17 January, 2021

The Pandit Plan

Astrology's religious sanction has given this new priestly class a way to rake it in

The Pandit Plan
After being interviewed for Outlook's report on astrology, Chennai's Nambungal Narayanan, who claims innumerable correct predictions, asked me with childlike enthusiasm, "When will your magazine feature this?" "You must tell me that," I told him, who had predicted a John Kerry victory. He replied with sudden confidence, "In two-three weeks." As I was leaving, he again dropped his guard: "Please call me when the issue comes out."

Despite such unwitting lack of confidence, how and why is it that in India future-telling has emerged as a far more powerful industry than in the Christian West or Islamic world? Debunked as pseudoscience, astrology in the West does not have the formal sanction of religion.

However, in India, astrology has been a part of religion. In most Brahminic south Indian temples, there's a navagraha shrine for the nine planets (which includes the sun and moon, but excludes the earth!). There are temples dedicated to specific planets—for instance, the Saturn temple Saneeswaran Koil in Thirunallar, Tamil Nadu. The very word...


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