The following news item in a leading Indian newspaper ( Hindustan Times ) today prompted me to write this article :
I have been a strong supporter of Sanskrit, as much of our nation's culture is connected with it, and no natiion can progress if it overlooks its own culture.
The problem with Sanskrit is the same as that with much of our national culture: part of it is rational, and part irrational. We have to sift the rational part from the irrational, and promote the former while rejecting the irrational..
In my article " Sanskrit as a language of Science "( which can be seen online, as well as on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in ) I have mentioned the rational and scientific features of Sanskrit.
But there is also a lot of irrational mumbo jumbo in Sanskrit, and astrology ( not to be confused with astronomy, which is scientific ) is one of them.
Astrology is pure humbug, superstition and nonsense. Even a little commonsense tells us that there is no connection between the movements of the stars and planets and our lives ? How can the movement of the stars, the planets and other heavenly bodies determine whether one will become an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, etc. or whether one will die at the age of 50 or 80 or whether one's business will succeed or fail ? There is no connection between the two.
It is true that the vast majority of our people, perhaps over 90% ,believe in astrology. But that does not prove anything. The majority are often wrong. At one time the vast majority of Christians believed in the theory of Ptolemy that the sun goes around the earth instead of the other way around, because the Bible apparently supported that view, and scientists like Galileo faced persecution for supporting the theory of Copernicus that the earth revolves around the sun. Later, the theory of Copernicus was found to be correct. Many people denounced Darwin for his theory of Evolution as it was believed to be against the Bible. As late as in 1925 an American teacher, John Scopes, was prosecuted in the famous ' monkey trial ' in an American state for teaching Darwin's theory.
When I went to take oath as Chief Justice of Madras High Court I was told that I should not take oath at the 'rahukaalam' tiime ( inauspicious time, according to astrology ). The vast majority of Tamilians, who are otherwise very intelligent people, believe in rahukaalam, as I learnt later when I was in in Tamilnadu.One senior Supreme Court lawyer, who was earlier practising in Madras High Court, told me that when his clients, most of whom are educated, come from Tamilnadu they request him to start reading their brief at a time which is not 'rahukaalam' time.
And this belief is not confined to Tamilnadu alone. It is prevalent almost all over India. Many Ministers, Judges, etc. take oath at the 'auspicious' time, and consult their astrologer for finding out the auspicious date and hour. Marriages are often finalized after seeing the 'janam kundali' of the boy and girl, and fixed on an 'auspicious' date after consulting the Panditji. ' Grah pravesh '( entering a new house ) is done after consulting an astrologer for an 'auspicious' date. Many people wear certain gems on their necks or rings on the finger in accordance with the 'raashi' ( to ward off evil influences of 'shani', etc ).
Why do so many people believe in astrology ? After all, they are not crazy. Even many eminent scientists believe in it.
The reason is that the chance factor is still a very powerful factor in our lives. We plan one thing, but something else happens. Thus we are often unable to control our lives. So we start believing that there is some supernatural force controlling our lives.
But that is not so. It is because of the low development of science as yet in the world, as compared to what it will be a 100 or 200 years hence, that we are unable to control our lives.
As of today, science is still very undeveloped and at an embryonic stage. After 100 or 200 years from now it will have developed tremendously, and then we will be able to largely control our lives, and then what we plan will usually happen.
It is said that many scientists believed in astrology. But that is not because astrology is a true science, but because for a long period scientific and unscientific ideas will often co-exist in the same person. For instance, Newton, one of the greatest scientists in the world, believed in alchemy and occult, which are nonsense and unscientific.
I know that I will be attacked furiously by many for what I have said above, but that does not matter. I will say what I believe to be in the interest of my country, even if I am a solitary voice and even if I am castigated by many. It is in the interest of my country that superstitions be attacked and a scientific temper developed if we wish to progress and solve our country's massive problems. Science alone is the way out for our country if we wish to abolish poverty, unemployment, malnutrition ignorance and healthcare problems, and emerge as a modern, highly industrialized and prosperous nation.