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                     From March-April issue of Journal of Astrology 2010

It was cool January afternoon with an eclipse in the sky and a traffic jam on the ground. I was on the driver’s seat exercising my patience, a ritual required on Delhi roads daily. My mobile buzzed and rang a disturbed female voice. Full of shock and dismay.  “I am Rashmi Sharma. We are under attack and there is no one to defend us. Astrologers are the shameful losers. Have you seen ‘Star News’? I have tried others. No one is answering the phones at Mr. Rao’s place. Astrologers are being ridiculed. It is terribly embarrassing.Why is none of us in the studios?

Having staked my life on astrology, I was desperate to know what was really happening. It took me some time to organize myself. I dialled a few people who I thought could have access to that TV channel but found none. I knew Mr. Rao would be in the paath which was scheduled from 1:30 p.m. on the eclipse day and, so the phones won’t be picked.

I headed back to my office and accessed the net. I found astrologers cornered by rationalists, psychologists and scientists, being attacked mercilessly by well crafted questions. The first assault saw the defending astrologers crumbling for they were  armed with just their faith. The strategy of the renowned ‘rationalists’, ‘psychologists,’ and scientists, brutally manipulated by TRP driven media professionals gradually became clearer. A lesson I have learnt after absorbing many such television shocks, is not to run with the initial articulation of the talking heads. It has to be understood that a TRP hungry media cannot be conscientiously analytical or evenhanded. So I watched patiently and kept my hopes alive.

One of the key players of the TV debate was Mr. Sanal Edamaraku, a rationalist who challengingly gave his birth details and dared astrologers to make predictions. Mr. Anil Vats, an astrologer wanting to be the first one of the block was found in unnecessary haste and shot off predictions, seemingly not interested in putting a cohesive front for the astrologers. On a glance of just the birth chart on the screen, he declared that the owner of the birth details should have a marital problem. His reading that in 1993 Sanal must have delivered a lecture in a law college was also totally absurd and cannot be astrology. Another astrologer Mr. Bharadwaj, went to the absurd extent of saying that Sanal’s  mother has an eye problem. These readings were enough to send shock waves and electrical impulses all across the studios and impact the guts of  those watching the TV program. To most of the targeted audience, it turned out to be entertainment at its best. Mr. Sanal mercilessly squashed such a response. After a strong rebuttal he called his wife live from the studios. His wife said in, very clear terms, that their marital relations should be rated as good and there was no discord  whatsoever. He categorically denied the eye problems. This was spectacularly poor astrology on prime time display.

Next, four women astrologers including Ms. Sunita Chabbra, proceeded to give some typically generalized predictions. It appeared that the astrologers were trapped deep and were being maneuvered into producing mediocrity, even absurdity with little chance of saving their dignity.

Sanal Horoscope

Based on the horoscope displayed on the screen, I jotted down the following points. Sanal should have studied political science. He should have been married before the age of 28. He should be earning through writing. In case his wife has a different denomination,  his time of birth needed rectification. The place of birth was also not clear. I wanted to test the horoscope somehow. I thought there could be no better way than to hear from the horse’s mouth.

Through a contact in the media I got his mobile number. I tried continuously but I did not get connected. Around 9:15 p.m. on 15th January my phone finally rang. I guessed he had just got out of the Star News studios after a marathon live telecast of  9 to 10 hours. I asked if he was  Sanal. The voice said yes.

“Were you married before the age of 28?”. This assessment was made on the basis of chara dasha. He had the dasha of Capricorn from the age of 25 to 28. The seventh from Capricorn has the exalted Jupiter, who is the Darakarka (significator of spouse). His reply was that this was common knowledge but did not deny it was true. I asked if he had studied political science. This was again based on Jaimini Chara dasha and the influence of Sun during the time of his post graduation. His reply was the same it is a common knowledge. I repeated  my question “You have studied political science, or not, please let me know. Again the denial did not come. I asked him his place of birth to which he replied it was Udipi or Iddiki. You should  have earnings through writing also, I said. The reply was the same. This prediction I made on the basis of Moon in the third from Saturn and Jupiter in tenth as also Jupiter in third from lagna. 

The next morning I called and asked if his wife had a different denomination. His reply was that I am a child of rationalist parents so these things do not have a  meaning for me. These readings were based on the data furnished by him during the TV debate. It surprises me as to why astrologers  did not respond scientifically in a TV debate that challenged the very validity of astrology.

No astrologer referred to the Supreme court judgment. In the year 2000, the University Grants Commission (UGC) introduced astrology or Jyotir vigyan as a subject of study in Indian universities. It was opposed by some people who called themselves, scientists and rationalists. Two cases were filed against it, one in Madras High Court and the other in Andhra Pradesh High Court, both of which were dismissed. The petitioner from Andhra Pradesh, Dr. P.M. Bhargava, a scientist appealed to the Supreme Court of India and the case was admitted for hearing on merit in 2003.

Mr. K.N. Rao was the only astrologer involved in the entire proceedings, as applicant in person who spoke for good thirty minutes during the final hearing before the judgment. The case, eventually was decided in favour of astrologers by the Supreme Court of India. No astrologer mentioned about the replicable scientific researches done on determination of number of co-borns, eldest or youngest sibling, birth of children, timing marriage, determining and predicting education, profession and much more.

Astrologers who participated in the TV dabate had, perhaps not read the book, Planets and Education by Naval Singh. Had they come prepared after understanding the scientific researches available to prove the validity of astrology, they would not have cut such a sorry figure and would have presented a stronger block. Were the Astrologers who had gone to represent astrology totally ignorant of these facts?

When we are discussing astrology, we should talk about bare facts, which no astrologer did. Astrologers should go for specific tangible biological facts  like siblings ,children, time of marriage, type of education and career and not the intangible abstract that we embarrassingly witnessed in the TV debate.

We should talk about statistical and scientific evidence collected through research of replicable astrological principles. We should demonstrate only the established replicable from our research store.

Isn’t media suppose to induce a constructive debate in the larger interest of the society. Hurling platitudes on each other gets TRP. The media of today is powerful and  can take your message far and wide. The kaliyuga  man is media influenced and may become a media maniac soon. Therefore, it is the responsibility of  media to stir the right kind of emotions to propel a healthy, structured and constructive debate for reformation of  the society. 

Not all are Amar Singh who can handle media with its changing moods. Amar is the best at it. He can be often seen facing the media with many aces up his sleeve and a game plan in his belly. He gives a statement for the media to analyze and keep it engaged   to speculate his game plan 24x7, while he has new game plan from media’s speculative analysis created. Amar is the only person perhaps who can play the media game. Astrologers should realize they cannot be Amar Singh. They should concentrate on the fact that astrology is a science grounded on solid foundation and has a utility.

To help society see issues in the right perspective,  it is our duty to make people aware of our limitations as well like getting the correct data based on which predictions are made; Lack of honest feedback from people who come to us for consultations. No monetary support from government for research in astrology. No organized method of teaching other than in the Institute of astrology, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan. The problem of self-styled astrology and astrologers adorned with self created shining prefix and suffix to their names. The problem of ponga pandits.

As proponents of astrology we should put forth tangible and logical reasons and arguments that are likely to make  logical sense to the biased hardened scientific community and not the intangible abstract predictions the type that were witnessed in the TV debate.

The astrologers tryst with media scientists did not end. They were hauled again in the studios a few days later. Though they were again present with just there faith but this time they had the fate supporting.

Mr Anil Vats who said that he had based is prediction about the marital discord on the position of debilitated Moon in the 7th house and Venus in the 12th was charged with receiving a phone call. He clarified that his mobile was off and therefore he could not have received the call. There was talk of  a SMS sent.

The half baked investigation boomeranged on Mr. Sanal as it was later revealed that Mr. Vats had received an SMS from one of his well wishers that the prediction  about Mr. Sanal made by him was indeed correct as Mr.Sanal did have some problems. It was later revealed that the SMS was circulated among the astrologers and one of the women astrologers sent it to Mr. Sanal also. The debate changed to personal attacks.

Mr.Yashpal the eminent scientist present in the studios conceded that there are many areas beyond science. Here he was correct. He also said the astrologers he  nteracted with in the studios were great psychologists as they handled there predictions (made ups) and advice so well. Here he was wrong.

The astrologers had deep faith in what they were  practicing and preaching and perhaps could not have ever thought of facing a situation where they will have to answer questions on the validity of astrology by the rationalists, scientists and the media. The news that came a few days later about astrology helping students cope with stress again attracted Mr. Sanal to the studios.

Marigold Public School  Noida had put this belief into practice by inviting astrologers to counsel students based on their horoscopes. The workshop was organised in the school premises. Principal V.K. Sharda, said  there is a connection between a student's chosen stream and the alignment of his or her stars. “With the help of astrology, students can select subjects and subsequently a career they're meant for,” Sharda had said as per newspaper reports. It was also reported that other schools like Noida's Rockwood have shown interest in astrologers too.

Mr. Sanal was again in the studios of India TV on 25th February, 2010 where PIL in High Court was being debated with two new astrologers hauled.

Such debates will go on for it is business and TRP as never before but as astrologers we have to present a cohesive front that best answers the skeptical rationalist and the scientist community as today media makes opinions .

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