Saturday, March 3, 2007

Vedic Astrology

J. N. Srivastava of Ghaziabad has collected data on predictions made by our leading astrologers which turned out to be false. Some of it makes amusing reading. In January 2004, it was predicted that Aishwarya Rai would marry Vivek Oberoi by the end of the year. She is still unmarried and is engaged to marry, not Oberoi but Abhishek Bachchan, some time this year. When Karisma Kapoor married, Bejan Daruwala predicted she would make an ideal wife: “She got Raja Hindustani and he got Biwi Number One,” he pronounced. A month later, Karisma hauled up her husband to court and gave him a tongue-lashing before the judge. Both are back in happy matrimony. But you have to give it to Daruwala, he lends religious sanction to his predictions by chanting “Sri Ganeshaya Namah”. He is a Parsi.

Not to be forgotten are prophecies made about the end of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government before the last elections. It was predicted it would be back in power before the end of 2004. There are as yet no signs of it doing so. Such false prophecies are on the menus of star-gazers’ restaurants every day, but have failed to fill the bellies of our multitudes which continue to hunger for them. Their champion, Murli Manohar Joshi, remains unfazed. When asked, after losing in the election, if he still believed in astrology, he replied emphatically, “Certainly” (pronounced, in Almora accent, ‘suttonly’). The same is true of T.N. Seshan, ex-chief of the Election Commission who failed in his bid to become Rashtrapati, but remains unshaken in his belief in the divine messages sent down by the stars.

So all kinds of irrationality thrives: changes of spellings of names (Jayalalitha to Jayalalithaa, Shobha Dé to Shobhaa Dé) altering ingresses to homes and offices and turning around furniture according to vaastu. Unreason manifests itself in numerous ways. Even reminding people that most of our great leaders — Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru — disdained astrology as superstition makes no difference. When A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was to be sworn in as president and was asked to suggest an auspicious day, he replied in his gentle manner: “Days and nights are formed by rotation of the earth on its axis. So long as the earth rotates, each day and every moment is auspicious for filing nominations for the Supreme Commander of the Indian Army.”

J.V. Narliker, equally eminent Indian scientist in the realm of astronomy, blasted astrological forecasts based on eclipse of the sun. He said, “Eclipses are mere shadows and don’t affect human life in any way. The grounds on which the original beliefs were based have long been debunked.” It might be worth remembering that on August 15, 2001, while M.M. Joshi was still lauding Vedic astrology and mathematics, 128 scientists signed a declaration in Delhi to the effect that “Vedic maths is neither Vedic nor Maths. As such it would be fraud on children to introduce it in their syllabus”.

Has the kind of debunking made any difference to astrologers and people who have horoscopes cast on birth to guide them in choosing careers, life-partners or gauging their life-spans? Reason and logic cannot pierce the skulls of the thick-headed; they remain thick-headed to the last even if they manage to live longer than predicted in their horoscopes.

Chronological order