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Dr. Sanjoy Kumar Pal

My belief in Astrology

My interest in astrology started when I was quite young. My father had interest in Palmistry and collected books of Cheiro. I read those books and come to know more about Williams John Warner or Cheiro. He could accurately predict things that had happened in past and events that will happen in future. Though astrology was not a taboo in our house but we did not blindly believe it. As I was not good student in my school days my mom once took me to an astrologer. After doing lots of calculations the astrologer informed us that one day I will receive the highest degree in education and will see many patients in a hospital like my dad. He also told that I will visit a foreign country. However, I will face lots of misery once a lady enters in my life. And in the initial phase of my family life my source of income will be through agriculture. At that juncture all these predictions seems to be a big joke to me, I got very poor grades in all the subjects in class – ‘higher education and me’ seems to a big joke then. We thought that the astrologer told all these just to please my mom and get his remuneration. I was not much interested in studies, my parents & teachers had little faith that I will complete my graduation one day.

I was quite lucky to clear my high school. My friend Navin helped immensely to clear my Hindi exam. For my intermediate I wanted to take science stream, however, because of poor grades I did not get sciences in my school. I tried elsewhere also, but without any luck. At this juncture it was my mom’s idea that I should go to Bhopal for my higher studies. She talked to my uncle who was in Bharat Heavy Electric Limited [BHEL]. He also approved the idea. I got admission in a school with bioscience. My cousin Sujit was also in the same class, however, in a different school. He was bright student. Once I came in contact with him my interest in study started to grow. He knew the tricks of scoring marks in exam. However, I was lazy so whatever my cousin used to read loudly I used to listen and memorize. Gradually, with the help of my aunt, uncle and cousin, I not only could clear my class exams but also my board exam as well with good mark. However, I could not clear the pre medical test. I cleared my graduation and post graduation from Bhopal with good grades. Out of my seven class mates in M.Sc., I was the only one who could clear a national level exam for Ph.D. program. However, the Ph.D. program in I.V.R.I was course work plus research. After about 5 years of hard work I could finally get my Ph.D. degree. I was happy at least one of the predictions (Highest degree in education) came true.

I developed serious stomach problems when I was in my final stages of my thesis submission because of irregular and wrong food habits. However, I recovered once I submitted the thesis and went home. However, when I joined Sanjay Gandhi PGIMS, I again started to have stomach problem. My parents persuaded me for marriage, however, I rejected the idea as I feared that entry of a lady in my life will bring me bad luck as predicted by the astrologer. However, as my health condition deteriorated I had no options but to say yes for marriage. Things went as predicated; I had drug induced malena just 2 days after my marriage. My career almost came to an end. I had to face a lot of hardship.

When I recovered a little from my illness, I again visited the astrologer and asked him how he can predict about all these incidences 15 years ago. Anyway, as I have not studied medicines will his prediction that I will see patients in a hospital and visit foreign country can still happen. He again calculated and told me that both these predictions will happen. He told my visit to a foreign land will happen after 12 years. At that moment when I was hardly able to go out of my house because of my health conditions, I just thought that he is telling me all this just to console me. However, he showed me how star position influence predictions, I had little idea of astrological calculations & could not understand anything. However, I was keen to learn this science. My maternal uncle who was also a student of astrology explained the finer details of astrology to me. I also started to read books on astrology. Later, I collected information about people around me and analyzed their chart to see the outcome of my prediction on an experimental basis. To my surprise many things which I predicted came true. My belief in astrology became more firm. As my health condition improved I moved to Bhopal and eventually started a farm house. The prediction of agriculture as source of income also came true.

However, after few years I moved to Kolkata and then to Lucknow. I rejoined Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in 2000. Gradually, my career that stopped abruptly restarted. Because I lost my father-in-law to cancer my research interested shifted from bench research to clinical research. Finally, I joined the ‘Hepatitis C Project’ of Prof. G Choudhuri and started to assist him in the clinical management of his patients. I felt strange that despite not studying conventional medicine I used to write prescription for patients sitting in the OPD of a premier institute like Sanjay Gandhi PGIMS. So the prediction that you will see patients like your father also came true.

In 2006, I got chance to visit USA to present my poster. The prediction that I will visit a foreign country also came true. After this incidence I got interested on the scientific basis of astrology and did an extensive literature search on astrology. I also collected data from my colleague & friend about their views on astrology. The result of my research is summarized in form of two articles which are given below. I will appreciate the viewers to read them and send their comments to me.            


Popularity of astrology among scientists and clinicians: a survey

Astrology has been a field made quarrelsome by a shortage of facts. Could astrology be true? Could the stars really correlate with human affairs? Such questions have been furiously debated without resolution for more than 2000 years. Astrology has been the world's longest shouting match [1]. Astrology, having a history several thousand years old, was a reputed science in the past, being academically accepted, studied in high degree curricula and dominantly present in western culture. The arrival of modern science forbade its teaching and practice, removing it from universities and leaving no academic room for astrological knowledge [2].

According to many researcher astrology is rubbish [3]. Some see astrology as a harmless form of entertainment, a socializing tool, and as spiritual comfort against an uncaring universe. Though, the mechanism of astrology could not be proved scientifically, however, astrology has million of followers worldwide and is a multi-million dollar global business now.

Astrology has become a regular feature in many leading news papers & magazine in India and abroad. Many reality TV shows on astrology have emerged. Every year international astrological conferences, boasting attendance of hundred to thousand, are held in the United States, United Kingdom (UK), Europe, Australia, and in India. A survey conducted by the Japanese daily ‘Asahi Shimbun’ indicated that 20 % of the respondent believed in astrology [4]. Another survey from UK [5] indicated that 98 % of the participated in the study knew about astrology, 65% (100/153) tried it and 44 % believed that it works. Astrology is also popular in Australia [6].

Dominated earlier by charlatans, soothsayers and crystal-gazers, astrology has finally accepted as a legitimate university curriculum in India [7, 8]. Proposal by the Indian Government to encourage universities to teach astrology had sparked a storm of protest among scientists [9,10,11]. Several scientists in the western universities are now working hard to evaluate the sense and nonsense of astrology [12].  Although there are many published ‘tests’ of astrology, those with positive results (confirming the astrologers’ thesis) have been largely dismissed by scientists on the grounds of technique. Those with negative results (disputing the astrologers’ thesis) have been largely dismissed by astrologers on the grounds that fail to test what the astrologers considered to be the essential aspects of their art [13].

Astrology has always tugged at the heart of mankind and regardless of their overt opinions; individuals have often toyed with the possibility of there being a destiny and a way to decipher its often mysterious code. Many modern authors dress astrology up as worthy scientific discipline. Some claim the basic astrological thesis has been confirmed in the laboratory by numerous scientists who were initially critical of astrology. However, astrology is no legitimate science of traditional type [14,15,16].

Some scientists who have came to accept the fundamental claims of astrology have been outstanding in their fields. The Late Carl Jung, whom many considered to have been the greatest psychologist of the 20th century, was outspoken in his admiration for this traditional art, claiming that it would eventually have to be recognized as a science. According to Gayatri Devi Vasudev, editor of ‘The Astrological Magazine’, astrology is like any systemized knowledge. It is only applied astronomy.  However, according to Kelly [17]: "No astrological body could embrace science and stay in business."

There is a huge upsurge in interest in astrology in the last five to six years in Lucknow [18]. Over 200 astrologers from all over the country assemble here every year during mid May for serious academic interaction. In the view of upsurge interest levels among lay public about astrology prompted us to conduct a questionnaire based survey to know about the popularity of astrology among people engaged in academic and non academic research in Lucknow.

A questionnaire containing 14 questions related to astrology was distributed to 228 participants [Male = 154 (67.5%)], who consented for the study. These participants were from various national institutions viz. Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), and Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany all situated in Lucknow and All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. The period in which this study was conducted was from January to June 2005.

The participants were categorized in 6 groups’ viz. Research fellows engaged in pre and post doctoral research (Group I); MBBS and B.Tech students (Group II); senior resident doctors and M.Tech students (Group III); faculties (Group IV); technicians (Group V); and people who were not associated with academics (Group VI).

Our study indicated that 160 (70%) participants read their daily horoscope published in the news papers, magazine or internet. However, only 92 (40.3%) believed in what was written. Eighty eight (38.5%) participants consulted astrologers and 161 (70.6%) believed in astrology. Among the believers: 80 (49.6%) had a strong belief; 16 (9.9%) had a very strong belief; and 65 (40.3%) believed that astrology worked sometimes. Seventy five percent of the participants had there Kunduli (Natal chart) and 112 (49.1%) had tried some stones or armlet (Tabiz), out of which 106 (46.4%) did so on the advice of an astrologer. Two hundred and ten (92.1%) believed that there should be proper research on astrology, and 162 (71%) agreed that the astrology courses introduced in the colleges was a good step. About 51% participants had read some book on astrology or palmistry.  The detailed response of the participants is given in the table.

Many of the participants of this study shared their experiences regarding astrology and astrologers. One of the participants said that he was a non believer of astrology till recently however, due to some serious family problems he had to consult an astrologer. He was surprised that what ever the astrologer predicted about his past and present was very accurate. Another respondent informed that he met a person who can predict about any person just by looking to the objects and clothes he / she used. A faculty informed that he was immensely benefited after taking the advice of an astrologer for his office related problems. However, another faculty informed that he was cheated by an astrologer who gave him false stones and charged a hefty sum for it. Five post doctoral research fellows informed that they were consulting astrologers regarding suitable job placement. I met a person who can draw horoscope and predict about a person just looking at his forehead. A technician informed that he met a person who made his horoscope by looking at his palm. Later when he compared the same with the electronically made horoscope it was found to match perfectly. Eight persons who were suffering from chronic liver disease informed that they have consulted astrologer for their illness. A young couple informed that they had consulted many astrologers before their marriage as it was an inter-caste marriage and against the wish of their parents.

The present investigation indicates that there is a tremendous interest among the academic and non academic participants regarding astrology. However, there is lack of quality information regarding astrology. Most of our participants felt that very little research work has been done in this area. In view of renewed interest on astrology among people engaged in scientific research a details literature search on this subject was under taken [19] to know the current status of astrology.



I like to acknowledge Dheeraj Khetan , Nidhi Chaudhary, Vivek Dixit, Saba Umar, Pallabi Nigam, Divya, Pramod Mishra, Sachidananda and Mr. T S Negi for helping me in data collection work. I also like to thank all the participants who consented for this study.

  1. Case for and against astrology: http://www.rudolfhsmit.nl/u-case2.htm
  2. Jesús Navarro, Astrology and Science: Two Worldviews searching for a Synthesis [Accessed from: http://diec.unizar.es/intranet/articulos/uploads/AC2WS.pdf]
  3. Astrology is rubbish, says research,  The Times of India, Lucknow, August 19, 2003.
  4. Japanese trust fortune tellers more than politicians, The Hindustan Time, Lucknow, December 24, 2002.
  5. Furnham A, Does experience of the ‘occult’ predict use of complementary medicine? Experience of, and beliefs about, both complementary medicine and ways of telling the future, Compl Therapies Med, 8 (2000) 266.
  6. Grey W, Belief in astrology: A national survey, The Skeptic [Australia], 12 (1992) 27.
  7. Balram P, Creationism, Astrology and Science, Curr Science, 79 (2000) 1139.
  8. Pal Y, UGC decides to set up department of Vedic astrology in universities, Curr Sci, 80 (2001) 1087.
  9. Jayaraman K S, Angry researchers pour scorn on astrology classes, Nature, 411 (2001) 227.
  10. Ganeshaiah R N, An unscientific way to bury astrology, Curr Sci, 80 (2001) 719.
  11. Sitaram A, Delampady M, Biswas J et al., Astrology and science, Curr Sci,  80 (2001) 1088.
  12. Kelly I W, Astrology and Science: A critical examination, Psychological Reports, 44 (1979) 1231.
  13. Carlson S, A double-blind test of astrology, Nature, 318 (1985) 419.
  14. Valluri SR, Astrology and the methodology of science, Curr Sci,  81 (2001) 140.
  15. Chopra KL, Astrological education, Curr Sci,  81 (2001) 139.
  16. Abhyankar  K D, Astronomy and astrology, Curr Sci, 81 (2001) 158.
  17. Kelly IW, Vested interests 1, scientific integrity 0, Skeptical Briefs, 10 (2000) 15.
  18. Jaiswal PA, Lucknow fast turning into an astrology hub, The Hindustan Time, Lucknow, June 1, 2005.
  19. Pal SK, Sense and nonsense of astrology: an overview. (See the article below)

Sense and nonsense of astrology: an overview


Astrology, the oldest and most entrenched of all the ‘occult arts,’ has been a source of entertainment, controversy and livelihoods, for nearly four thousand years. By the advent of home computers in the late 1970s had revolutionized astrological practice and research. Calculating a birth chart that earlier use to take several hours can now be done with a click of a computer button. With the advent of broad band internet services astrological advices can now be obtained across the globe without any problem. Though serious scientific examination is never favorable to this ancient doctrine and it is still a scientific illusion. However, astrology is indeed a commercial reality and a multi-million dollar business now. Way back as the mid – 1970s, top scientist including 18 Nobel laureates had signed a statement stating why astrology is not a science and why its practice is harmful to society. Then why do people believe in astrology? And why it is so popular? This article explores the sense and nonsense aspect of modern astrology.

When you collect the ten wisest men of the world and ask them to find the most stupid thing in existence, they will not be anything stupider than astrology …… David Hilbert                                                                                                             
“Charlatans have brought the ancient stellar science to its present disrepute. Astrology is too vast, both mathematically and philosophically, to be rightly grasped except by men of profound understanding. If ignoramuses misread the heavens, and see there a scrawl instead of a script, that is to be expected in the imperfect world. One should not dismiss the wisdom with the wise.”  ....Paramahansa Yogananda [1]

Astrology, the oldest and most entrenched of all the ‘occult arts,’ has been a source of entertainment, controversy, time-pass [2], and livelihoods, for nearly four thousand years [3]. According to some it is absolute superstitious nonsense [4]. Astrology has however, captivated the imaginations of tens of millions and influenced decisions of great import. Great battles have been waged, empires have fallen, and fortunes made and lost on the advices of astrologers. Although harassed and attacked by skeptics throughout history, astrology has risen in modern times to become a world industry, affecting the lives of million every day. Though serious scientific examination is never favorable to this ancient doctrine [5] and it is still a scientific illusion. However, astrology is indeed a commercial reality and a multi-million dollar business now. Astrology is very popular across the globe [6]. Responding to the popular demand the Government of India has recently introduced Vedic astrology as a subject in various universities [7].
There are many systems of astrology, from many cultures the world over [8]. The Babylonians, the Chinese, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Hindus all have developed extensive systems of Astrology. The astrology of ancient India comes to us originally from the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, reputed to be over 5000 years old. Astrology or Jyotish was considered among the most important of the Vedangas. Of the six Vedangas (Shiksha, Chhanda, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Kalpa and Jyotish) astrology represented the ‘eyes’ with its capacity to ‘see’ the past, the present and the future. This is why the ancient Vedas say, "a King without an astrologer is like a man who is blind in his own home!". Ancient text bear out the fact that renowned names like Aryabhatta and Varamihira were astronomers as well as astrologers [9]. In the recent times astrologers have not only remained strong and powerful but also grown in numbers. Astrology has also developed into many diverse forms viz. Natal astrology (the study of a person's birth, or natal chart), horary astrology (a chart drawn up to answer a specific question), and electional astrology (a chart drawn up ahead of time to determine the best moment to begin an enterprise or undertaking), medical astrology (using the client's natal chart and/or a horary chart to diagnose and treat various illnesses), Mundane astrology that sees correlations between geological phenomena (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc.) and astronomical phenomena. Political astrology is the ancient branch of astrology dealing with politics, and government. Meteorological astrology uses methods which are supposed to able to predict weather. There are also other forms of astrology like Astro-palmistry, Oriental astrology, Sabian astrology, Fusion astrology, Humanistic astrology, Herbal astrology, Tantrik-Astrology, Astro-cartography etc. [3]

Astrology (from Greek: αστρολογία = άστρον, astron, "star" + λόγος, logos, "word") is systems in which knowledge of the apparent positions of celestial bodies is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence on earth 10. The fundamentals of astrology states that:
the position of the planets (all planets, the Sun, Moon, plus other objects defined by astrologers) at the moments of birth can be used to determine the subject’s general personality traits and tendencies in temperament and behavior, and to indicate the major issues which the subject is likely to encounter [11].

The device used by astrologers to make prediction is called a ‘horoscope’, consisting a chart showing the position of the various astrological objects in the heaven on a backdrop of twelve equally spaced imaginary sectors called ‘houses’, as seen from a particular place and time on Earth. Typically, a horoscope includes a table which show the angular relationship (or ‘aspects’) between the astrological objects. If the place and time are those of a person’s birth, the horoscope is called a ‘natal chart’ (Figure 1), from which astrologers derive information about a subject’s personality and character. The descriptive text thus derived is called a ‘natal chart interpretation’.  Astrologers believed that the constellation in which the Sun resided at the time of your birth strongly influenced your personality.  Astrologically the Sun’s path is divided into twelve 30 ° sectors, called the ‘signs of the zodiac’: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. The signs are so named because, when Ptolemy first established the Western system of astrology in 140 A.D., they corresponded roughly to the twelve constellations that happened to reside in the Sun’s annual path. The first sign, Aries, begins at the position of the Sun on the first day of spring. This ‘vernal equinox’ is located by considering the Earth at the center of the celestial sphere [3].

Indian astrology or Vedic astrology is different than Western Astrology as Vedic Astrologers use a different Zodiac. There are two Zodiacs, called the Tropical Zodiac and the Sidereal Zodiac. While Western Astrology uses the Spring Equinox as the fixed point of Aries, in the month of March, to start the Tropical Zodiac, Vedic Astrology uses the actual processed constellation point of Aries, currently in the month of April, to start the Sidereal Zodiac. The difference between the two Zodiacs is currently 23 to 24 degrees.

Traditional Indian astrology relied heavily on birth charts calculated from planetary positions and birth dates. Written in 1400 B.C., the Vedanga Jyotisha is the mother of all Indian astronomical treatises. It refers to a surprisingly accurate average of 366 days a year. Eclipses were given a new meaning: rahu und ketu were taken to be two imaginary points of lunar and solar intersections. With Alexander’s conquest came the Greek influence that lead to the growth of Siddhantic astronomy in which zodiac signs, till then alien concept, became point of reference [12].

Indian astrology is based on twelve rashis (corresponding to the zodiac signs in western astrology) while a modern form of astrology formulated by Krishnamurty Padhati (KP) is based on 27 nakshatras. It is considered to have high precision levels in making prediction. Each rashi has more than two nakshatras. So KP gives a wider scope for better interpretation. A lot of people have common rashi, but it’s almost impossible for people to have same nakshatras [13].

As far back as the mid – 1970s, 186 top scientist including 18 Nobel laureates had signed a statement stating why astrology is not a science and why its practice is harmful to society [14]. Then why do people believe in astrology? And why it is so popular? There are various factors that play a crucial role in popularizing astrology: 
(i) Media hype: People tend to get most of their information beyond work and family horizon from the press, radio and television [15]. Now a day’s most of the dailies and magazines, irrespective of geographical region publish astrology columns. Almost all the Internet service providers now offer astrology, tarot card, numerology, etc. [16]

(ii) Advertisement: There is an upsurge in the astrological related paid advertisements in the news papers and reality TV shows. Some of the successful astrologers even have their own TV channel and telecast only the positive happening with their astrological predictions. There is tendency of people involved in profession with uncertain future viz. successful film personalities, stock market brokers, politicians, industrialists to believe in astrology & numerology etc. Astrology is a life-line of hope for most of our film stars and politicians. Story of these celebrities when published in news papers and magazines makes deep impact in the minds of the readers and their followers.

(iii) Human psychology: We meet with so many difficulties in our life, some of which are caused by our own actions and others by the actions of our fellowmen, for which we look for some hopeful signs for the future. Astrological forecasts gives one such hope / false hope and sometimes it serve as a peg on which to hang one’s mistake and responsibility [17]. However, in very confusing moments of life one is more like to consult an astrologer.

(iv) Superstition: Every superstition is based on irrational and unfounded fear. People follow a ritual sheepishly, because they fear that something ominous may happen if they do not follow the herd. Why take risk? This fallacious logic is rampantly prevalent with astrology in our country.

(v) Chronic problems: People with life threatening and chronic problems like cancer, viral hepatitis, mental illness etc. are more likely to consult astrologer when best of the conventional therapy fail to provide relief. Many feel that astrology sometimes can be a good psychotherapy.

(vi) Technology advancement: By the advent of home computers in the late 1970s had revolutionized astrological practice and research. Calculating a birth chart (as well as the often required complementary charts, such as progressions, transits, etc.), once took anywhere from an hour to a day; now it could be done in seconds, allowing researchers to do studies and make predication that were previously unthinkable [18]. With the advent of broad band internet services astrological advices can now be obtained across the globe without any problem [19].

According to legend, an astrologer foretold king Suddhodana, that his son Siddharth (Gautama Buddha) would give up the throne and luxury and renounce the world the day he would see four things (i) an old man, (ii) a sick man, (iii) a diseased man and (iv) a dead man. Hence, the king confined Gautama in a special palace which was provided with all worldly pleasures. He was married at the age of sixteen to Yasoddhra. At the age of 29 after the birth of his first son, Gautama on the same day saw an old man, a sick man, a diseased man and a dead man. The impact of the dark side of life made him renounce the world that same night and he left his wife and son and became a penniless wanderer [20].

Michael Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame or Nôtredame), was a French physician and astrologer born in 1503, whose predictions of the future have fascinated people for centuries. His prophecies are written as four-lined rhymed verses (quatrains) in vague, often cryptic language. Nostradamus’ fondness for anagrams and his penchant for sprinkling his verses with Hebrew, Latin, and Portuguese words further complicate interpretation of his predictions. "The Centuries," published in 1555 still remains a classic of occult literature. Each "quatrain" purported to foretell world events far into the future.  Some interpreters say the verses can be applied to anything, or nothing, whereas others claim that various verses foretold the Great Fire of London in 1666, the invention of the guillotine, the deaths of several monarchs, details of the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon and Hitler, World War II, submarine warfare, military incursions by helicopters and supersonic bombers, twentieth century earthquakes, nuclear holocausts, John F. Kennedy's assassination, man's landing on the moon, the advent of AIDS, and a host of other momentous events. The collapse of the World Trade Centre was also foretold [21]:

"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb",
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning on the 11th day of the ninth month… "

- Nostradamus 1654

If we assuming "the City of God" to be New York City, then the "two brothers torn apart by Chaos" must be the fallen towers of the Word Trade Center. The "fortress" is obviously the Pentagon, the "great leader" succumbing is the United States of America and "the third big war" can only mean World War III. However, according to critics attributing Nostradamus to this text is a hoax. As there is no authentic evidence that Nostradamus has actually written this. Also the third world war did not start after the tragedy as predicted.

Bhrigu Samhita, a book of celestial tables that allegedly contain entire life cycle pre-recorded on antique palm leave. A Brahmin family of Hoshiarpur in Punjab claims to possess the original – a voluminous set of brittle, fading inscription in Sanskrit. Nandi astrology, practiced in south India, works on a similar belief: a group of ancient sages wrote inscriptions in Sanskrit which help predict the future of every man. There are scattered in their form over various temples, particularly Vaitheeswaran kovil, and the thumb print of the applicant is used to find his birth-chart. Quite inexplicable, the applicant finds his name and birth details written on ancient papers which are revealed to him as a pre-written horoscope, defies all scientific logic [12].

Astrology developed in India in stages. The earliest stage was of native ideas about the stars and the future, found primarily in the Vedas. Mesopotamian astral omens also became known, perhaps during the Achaemenian period. But Greek astrology came to India during the first century, probably from Alexandria, and was adopted enthusiastically. Most astrology in India today is Greek astrology. But it is Greek astrology heavily modified to fit Indian society. As a result, it is in modern India that classical astrology, including astral religion, is most alive and powerful. The modern Euro-American revival of belief in astrology is due in part to the Theosophical Society's promotion of Indian astrology.

There is no denying the fact that astrology is virtually a way of life in India today, with muhurats, for instance, determining the day and time of ceremonies including the swearing in of government, solemnizing a marriage, buying or shifting into a new house, starting a business, applying for a job, filing a law case and so on [9]. The matrimonial alliances in many Hindu families, including those of some rational scientists, take place only if the associated zodiac sign and rashi matched favorably [22]. According to Gautam [23] most of his scientific colleagues are likely to consult an astrologer before they fix a date for the wedding of their children. For the vast majority of the Hindus in India, matching of Janmapatris (horoscopes) of the bride and groom is much more important than the matching of Karmapatris – their mental make-up, physical traits, social status, financial condition, their basic likes and dislikes. For many progressive families marriage process begins with horoscope matching [24].

An Indian astrologer could predict that dreaded sandalwood smuggler Veerappan would not be able to see his 53rd birthday. The prediction along with the natal chart (Figure 2) was published in ‘The Times of India’ in February 2004.Veerappan and his associates were killed by a team of Special Task Force of Tamil Nadu in October 2004 [25]. A Times of Astrology, a magazine published from Lucknow have precisely predicted the USA’s twin tower tragedy, Nepal’s royal family massacre and several other major events in the world and India. Its prediction that neither Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee nor Mrs. Sonia Gandhi would be the next prime minister of India was also proved good. However, on the other hand many renowned astrologists including Bejan Daruwalla were wrong on the same issue [26]. But, Daruwall’s prediction that proved to be true was about Shah Rukh’s ill-health, Amitabh Bachchan’s success, Sachin Tendulkar’s father death.

Whenever a natural disaster strikes, we are bombarded with prophecies and precautions from astrologers, numerologist, Vaastu scholars etc. [27]. Earthquake prediction too has become a favourite pastime of novices and soothsayers. Mainstream media endorses every new story without ascertaining its credibility from other sources, for example, ‘What caused the devastating October 8 earthquake was powerful alignment of Jupiter and Mercury…’ This was reported in Times of India, 10 October 2005. A research scholar had gone to the extent of predicting an earthquake on 17 October and 14 November in Uttaranchal, which of course did not happen. An astrologer Jayaprakash Madhak, has however, successfully predicted the earthquakes that hit Gujarat in 2001 [12].

According to Daivajna KN Somayaji a new age astrologer and Vastu consultant, “Astrology is a science by subject and an art by presentation. Astrology shows trends and tendencies, but it’s important to interpret and communicate to suit the needs of the present day and age”. He believes that the need of the hour is to blend the traditional knowledge of astrology with applications in modern living [28].

Before 1950 very few scientific studies of astrology existed 18. Most critiques of astrology over the centuries focused on the problematic nature of astrological theory or the gap between the claims of astrologers and their actual performance. Something like a dozen major statistical compilations by astrologers had appeared since 1900, notably in France, Germany, England and the USA, but none were widely known, and in any case their methodology was too poor (e.g. no controls) for meaningful results. Not surprisingly, the few published critiques were confined mostly to historical surveys [29, 30, 31]. The only extensive scientific critique available was by the French astronomer Paul Couderc [32].

Then in 1955 Michel Gauquelin published his landmark L'Influence des Astres, the first rigorous study of astrological claims, with generally negative results but with what seemed to be provocative exceptions [33, 34]. The research interest that Dean and Mather [35] stimulated led to the foundation of Correlation in 1981, an international peer-reviewed journal devoted entirely to scientific research into astrology, followed in 1982 by Astro-Psychological Problems, oriented more to Gauquelin interests.

Critiques of astrology in the light of research findings, post 1980, include those by psychologists Eysenck and Nias [36], astronomers Culver and Ianna [37], Crowe [38], skeptics Martens and Trachet [39], and Bible scholars Ankerberg and Weldon [40] and Bourque [41]. The most recent reviews and the first to include meta-analyses are by Kelly et al. [42] and Dean et al. [43]. Critiques of philosophical, religious or social aspects of astrology include Kelly and Krutzen [44], Leahey and Leahey [45], Thagard [46], Kanitscheider [47], Dean [48], Dean and Loptson [49], Spencer [50] and Kelly [51]. Reviews of the arguments of astrologers include Kelly et al. [52], Dean et al. [53], Dean [54], and Kelly [55]. Theories of astrology (including Jung's synchronicity theory) are critically examined in Dean et al. [53] and Dean et al. [56]. The cognitive and perceptual biases that can underlie belief in astrology are briefly reviewed by Dean [57] and in detail by Dean et al. [58].

Practitioner of astrology has claimed the ability to predict attributes and outcomes using the position of the heavenly bodies at a person’s time of birth [59]. However, astrology always does not work [51]. A research study that started in London in 1958, in which a scientist and astrologer Geoffrey Dean and Ivan Kelly, a psychologist at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada tracked more than 2000 people born within minutes of each other, over four decades. According to astrology, the subject should have had very similar traits. The subjects (babies) were originally recruited as part of a medical study into how the circumstances of birth can affect future health. Researchers looked at more than 100 different characteristic, including occupation, anxiety levels, marital status, aggressiveness, sociability, IQ levels and ability in art, sport, mathematics and reading – all of which can be gauged from birth chart by astrology. However, scientists filed to find any evidence of similarities between the ‘time twins’. The detail of the study was recently published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies [60]. However, the research study of the French psychologist and statistician, Michel Gauquelin, who also began his investigations into astrology in the 1950s – ironically, with the objective of disproving it – produced findings that appeared to prove it instead. Gauquelin ultimately tested 25,000 European horoscopes and found that they did indeed indicate a significant correlation between the position of planets at birth and the profession a person chose to follow. The results were independently examined and subsequently confirmed by a committee of Belgian scientists and the psychophysiological laboratory at Strasbourg. They were then assessed by Profesor Tornier, expert in mathematical theory in Berlin, who could find no fault in them. Finally, they were examined by a renowned British psychologist HJ Eysenck [61], known for being an outspoken critic of the pseudo-science. However, he too could find nothing wrong with the methodology or evidence either. Gauquelin [62] claimed to have found several weak but statistically significant correlations showing that some planets appear in certain sector of the sky at the time of birth more frequently for the ‘eminent’ professionals of some field than for non-eminent professionals. Michel and Francoise Gauquelin [63] later also claimed to have observed a correlation between the strength of the planetary heredity effect and the degree of activity of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Pollex and Colleague [64] studied the birth date of 171 Nobel laureates in Medicine and Physiology along with 375 members of a control group comprising physician scientist, scientist, postdoctoral fellows and other scientific trainees working at a Canadian Medical Research Institute. Using the χ2 test, they found a general association between zodiac sign and the likelihood of having received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology (p = 0.042). In particular, the odds of having won a Nobel Prize were increased for people born under the sign of Gemini (odds ratio [OR] 1.90, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 1.12 – 3.24, p = 0.017). Conversely, the odds of having won a Nobel Prize were decreased for those born under Leo (OR 0.35, 95 % CI 0.16 – 0.82, p = 0.011). Earlier studies have claimed that different types of scientists could show different zodiacal affinity [65, 66, 67]. Demographically, a seasonal effect exists for the sun signs 68. It has also been claimed that eminent people show a seasonal birth pattern that differs from the pattern of the global population [69, 70].

Zodiacal sign of sun and moon are prominent elements in horoscope 35. McGervey [71] considered the zodiacal distribution of the sun at the birth of 14,644 American scientists. After correction for the seasonality in the global population, no significant effect was found. The study of Verhulst [72] on the distribution  over zodiacal sign for sun and moon sign birth of noble laureates from 1901 -1996 indicated that top scientists show a tendency to be born with both sun and moon in Aries, whereas there were fewer than expected birth with sun and moon in Capricorn.

Astrologers’ claims about the compatibility of couples have been tested several times. Silverman [73], a Michigan state psychologist, compared the Sun signs of 2978 married couples with 478 couples who were divorced and discovered that those born under ‘compatible’ signs were more likely to stay married. In an other study also gave similar result [74].

A study [75] on birth dates of the 704 players (22 players for each of the 32 national teams) selected for the World Cup (France 1998) indicated that the players show a very pronounced tendency (p=0.00001) to be born on days when the sun and moon are in adjacent zodiacal sign.

Phillips et al. [76] examined the death of 28, 169 adult Chinese-American and 412, 639 randomly selected and matched controlled group called ‘White’.  Chinese-American but not the Whites died significantly earlier than normal (1.3 – 4.9 yr) if they have a combination of disease and birth-year which Chinese astrology and medicine considered ill-fated. The more strongly a group is attached to Chinese tradition, the more years of life lost. Although Chinese medicine is complex, there are core beliefs: (1) a person’s fate is influenced by year of birth; (2) each birth-year is associated with one of five phase: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood ; (3) a person born in a particular year is more influenced by the phase associated with that year than  are other people ; (4) each phase is associated with an organ or symptom (e.g. fire with the heart, and earth with lumps, nodules and tumors), so a person born in 1908 (an earth year) would be unusually susceptible to tumors, while a person born in 1907 (a fire year) would be unusually susceptible to heart diseases; (5) the 5 phases are associated with birth-years according to the last digit of the year – metal (year ending in 0 or 1), water (2 or 3), wood (2 or 3), wood (4 or 5), fire (6 or 7), and earth (8 or 9) [77,78,79].

Salib [80] studied whether astrological birth signs are associated with suicide and the method used, data was collected from the Public Health Department in North Cheshire, UK, representing all the Cheshire Coroner's verdicts of suicide, and open verdicts, in all deceased aged 60 and above between 1989 and 2000. The observed occurrence of deaths due to natural causes, and suicide, in relation to birth signs did not differ significantly from what would be expected from chance. However, the distribution of suicide by hanging appeared significantly higher in those with a birth sign of Virgo and lowest in Sagittarius and Scorpio. The distribution of violent and non-violent suicides in relation to star signs showed higher occurrences of violent death in persons born in the summer months.

Kudva and Bhat [81] studied whether a particular ‘Zodiac Sun signs’ or numerology can predict about an individual dental health, the same way the future predications are being made. They found certain correlation of dental morphological traits with specific sun sign and numerology. An investigation [82] to study the internalization of the traits associated with astrological signs affecting suicidal ideation in 7508 indication that the most negativistic sign of Pisces was significantly associated with suicidal ideation. Astrologer presumes a link between the susceptibility of particular organ to disease and sign of the zodiac. A simple test of the positive connection between renal disease and sign of Libra was taken by studying the birth dates. However, no significant correlation was found [83].

In April 2001, Ms. Germaine Elisabeth Hanselmann, better known as Elizabeth Teissier, defended her doctorate dissertation, entitled ‘Epistemological situation of astrology across the ambivalence fascination / rejection in post-modern societies,’ at Paris' Sorbonne University. Her 900 - page thesis, supposedly demonstrating the scientific qualities of astrology, was subsequently accepted by a majority decision of a panel of professors, as the basis for awarding Teissier a doctorate in sociology. Not only does a closer look at l'affaire Teissier throw a revealing and bizarre light on the way in which a French president conducted politics in one of the most developed countries in Western Europe, the acceptance of Teissier's work by one of France's most prestigious universities makes clear the degeneration of scientific thought that has taken place in the French educational system, heavily influenced by so-called post-modern ideologists [84].

Pursuit of knowledge through the methodology of science is rigorous, and most complex with some well-defined conditions. The methodology of science strives to provide rational and logical explanations for natural phenomenon and enables prediction that are specific and which can be independently verified. If independent tests do not confirm a proposed hypothesis, it is rejected. The conditions that have to be complied with in the scientific method of pursuit of knowledge are: i) relevance; ii) compatibility; iii) testability; iv) predictability; v) simplicity. Scientific theories are however, tentative. When new observations are made that cannot be explained by the existing hypothesis, new one are proposed, that not only can explain the earlier observations, but can also explain the new predictions. The prediction of the future of people by astrologers based upon the location of some planets at the time of birth, do not satisfy the important criteria of relevance. Astrologers cannot logically explain why among zillions of heavenly bodies, the location of few planets at the time of birth, could decisively determine a person’s future [85].

If astrology is a branch of science, then all prediction by all astrologers must be identical and specific. They cannot be amenable to flexible interpretation [85]. But there are many different school of interpretation using many different methods of chart construction and offer many mutually inconsistent conclusion about a given person’s character 3. Some Hindu astrologers report, that accuracy can be still obtained even if three of the known planets are ignored [86].

Horoscope includes a table showing the angular relationship (or aspects) between the planets. If two planets are separated by 0, 60, 90, 120, or 180 ° (the major aspect) or by 30, 45, 135, 150 ° (the minor aspect) their effect are altered in various ways. Not all astrologers use the same aspect. Since two planets are rarely exact any particular angle apart, astrologers include the aspect if the planets are close to a given separation, there being no agreement about what ‘close’ means. Most astrologers select an ‘orb’ of between + 2 to + 5° and include all aspect that fall within it. Obviously, the larger the orb, the more aspect there will be. Thus, the selection of the orb will affect what information an astrologer derives from a chart [3].

There is also no conscientious as to how the whole chart should be interpreted. There is no agreement on a basic philosophy of interpretation. Some astrologers believe that every factors in a chart has its own meaning and makes its own contribution which can be included by rigorously followed a set of rules. Others teach that chart interpretation is a gestalt process and emphasize the importance of intuition in deciding what factors are dominant in a given chart. Still others use the chart in conjunction with ‘psychic’ impression.

According to the Indian system, a person’s rashi is decided by the position of the moon in the Rashi Chakra or Zodiac at the time of his birth, while the western system decides it according to the position of Sun. Thus a person has 2 zodiac signs and thus according to astrology, he possesses dual or even contradictory personality traits [87].

Astrology sometimes can do more harm than good. Ever branch of knowledge has pretender, and gullible are legion. The inherent esoterica of astrology crates enough scope for imposters and quacks. Any act, good or indifferent are the intentions, can led to misuse. Fraudulent astrologers adopt dirty tricks to exploit gullible mind only to make fast buck. They play game in way they possible cannot lose. There are numerous ways of satisfying client. A common sense knowledge of psychology, knowing what people generally like to believe about themselves, and being sensitive to body language are all that is necessary for a very impressive ‘cold reading’ of a client.

In a recent article published in a popular magazine [87] narrates a story of young couple who went to a commercial astrologer to know about the future of their newly born daughter. The astrologer ran a flourishing business. His office was a gorgeously decorated room with air-conditioning facility and computer connection. After working on the natal chart of the child the astrologer predicted that there is sure sign of mrityuyoga (death)during the first year of her life. On hearing this mother of the child broke down completely and wanted to know if there is any prayaschit (expiation) for averting this disaster. The astrologer assured them that the mrityuyoga can be averted by doing some puja viz. mahamritunjaya japa, grahashanti puja etc. that will cost around Rs. 10,000. Just to keep his wife happy and free from trauma the husband agreed to pay the sum, though he himself had little belief in such predictions. In the next one year contrary to the astrologer’s prediction, the child enjoyed robust health but her mother became a chronic patient of hypertension. She suffered from anxiety, depression, tension and trauma, and also several psychosomatic disorders.

In another incidence a young man running a flourishing family business on dress materials went to his family astrologer for guidance. After doing a thorough study the astrologer advised him to shift his business from clothes to oil or iron as Saturn is placed in the 10th house, which is the house of business. The person who was a firm believer of astrology, obeyed and shifted to oil production, about which he had no adequate knowledge or experience. Within a year he incurred very heavy losses and was declared bankrupt. He lost his mental balance and went mad. But, no legal action could be taken against the guilty astrologer.

Many who support astrology feels that prediction do go wrong, but in each case, it is the astrologer who is at fault, it is not the science of astrology which can be blamed. There are records when our best doctors made horrible wrong medical diagnosis. Also there are many records of unsuccessful satellite launches by our scientists despite of research, quality precision instruments etc. No one can be cent percent correct all the time.

According to Vivek Dixit a MBA graduate now practicing KP astrology feels that the future cannot be changed, but if we know what is in store for us at different stages of our life then we can alter our attitude and plans [13].  In an article published in British Medical Journal [88] a Sri Lankan born British psychiatrist narrated his encounter with an astrologer when he visited his native place. The astrologer did not know anything about the doctor or his family. To his disbelief after working on the natal chart the astrologer could tell the time of his father death, his surgical treatment at the age of 13, his heart problem and a broken relationship at medical college. All calculations were within a few weeks of their actual happening. The astrologer also told him that he must be living abroad or he would have died by now. The astrologer could predicted this because of bad positioning of Saturn in his horoscope, he also told that there will be a life threatening problems for him in future that will end on his 40th birthday (on 15 October) in a year’s time from then. The astrologer predicted that at the time of Saturn exit there will be another life threatening accident in his life. So he should be careful around that time. The astrologer advised to wear a dark yellow sapphire against his skin. After returning to UK, his memories of holiday soon faded. On the early morning of his 40th birthday there was a heavy storm in which his house was damaged, however, the doctor had a close save. He immediately recalled the predication and wondered if he was protected by the gem which he was wearing. However, the doctor succumbed to his heart aliment soon after this incidence.

It is suggested that astrologers may play a role similar to that played by psychotherapists, and that they serve client who don’t want to characterize themselves as having psychological problems [89]. In a survey it was found that 60% of patients in rural India were found to consult traditional healer viz. Vaids, astrologers and Patris. The consultation was determined more by the severity of illness than by socio-demographic factors [90].

Astrology is one of the most widely sold commodities or consumer services in our country. Whether it is a small village or metropolitan city, no one is immune to this omnipresent virus called astrology [87]. It is ironical, however, that astrologers are immune from all laws of the land. Astrology is perhaps the only commodity or service which can be sold without any guarantee. The astrologer bears no responsibility for the service he renders to the consumers.

A consumer, according to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, can drag a seller of defective goods or deficient service to the consumer court and claim compensation for such an offence. The service related to banking, financing, insurance, transport, processing, supply, electric, entertainment, even education and medical services comes under the consumer law. It is now necessary to include astrology to this list. The astrologer is paid for the service (of making a prediction) he renders. The consumer should have, therefore, every right under the consumer law to drag the astrologer to the consumer court, in case his service is proved deficient. If a doctor or a college principal can be dragged to the consumer court, why not an astrologer? Putting astrology under the consumer law is more necessary and relevant now because of the Government’s decision to include astrology into the university syllabus. If astrology is a true art or science of making predictions, then one should welcome such a proposal. Fear of legal punishment will act as a deterrent against fake and fraudulent elements entering into this practice and defaming this ancient profession.

Though astrology faces its greatest challenge today: to prove itself as a science or at least a dynamic discipline. However, according to some critic the future of astrology is bright and safe as about 85% of our literate population read their horoscope regularly [91]. Almost 60 % (roughly) of the Indian population prefers to go to an astrologer for many events, right from birth of a child to the death of an individual. Astrology has been a guiding principle for most of them in distressed and confused moments. In spite of the efforts by reformists, revolutionaries, atheists and anti-superstition campaigners, our people are still behind the local astrologers. This shows the belief the people have in the subject, irrespective of cast, creed, race and region in India [16].

Astrologers feel that scientist and nonbelievers should keep an open mind about astrology. They feel that there is a relationship between the heavenly bodies and human being and this relationship can be interpreted. Just because the mechanism of phenomenon is not fully understood does not mean it can be dismissed. At the same time one should keep away from fraudulent and quack astrologers. As the main motive of these astrologers are to cheat people in the name of astrology. They are hardly concerned in the research and development of this ancient heritage.

With best of our advanced scientific efforts, we fail to predict correctly natural disaster like the earthquakes, tsunami, cyclones etc. Accepting astrology as an Indian art/science of predicting nature, would result in development of quality astrologers, and get rid of spurious practitioners and quacks from the arena. Proper planned research can pave the way for advancement in this discipline. If not successful, this would also die in due course [16]. Recently, a British organization called the ‘Sophia Project’ is funding research to study of astrology and cultural astronomy in British Universities. The projects are aimed to study the possible impact of planets on fertility and child birth, possible correlation of birth date and prostitution and the effect of Jupiter on alcoholics [92]. Despite the fact that astrology is very popular in India, very few scientific studies on this subject is carried out from our country. To be sure, anything as popular as astrology deserves serious consideration. Hence, there is an urgent need to undertake scientific studies to know whether astrology hold any scientific potential.   

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