Although it may seem straightforward, difficult questions arise when attempting to establish the correct time of birth. For example, does birth take place at the onset of labor? Or when the child emerges from the birth canal? Or when the umbilical cord is cut? Or at the first breath? What if an emergency procedure is required, such as cesarean section? Moreover, what if a clock is unavailable, or set incorrectly?
In Vedic astrology the "actual" known birth time is only a starting point for determining what might be called the true or "karmic" birth time, which marks the beginning of the person's destiny and to which all subsequent life events can be traced. Strange as it may sound, this time may occur even before the actual physical birth.
When preparing a horoscope, the first step is to prepare a birth chart using the time when the person was actually born, according to hospital or family records, or the testimony of witnesses. The astrologer then compares this chart against significant events in the person's life. If these events match the chart, the astrologer is fairly sure that the actual birth time is the true or karmic birth time. If they do not match, the astrologer adjusts the birth time until a chart is produced that accurately reflects all known events in the person's life.
The rectified time may appear incorrect when compared with family or hospital records or witnesses' personal remembrance of the event. It may be difficult to accept, for example, that the rectified birth time is before the actual recorded time of birth. To the astrologer, however, the rectified time signifies the onset of the person's destiny.
Even if rectification is not requested, the astrologer will check the birth time in this way. Should none of the person's life events match the given birth time, he will indicate that rectification is necessary. Sometimes, when the difference between the actual and true birth time is not great, and will not significantly change the reading, he will proceed without rectification.
To someone not skilled in Vedic astrology, the procedure sounds mysterious, but then astrology itself is mysterious and its laws not always easily explained. The best judgement of your horoscope is how accurately the reading describes you, your character, attributes, and circumstances. If the reading is accurate, then the birth time used was correct, even though you know you were "actually born" at a different time. However, if you can honestly say that nothing in the reading is correct, and that you do not recognize the person described, then some error remains with the birth time.
Of course, even if the new birth time is correct, interpretive errors in the reading may still result, because astrologers cannot know everything, although in the broad portrait they are usually accurate.
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