Saturday, April 2, 2011

Astrologers: then and now

Cricket has changed a lot in the last few decades. I remember the days when cricket matches would be played over  five long days. People would be dressed in all-whites, and no one could even imagine that a small patch of colorful advertising would adorn the sparkling flannels. The matches would be played all day, under natural light. And between the five days, there would be a day for rest, as the gentlemen who played, needed to put their feet up and smoke their pipes. And, drink their whiskey.

Right now, Indians don't have time for anything. The entire country will come to a standstill for the final game of the cricket world cup this afternoon. As cricket has become more popular amongst the masses, their superstitions have found their way into cricket as well. Recently, a bunch of people in a small town somewhere in north India, got together to propitiate the gods by making a fire offering (yajna) with a bunch of priests chanting from the Vedas. In the old days, they used to do this stuff to please the rain-god during droughts. Nowadays, it is done to get more runs and wickets.

And then, there are the astrologers. I came across an interesting news story on an astrologer's prediction on who will win the world cup. Looks like Jupiter and Saturn have a new job now, given that the recession has taken a toll on every body's day job. So, the planets are now being used to predict the results of  big games. I am not very surprised, since the amount of money involved in the cricket matches now can easily surpass the GDP of a small country. As Kenneth Grahame would probably say, "There definitely is a lot of wind in the willows".

And, it is quite a strange coincidence that recently, I have been browsing through the pages of a really old journal. It is called the "Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register".


It was published in the year 1831, and it has many beautiful accounts of the journeys made by the colonials in an India that was still not officially a part of the British empire. These are the stories of a different time, and of a world which may be a part of my history, but a world that I can scarcely identify with. And there, buried between voluminous accounts of various journeys, I found a piece of gem on Indian astrologers in the year 1831!

It did bring a smile to my lips that back then, we still had these smooth operators predicting the arrival of pestilence and rainfall. Looks like they eventually made a fiscally prudent transition to the game of cricket. Jupiter would be so proud!

1 comment:

  1. At least the 'yagna' wasn't in vain... Congrats India!