May 2000 By Shoba Naidu It’s amazing to find bundles of palm leaf writingsbound by thread and preserved for centuries. Written by the sages of yore,the hoary predictive art called Nadi Shastra is said to hold thekey tofuture generations. You meet a stranger. He tells you yourname, age, profession, name of your parents and spouse, number of children, tales of past life exploits and your future prospects. All this from ancientpalm leaf manuscripts, written at least 2,000 years ago. Truly disconcerting! And this is not fiction. Such experiences are commonplace with experts inpossession of these leaves spreading out all over the country and abroad. In Tamil, nadi means “in search of”. SaysDurai Subburathnam of Sri Kousiha Agasthya Mahasiva Vakkiya Nadi JothidaNilayam, Chennai: “The person whose palm leaf record exists with us willdefinitely approach us at a predestined time specified on the leaves.” The process is simple. To locate a manuscript, the thumb impression of the person is taken on paper, left forwomen and right for men. But opinions differ. While Subburathnam claims thatthese are classified into 1,008 types, Delhi based nadi reader B Raju says that there are only 108 types. The palm leaves are also arranged accordingly.Finding your leaf is not as easy as giving your thumb impression. It is a painstaking job to match the two, sometimes it takes several hours. Says Raju: “If we are unable to locate the leaf, we ask the client to come againafter a few days as we have to get it from our native place. Or we refer toSukshma nadi, which gives brief predictions.” These leaves also give you theplanetary positions in the person’s horoscope. “This is the confirmationstamp,” says Raju. “The past life details and futurepredictions were written by the great sages centuries ago. Due to divine insight they could look into and write the details of all who would one daygo for a nadi reading,” explains Subburathnam. The leaves once located are “sung” by the readers in ancient Tamil verse, which is simultaneously translatedinto the language of the client’s choice. And in today’s hi-tech world, youcan even get future recordings on audiocassettes. “Pleasant orunpleasant,we do not add any prediction on our own. We only read whatever is written on the leaf. You can also read your name, if you know the language,” saysSubburathnam. The process of becoming a nadi reader is rigorous. “The apprentice, usually a family member, has to live in a gurukul or 10 years.” There are different theories on howpredictions are made. Late Dr B V Raman, former editor of TheAstrological Magazine, had done major research on the nadi. He believedthat this system was special and original to Indian culture and genius. Tillthe 1930s, nadis were a sealed book even to the majority of Hindu astrologers. Raman felt that nadi writers based their predictive applications on the extensive astrological literature. Attributed to SageParasara, all were in the form of Sanskrit sutras. The best system, according to Raman, isbased on 36 tantra nadis, each of which contains 1,588.320 astrological charts. These recur every 360 years. Another theory is that kshudradevatas (angels, spirit beings) pass on the information about the individualto the nadi reader. “The accuracy of the forecasts depends on the intensityof the rituals performed and recitation of the mantra to propitiate the devata,” wrote Raman in Hinduism Today. Thousands of such palm leaves are spreadall over the country. Known as Nadi Grantha in the South and Bhrigu Samhita in the North. These were written by the seven rishis – Agasthya, Kausika,Vyasa, Bohar, Bhrigu, Vasishtha and Valmiki. Explains Subburathnam: “Theleaves carry predictions for all, irrespective of cast, creed, country.Agasthya predictions are in Tamil.” However, the leaves held by the presentday nadi readers in the South belonged to King Sarabhoj, the Maratha rulerof Tanjavur. The leaves started disintegrating with age. Scholars wereemployed to interpret the ancient Tamil and Sanskrit script and rewrite onfresh ola(palm leaves). These were written in vatta ezathu,Tamil script, with a sharp, nail-like instrument called ezuthani. Nadi readers preserve these leaves by rubbing peacock oil on auspiciousoccasions. Some of the original leaves are still preserved at Saraswathi Nilayam in Tanjavur. Later, when the British left India, theytook with them priceless manuscripts pertaining to science, ayurveda and astronomy. Astrological manuscripts were left behind which were later auctioned. A community of astrologers (“valluvars”) from Vaitheeswaran Koilin Tanjavur bought them and made nadi reading a hereditary profession. Infact, B Raju a nadi reader who hails from this place and has set up the SriKausika Mahasiva Nadi Jothida Nilayam in Delhi, says: “Nadi readers from ournative place have set up centres all over the country.” However, each centreworks independently. But how are predictions made? In his bookNadi Astrology, Chandulal S Patel says: “Nadis are of different types.Some Nadis give entire life histories of persons based on astrologicalreasoning. In such cases past and future events go wrong to a small extent.Nadi-practitioners are genuine astrologers. “Another type of Nadi-practitioners issaid to have acquired control over kshudra (mean or low) sadhanamantra. They often use clairvoyant powers to make horoscopes from the palm of the hand and in many cases discarnate being like nature spirits are engaged to get information. This sadhana, Karna Pishachi, tells thepractitioner in his ear all the past which he reproduces to the client. Itis all correct but fails miserably about future predictions.” Both Subburathnam and Raju disagree. “Ourpredictions are 100 per cent accurate. Many of our satisfied clients bringtheir friends and relatives for predictions. There is no question of tantraor mantra. We read whatever is written there and if the leaf is not found we say so,” says Subburathnam. “We do not charge until the client is fullysatisfied,” adds Raju. Skeptics argue that the astrologer asksseveral questions and then puts two and two together. Subburathnam denies the charge. “We do ask a few questions to help us locate the right leaf, but the client has to only answer in monosyllables “yes” or “no”. He doesn’t deny that fake readers have spread their tentacles all over the country inorder to make money. In Hoshiarpur, where the Bhrigu Samhitapractitioners are concentrated, the reader casts a chart for the moment you come for a consultation and then proceeds to find the corresponding leafwhich may take hours. There are thirteen chapters or Kandams innadi shastra, each dealing with a specific area of a client’s life. A clientcan choose the chapter she wants to be read. Initial consultation costs areRs 150 for local people. For outstation clients the fees are a little moreas translation charges are added. Each additional chapter costs Rs 150.Raju’s consultation fee is Rs 500. Subburathnam employs many nadi readers,writers who note down the predictions for the benefit of clients andtranslators (English, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam). Predictions are givenfor every two-year period and guidance offered on pariharams (remedial measures). Many consider the pariharams as a moneymaking gimmick.Subburathnam disagrees. “We read the pariharams only if asked. Moreover, most of the measures are simple like visiting temples, feeding thepoor or giving alms to the nadi reader and wearing talismans. But these areoptional.” Whatever may be the truth the long queuesat the nadi readers’ offices test your patience. So if you are interested ina reading better make an appointment. An appointment with fate!
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