Sachidananda murthy astrologer
September in Bangalore und B. He has been trained in the field of Astrology by his ResearchGate is a network dedicated to science and research. Answered Oct 27, We add a leap day — February 29 — nearly every four years. Journal papers. Babu on sachidanandababu. Read detail news at www. Einen weiteren Sohn verloren sie, als er 27 Jahre alt war.
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Create New Account. On the importance of theosophy for the development of western esoteric lore from the late 19th century to the present, see Hammer ff. Perhaps needless to say, a great deal of information and misinformation on ns is also available on the Internet, where a few n readers even offer online readings payable by credit card. Over the past several decades some excellent work has been done on the history of Hindu astrology, particularly by Pingree, whose primary interest has been the transmission and development of the exact sciences including jyotia in India and elsewhere.
The purpose of the present work, then, is to examine the system of n divination, particularly as evinced in certain Sanskrit texts discussed below, and with special attention given to its underlying beliefs and worldview; and, preparatory to this, to outline the foundation of classical Hindu astrology on which 1. See Pingree , , , , For definitions of these technical terms and of the various branches of jyotia, cf. N: term and concept In his survey of Sanskrit astrological literature, Pingree refers to the n genre merely in passing: It would not be possible to close this discussion of the literature on jtaka without reference to one of the most notorious texts of this genre, which has had numerous offshoots.
This is the vast collection of thousands of potential horoscopes assembled under the name Bhgusahit, and presented in the form of a dialogue between Bhgu and ukra. The manuscript copies all originate in North India, where some extraordinarily diligent fellow compiled it. A similar collection found in South India is the mammoth 1 Saptari ni in Tamil. There are in fact a large number of South Indian n texts in existence, in Sanskrit as well as Tamil and reportedly in other Dravidian languages.
The NCC lists numerous Sanskrit astrological texts containing the word n, some of which exist in single manuscripts, others in multiple copies. Few if any have been microfilmed or otherwise made publicly available. What, then, are the defining characteristics ofn divination? The lowest common denominator of the various practices so called appears to be the fact that predictions for a clients future, answers to his or her questions, etc.
Pingree f. A grey area would seem to be the so-called jva- living ns, believed to be inhabited by a deity or i sage who at the time of reading manifests the text on an otherwise blank page! On the contrary, a n reading is ideally so specific as to be applicable to one client only; indeed, many n readers claim that their texts supply not only the name of the person consulting the text, but even those of his or her parents, spouse, etc.
As an example of the genre, a modern author relates this test reading miniature biography of Mohandas K. Gandhi, allegedly included in the n text Satyasahit: The native will be born in a holy city on the Coast of the Ocean. His father will be a Dewan or Prime Minister. At the age of 20 he will go to a foreign country. His mother will die at the [natives] age of 22 in his absence. His father will die when he is He will have four sons of whom three will be engaged. He will marry at At 32, he will be a lawyer. He will consider the whole world as his family; will always speak the truth and will be pure hearted.
Pride and arrogance will not touch him. There will be no distinction between his thoughts, words and deeds. While living as a Grihastha or house-holder he will live as a hermit at heart. At 62, he will be very unhappy when running through the period of [the planet] Rahu. At [the] age of 66, he will fare well and achieve some success in his mission. Before 65, he will profitably meet the Emperor of the White People. His father will have more than one wife and he will be born of the second wife. He will resort to fast[ing] for 2 the good of the world and will live above Unusual as this rather spectacular form of divination may be, it is not wholly without parallels outside of India.
A typologically similar phenomenon appears to be the Chinese art of tieh pan shen shu or iron plate divine number divination, in which numeric sequences generated by calculations made on the basis of a clients birth data are linked to numbered sentences, often quite specific in nature, contained in printed divination books. The present study, however, is concerned only 1. For a description of Hindu divinatory practices of this kind, see Kane f.
For an excellent introduction to the many interrelated varieties of Chinese divination, however, see Smith The earliest English-language reports of n reading that have come to my notice, published in Indian theosophical journals dating from the late 19th century, suggest that there has been little material change or development in its methodology or indeed in its reliability since that time.
As will be discussed below, the thumb print appears today to be a far more common and, of course, more universally available means of identifying relevant manuscript pages than the clients natal horoscope, although readings as such still maintain an astrological structure. The term n Sanskrit, occasionally spelt ni or ni Tamil, the intervocalic being pronounced itself is of disputed derivation. In the technical sense which concerns us here, it may be derived from the Tamil verb nu to enquire after; to examine; to look at, from which is also formed the noun nam examination, investigation, astrology, etc.
There is, however, a proper Sanskrit noun n, the primary meaning of which is tube, hollow stalk. From Upaniadic times, this has been used to designate a number of channels or arteries through which the vital force or breath pra is thought to pulsate through the human body; hence, a derived meaning of 1. This explanation was spontaneously offered me by a Tamil-speaking n reader during a reading which I experienced in Since you are coming at a particular age, and you yourself are coming to know your prediction, that is why this is called ni-ctiam [n-jyotia].
In Tamil, ni means coming towards. Also technically possible, but perhaps less likely, is a derivation from the verb nu, the basic meaning of which is to fix, plant, establish etc. Some writers would connect the word in this sense with the divinatory art,1 while others again focus on n as a particular measure of time synonymous with gha , related to the rising of minute divisions of the zodiac over the horizon. As will be discussed below, the notion of such divisions, also known as ns, is a key concept in certain n texts. I attempt to do this through a study of three Sanskrit n texts, prefaced by a survey of the classical astrological teachings forming the substructure of those texts, as well as by an account of my own experiences of present-day n reading.
The study is thus divisible into three major sections, the two latter of which are based on textual sources. The sources of the introductory first section, comprising Chapter 2, are not texts as such, but rather entire reading situations, including the readers themselves, their physical surroundings, etc.
The method of this section may be described as one of participant observation; it aims at a description of the ritual use of n texts as seen through the eyes of a client, and related in narrative form. In this connection, being European and even Tamil-illiterate is not necessarily a disqualification: while obviously setting me apart from Indian n clients, this circumstance simultaneously makes me representative of what is, as pointed out above, a fairly large and fast-growing section of the n readers clientele: the western spiritual tourist.
Astrologer R. Row, writing under the pseudonym Meena, states that n astrology is so called because, predictions as per this system were originally made from a study of the Nadis i. Although my personal experiences of n reading date back to , all but one of the readings related in Chapter 2 took place during the month of November, , during a tour of South India made for the express purpose of gathering materials for this study.
Much of this journey was undertaken in the company of a recent acquaintance who, coincidentally, was at that time in search of n readings. This companion, some of whose readings I had the opportunity of witnessing first-hand, may be considered a fairly typical western n client: a German-speaking meditation teacher with a strong personal interest in astrology and n reading, but without any academic agenda. I believe that our contrasting personalities and experiences have contributed towards bringing out certain aspects of the n phenomenon more clearly in the narrative.
The textually oriented second and third sections, comprising the bulk of the study Chapters 34 and 56, respectively , differ to some extent with regard to method.
The second section, aiming at an overview of classical Hindu astrology as it had developed by the late 17th century this being roughly the date of the anonymous n texts discussed in the third section , is necessarily of a synthetical nature, while the third section itself, being concerned with a closer study of a small number of texts, is primarily analytical.
Chapter 3, dealing with the ideological framework of Hindu astrology, draws on non-astrological as well as astrological source texts in an attempt to capture the general tenor of Hindu thinking on issues central to divination, while Chapter 4 depends entirely on classical jyotia manuals for its delineation of the basic procedure of casting and reading a Hindu horoscope.
Where critical editions of such manuals exist, they have been used; to a large extent, however, I have had to rely on commercially available, vulgate versions. Nor has it been my intention to study these works from a text-critical point of view, but rather to examine and synthesize their divinatory methodology. The overall object of the second section is thus to describe the mainstream Hindu astrological system presupposed by the n authors, with a view to making their own writings intelligible as well as revealing any departures on their part from The third section deals directly with the n texts: Chapter 5 by thematically discussing their form and contents, Chapter 6 by presenting extracts from all three texts along with annotated English translations.
Again, the purpose is not to produce a text-critical edition, but to examine their contents with regard to the divinatory system as well as the larger religious worldview.
The present study does not claim to be anything but a modest beginning in the study of n astrology, based on very limited sources. N reading, and Hindu divination in general, is a vast field meriting much research textual as well as anthropological , but hitherto largely neglected by western scholars a fact reflected in the relative paucity of secondary sources cited below.
I can only hope that this effort will be followed by many others, each illuminating yet an aspect of a vital and fascinating subject. Translations and orthography Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the Sanskrit are my own, even when the Sanskrit text editions referred to do include English renderings. There are two major reasons for this policy. Firstly, the translations included in such editions may be imprecise or even inaccurate.
This unfortunately applies to a number of popular editions of astrological source texts. Secondly, even when accurate, the translators choice of technical terms may differ from mine in such a way that adopting the translation given might obscure a line of reasoning in the surrounding text. For the sake of clarity, and to facilitate comparisons, translations of astrological terminology conform as far as possible to the existent, more or less standardized vocabulary of western astrology. Sanskrit and Tamil terms are given in standardized orthographic forms throughout, except in verbatim quotations from written material.
South Indian representations of Sanskrit words in particular might otherwise cause unnecessary confusion, involving as they do both a Tamilization of the Sanskrit phonemes and, in writing, a rather unsystematic Thus, Gowsica has been normalized to Kauika, Sugar to uka, etc. Brought together by a mutual interest in the Hindu art of n divination, we recently decided to team up and go hunting for n readers in South India. My main objective is to collect material for a scholarly study, but like Matt I also take a personal interest in the phenomenon and would be thrilled to get a convincing reading.
Matt has been in India for a few days already, and as we talk, I soon learn that he has started ahead of me. Eager for adventure and determined to make the most of time, he experienced his first reading within hours of his arrival in Chennai formerly Madras on the previous day. It was amazing, he says excitedly. The ivan told me everything about myself: my full name, my parents names, and my horoscope. It was all in the leaf. And he didnt ask for anything but my thumb-print.
From personal experience as well as numerous first-hand reports by friends and acquaintances, I am familiar with the standard procedure of a n reading. Initially, the reader or his assistant will examine the clients thumb impression right hand for males, left for females taking note of the particular pattern of swirls, lines and dots.
From this pattern one or more bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts are identified, one of which is said to contain the clients personal reading. Each bundle may hold fifty or more leaves, and from each leaf one or more statements are read out, to be confirmed or denied by the client: You are the second son of your parents. You have three daughters. Your name begins with an M. This goes on until a leaf is found that matches up in every particular. That leaf points to the general reading or first ka chapter , giving a birds-eye view of the clients life: his name and.
Further kas, usually up to fifteen in number, may be consulted for more detailed information on any particular area of life. Previous visits to the Chennai area have brought me into contact with three different readers, but all failed to produce the sense of wonder that is now plain to be seen on Matts face. Two readings, from a Mnkn and a Gaean, respectively, were so vague and in their few verifiable statements incorrect that I chose to terminate the sessions and save my money.
Matt too was disappointed at first. Working from the list we had put together in advance, with names and addresses of n readers collected from various sources, his first choice had been a Kauika-Agastya-n in the western part of town. It was a big place with two buildings, and presumably big business, as it housed a number of students training to become n readers in their own right.
However, after hours of waiting and wrangling with the irascible translator, whose task it is to convey the Tamil readings in English to foreign clients, Matts leaf was not found, in spite of his going through two full bundles of fifty or sixty leaves each. The translator told Matt that the n readers headquarters are located in Vaitheeswaran Koil; the main reader there, a man 1. Generally in the form of the zodiacal sign placements of the nine planets and the ascendant; cf. Vaitheeswaran Koil, taking its name from the temple of Vaidyevara,1 is a small town on the road between Chidambaram and Kumbakonam, reputed to house the largest collection of n manuscripts in India.
Every few weeks, so the translator claimed, the Kauika-Agastya-n reader goes to Vaitheeswaran Koil, returns a stack of used n bundles for which he pays Sivasamy rent, and brings a fresh stack with him back to Chennai. The translator could not say how the reader would know in advance which palm-leaf bundles are required for the weeks to come, but he did state that out of a hundred people approaching the Kauika-Agastya-n in Chennai for a reading, only forty or so actually find their leaves.
If a clients leaf is not found, no fee is charged. On his second try, however, Matt struck lucky. The ivan reader he tells me about is based in Salem, but has a Chennai branch which he visits regularly; Matt was fortunate to catch him here yesterday, as he is returning to Salem today. Both offices are on our list of addresses already the Chennai one, inexplicably, as a Bhgu-mahari-n, the Salem one as an Agastyan. From memory and his partial notes, however, he lists a number of test statements which he was able to confirm: You are the only son of your mothers second husband and your fathers second wife.
Both your parents are still alive, but you are living apart from them in a foreign country. Sage Agastya, often credited with the invention of the Tamil language, is very popular in the Tamil-speaking South. His name is associated with many n texts, including the ivan consulted by Matt, although this text was presented as a dialogue between Lord iva and his spouse, goddess Prvat. Bhgu, another great sage mahari popularly associated with astrology, did not seem to feature in this n. There was no religion in your birth place.
Your mother was working but has retired recently. You have two half-brothers and two half-sisters. You do not know whether one of your brothers is alive. You only know about the other three. At age 23 you began to follow in the footsteps of a mahari [great sage] or philosopher and learned meditation. You gave up smoking, drinking alcohol and eating meat, dropping all those vices like a sannysin [ascetic] renouncing the world overnight. Sufficiently impressed with this general reading to want further kas, Matt is scheduled to continue his reading in Salem, as it could not be fitted in before the n readers departure from Chennai today.
The ivan has also instructed him to do penance nti for the sins of his previous births by worshipping at five major iva shrines in Kanchipuram, Chidambaram, Tiruvanaikoil, Tiruvannamalai, and Kalahasti representing the five elements earth, space, water, fire and air, respectively. A few extra stops therefore have to be worked into our already tight schedule. A couple of hours later, however, we are on the way to Kanchipuram in an ancient black Tamil Nadu state taxi driven by a young man named Balu, looking remarkably like Eddie Murphy.
The hunt is on. Kanchipuram, located some 75 kilometres south-west of Chennai, is one of the seven great mokapurs: sacred cities granting liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Famous 1. While this may not be literally true in any society, Matt was born east of the iron curtain, where it was certainly an ideal. The chance of getting this combination right is 1 in seven weekdays times twenty-seven nakatras.
Naturally, not many westerners would know their nakatra of birth; Matt, taking a keen interest in Hindu astrology, is an exception. One of our reasons for starting here is Matts desire to see the akarcrya, the spiritual head of the Kanchi maha monastery-college belonging to the akara lineage. As we drive into town, we note two neighbouring houses along the road, advertising in English the presence of a Vasihan and an Agastyan, respectively.
We decide to give them a try as soon as Matt has had his darana audience with the akarcrya. After darana, Matt visits the nearby temple of Ekmbarevara1 for the propitiatory pj prescribed by the ivan while I pass half an hour with our driver, observing the street life of Kanchipuram. As usual in India, the passing autorikshas carry the name and image of their owners chosen deity beneath the rear window. Occasionally the popular gods and goddesses Mother India among them are replaced by a Muslim star-andcrescent or a Christian cross, with the legend Allahu Akbar or Praise the Lord underneath, and once I spot a Communist hammer-and-sickle accompanied by a barely recognizable portrait of Lenin.
I regret not having my camera ready as the three-wheeler passes by; it would have made a great Mothers Day card. On Matts return, we ask Balu to take us back to the n establishments that we passed a few hours earlier. From the prolonged criss-crossing that follows, however, it is annoyingly clear that our guide has lost his way. Driving aimlessly through the outskirts of town, we suddenly catch sight of a signboard advertising a ukan, and, a few houses further down the road, yet another Agastyan.
Win some, lose some: we bring the car to an abrupt halt and jump out. There is no answer as we knock at the door of the Agastyan reader. At the ukan, however, we are met by a middleaged man in traditional attire. His thin frame, full beard and deep-set eyes under heavy brows combine to give him a prophet-like appearance. I knew you were coming, he says, defusing the mystical overtones of this statement by adding practically: I saw you knocking at that other fellows door.
He has gone away. The ukan reader conducts his business in a straw hut built on the flat roof of his small house, which we mount by a steep flight of stairs. After offering us chairs and refreshments, he disappears. Some minutes later, a young assistant beckons to us to enter an adjacent room.
The n reader is seated on a grass mat in front of a small shrine, offering pj to Gaea. We bow down before the image. The reader marks our foreheads with dabs of vibhti sacred ash and dictates a mantra which we repeat as best we can. He has a heavy Tamil accent, more noticeable than in his English speech, and I fail to catch the whole verse: bodhnanda mahnanda The reader exits, returning shortly with some bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts.
The assistant takes our thumb prints, pressing our righthand thumbs against a stamp pad and on to a sheet of paper. Matt and I have agreed that I am to go first this time, as he has had one good reading already. The n reader, however, immediately zeroes in on Matt. Perhaps it is the will of the gods; perhaps it is just his open, eager face contrasting with my own naturally suspicious scowl. In any case, the search for Matts test reading begins. Under the supervision of his teacher, the assistant picks up one leaf at a time, reading out the Tamil sentences.
The n reader himself translates them for us. Right at the beginning, I am impressed by the accuracy of one particular statement: You are the first child of your fathers second wife. In the half-hour or so that follows, however, my enthusiasm gradually wanes. As I watch Matt answering sentence upon sentence with a Yes or No, I can see how a skilful questioner could derive a considerable amount of information by 1.
You whose joy is [in] wisdom, whose joy is great Protect, protect [me]; homage, homage [to you]. Statements on the same topic rarely follow upon each other, so that there is no discernable line of questioning. The haphazard order makes it difficult to remember what has been said already; issues previously touched upon and partly forgotten often resurface, approached from new angles. More than once I find myself surprised by an especially correct statement, only to realize a few minutes later that it was in fact deducible from Matts previous answers.
And in spite of our repeated requests, this reader, like the ivan one, refuses to let us tape the preliminary session. Silently observing the progress of the reading, I cannot help wondering if the supposedly stunning correctness of the ivan, which I had no opportunity to witness in person, was based on cunning tactics of this sort. Matt is no fool, but unlike myself he has a naturally trusting disposition, an inclination to think well of everybody.
Eventually, he and the reader seem confident that they have found the right leaf. There is no time to do the full reading today, but the reader obligingly offers to visit us in our hotel once we return to Chennai. The arrangement is agreed upon. Next, Matt wants readings for his family members, and proceeds to pull out a sheet of paper with their thumb prints on it.
There are more unconvincing test readings, and I find my attention wandering. At length they are finished.
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To the apparent surprise of the n reader, I decline a reading for myself. Not being allowed to document it, I feel that it would be a waste of time and money. Besides, it is getting on for five oclock, and we want to reach Chidambaram some time tonight. Leaving Matt to negotiate the price of his readings, I climb down the stairs from the roof hut and make my way towards the car. Suddenly I hear Matts voice behind me. I turn and see him motioning urgently. Come, come quickly! A few moments later I am back on the roof.
Whats the matter? He says were going to have a car accident. Hes preparing some raks [talismans] for us. The reader reappears, looking grave, and hands us each a small metal cylinder filled with some sort of powder, and a packet of vibhti. He explains that we are to tie the cylinders around our waists after taking bath. As we thank him, I seem to detect in his face a look of displeasure at my own perhaps too obvious scepticism.
Again Matt is detained for a few moments; as he catches up with me at the car, he is holding two small lemons in his hands. He says to put them under the back wheels as we drive away. Balu is intrigued by our doings, and we explain in a few words what is going on. Visibly concerned, he runs off to a small road-side stall, returning minutes later with a jasmine garland for the tiny Murukan image mounted in a mussel-shell stand on the dashboard, and some green branches to fasten under the windshield wipers. Finally we drive off, duly squashing the lemons under our car wheels.
As we leave Kanchipuram, a dog suddenly darts out from behind a bush and leaps in front of the car. There is a nasty thud as we hit it at great speed. Matt and I exchange glances. Balu, apparently unmoved, drives on without losing momentum. The sun sets quickly, and soon we are enveloped in the inky Tamilian night. Reaching Chidambaram at 11 pm, we consult Matts guidebook to find a three-star hotel. The sleepy young man at the reception informs us that there is only one room available, but with two beds.
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Fatigued, we accept and send Balu away for the night. Only after he is gone do we enter the room, which is filthy, infested with cockroaches, and has only one bed: a double. Vowing never again to enter a hotel with less than five stars in Matts book, I do battle with the bugs while Matt goes to demand an extra mattress from the reception boy who clearly After a few hours sleep we rise before dawn, and Matt goes off to the Naarja1 temple for more nti.
In due course our driver turns up, and we set out for Vaitheeswaran Koil. Balu seems never to have heard of Vaitheeswaran Koil before; he first imagines that we are looking for another iva temple Koil, properly kvil, being the Tamil word for temple. Once he has found the right directions, however, the ride is a short one some 20 kilometres and we arrive in plenty of time for our pre-appointed readings with Sivasamy. The main street is littered with n offices, and as we step out of the car at one end of it, we are immediately seized upon by the proprietor of the nearest one.
Where are you going? We reply that we have an appointment with Sivasamy. You shouldnt go there; it is very costly. The genuine n is here itself. Come and see. With some difficulty we excuse ourselves, having first given our thumb-prints and half a promise of returning later in the day if time allows.
Walking down the street towards Sivasamys place, I look in wonderment at the profusion of n signboards: ivans, Kauikans, Agastya-Mahiva-ns quite a number of those , Saptarins Clearly this place must live off its tourism; I cant imagine half the locals spending their days reading the fortunes of the other half. Sivasamys establishment is filled with young men dressed in shirts and dhots, their foreheads bright with vermillion marks, laughing and talking in a leisurely manner. Eventually they take notice of us; we are asked to give our thumb-prints, initials, and countries of birth, and are offered chairs.
While we wait for the n reader to call us in, I peruse the information sheet handed out by one of the assistants. A competitive business, apparently; but we knew that already. Above this exhortation is the Tamilized Sanskrit name of the 1. The first twelve kas are explicitly and unmistakably analogous to the twelve houses of a Hindu horoscope. The second ka, like the second astrological house, deals with finance, family, education, speech and eyesight; the third house or ka concerns siblings, courage, and ears; the fourth, mother, house, land, vehicles and pleasures; the fifth, children; the sixth, diseases, debts, enemies and litigation; the seventh, marriage and spouse; the eighth, longevity, accidents and death; the ninth, father, religious instruction, pilgrimage and fortune; the tenth, profession and livelihood; the eleventh, profits; and the twelfth, expenses, overseas travel and the natives destiny after death.
The next three kas are prescriptive rather than predictive: the thirteenth deals with nti-parihra, pacification of the planets by penance for sins committed in previous lifetimes; the fourteenth gives dk or initiation into mantras to be recited, as well as talismans rak to be worn, while the fifteenth prescribes auadha or medicines for chronic diseases. The sixteenth and last ka gives predictions particularly related to the natives current da-bhukti, or planetary main and subperiod.
First there are the. In pure Sanskrit, r-Agastya-Mahiva-vkya-n-jyotia-nilaya The house of n astrology [in the form of] the words of r Agastya and the great iva. Next, an unnamed ka for success in politics and political connections is offered, along with kas dealing with jna knowledge, often in the sense of gnosis or spiritual illumination , prana questions , and da-bhukti-nti: propitiation prescribed for the major and minor planetary periods.
I think of the Kauika-Agastya-n in Chennai, where the palm-leaf manuscripts, according to the translator, were leased from Sivasamy in Vaitheeswaran Koil. Apparently a need is felt of distancing Sivasamys institution from those that might claim to be branches, and I wonder what the relations may be between the various n readers. This question becomes the more pertinent as I observe that, save for one or two orthographic variations such as the violent-sounding thump impression for thumb impression , the body of the text before me is identical with that of two similar sheets handed out by the Kanchipuram ukan reader and the Chennai ivan reader, respectively.
Clearly one has been copied by the others, or all three derived from a common source. The lists are impressive. I wonder whether the smallish ukan place in Kanchipuram really houses so many texts, or whether the reader in fact leases leaves from various n houses perhaps in Vaitheeswaran Koil. At the bottom of Sivasamys page are advertisements for accomodations in Vaitheeswaran Koil: one lodge and one deluxe lodge.
I reflect on what deluxe might imply in the 1. Tamil tulliyam, derived from Sanskrit tulya equal, has acquired the additional meaning accuracy, exactness TL a. Sanskrit skma means subtle, minute. Within half an hour one of the young men ushers us into small, adjacent rooms. We are to have our readings done separately and simultaneously, by two different, youngish readers neither of whom is Sivasamy himself and interpreted by two different translators.
Judging from the number of staff, Sivasamys business must be thriving. I am somewhat disappointed by the separate arrangements, and wonder whether they are motivated solely by a wish for maximum efficiency. Could it be that a silent observer is undesirable from the point of view of the n readers? The room I enter is simply furnished with a desk and a few chairs.
The reader is not yet present, but the middle-aged translator, who has taken a seat at some distance from the desk, immediately enters into conversation. Like most people we meet, he is openly and unabashedly curious about my background, profession, and other personal details. After fencing for a few minutes, I point out that this information is supposedly contained in my palm leaf, and that I will be happy to confirm or deny it after the reading. Though the translator chuckles goodhumouredly at my doubting Thomas attitude, I sense a certain strain in the atmosphere.
The n reader soon appears, carrying a few bundles of palm-leaf manuscripts. As unobtrusively as possible, I reach out for my tape-recorder without asking permission this time. The translator observes me, however, and immediately intervenes. There is no need to tape the preliminary session, he says: It is in your own interest. Taping the test reading is sheer waste. All the same, I would like to tape it, I reply. After all, the waste is mine. Argument, however, is fruitless. Taping the test reading is not allowed, though I am promised the usual tape of my personal reading if and when it is found.
Going through the leaves is a tedious process. In the whole of the first bundle some two or three inches thick there is not a single statement even remotely correct. Most frustrating are the Pe, p, pai, po, p, pau? This recurring exercise becomes the more fruitless as I have no clue about Tamil orthography as applied to Scandinavian names.
At length, I persuade the reader to skip these questions entirely. We move on to the second palm-leaf bundle, with no great improvement in the results. Finally, after perhaps an hour and a half of questioning, the reader purports to have found my leaf. To be sure, everything he reads out from it is correct; but it is also plainly deducible from my previous answers.
I decide to give him a final chance. If I choose another ka [chapter] say, the fifth ka for children will it say how many children I have already, their ages, and so forth? The translator takes it on himself to answer. No, sir. Only the future predictions will be there from this day till the time of your death. I thank him and leave the room, declining any further reading. There are many other n readers in Vaitheeswaran Koil, and I would rather give one of them a chance than remain at Sivasamys.
On my way out, I look in on Matt. He is in the middle of a reading.