Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
The Horoscope is a term associated with ‘mumbo-jumbo’ ‘blind faith’ etc in the Western world.
But in olden day India, this was a science.
When I was younger I was a skeptic and did not believe that this was scientific. But then I had not studied the subject enough and went along with the then-current sentiment of the people of my age / era to reject the traditional and embrace modern ways as the only correct way.
Today after much examination and analysis, I find myself non-aligned to every ideology and no single body seems to be satisfactory. So I’ve taken bits and pieces from each to create a unique recipe that works for me.
So the single most attractive thing that I took from the Hindu Dharma is the science found deep within the scriptures.
The accuracy of the knowledge of the stars and planets proved through astronomical marvels the various sun temples (Konark, Modhera and others) is one of the many reasons that attracts me.
I see the scriptures as a complete and fundamental thesis on the way the world works and a proposed way of life. At the ground level this eventually became a social belief system which later was adulterated and exploited by social power brokers over the centuries. And thus came be classified under the category of ‘religion’.
In a multi-religious school I often faced the question – What do you believe in?
But the more I read about the Hindu books – translated by monumental scholars like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, it is clear that such a question simply cannot apply to Hinduism. It is NOT a ‘faith’. For a faith requires unquestioned belief.
In the early ’80s at a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita – a core book in the Hindu Philosophy – delivered by Dr. Karan Singh – an eminent scholar, I learnt about the scales of time and about mass and energy manifestations – body & soul. I do not recall completely understanding it as I sat there in the public lecture in a large auditorium of Bharatiy Vidya Bhavan that I had attended casually after my Physics lectures at St.Xaviers College. But I do recall thinking – wow – there seems to be no difference in the rigour or the depth between both Physics and the Philosophy of Hinduism.
I was 17 then. Today at 51 I still agree with that one thought – that there is as much completeness and consistency in the original scriptures of Hindusim as there is in the books Feynman Lectures on Physics.
The scriptures may well have been a thesis on physics and other sciences.
But, through the many slips between the cup & and lip that inevitably creep in during the dissemination, the files got corrupted. Some intentionally at the hands of the power mongers, others unintentionally as a result of the ‘chinese-whispers-game’ type of distortion.
So be that as it may…. after this long-winded introduction …let me continue on to our beautiful world of art ….
So once upon a time, Horoscopes were very powerful documents.
It was a practice among Hindu families to create an astrological chart for every new born baby based on the positions of the planets, sun, moon and stars at the time and location of the child’s birth.
The aim of such a chart is to foretell the future of the child, the stumbling blocks she might face, the areas in which success will be achieved and more.
These were once a critical tool for fixing marriages – as it was important that the charts of the two individuals were harmonious. Conflicting horoscopes could be deal breakers in arranging the marriage.
Over the years as the child grows up and important decisions need to be taken to determine her life path, this document is consulted to see what is favorable and what is not.
Most Janam Patris / Janmakshar usually show 2-3 calculation charts and are no longer than a dozen pages. All the ones that I had seen in my family, works made in the 1940s and later were arranged in the form of notebook bindings about the size of a quarter of an A4 paper sheet.
So when I came across this 200 inch scroll I was enthralled!
This long scroll created by gluing together single sheets of handmade paper is something I have not seen ever before!
Further the fact that it is hand colored and has been painted so elaborately dazzled me!
The cultural element – the most interesting layer of all the art I collect – included painted figures of several Gods! The 9 figures depict the gods that preside over each of the 9 planets (in the vedas all 9 were mentioned), Vishnu and Ganesh. Further, Buddhist symbols have also been painted in.
The future of the newborn is scripted in Devnagari and the language is probably Sanskrit.
The art, the length and the general richness of the manuscript suggests that this was commissioned by a wealthy / royal family!
Dated the year of Vikram Samvat 1868 (1811 A.D. Gregorian Calendar) the age adds glamour of such a piece, but only a little – because in itself irrespective of the age, it is a beautiful survivor from a vanishing culture.
And the baby? Let us hope that he or she had a happy & healthy life and his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren are among us today!