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What the stars foretell

What the stars foretell
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We have more faith in the unseen than in what we see. For centuries, irrespective of cultural differences, geographical boundaries and religious...

We have more faith in the unseen than in what we see. For centuries, irrespective of cultural differences, geographical boundaries and religious beliefs, people have shown an extraordinary interest in the movement of stars and planets and linked their future to the 'behaviour' of heavenly bodies.

Though the ancient studies of stellar objects had served astronomers well in mapping the night sky, lunar and solar cycles, planetary motion, etc., scientific observations had found another use in the hands of scholars who produced treatises on astrology, tying the fates and destinies of earthlings to the heavenly bodies.

The stars and planets under which people are born are either directly or indirectly influenced by their respective planets and turbulence in their movement and the orbits in which they are in conjunction with other planets can have positive and negative effects on individuals as well as on countries. That belief has many takers, more than the outwardly admitted number that leads to the general conclusion "we are nothing but puppets in the hands of more powerful planets that dictate all human actions and influence the natural elements like climate, rain, heat, etc."

For some, astrology, though based on scientific studies, is esoteric and mumbo-jumbo to fool the gullible. For others, it is a divine guide on what to do and when and how to avoid pitfalls, skip potholes in one's life. These include births and deaths, marriages, launching new ventures, among a host of other things. Those who swear by planetary positions and their effects on human beings for every action will take their dogmatic arguments to such ludicrous lengths in their daily life that they become butts of ridicule. Nevertheless, faith can't be questioned on the basis of rationality and scientific reasoning.

Whether it is blind or well-established, faith in an unknown supreme force continues to have a sway over our lives despite the spectacular strides the humankind has been making in science and technology and life sciences. Still, our interest in knowing what is in store for us in the future is as tantalizing as opening doors to a new frontier.

The 'Panchanga Sravanams' on Telugu New Year's Day � Ugadi � is one such exercise. It is unique to this part of the country when Sanskrit pundits, well-versed in astrological calculations, disclose their predictions for the New Year at a gathering of select audience. The practice goes back to centuries when kings used to hold court on Ugadi day when the learned pundit unfurled the next 365 days of future. By any chance, if no such session was held, it was considered a bad omen. Over the ages, the practice has become a tradition which is followed in one form or another even today.

In place of kings, we have political leaders whose curiosity in acquiring foreknowledge of events in the New Year is more than that of the general public since they can make or mar personal and party future. Whether the forecasts come true or not, the mere hearing of them gives solace to heart and mind. Take, for instance, Thursday's panchanga Sravanam at Ravindra Bharathi where a galaxy of ministers, including Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, were present to hear what the pundit had to say.

The predictions were all too familiar: Good monsoon; a bountiful year; tough time for politicians, etc. But the good tidings awaiting the State have also riders like "very good rains are expected and there will be very good yield � and this will be a very good year for farmers � provided the government too does its bit." Good all the way but �

Another observation, "there may not be dearth of funds for the State and at the same time there will be a lot of wasteful expenditure as well." Overall, these are predictions with safety valves in case something goes amiss.

Over the years, the annual panchanga pathanams on All India Radio and various TV channels and those organized by the party in power and those in the Opposition have become ritualistic. Political developments have had their share of overtones in prophesying the New Year events, often to please the organizers as if every wish will come true as the year unfolds.

Only at the end of the year, one realizes that what is music to the ears is not necessarily a matter of truth. Though it has been happening year after year, we tend to read and hear the annual predictions with renewed interest, not because a majority of us firmly believe in what the pundit says but the kind of amusement we derive from them, particularly those of political kind.

Even if we take them with a pinch of salt, or snuff, and taste them with chillies or pepper, the political predictions are heady and border on self-gratification of party bosses until their fortunes are decided at the husting. Nevertheless, some traditions have to be honoured and continued for their intrinsic cultural value without vitiating and ridiculing them. Once it is done, they become a farce.

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