A few months back came the shocking news of the Palkar family suicide in Pune, where Arun Palkar(40), a well off electrical contractor consumed sleeping pills along with his wife (37) and children aged 11 & 6. He did so because he believed that Shani (Saturn) and Mangal (Mars) were so unfavourably placed in his horoscope that irrespective of what he did, he & his family would never be happy. It is likely that he even planned the suicide so as to rescue his family from present & future suffering.
The fallout of this incident was most surprising. While everyone was shocked by the act, most people blamed the individual and not fatalism & astrology. It is likely that the man had a serious mental disorder but instead of visiting a doctor, his belief in fate & astrology left him feeling hopeless and got him to commit a most tragic act.
Astrology is a booming business today that comes in all shapes & forms right from TV & print ads, hoardings to even celebrity astrologers. However is astrology something that a modern progressive society should encourage or even tolerate? There’s tons of material both online & offline about why astrology is a fallacy and a sham. The core point being that there is absolutely no evidence that planets or stars millions of miles away have any effect or interest in determining the events in the life of a human being. Think about it, why would Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system with a volume 1321 times that of Earth, care about the life of an obscure, insignificant, tiny, little living being and want to decide whom he should marry and what career is best suited.
An important reason why astrology like many other beliefs continues to thrive is that not only do we blindly follow customs & traditions but also because it is so convenient to think that the stars are responsible & not us mortals. Unfortunately for India, neither does our education system nor does our society or religion teach us to ask, “Why?”. So acting without questioning seems to come very naturally to us.
Astrology is a medium to fleece, exploit & to arrest rational thought. However unfortunately for India even those who understand that astrology makes no sense and appreciate how critical a scientific temperament is for India’s progress, do not take a public stand in favour of science & reason.
I am not suggesting that you should take on family, friends or religion. You could begin by just publicly stating that you don’t believe in any astrological muhurats, rituals or pairings.
Some might argue “Yes we know astrology is a sham but what’s the harm if astrology provides psychological support to a person”. While it is natural to look for such support, that support has to come from family, friends and society and not from lies and illusions. In cases where support from near & dear ones does not suffice, a person might be suffering from a mental health disorder for which he needs to see a doctor & not look for quack astrological remedies.
It’s a matter of shame that an India that lists scientific temperament as a constitutional duty also witnesses rampant exploitation based on ignorance and blind beliefs like astrology. While there are many serious cases of astrology based exploitation, resorting to astrological advice even for the tiniest of things will slowly but surely limit the scope of a person’s thought & action.
Some might argue that questioning astrology is an indirect way of questioning religion. Maybe, but what’s the harm in that. Throughout time, religions have adapted themselves to knowledge attained by humans of that time. So even the most religious today would not say that the earth is at the center of the universe or that the sun is being swallowed by a demon during an eclipse. Only because our forefathers did something does not make it right or wrong. It is time for society & religions to shed the baggage of astrology.
It takes very little for people’s ‘religious sentiments to be hurt’ these days, so many might think that why mess with a custom like astrology and invite brickbats. “Chalta Hai Chalney Doa” . That’s a valid concern in an increasingly intolerant India. However you don’t need to shout from the rooftops that astrology is a sham, just air your views politely amongst friends & family.
If you just keep quiet and toe the line, you become a part of the problem. For example, what message are you sending out to your child if you take her along for an “X Planet Pacification” ritual or tell her about how the stars need to match for any two people to get married? On the one hand most parents would do everything possible to boost a child’s brain power, but on the other hand they will ask the child to switch off his brains and accept something as the truth only because it’s a custom / ritual and even though it makes no sense.
Astrology has thousands of years of tradition and billions of dollars of industry behind it, so it will not go away easy. A handful of social reformers crying hoarse about scientific temperament wont go very far.
Why not join the battle for science,reason & a progressive India, by simply airing amongst your friends and family that you believe in your own ability to chart your life and that you reject fatalism & astrology. Even if you are ignored or overlooked, you have at least made people think and that’s a great beginning.
Stop sitting on the fence and take a stand against astrology and for science and reason.
– Harshad Oak is the founder of IndicThreads.com & Sudhar.In. He can be reached at me@HarshadOak.com
PS (V Imp) : Believers in astrology are victims of the trade and need your support, compassion and understanding. If you mock / ridicule a friend’s belief in astrology, you would not only lose a friend but also hurt the cause of science and reason. Only take up the astrology cause if you can take it up with love & respect for the affected.