All planets have direct motion i.e. clockwise motion round the zodiac. Sometimes planets appear to have backward motion due to the relative position and motion of the earth. When a planet instead of having a direct forward motion appears to recede in the zodiac i.e., has a backward motion, it is called retrograde. This state is indicated by the letter ‘R’ in the ephemeris. Retrograde or vakra may be termed an affliction. A planet when retrograde, if not combust, is deemed to be strong. He is considered strong though he be in his debilitation or in an enemy’s sign. Retrogression or vakrabala makes a planet unusual or perverse in results, however well disposed or otherwise.
The Sun and Moon are never retrograde. The Sun and Mars get chesta bala (extremely powerful) when posited in the signs from Capricorn to Gemini which constitutes Uttarayan (North). Venus and the Moon are powerful in the Dakshinayan (South) i.e. from Cancer to Sagittarius. Planets in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th from the Sun are retrograde. Again all planets become retrograde when they are in the 5th place from the Sun and become directly retrograde when they move into 9th place.
Mercury is retrograde three times in a year: Saturn and Jupiter every year for some months: Mars and Venus once in about two years. Rahu and Ketu are always retrograde i.e. they always move in backward direction (left-hand side of the zodiac). It is said that from Aquarius to Taurus, Mercury moves along with the Sun, from Gemini to Virgo before the Sun and from Libra to Capricorn after the Sun. There are, therefore, three occasions during a year when Mercury crosses and re-crosses the path of the Sun causing retrogression. Mars, Saturn and Jupiter become retrograde when posited in the 6th, 7th and 8th from the Sun. Mercury and Venus are retrograde anywhere within 15th from the Sun their Maximum distance away from the Sun is only 29th and 47th respectively.
It is said that malefic planets in retrogression will always give bad and unfavourable results. Benefic planets when retrograde always provide good and auspicious results.
A planet in retrogression, it is said, gives the effect of its position in the previous house i.e., the house from which it recedes. Opinion is divided on this point. Some astrologers opine that it gives the results of the house into which it recedes back and not of the previous house. It is also said that saturn when retrograde gives the results of the previous house. Up to first 5 months (from the date of retrogression). Mars for 15 days Mercury for 10 days, Jupiter 45 days, Venus thereafter they usually produce the results of the they recede back. Some astrologers opine that the jupiter and mercury only give the result of the previous house all along during retrogression.
Their periods of stay while in retrogression are not always the same. Saturn remains retrograde for about 5 month, Mercury and Venus for 2 months, Jupiter for 4 months and Mars for 8 Months. Rahu and Ketu remain always retrograde. The Sun and Moon never become retrograde. During retrogression planets become extremely strong, beneficially they usually produce notable results like elevation in rank, and position, financial success. Name and fame etc.
Mantreswara in his Phaladeepika has at several places extolled the virtues of a retrograde planet and has equated a retrograde Planet with an exalted planet in strength and effects even though he be in an enemy’s sign or in debilitating sign. But Saravali, hand, has stated that benefics are greatly powerful and when retrograte ad cause Raj Yoga but malefics when retrograde cause fruitless journeys, wanderings and misery. Mahadeva in his Jataka-Tattva.has also stated that benefics when retrograde give wealth and splendour while malefics in retrogression cause many troubles and misery. The dictum of Sanketa-Nidhi is that in retrogression, Mars gives the effects of the 3rd house from his position, Mercury of the 4th, Jupiter of the 5th, Venus of the 7th and Saturn of the 9th.
Some astrologers opine that retrogression of a planet is deemed to be a source of strength and is possessed of bright rays in the state of retrogression. Further, it has been stated in all classical texts that one of the sources of strength of a planet is its chesta bala (motional strength) which is maximum when a planet is retrograde. Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn in retrogression or in conjunction with the full Moon gets chesta bala i.e. they become extremely powerful during retrogression. If Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Saturn are conjoined with Mars at any house, they are said to be defeated in the planetary fight, and get chesta bala.
Saturn and Mars when retrograde would not only cause miseries and physical disabilities but also they would sometimes give notably good results. Saturn when retrograde would appear to be a great Yogakaraka and give notably good results.
Saturn becomes extremely powerful if posited in the western side of the zodiac. Usually he gets digbala (directional strength) if posited in the West. Retrograde Saturn if posited in the ascendant (especially in the Eastern side), at a birth-chart, causes havoc. It is a great danger to the longevity of the native. It is because of the fact that malefic planets in retrogression will always give bad results. Saturn becomes too weak and utterly powerless if oriental or eastern. The first house represents health and body and so retrograde Saturn if posited in the lagna causes premature death.
Jupiter and Mercury are powerful in the East. They get digbala (directional strength) when Oriental or Eastern. Jupiter when retrograde in the eastern side of the zodiac gives notably good results.