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Friday, April 20, 2001

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'Approach astrology with an open mind'

Ms. Gayatri Devi Vasudev, Editor, The Astrological Magazine, Bangalore writes:

This refers to your Science Correspondent's report (April 19) about some scientists being unnecessarily worked up over Prof. Hari Gautam's statement that Sir C.V. Raman had referred to astrology as science and Prof. S. Ramaseshan, nephew of Sir C.V. Raman, saying that the Nobel laureate ``did not believe in astrology at all and considered it an irrational subject.'' I would like to issue a clarification on both points.

With due deference to Sir C.V. Raman's so-called lack of belief, one should differentiate opinions from facts. The scientist was entitled to his personal opinion on astrology or any other subject under the Sun and it is nobody's business. That Sir Raman did not believe in astrology, as claimed by his nephew, is no argument against it if he had not made a study of jyotisha systematically.

The nephew in question may have been a close associate but that does not necessarily imply that he was privy to every single personal detail of Sir Raman's private life. Nor can the nephew's statement that the scientist's ``biography published by the Indian Academy of Sciences clearly documented the fact that he was not at all superstitious and despised ritual'' be connected with astrology and its scientific nature. Almost everyone knows that biographies are many times sanitised versions of the lives of the men they seek to portray in a particular mould and therefore, many details that may not conform to the portrait they want to paint, are ruthlessly scissored.

Srinivasa Ramanujan's biography published in India has cleverly omitted mention of the mathematician's reverence for the Goddess of Namakkal how many of formulae were revealed to him by Her in his dreams. These details are recounted in detail in his biography published from England.

Likewise, Nehru's Letters to His Sister published by Faber and Faber, London, carries his clear instructions for getting Rajiv Gandhi's horoscope, taking extra care to emphasise that the war time difference should be noted. But this same book published by the Publications Division, Government of India, omits the letter dated 29-8-1944, in its anxiety to preserve Nehru's ``secular'' image.

It should interest your readers to learn that Mrs. C.V. Raman was a regular visitor of my own revered father, the late Dr. B.V. Raman, whose name today is synonymous with jyotisha or astrology not only in our own country but the world over, and would consult him on Sir Raman's chart on his behalf. I shall quote from Dr. B.V. Raman's autobiography ``My Experiences in Astrology'', page 315, published by UBS Publishers' Distributors Ltd. when he describes how the lady first came to him in the 1930s escorted by Mr. A.S.P. Ayyar, a well-known author, legal luminary and judicial figure of those days.

``I had a surprising experience one day at my office, which was situated a few yards away from my residence. A middle-aged person dressed in a three-piece suit, accompanied by an elderly lady walked into my room. The gentleman had a distinguished appearance. Introducing himself the gentleman said: `I am A.S.P. Ayyar, District Judge, Ramnad, and the lady is Mrs. Lokasundari Raman, wife of Sir C.V. Raman. I have heard much about you. I am also a reader of your magazine and some of the predictions you have made on the war are amazing. I had my own reservations about astrology and had often thought that it encouraged inactivity and sapped one's urge to work. The lady has some problems pertaining to her family.'

``Taking leave of me, he said, `Lokasundari Raman has some domestic problems and she will see you again shortly.'.''

It was not just once that the lady consulted Dr. B.V. Raman on the horoscope of her husband. The nephew should be a little more restrained and check on his facts in future.

The statement signed by the scientists demanding that the UGC Chairman must quit for his support to astrology smacks of authoritarianism and feudal thinking. My simple question, having been a student of jyotisha for nearly 30 years working under Dr. B.V. Raman, to these scientists is: have they studied astrology to be in a position to dismiss it? Why have they put their scientific temper to sleep in attacking astrology hysterically, behaving like fanatic fundamentalists instead of approaching the subject with an open mind? No one who has not studied astrology can arrogate to himself the role of judge, as these ``scientists'' of India are doing.

It is deplorable and pathetic that these men of ``science'' are behaving like the Nazi scientists who branded Einstein's theories as Jewish physics and made a bonfire of his papers simply because their experimental physics could not accommodate Einstein's theories of relativity. We can only paraphrase what Einstein said then: ``were astrology wrong, one professor would have been quite enough!''

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