Astrology is rather like Marmite. You either believe in it fervently, enunciating the characteristics of every star sign from Aquarius to Virgo, or you consider it a load of fairy dust splattered wish-wash that you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. As a student of the media and an avid reader of the printed variety especially, it is a well-known fact that I can assure you of, that newspapers and magazines love publishing horoscopes, at least from my experience in the United Kingdom. Astrologers such as Mystic Meg and Russell Grant have been shown on UK television for years as household names, and funfairs here seem incomplete without fortune tellers (inevitably Romany or pretending to be) with their tarot cards and crystal balls, glimpsing mysterious visions of a punter’s future for the price of a cinema ticket.
Astrologers tend to think of their craft as a science. A science, which in its basic principle, looks at how the heavenly bodies (moon, constellations, planets etc.) affect people’s fortunes, lives and futures. In some ways it is, if you look at the complexity of it. You would have to know a fair amount of interstellar science, at the very least, what planets and constellations are. Of course, it then ventures into a realm that most space scientists would regard with a large dose of suspicion. Wholesale detractors in any case are more inclined to see astrology and related fields like palmistry and numerology, as the preserve of quacks and charlatans – not to be taken seriously in the slightest. A pseudo-science that gives succour to bored homekeepers and hyperactive teenagers, if not a malaise that sups away the life savings of gullible old ladies (and a few men perhaps). It doesn’t help that most horoscopes printed for public consumption tend to have such gloriously vague gems as “You will come into a lot of money” and “Things look good for this month as a new life opportunity makes itself known”. Well, that could mean anything really. More often than not, nothing really happens. You’re still struggling with bills, childcare and that loan from a shady geezer in a car park that won’t go away. Life opportunities seem to be thin on the ground when you’re reading the horoscope from your hospital bed. Of course, most people see it as a bit of harmless fun and not to be taken too seriously. Could there ever been any truth to astrology’s claims, even if a little? This article might just help offer at least some evidence either way.
Most of our readers will be very familiar with at least the basics of western-style astrology. Things like star signs, birth charts, magic crystals and other tools of the astrological trade have passed into popular culture, at least since the Victorian era. Originally descending from the soothsayers of Babylonia and passed on via the Greeks, the Western form of astrology is big business, with Italians alone spending £5 billion a year on astrology and fortune tellers, according to the Telegraph newspaper. Ironic, as not even four hundred years ago, soothsayers and fortune tellers were often marked as ‘witches’, with often fatal and fiery consequences. However, fewer of our readers will be aware that there is an Indian version, with similar characteristics to its Euro-American cousin but which works and is respected on a whole new level. It isn’t just a dusky lady with strong eyeshadow and a round glass globe. It’s something that has stood the test of time for millennia and has become interwoven with an entire set of closely-related cultures and the societies that maintain them.
Known as ‘Vedic astrology’ and alternatively, ‘Hindu astrology‘, its proper and native name is ‘jyotish‘. In ancient India, around 3,000-5,000 years ago, the sages and learned religious figures who helped lay down the foundations of Hinduism as a world religion were highly versed in both astrology and astronomy, which they combined into a single science – jyotish. They concerned themselves with not just simply observing planets and the like, and writing down their observations. They also were hypothesising on what effect the planets and stars had on people on Earth. Considering that even they must have seen how, for example, the Moon had an effect on our world’s tides, they must have been intrigued whether humanity too, could be under some sway by the heavenly bodies revolving in the night sky above our heads. Jyotish was mentioned in the Vedas, one of Hinduism’s foremost and venerated scriptures, as well as in the Ramayana and Mahabharat, where even the Gods relied on astrology for certain deeds and activities. Vedic astrology or jyotish was largely codified in the Brihat Parashara Horashastra, a religious scripture which many Indian astrologers take on as required reading at the start of their careers.
Nowadays, jyotish still plays an important part in Hindu religion and culture. Unlike Western astrology, which existed outside the established religion there and was considered diabolical by many churches and priests, its Eastern variant is an integral part of Hindus‘ religious life. Horoscopes and astrologers are consulted with regularity for such matters as religious events, inaugurations of new businesses and selecting auspicious days on which to hold weddings. Some families are fervent believers, so much so that when it comes to marrying off a daughter or son, they will have a check done on the bride and groom’s horoscopes to see if they are astrologically compatible. While many more scientifically-minded people dismiss all forms of astrology as pointless hocus-pocus, to say that in front of such families would earn one a few looks of stern disapproval.
Jyotish is not just for people who are about to be hitched. Newborns in orthodox families will be named according to their star sign. Each star sign has a number of letters from the alphabet (usually in the Devanagari alphabet used to write Hindi and the sacred language of the Vedas, Sanskrit). The parents can choose one of these letters and therefore a name which begins with said letter. Moving home may also need the guidance of a jyotish pandit, or priest specialising in the craft. Astrology is respected as a science in India, even though there are many rationalists there who believe that it doesn’t deserve that status. You can study it as a university course and many people go into astrology as a full-time vocation. In any major decision in a Hindu’s life, an astrologer acts as a guide and predictor of outcomes to ensure that things run smoothly as per the person’s fortune, therefore their decision is often consulted, if the family place faith in astrology, that is.
“Many Hindus believe that heavenly bodies, including the planets, have an influence throughout the life of a human being, and these planetary influences are the “fruit of karma.” The Navagraha, planetary deities, are considered subordinate to Ishvara, i.e., the Supreme Being, in the administration of justice. Thus, these planets can influence earthly life” – Wikipedia
The importance of astrology within Hinduism is reflected by the presence of jobbing astrologers in my maternal home country Mauritius, home to a significant population of Indian descent, and usually devout Hindus. Here in London, you can go to Green Street, in Upton Park, where one astrologer/palm reader operates from a first-floor flat, and another, named Meera, is a female astrologer who has been active for several years and regularly advertises in local newspapers. In India, astrologers can be found on direcotry websites like Justdial, and nearly every village has someone who performs the role.
Some basic elements of Vedic astrology are as follows:-
Rashi – a division of the zodiac chart. Like as in Western astrology, there are twelve of these rashi. Each corresponds to a different constellation in the night sky, the same as with the Western version. The rashis are Meshh (Aries), Vrushhabh (Taurus), Mithun (Gemini), Karka (Cancer), Sinh (Leo), Kanyaa (Virgo), Tulaa (Libra), Vrushchik (Scorpio), Dhanushh (Sagittarius), Makar (Capricorn), Kumbh (Aquarius) and Meen (Pisces). Each rashi is associated with a tattva (element) such as fire, earth, water or air, and also with a ruling planet.
Nakshatra – known in English as a ‘lunar mansion’ – nakshatra is a division of the sky. There are 27 of them on a chart and are identified by their prominent stars.
Dasha – a planetary period which corresponds to the state of being an individual experiences.
Graha – literally planet. There are nine planets recognised in jyotish which are said to affect the mind and decision making of a person. The planets can have negative or positive effects.
I won’t go into too much detail, as jyotish is a complicated field, but I will share with you how I first experienced Vedic astrology for myself, and how it shocked me in its accuracy on my own life, and possibly my future.
As a British Hindu myself (of white and Indo-Mauritian heritage), I’ve always had an awareness of astrology, both eastern and western, for a long time. Whether it was casually reading a horoscope in today’s papers – I am a Libra, by the way – or seeing adverts for ‘African spiritual healers’ and clairvoyants in the classifieds section of that same newspaper, astrology had occasionally popped up its head like a bewildered meerkat in my life from time to time. I never gave it much thought though. No-one in my family had any major dealings with astrologers and we never used the services of a jyotish pandit. I’m a usually open-minded person, so while I never dismissed astrology in general out of hand, I didn’t swear by it either. If anything, seeing creepy Mystic Meg on television on the National Lottery shows when I was younger probably slaughtered what respect I had for astrology for a while. On the other hand, I could see astrology was very popular. By and large, I just could not be bothered nine times out of ten. I was not entirely sceptical, because I am a bit open-minded as mentioned before, but it was not something that really held my attention. Nevertheless there was always that little thought lingering away. Surely if so many people are leafing through their glossy mags for this week’s scopes and if astrologers are able to appear on television at all in any seriousness, then there must surely be some truth to it. My knowledge on my faith was also patchy at that time, which meant I was not in a position to fully appreciate or comprehend the impact of astrology in my religion in particular. I had some learning to do, and I was in for a bit of a shock.
Fast forward to 2012. While I was doing some research online on matrimonial sites for personal reasons, I began seeing stuff about astrology, mainly the Vedic branch, things about horoscopes for marriages et cetera. I began hearing, well reading, items on something called janam kundali. A kundali is an astrological birth chart, whereas the janam part of the name literally means ‘birth’. Using the exact time and date of your birth, along with the location, it is possible to create a special chart which shows the positions of the planets on that very occasion. Armed with this kundali, you could visit a reputable astrologer and by studying the chart, they could draw conclusions from your life and possibly predict your future.
My appetite whetted, but not wishing to part with half my salary to a real breathing in-the-flesh human astrologer, I was understandably relieved when I ventured across some websites that used a computer algorithm to carry out the calculations and then give you a reading derived from the kundli. You could say it was like astrological artificial intelligence. The websites in question were the Scientific Astrology Website – which offers free kundli setup and matching for marriages, and Ask Ganesha, which does free and personalised astrology services. I also visited Astrosage.com, which is what I could describe as an online warehouse offering all sort of things connected to Indian and Chinese astrology. Just as a disclaimer I should mention I am not involved with any of these sites, so am not endorsing them commercially, but they were my first port of call, as lazy with internet searches as I can be often.
If you scroll on a bit, you can see the respective kundli from the two sites that offered computerised versions of the charts which I have placed together for comparison. There are two charts given for each reading, one for rashi (or lagna) and one for navamsa, which is also called the ninth division. This is the ninth planetary house, and considered the most fortunate and auspicious. Its strong presence of luck and dharma (faith) can counter any ‘malefic’ (negative) aspects alluded to in the rashi chart.
My place of birth is Barking, London, England. My date of birth is 4th October 1984, with time given as 11 am.
You can already see that by comparing the two charts for the rashi and navamsa sets from two completely unrelated websites, that they appear almost identical in their positioning. For example both of the navamsa charts show Venus in my twelfth house. I’ll avoid describing the charts too much because then stuff gets technical and even my intelligent self has not yet got a grip on all the intricacies.
If you thought that was shocking, and bearing in mind I myself was a bit sceptical until I looked at the charts, wait till you see what the computer prediction was made based on these charts above. Before I was in for the proverbial shock of my life, let me first share some astrological facts about myself garnered from the three websites I used.
My ‘birth star’ is Shravan, which the Tamils – who use a different version of these charts – call Thiruvonam. This is the main star of my sky division or ‘nakshatra’ (see above) Shravan’s ruling planet or graha is the Moon, and it is also the birth star of the Hindu Goddess of learning Saraswati Devi – so clearly I’m in good and educated company. People who are natives of the Shravan nakshatra are said to be gifted in the arts and to have a wealth of general knowledge. I have a talent for graphic design and drawing, as well as writing and I was always fabled for my extensive general knowledge. They are also said to be honest, affable, trustworthy, often religious and bear a lot of respect towards parental figures. My rashi is Makar (Capricorn). While my Western sun sign is Libra, my Indian counterpart is Virgo! Tuesday is considered a bad day for me, while Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are lucky days. Speaking of luck, my lucky number is 1, my lucky metal is silver and my lucky gem is a glittery diamond. A lady’s best friend…and probably mine too. Now I know why Tuesdays fill me with such dread sometimes, and why one of my favourite sayings is “Thank God it’s Friday”.
Anyways, let’s move on from the technicals and now I’m going to show you exactly how my opinion on astrology was seismically shifted.
I am going to quote directly from the text as is. This text comes from a document stored on my laptop called “Vijay’s Vedic Horoscope”, which is a direct copy-and-paste from the Scientific Astrology and Ask Ganesha sites and was created on the 24th November 2012. The predictions and analysis of the janam kundli were automatically generated by the website itself under headings pertaining to scientific positions based on planetary positions. I’m going to show chosen quotes that prove the predictions correct but also those that are completely off the mark, so as to eliminate any intent of bias for the reader. I will then explain underneath each quote from the website predictions how or not the prediction corresponds to my life. Some of the links between the predictions and my life/personality/state of being are a little tenuous, but it does make you think.
CORRECT PREDICTIONS :-
1. “Your life will come through ups and downs regularly.“
This is a bit of a characteristic astrologically vague statement, but one that is true. I have been through many upheavals in my life, ranging from escaping a violent father and battling mild depression, and being evicted a couple of times (not through my fault), but also I have seen many positives, e.g. my niece’s birth and graduation from university. I’ve had good times and bad, but then again most of us do.
2. “You will get knowledge about different subjects. You can be good adviser to others.“
I am quite knowledgeable about different subjects, as can be evinced from my GCSE exams results in secondary school. It is this passion for general facts and figures that has stood me in good stead for my ambition as a reporter. I am often called upon by family and friends to give advice and direction.
3. “You do not like to work under the control of anybody. You love independence and respect your pride.“
I actually don’t mind having a boss, at least as far as employment is concerned, but I do have a veiled contempt for authority if it is inept or prejudicial to my work or wellbeing. I like to work under my own steam though, and don’t like people watching over my shoulder or scrutinising me. I consider myself very independent (I live alone) and prefer to run my own affairs rather than expecting anything of anyone else. I’m not a proud person overtly, but maybe self-respect and self-belief might be covered by this.
4. “Your financial status may not match your ability and knowledge.“
I earn around £17,000 a year which is far below the average London wage of around £24-28,000. My job is relatively easy to perform and doesn’t require any special skills or anything. I’m degree-educated (undergraduate).
5. “You will express good personality both in words and in your actions.“
Again, a little vague, but I can answer truthfully to this as I often like to show my good side, and do good deeds. I try to always speak to other with compassion and understanding, and in return offer a sympathetic ear.
6. “There is special attraction to your smile.“
I wouldn’t say I have a ‘Colgate smile’ but a few people have complimented or mentioned that I have a big cheery smile. One of my colleagues even shared a photo of me with a big fat grin on her Facebook wall and tagged me in it.
7. “You are known for calmness. However, you will get annoyed when something unfavorably happenes. You will get angry with others without considering how close they are.”
Indeed I am very calm and collected, but do anger easily at times. If people do annoying things or don’t get something right, my head does start to feel its overheating. I have had spectacular arguments with siblings, physical fights even, so I’ve been known to be hot-tempered. Add to that occasional feelings of frustration as well.
8. “Your spouse will be in a higher position than you finance or education.“
I’m not married yet, but this can be about 50% accurate. My ex-fiancée had a masters’ in human resource management. I have a bachelors’ degree. So in theory she could have well got a higher paying job.
9. “You will always be concerned about any matter even if you have everything nessecary for a luxurious and happy life. If one matter is solved, then another will arise. You must be cautious about these health problems: dental problems, urinary problems, and mental problems.“
I am rather like my Mum, I worry too much and often spend a lot of time chewing over things in my head, and sometimes problems are like London buses, you expect one, and then three come along! Concerning health issues, I’ve had dental problems a lot at one point, including gum disease, wisdom teeth which grew in the wrong angle, topped off with a painful infection and extensive decay. All this required the removal of the wisdom teeth plus one molar. I have low-level autism and have had symptoms of what I could consider to be depression. No urinary problems experienced by myself, although family members have had kidney stones and urinary infections.
10. “Will be very intelligent. Will be scholarly as Mercury represents academic learning. Will have high longevity. You have an original, comprehensive, adaptable and intellectual mind. Your goals are obtained through the use of your mind. Will have all sorts of enjoyments of the senses.“
I have an IQ score of around 135-140 depending on what test you use. I have always excelled in my studies and I enjoy studying (to an extent) and have an active imagination coupled with concise thinking, adaptable to different situations. Whenever I aim to achieve a goal or dream, I do a lot of mental planning beforehand. I enjoy art, cinema and music, not to mention good food (one other prediction got this spot on).
11. “You are a solitary kind of person who likes to enjoy all the pleasures of life.Pleasures are enjoyed in secret or behind the scenes.“
I do often keep myself to myself and am not the greatest of social butterflies, but I do enjoy the good things that life sends my way. Most of those pleasures are usually done solitarily, but not always.
12. “There is a tendency to keep relationships with the opposite sex a secret. You seldom reveal your innermost feelings.You are clever,Mean-minded ,miserly and will have eye trouble.”
Relationships are rare on the ground for me, and I’m a marriage-oriented person anyways. But I am not one to suddenly run around and tell everyone the moment I do find love. I do tend to keep it quiet until I’m positive of the outcome so I can comfortably inform friends and family. I guess this comes from being a man, but it is true I tend to hide my emotions and keep a lot of feelings under lock and key. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’m miserly. Not at all. But I am a prudent spender who saves a lot and doesn’t like financial wastage.
13. “You must control your speech as you are suspectible to speak harshly.You tend to end up in quarells herefore it advisable to keep your anger in check.“
I have been known to have a razor-sharp tongue! When I do lose my temper, words, and harsh ones can pour out of my mouth like molten lava. Ashamedly, I have said things to people in the past that were offensive, and said on the spur of the moment. I do have a quick temper and it has gotten me in hot water before. Now I just breathe..one…two….three…
14. “Jupiter in the second house favours you to become a astrologer, poet ,a great writer or even a scientist.Will have scholarship and learning. You will have a gift of impressive speech and will have a a quality of attracting people towards you.You will have a big family and will always be surround with people dear to you.You will have good family surroundings.“
When I was younger I had aspirations of becoming a veterinarian or working in natural sciences. I was also very good at science, enabling me to be in the higher stream at school. In the end I settled for journalism, as I also had good writing skills. My mastery with the pen was, and is especially evident, with short prose and factual articles. I have done a little poetry, but it’s not my strongest form of writing. I do have amazing conversations with friends sometimes, but do not have the ‘gift of the gab’ and the thought of making a stirring public speech a la Martin Luther King unsettles me. Orator I am not. I come from a family of seven siblings so I always have a family member on call…and don’t get me started about all the cousins, nephews, aunts etc. I have in Mauritius!
15. “You will be fickle minded and will not stick to one work.Changes in occupation are indicated . You possess intellectual curiosity and may well express your true feelings through speech, poetry or writing. Intellectualizing your feelings is probable. There is a strong need for communication and for gathering information, which is later shared with people in general or women in particular. You have a fine sense of humor and like to joke and play around.”
I couldn’t say I was fickle-minded. Perhaps indecisive at times, but the prediction is bang on accurate about ‘changes in occupation’. In my life I’ve worked in a pharmacy, a shipping agency, a leafleting company, an electrical hardware store, a post office and now a conference and events firm…and I’m still job-hunting!. Most of these jobs however were temporary from the outset, either part-time jobs when I was a college student or helping out at family businesses. In fact, I have been at my current position for more than seven years. I do tend to analyse things a lot and that includes feelings. As a journalist/blogger, communication and information gathering is the lifeblood of what I do on this blog, and even in my regular day-to-day activities, I often do research on something I have little knowledge on, and sometimes even just for the fun of it. A large proportion of the HEM community are female, some of whom are my firmest supporters. I love horsing around with friends and have an infectious laugh. I crack jokes at a mile a minute, and have left whole rooms of people in side-splitting hysterics.
16. “You feel a need to search for truth and wisdom so that you can understand life. Perhaps life has enslaved you in some way and you are searching for transformation or regeneration. Occasional upheavals in your life come about in order to bring you back to the correct path. There is a desire to retreat from society in order to re-analyze your life. You can become a champion of the downtrodden masses. Serving others in this life may be important for you. You enjoy working behind the scenes.”
I have had a very difficult life and have endured a lot of pain and abuse. Now I’m free of a lot of that and there is something inside me that drives me to wonder why this has happened to me. I do feel sometimes like I need to revamp or make some significant changes to my life, i.e. settling abroad or some other radical change. I sometimes imagine myself to be a loner, completely cut off from society and doing my own thing, but I’m not really planning to do that. There are times though, when things are getting me down and I need to retreat into my shell, switch off the mobile and just pore over things and solve issues. I do care about others, especially those who are less fortunate. I have considered volunteering, and admire those who do. I also regularly donate to charities and have strong belief in social causes and making at least a small stand against social injustices such as the persecution of disabled people by the austerity state in the UK or the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in India, for example. I don’t like to be the centre of attention and prefer to work quietly and away from the spotlight.
1. “You will be a good& welcoming landlord“
This may well be true in the future, but at the moment I’m just a humble renting tenant. Certainly no house of my own yet, never mind one to rent out. I have no desire to be a residential landlord either. The good and welcoming part does sound more accurate though.
2. “You are Bold and courageous and fear none. “
Far from it, I’m a mouse in a giant’s body. But jokes aside, there are some people I’m nervous of. I also have a fear of spiders and heights. Not a big sissy cry-baby fear, but they too make me nervous. I have been known to be fearless at times.
3. “you (sic) will gain wealth from government or from your father.”
Very unlikely I’ll get any wealth from my father, as firstly he was not rich or even moderately wealthy, and secondly, I’ve been estranged from him for more than two decades. As for government, that will only happen if I get a highly-paid civil servant’s job. Although I am open to positions in the civic service, it seems unlikely this prediction will ever come true.
4. “Will be hedonistic and strong. This dominance of Sun on the Meridien is capable of conferring regal status, knowledge and valour.“
I am far from hedonistic, far more straight-laced I’d imagine. I’m not one for carefree behaviour. I doubt I would receive any kind of regal status, as the UK has a hereditary monarchy – therefore you would to be born in it to win it.
5. “You will be founder of institutions and can have successful military or political career“
Unless you count the Half-Eaten Mind as an institution, that founding of institutions is yet to happen, and I have no interest in joining the military either. Ironically another prediction calls on me to avoid top positions in politics. Confused.com, I am.
6. “You may have trouble controlling your spending habits and are likely to be an impulsive shopper.“
This is the opposite of another prediction which said I would be miserly. I am actually very careful about my spending and do not like shopping, unless it’s necessary, for example weekly food shopping or the occasional shoparound for new clothes. I rarely buy anything ‘on impulse’ and that usually happens on eBay.
7. “Routine of any kind probably bores you and you are constantly looking for variety.“
I do actually have no problem with routine at all, indeed I follow daily routines almost religiously, but this prediction is also right in the sense that I sometimes tire of doing the same old thing every day and then I desire a bit of change. I do wish to have a more varied life than the nine-to-five slog sometimes.
8. “May also be tormented by many illness.“
Although I have had my fair share of health issues, and am currently overweight (but losing it bit by bit), I am rather healthy and rarely experience any major scares. In fact, I’ve never had to stay in hospital. Not even for a day.
Looking back on the predictions, the shock for me is how accurate a lot of them were, even if a bit tenuously. While some things were wildly inaccurate, even contradictory, there were some predictions, that when I first read them, I was stunned into silence. Aspects of my personality in particular, rang out at me from the page. I straight away identified with them. It is mind-blowing when you consider that I did not speak to a human astrologer but instead relied on a computer algorithm from two different websites, so there was no probability of a human astrologer observing me and then predicting those personality traits based on what they observed, which would clearly be cheating. Neither of those websites could see who I was and the only details they were given were the birth details needed to generate the kundli. Yet, I was able to see things mentioned which matched up with events in my life (from a generalised point of view), past experiences, and even hobbies and behaviours that I engage with.
On the other hand there were the obvious contradictions and incorrect predictions, although as they are predictions, they may not have been fulfilled yet. Some however, were blatantly wrong, and could easily put off a sceptic or an undecided observer.
From someone who was sitting on the fence as far as the truth and legitimacy of astrology was concerned, this kundli analysis exercise has actually strengthened my belief in astrology, to a greater extent. Of course, there are errors, as you can note above, so my opinion of astrology nowadays is that though it is not an exact science in the sense that chemistry is, for example, there is quite a bit of truth to it, if you are prepared to take time to understand the prediction with an open mind and maybe read between the lines a little. However, there are many things that can affect life and luck besides the movement of planets and that a crystal ball (or janam kundli) alone does not determine your whole life. It’s a guide, a bit of helpful advice. Ultimately you are in charge of your own destiny and have to travel along your own life road. The kundli and jyotish is merely a generalised tourist guide.
….and I suppose I owe Mystic Meg an apology too.