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It is said in the classics that a planet would be more powerful when they are radiant. If you look at the zodiac, the point rising in the horizon is called ascendant (the first house) and the point at mid heaven is called the 10th house.  The belt of zodiac from ascendant to descendant across the 10th house is called visible half of the zodiac.  10th is regarded as most powerful kendra.  Similarly, a special muhurta when sun transits in the mid heavens is called Abhijit.  The  results of Abhijit muhurta is beyond the scope of this article. When a planet is opposite to Sun, it would be visible when the sun sets and also when the sun rises.  A planet in such a condition is said to be auspicious.  When a planet comes closer to sun, it would set and rise along with sun and hence are lusterless.  Such a position is called combustion.  Combustion is caused due to certain longitudinal distances from Sun and it is not necessary that both Sun and the combust planet be in the same sign.
Combustion is deemed to be bad at it would rob away the effects of the planet. The combustion distance varies from planet to planet.  Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn come at distance of 17º, 14º (12º when retrograde), 11º, 10º (8º when retrograde) and 15º on either side of Sun, they are subjected to combustion. On the other hand, when the planets come close to Moon, it is called Samagama.  In Prashna chart, association of Moon with the significator implies quick and pleasing results. Nodes do not have combustion as they are not radiating planets but merely mathematical points. Generally speaking, combustion is a phenomena most talked about in muhurtas (election astrology) than natal horoscopy - as if the combust planets hit at the person for selecting a combust muhurta and spare the man born in combust circumstances!     Uttara Kalamrita says, " (Natural) Benefic planets if combust,  lose their potency, while (natural) malefics become more mischievous".

If you look into your Panchanga (Indian conventional Ephemeris), you will find that suitable muhurtas for inauguration of house, business expansion, marriage etc., would not available during the period of combustion. Combustion goes by several names - asta or moudya, astangata and dagdha. Moudya means foolishness. Astangata and dagdha mean 'burnt up'. That means the combust planet  would behave like a fool during this period as so the name. In a western almanac, you will find inferior and superior conjunction with sun.  These are same as combustion which happen when the planet is between earth and sun and when it is on the other side of the sun. It is though in the west that birth charts with superior conjunction of mercury produce great thinkers and the inferior conjunction gives rise to anti-social persons. On verification of many horoscopes using Swiss Almanac (because many soft wares and Indian Panchangas do not distinguish between these two variety of conjunctions) I found no legitimacy in this idea.

Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra says," If ascendant  lord is in debilitation, combustion or in enemy sign, there will be diseases. (Sloka 1-2, "Effects on Tanu Bhava).  This stanza highlights the importance of combustion in natal horoscopy.  There are two only moudhyas which give importance to Venus and Jupiter.  When Jupiter is combust, Upanayana (reborn-ceremony) is not conducted. Unfortunately the other planets do not enjoy such respect!  On the similar argument, when Mercury is combust, you panchanga should have mentioned that certain days as not good for education, journalism and court dealings.  When Saturn is combust, it should have told you not to take up a labor contract!
A combust Venus is supposed to cause losses in business. This means when you go to buy a pair of shoes you will meet loss, the shop keeper also incurs losses. Losses and losses everywhere. Since Mercury and Venus move close to Sun, the phenomenon happens frequently, say every year.  In that case, it is wise to examine the trading activities during that time.  In my humble experience, such period of combustion marked in the Panchanga has not brought about slacking trade activities, divorces etc.,  It is possible that you will not loose any amount nor the shop keeper gains - as the shops could closed due to various natural or national causes.  Such a situation, as viewed from the national fiscal point, is not good at all!  Yes, when combustion is going on, it is possible we get across such a time.  However, the distance of combustion should be taken as 3º20' or less on either side of Sun. It is wise not to do any business transaction, conduct  marriages, house warming ceremonies during that time. 
"If the planets forfeit their strength  as a result of combustion the native will enter the holy order, that is, he will become a saint" (sloka 5 "Ascetism Yogas" Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra). Well, not all is bad with combustion!  Suppose you have a strong Venus in the chart, the effect of combustion is less. By combustion, the planet looses his strength to Sun.  In the event Sun is a benefic like 5th lord, 9th lord, 10th or 11th lord etc., then how can such a combustion effect you?  You will make good tidings through the significances of Venus and the matters represented by Sun will flourish. Despite this, the natural signficances (beauty, artistic nature, refinement of the native) would suffer due to combustion. Other attributes should also be considered.  "If 11th  Lord is exalted, though in combustion there will be many gains". (sloka 2, "Effects of Labha Bhava" -Brihat Parasara Hora Shastra).

You need not panic that you were born when Venus was combust nor that you should not conduct your beloved daughter's marriage during the entire period shown in your panchanga as sukra moudhya.  It is suffice to avoid the muhurtas during the time when Venus comes close to Sun by 3º20' or less. Generally, in panchangas only the combustion of only Jupiter and Venus  are published. It is understandable that combustion of Mercury is not given much importance by panchanga makers, it happens quite often!  I suggest to avoid combustion period of other planets, Mars, Mercury and Saturn for the muhurta for the events signified by these planets. In these cases also, 3º20' or less on either side of Sun is suggested.  It is prudent to view the possible results of combustion based on the functional role of the combust planets, in addition to natural significances.