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periyar and karunanidhiAstrology is closely connected with the casting and reading of horoscopes, determining good and bad times, and reading the future. Jothida is supposed to read the past, present and future. A rationalist who carefully scrutinizes astrology will notice that it is largely connected with religion. This is because astrology is based as much on superstition as religion itself. The stars and planets or good days taken into account in astrology have all legends attached to them, similar to the ones in the Hindu Mythologies (Puranas). The characteristics attached to some planets and stars seem to have been drawn from the fantasies of the religious fables.

Connection with Soul (Aatma)

While one religion attaches imaginary characteristics to the stars, planets and days, another has none of it. Further, like the Hindu religion, astrology is interconnected with the Soul (Aatma), past birth, deed (karma), fate, sin and virtue. All this is no more than speculation.

Some religions do not accept astrology. Indeed some religionists regard astrology akin to atheism! So far, no scientist has accepted the truths or imaginations of astrology, and it has come nowhere near science. Even palmistry or chiromancy or the art of feeling the character from facial expression or the body cut, augury of the art of omens, have all not been accepted by science.

Why science neglects?

If there is really any truth in astrology, and even otherwise if it could do anything good for mankind, the great scientists of the world who discovered the radio, the telephone, and the atom would not have left astrology severely alone. People who have discovered and measured the life springs in plant life flew high into space or bored into the earth for hundreds of miles would have taken the help of astrology if there was any truth in it.

Governments that have established mammoth research laboratories for various faculties would certainly have sought to improve a lot of mankind if there was anything to be gained by setting up a research establishment for astrology. The absolute total neglect accorded to astrology by science is an important matter to be taken into account.

Fear of unpopularity

To add to the various superstitions engendered by religion, should astrology with its speculative superstition be permitted to complicate the onerous existence of mankind?

In expounding my views on astrology, it is possible I have erred wholly or partly. It may be I am not fitted to express an opinion on such an ancient art that has attracted mankind’s interest for millenniums. But people who know the truth about astrology are not ready to come forward to publicly denounce it for fear of becoming unpopular. A denunciation, therefore, from a layman may at least, I hope, call for a defence of the art of astrology on a scientific and statistical basis, and that way, I will have raised a useful discussion on this controversial subject.

Astrology and Hinduism

Hindus believe in all sorts of things. The deity dancing in men, the spirit of the dead speaking through a medium, ghosts attacking people, causing disease or death through black magic, causing annoyance and misery through the play of little devil, enticing people by mesmerism, shaping of one’s life by past deed, are all strange things in which Hindus hold belief for the purpose of improving their own lives or causing trouble or death to other people’s lives. The amount of time, energy and money wasted by people on these indefinite arts are immeasurable.

Likewise, astrology is another art in which Hindus have firm faith, and no inconsiderable time and money are expended on this account. To all intents and purposes, the result of belief in all these false or indefinite arts is suffering and more misery to the people who resort to these things.

Priest class’s exploitation

The astrologer, the magician, and the temple priest have always been the prime and the foremost exploiters of the people’s greed and superstition. The trades of these three parasites are interconnected and of mutual benefit.

In indicating ahead the bad times and crises of a man, the astrologer directs the victim to a priest to perform special prayers (Archana and Abhisheka) to please the planetary gods (Navagraha) and obviate the danger from them. ‘Peace Prayer’ (“Shanti” pujas) to soften or submerge the anger of the gods is the result of the astrologer’s prognostications.

Conspirator’s Peace

In addition, the victim of the astrologer will take the services of the magician to cover or controvert the displeasure of the deities. Ordinarily, the magician will also be a country quack. In prescribing a course of treatment to soften the angry planet, the quack will prepare a big list of articles to be purchased to last for a span (mandala) of 48 days or so. If the planet to be propitiated for ‘peace’ (“Shanti”) happens to be Sani (Saturn) or Sevvai (Mars), the course would be more rigorous and expensive. The course will cover lighting the temple premises for a period of 48 days (mandala), reading or hearing Mythology successively for a period of 48 days or half of it.

In the name of the malevolent planets, it will be seen that the astrologer, the magician and the temple priest exploit the people and relieve them of their hard-earned income. In order to obviate the suspicion of self-Interest, the three conspirators will take care to benefit the petty trader and street beggar or sage, for the ‘Peace’ (“Shanti”) course will always mean the purchase of numerous things from the grocer and sometimes the feeding of the poor or the mendicant. The victims are therefore encouraged to believe that they are only propitiating the gods and not feeding the conspirators.

What is Astrology?

Astrology is not limited to predicting the future and indicating the good and bad things to come. It goes further to insist the measures to be taken to counter the ill effects of the planetary conjunctions as if the poor and miserable antidotes taken by man could set aside the powerful and terrible future already drawn and irrevocably set by the planets!

Time of birth

This happens to be a very intriguing proposition. What exactly is the time of birth is not determined by anybody for purposes of astrology. Is it when conception takes place in the womb, is it the time when life is supposed to start in the fetus, about the fifth month, or is it the seventh, eighth, ninth or tenth month when birth takes place? Is it the time when the head shows first or to the world outside of the mother the time the child completely leaves the mother’s body? Is it the time when the midwife hastened the birth by her manipulation? Or is it the time when the doctor takes out the child unnaturally by a Caesarean Operation?

The general opinion seems to be the time when the child finally leaves the body of the mother; and for our further discussion, we shall adopt this as the time of birth.

Turn to heavens for time

Ordinarily, it takes a little time to find out if the child born is dead or alive and whether it is male or female. It takes a little more time for the news to reach the menfolk waiting outside. To note down the time at once, the man must have a timepiece at hand. If he has one, one must be certain that the time is correct. If the watch is absent, one will have to look for it in the neighborhood or look at the heavens to determine the time as in the olden days. All these considerations may result in a wrong time being noted. A wrong time means a wrong horoscope.

It has been estimated that in a population of 270 crores in 1957, for the whole world, the birth rate was 170 per minute, or 10,200 per hour or 2,44,800 per day or 8,81,000 per year in India with one-ninth of the world’s population, the birth rate is calculated to be 9,800,000 per year or 456 per hour or 19 per minute.

Horoscope for an animal?

When birth is at the fast rate of 19 per minute, the birth rate in the much longer period of one Lagna (conjoining period of birth time and SUN time) will be very high. To club together all such children in one Lagna appears far-fetched for purposes of prediction, though. However, the Lagna will differ from area to area of the globe. One lagna is 5.25 naligai or 126 minutes.

Let us suppose that a child is born in Bramadhi year, Purattasi month, Wednesday 2nd at about 10-30a.m. in Scorpio (Vricchika) Lagna, and Astha star. Noting this time, if a slip passed on to the astrologer, he is supposed to cast the horoscope and predict the future. The being born at this time may be a human, or an animal or an insect or the finished table or stone idol. This will not matter. The astrologer will proceed to cast the horoscope.

Confusion worse confounded

In India, during one Scorpio (Vricchika) Lagna of 126 minutes, 2520 children are born. Taking Tamilnadu alone, it can be said that at this Lagna, 25 children were born. The constellation of the planets and stars at this Lagna cannot be different for most parts of Tamilnadu, and to say that the fate or character of these 25 children would be the same because of the same planetary conjunction would be absurd.

Is man’s future determined by these actions, or by the effect of the planets (Grahas), or by his past deed (Karma) or by his fate? If one of these is responsible, the other three seem to be superfluous. If all these things influence his future, it only means that confusion is worse confounded. Nothing is determinate, and the whole thing is speculative and imaginary. To say that all these aspects have their individual impact upon man is to easily escape responsibility and make the man helpless fatalist.

Effect of planets (Grahas)

To change or soften the effect of planetary conjunction through prayer, worship, peace (Shanthi), Rymns (Manthras), etc, as already discussed, is to carry superstition to the extreme limit. How would it be possible, for instance, to shift a malevolent planet (Graha) from one house to another through man’s religious or superstitious acrobatics? The astrologer’s prescription of remedy for a course of religious or magical exercises can therefore be only a trick to deceive the victim. If such simple human superstitious remedies could alter the effect of the planetary conjunction that took place at the time of birth years ago, the very art or science of astrology would be disproved.

The remedial prescription given to change the course of the horoscope or past deed (karma) is to give the secret away - the secret being that the art of astrology is all humbug. But without these prescriptions, the three arch- exploiters, as stated above, cannot subsist. It must therefore be apparent that in order to find easy living for unscrupulous gangs of astrologers, magicians and priests, the indefinite, inexact, and imaginary art of astrology has been invented. This will flourish so long as people are not rational free thinkers.

Astrology is the subject in which a prediction is made of a man’s future based on the position of the planets and stars at the time of the man’s birth. Astrologers go so far as to indicate the man’s time of death, his pains and pleasures, the crises in his life, his wealth or his poverty, his avocation, his health, the time of the marriage, these children, etc. Indeed there seems to be no aspect of a man’s future life, near or distant, that is outside the purview of astrology.

No one has verified

If this proposition is true, it follows that the future of many other people who are in some way related to him or would be related to him could also be predetermined. For instance, if a man is to grow rich, or obtain a promotion, or contract a disease, the circumstances leading to these changes must also be present. Hence the planetary positions that indicate the man’s future must also indicate the circumstances that give rise to the incidents in the life of the given person. The profit and loss resulting to others by the action of “A”, as also the profit and loss obtained by “A” as a result of the actions of others, must also be indicated by the planets. No one has verified the inferences by statistical methods.

Horoscope of thief

For example, let it be supposed that the property of a certain person is to be lost by theft. Unless the planetary positions indicate the event of the theft in the horoscope of the thief, the loss cannot be indicated in the former person’s horoscope. The horoscope of the person must indicate the theft at a certain time, and the horoscope of the thief must also indicate the thieving at exactly the same time.

Murder in horoscope

Likewise, let us suppose that a person “A” has to murder “B” at a certain time according to his horoscope. In this case, “B” ‘s horoscope must also show that he is to be murdered at the same time as the murder is indicated in “A” ‘s horoscope. Unless there is such correlation, no event involving two persons can ever happen. We must even go further and say that the horoscopes of inanimate objects such as a dagger or a revolver must also indicate the use to which they would be put at a certain time, as otherwise, the said event cannot take place. People do not take their analysis or thinking thus far, and the tragedy of their innocence or credulity lies there.

Horoscope of animals

Just as it is possible to draw the horoscope of a human being and predict the future for him, so also it must be possible to draw the horoscopes of all living animals and growing trees. In fact, astrologers are found to say that the time the making of an idol is started or completed will tell us the future of the idol, whether it will become a prominent and famous object of worship or will just get thrown away as useless. If this proposition about the making of an idol is true, it must also be true of every other object that is manufactured in this world. Clocks, lanterns, vessels, chairs, etc., must all come into the picture. The time one of them was started to be made, or the time when it was finally made, or the time of the purchase, must be adopted to draw their horoscope. The variations that we notice in a human being’s life are also noticed in the time of any other object, animate or inanimate, not all of them have the same even course of existence and end.

One horse becomes a monarch’s durbar horse and enjoys great attention and respect. Another born about the same time pulls a cart (Jutka), and is subjected to a life of toil. The difference, according to our astrologers, must be traced to their date and time of birth. When were they born at the same time and place? Where is the truth about astrology?

Idol and other stones

An idol is made from rock and installed in a Hindu temple. There it is adorned with precious jewels, worshipped six times a day, washed with different liquids every day. Dressed in costly apparel; and what is more, beautiful nautch girls daily dance before the idol, and the idol itself is married every year to the merriment and spirituality of a concourse of devotees. The idol is also taken out in grand procession to receive the homage of the populace. The other block of stone cut out of the same rock and at the same time is used to pave, let us say, a public latrine. There the stone is daily trodden on by the dirty chappals of a thousand people, who spit on it or commit a nuisance on it, and the scavenger washes the stone perhaps once a week with soiled water and a stinking broom. When the fate of these two blocks of stone is so different, it cannot be denied that the reason is due to the planetary positions at the time the blocks took their “birth” from the rock, according to our astrological science.

Hindu Monastery Head’s elephants

Hence it has to be admitted that if astrology is true for man, it must also be true for the other animals, plants and rocks. The absurdity of the situation as explained here must be plain to everyone. The planets cannot act only on man and not on the other objects on the earth.

It is not uncommon to see people carefully noting down the time of a horse’s or an elephant’s birth and casting horoscopes for them. Racehorse owners do this for horses, and Kings (Rajas) do it for their horses and elephants. The Head of Monastery must also be doing it for their temple elephants, as otherwise, the science of astrology would lose its meaning. If, therefore, horses and elephants can be subjected to horoscopes, fowls, snakes, lizards, ants, worms, insects, etc., they could also be given the pleasure or the privilege of horoscopes being drawn for them. The time the seeds shoot out of the stem may be noted down and the future for plants and trees drawn for them.

Head or limb?

Apart from these reasonable suppositions, one has to see what exactly is meant by the time of birth. Beginning with labour pains, childbirth takes place slowly, limb by limb. In most cases, the head appears first, either the skull or the face showing first to the earthly light, The limbs coming out first is not also uncommon. If the appearance of the head is the time of birth, one has to know whether it is only when the face shows. In some cases, the time taken for the full birth from the time of the appearance of the head runs into hours. If the time when the child finally leaves the mothers womb is to be taken as the time of birth, how exactly is the time to be determined? A day is divided into 16 Muhurthams. Each Muhurtham extends from 3.75 to 5.50 Naligais. Each star is said to have about 60 Naligais. Babies born at the same time in a given area of the earth must all have the same planetary conjunction. All births and deaths that taken place in the world must be covered by these time factors.

Boy and girl matched

Assuming that it is possible to predict something by looking at the conjunction of the planets at the time of birth, how is it possible for the planets to have anything to do with the affairs of men in their daily livelihood? There are different conjunction at different times, and why should the conjunction at the time of birth alone influence mean? There are a hundred occasions in a man’s life that are either significant or important. To make matters more confusing, speculative astrologers are known to note the time when people go to consult them and predict things based on that time. When the time of birth is in doubt or missing, astrologers content themselves to make predictions on the names of parties. Do the names of the boy and girl proposed to be matched agree? Worse still, you are asked to name a number, and on that, the prediction is made, and your future is sketched for you. Some others would have your name a flower or an animal to start the prediction. The part of the body that may be touched by a subject seems to give a clue to the omniscient astrologer. One wonders if it can be so simple as all this to predict a man’s future.

Is science amenable to all these tricks? If guesswork and speculation could determine things, there appears to be no need for exact sciences at all. Science is based on correct knowledge and exact calculations. Without rules, it is impossible for life to go on. It is only religion and astrology that are prepared to proceed on blind belief, guesswork and speculation.

Past Deed (Karma) and present life

There is also another interesting aspect to his astrological work. Why should a man get certain conjunction of the planets at the time of this birth? Religionists explain that past karma determines the present life of a man and, therefore, the particular conjunction of planets. God has, therefore, to choose the conjunction of planets correctly in accordance with a man’s deed (karma) to project him into the world. The good or bad things said by the astrologer have to be unquestionably accepted by the people because they feel satisfied that what the astrologer said had already been determined for them by their past deed (karma). But it is not clear whether the future is determined by a man’s past deed (karma) or by the conjunction of planets at the time of birth. To get over this difficulty. It has been said that the conjunction of the planets is made to suit the deed (karma). Yet, we are also told that karma can be altered by strenuous efforts in the present birth. This only makes confusion worse confounded. One does not know therefore to what extent or degree one’s life is moulded by (1) the deed (karma) of the past birth, (2) the position of the planets at the time of birth, (3) by the position of the planets at the time any important act is attempted in life (4) by the particular name given to one by his parents, (5) by the fate or acts of others, (6) by the action taken in one’s own present life, (7) by the influence of the dead souls who are being propitiated the living, (8) by one’s prayer and piety, (9) by the characteristics obtained by heredity and environment, and (10) by the action of god himself.

Common proverbs

As already stated, no man can murder another at a particular time unless the murdered person had also been fated to that end by his past deed (karma) and action. The actual responsibility of the parties concerned reduces, therefore, to negligible proportions. It appears, therefore, to be absurd either to condemn the man who commits murder or to pity the man who is killed, as neither could help the event. This fatalist theory would only make people either reckless or cowardly.

“Will the god who wrote destiny or death then erase and write a new?”

“Who can overcome fate?”

“Everyone must reap the result of his past wrong deed (karma).”

Hell and heaven

When responsibility for all actions is thus shifted to non – personal agencies like fate, one fails to see how people can either be condemned to hell or rewarded by heaven or how they can acquire sin or virtue for their actions. Punishment for crimes committed and rewards given for good done seem to be meaningless when the responsibility for them is really on outside agencies like fate. Viewed from these angles, it would be apparent that there cannot really be a thing called astrology to predict the future events of a man’s life. It is opposed to all scientific knowledge and has no rational basis.

It is true that Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other theistic people believe in astrology. There are atheists also who fall into the trap. This is because astrology has been raised by its protagonists into science and said to be unconnected with god. The real reason why belief is so widespread is because man is essentially a coward, afraid of the world and extremely desirous of the good things of life. He, therefore, seeks to find comfort even where he has no belief and takes the line of least resistance to swim with the majority. This is how superstition gets entrenched and his brain to displace.

Why Muslims and Christians?

The people of Europe, America and Russia, are all very advanced in science, and if there was any truth in astrology, would their scientists not have taken it up? Science is not bound by any religion. It is connected to the intellect and wisdom of man. That scientists have so far taken no interest in astrology is proof of the fact that there is no truth in it.

In fact, Muslims and Christians are not supposed to believe in astrology, and those outside of India do not have faith in it. The Muslims and Christians of India originally belonged to Hinduism before conversion, and they are not wholly free of Hindu thought. Constant association with Hindus has led them unconsciously into belief in astrology. To the Hindus, astrology is largely connected with religion itself, and astrology is just one more superstition added to their numerous other beliefs and practices.

All said and done, rationalists must set aside astrology.


Translation By Prof. A. M. Dharmalingam

 [Late - lamented Prof. A.M. Dharmalingam was a great rationalist and ardent Periyarist and fighter for Social Justice. He retired as a Deputy Secretary to the Government of Karnataka State and later on he became Professor of Law in the Law College. A Prolific writer and good thinker of Karnataka. He lived in Bangalore.]

(From 'Collected Works of Periyar E.V.R.', compiled by Dr. K. Veeramani, published by 'The Periyar Self-Respect Propaganda Institution')

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