AK and Ishta Devata are there to help us realize maya (illusion). Jyotish gives us an insight into maya and shows how limited we are by karma and at the level of intellect (Buddha), it gives us knowledge of which path we should take to get to moksha and god-realization.
Jyotish pays special attention to the planet/graha, which is at the highest degree in the natal chart. It is called Atma karaka (AK).
Atma karaka signifies the true desires of the soul, its evolutionary path, and the place where the soul purifies and develops.
According to the position of the Atma kakara in Navamsha (the division map relating to dharma) we see the relationship of soul and dharma and how Jiva will be able to walk the path of Dharma through life.
Just as people have higher Jivatma (higher Self), so grahas have higher paramatma (devas, deities, angels, saints, spiritual guides), because grahas are the incarnations of the planets in a certain way. These paramatmas or deities are supreme beings who help us in our growth, development, and the path to Moksha. Isha Devata is a personal deity through whom God manifests to guide, protect and help us. For each person, Ishta Devata manifests in a different way through different features through the nine grahas (planets), and their interpretation is in relation to religious affiliation and understanding of divinity.
In addition to the Atma karaka in Navamsha kundali, it is important to know what our Karakamsh is, that is, the rashi (sign) in which AK is in Navamsha. Karakamsh shows the desires of the soul in relation to our dharma and karma, which we have brought with us from past lives.
The greatest desire of the soul is to attain moksha (liberation) so that the personality becomes aware of the soul and begins to reflect it in daily life by living in accordance with the laws of nature (Dharma).
AK and Ishta Devata are there to help us realize Maya (illusion). Jyotish gives us an insight into Maya and shows how limited we are by karma and at the level of intellect (Buddha) it gives us knowledge of which path we should take to get to moksha and god-realization.
In relation to AK, Ishta devata, and the most dominant planet/graha within our natal chart, there are nine evolutionary paths we can tread. All nine paths lead to moksha; their goal is the same, but the paths themselves are different.
For this reason, we cannot say that one path is better than another, or that one path will lead us to a goal faster than another. The only thing that matters is to follow your path, your dharma, your intuition, and not compare yourself with others.
Surya takes the place of the king in the planetary cabinet, so its path is the path of rulers and leaders – influential people in positions that possess a certain power.
This is the path of justice, truth, generosity, independence, and morality. The dangers on this path come from an unbalanced ego, an unhealthy form of pride, and a misdirection of power.
Isha Devata Surya, if we look at Hinduism is Sri Rama, if we look at Christianity, it is the Holy Spirit.
Chandra takes the place of the queen in the planetary cabinet, so its role is public relations, and the path is a path of compassion, healing, caring, motherhood, helping the needy, and intuition.
The dangers along the way come from unbalanced emotions, excessive worry, and shyness. This is also the path of Bhakti Yoga – Yoga of devotion.
Isha Devata Chandra, if we look at Hinduism are Sita Devi and Krishna, and if we look at Christianity, it is Mary, the Mother of God.
Mangal takes the place of the supreme military leader in the planetary cabinet; that are soldiers, policemen, and all persons who express courage, passion and have an adventurous spirit tread its path.
The dangers on this path come from uncontrolled anger and rage, unbalanced passion, jealousy, and aggression.
Ishta Devata Mangal, if we look at Hinduism is Hanuman, and if we look at Christianity it is Archangel Michael.
The Budh takes the place of the prince in the planetary cabinet; intellectual types, people who organize ceremonies, festivities, and parties tread his path. It is the path of knowledge, communication, and fun, and it is also the path of Jnana Yoga or Yoga of knowledge.
The dangers on this path come from pragyaparadha (mistake of intellect), avidya (taking ignorance for knowledge), wrong discernment or indistinguishability, indecision, forgetfulness, and excessive chatter.
Isha Devata Budh, if we look at Hinduism are Saraswati and Maha Vishnu, and if we look at Christianity, they are Apostles.
The guru takes the place of a minister in the planetary cabinet. This is the path taken by people who are committed to tradition, mostly people who, for example, follow exclusively the teachings of the Catholic Church (or some other religion) or follow a guru with a traditional knowledge transfer. Among them, very few are those who are oriented towards free spirituality, because most of them are the guru-religion type of people. This is the path of wisdom, faith, tradition, and morality.
The dangers along the way come from inflexibility and intolerance towards other traditions and teachings, misjudgments, possessiveness, and stinginess.
Ishta Devata Guru, if we look at Hinduism are Shiva and Indra, and if we look at Christianity, it is Jesus Christ.
Shukra takes the position of minister in the planetary cabinet. Its path is the path of love, ahimsa (non-violence), beauty, harmony, truth, purity, art, creativity, joy and bliss (anada); it is trodden by artists, designers, actors, free spiritual people, and diplomats. This is the path of sattvic Tantra Yoga.
The dangers on this path come from unbalanced sexuality, a superficiality that arises with an exclusive attachment to external beauty, immorality, exaggeration, obsession, and seduction.
Ishta Devata Shukra, if we look at Hinduism it is Kamala (form of Lakshmi), and if we look at Christianity it is angels (because they are luminous beings, and Shukra represents the first spark of light and knowledge because Venus is the first-morning star).
Shani takes the place of a servant in the planetary cabinet. Its path is the path of renunciation, fidelity, loyalty, perseverance, discipline, and uncompromisingness – Karma Yoga or Yoga of service.
The dangers on this path come from selfishness, insensitivity, irresponsibility, perversion, malice, cold-bloodedness, pettiness, and propensity to crime.
Ishta Devata Shani, if we look at Hinduism is Brahma or Narayana, and if we look at Christianity, it is the Holy Father.
Rahu has no status in the planetary cabinet because it represents people from the edge of society (criminals, mafia, people from the “underground”, people from the “shadow”, fanatical members of sects, people who summon ghosts, etc.). Its role is to acquaint us well with Maya – illusion. Its path is followed by people who must go through all forms of illusion before realizing the Divine game or Lila. It is a path of occultism, tamastic tantric practices, rapid transformations, instability, and frequent change.
The dangers on this path come from darkening of the mind, unfulfilled desires, fanaticism, obsession, and strange ideas. Isha Devata Rahu, if we look at Hinduism is Durga, and if we look at Christianity, they are mystics.
Ketu has no status in the planetary cabinet because it is represented by people from the fringes of society (homeless and saints). Its path is the path of freedom. It is the principle of the transcendental and represents Kundalini energy. Many who are on this path practice the rajastic form of Tantra Yoga.
The dangers along the way come from self-doubt, feelings of inferiority, fears, panic, horror, and destructiveness.
Ishta Devata Ketu, if we look at Hinduism is Ganesha, and if we look at Christianity, it is St. Antun.
Ketu is considered Moksha karaka or giver of Moksha, because the transcendental energy of Ketu brings us to the 7th state of consciousness or consciousness of unity (Brahmi Chetana).
In order to gain Moksha, Ketu must be in certain positions in relation to Navamsh and Karakamsh Lagna.