Saturday, December 11, 2004

Into the Crystal Ball

Something that never ceases to amaze me is how the so called auspicious times (muhurtam)are set for Hindu ceremonies. Marriages are one among many examples of this. We see someone's muhurtam set at 3:32 am, another at 10:17 am and so on. Why don't we question the process behind this, for the majority, a very little understood tradition? To me, it seems very logical to set the time for the ceremony when it is most convenient for yourself and for the majority of your guests to attend. After all, during any happy occasion we would want our families and friends to be with us; and the best way to ensure that is to simply ask them what time is good for them! I, for one, have never been able to see what's so auspicious about having a couple tie the knot at some odd hour like 2:56 am!

A couple of weeks back Outlook magazine had a very interesting article on the "Jyotish" market in India. I was stunned to see that the market was worth thousands of crores! I had no idea that there were so many people paying so much to know what the future holds for them. It's unfortunate that so many are convinced that their future can be foretold. But I am not really sure what to think about the the many who are out to cash in on people's desire to know their future and answer every possible question they may have,such as...Will I get married?!!! and even worse...Sir, Can you tell me the character of the my girlfriend?!!!!

Here's Sandipan Deb from Outlook magazine...

When in Calcutta, I keep myself amused by watching astrology channels, packed with soothsayers from bloodshot-eyed tantriks to sleek laptop-toters answering phone-in questions. Sample 1. Young man on phone, after giving his date of birth: "Sir, I have a girlfriend. Can you tell me about her character?" Tantrik: "She's very sentimental, no?" Young man: "Yes, sir." Tantrik: "You won't be able to handle her. Forget her." Young man: "OK, sir, thank you, sir." Disconnects. Gushing compere: "Guruji, you could divine his girlfriend's character from his birth date?!" Tantrik (eyeballs rolled upwards): "It's all Maa Kali's blessings! Maa! Maa!" Sample 2. Man on phone: "My business isn't doing well." Astro-palmist: "How can it do well when you have such a bad temper?" Man: "But everyone tells me that I am too meek to be in business." Astro-palmist: "Don't argue! It says here in your chart that you have a very bad temper." Man: "But I can't even admonish my staff when they don't listen to me!" Astro-palmist: "Please don't waste my time with your lies. Anyway, business is going to be bad for two more years. Next caller please."
All this truly begs a really simple question...Why do so many of us from different callings and different levels of education take to all this and believe all this, and even worse, never question all this? As a way of answering that question, I'll direct you to this fantastic book- "Why People Believe Weird Things:Psuedoscience, Superstition and Other Confusions of our Time" by Michael Shermer. Michael Shermer is a science historian and founder of the Skeptic magazine (
I'll end with what Shermer says in in his very insightful book-
"Rationality tied to moral decency is the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known."


Anonymous said...

Auspicious Times : even to write This article iam trying to check for auspicious time ..
My take on this is : there must be reason for people to follow this for decades now ..
let me google on this for sometime and get back with some justification.

although i completely agree with Seting up a time convenient for all .. ( seems to be logical to mee ) but there mus be a reason . Digging soem Holy book might help ...

guess what Muhurtam in Hidu religion is not only for maraiges and functions even for the First Night they Fix a time.
aren' th couple suppose to do .. whenever they feel like rather than at some fixed time.... ( pakka telugu movie knowledge .... )

Ironically as iam writing about all these i still have those two rings on my fingers reason being they bring fortune to me.

Anonymous said...

I like the Muhurtham concept (especially for 1st night). When you have deadline, u will be focussed on getting 'it' done.

Murthy_BBoys said...

Whoever the anonymous person is iam sure it must be on one of our bongu boys ..
Any ways .. Doing( abt the first night) is not like some project work to fix some time and finish it off.

Sridhar said...

I am sure that the first one is Jaaga boy. He is the one who trusts and uses google than any other. I too feel that the concept of muhurat is illogical. DP, I really hope that you will come up with the source of this concept. There are many other things which makes no sense like the marriages based on caste. Let's try to change this world.