

In Summary

We have defined terms that are used frequently in Vedic Astrology: rulership, exaltation, and debilitation. We also explore the meaning of each using examples from everyday life and Vedic Astrology. There is much more to learn, but I hope this is a good start for you.

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