Famous Astrologers of Kerala! (Post No.3178)


Written by London swaminathan

Date: 22 September 2016

Time uploaded in London: 8-30 AM

Post No.3178

Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.




Source book: The Land of the Lingam by Arthur Miles, year 1933.

“The astrologers were flourishing in Travancore (Kerala), when Marco Polo visited in the thirteenth century, and still occupy one of the most important places among the castes. In fact, they are second to priests, as nothing can be done without consulting them. Their progenitors, they believe, were a Gandharva woman and a Brahmana Saint who lived in the Western Ghats. The grandson of the two illustrious ones propitiated the God Subrahmanya, who presided over astronomy, and acquired from the god the name Nalika, which means truthfulness.


Many astrologers still call themselves Nali, the truthful. The Kaniyans, according to tradition, were Brahmanas who lost their position as their predictions become less and less accurate. In any case whatever opprobrium may once have rested upon their name, the astrologers have now been reinstated into favour and as formerly their calculations govern the lives of their countrymen. No one can get married, start on a journey, or begin any undertaking without consulting the astrologers. In certain homes a child is begotten only when the wise one has given his sanction, and outlined the moment of conception, and it is sometimes necessary to have his permission if one is to die properly.


There is a legend which relates what happened to the king of astrologers when he was temporarily out casted with his subjects. The ruler had cast the horoscope of his son and concluded from his calculations that his son would live to be very old. Unfortunately, however, he was mistaken in his prediction and his son died when he was still a boy.  Unable to discover his error of judgement, he took the horoscope to a famous colleague of the Chola Kingdom, who, having foreseen the visit, directed the king to worship a deity who would aid him in making predictions.


Accordingly, he went to the Trichur temple, and spent many days adoring the deity. Soon after he made remarkable predictions, and became so well known as a simple astrologer that his fame extended to Cochin and Travancore, where he won respect and admiration of the rulers of the two states. They invited him to cast their horoscopes.


Now one of the rulers had a Brahmana friend for whom he ordered a horoscope, and the Brahmana, hearing that his guru at Benares was seriously ill, asked the astrologer if it would be possible for him to see his guru before his death. The astrologer directed him to the southern side of the Trichur temple where he would see two persons coming towards him. These persons were really the servants of Yama, the God of Death, and on the Brahmana s request to see his guru, the servants bade him touch  them and he immediately found himself beside the dying man in Benares


When the Brahmana was asked by the friends of the dying man who had sent him, he mentioned the name of the astrologer, and the friends there upon cursed the astrologer and said that he would be out casted.

The astrologer, learning of the curse from his own horoscope, wandered into the forest in a state of extreme desperation. There the goddess of the Trichur temple appeared before him in a dream, and told him that he would begin a new life with a Kaniya woman, and would have several sons. A few days after the goddess had appeared to him, the astrologer met the Kaniya woman, and in due course she bore him several sons whom he educated in the lore of his profession.  When the sons were grown men, the goddess obtained for the family an important place in the Hindu social system, and on the famous astrologer’s death his body was placed in a coffin and buried in the courtyard of his house.

The astrologers grave is still pointed out to visitor. There is a platform around it, and it is covered with a thatcher roof, while until a few years ago a lighted lamp stood on the platform day and night. Any astrologer who makes his calculations before the platform is helped by the spirit of the dead astrologer, and his predictions are sure to come true.  Even the date and conditions of a future birth can be calculated before the platform. The. Descendants of the great astrologer are called Pazhuur Kaniyans and they are consulted by the people of Malabar, Cochin, and Travancore. They are said to be always accurate in their predictions”.


My comments:

Arthur Miles’ book in general has got lot of factual errors. I have given the story as found in the book.


Kaniyan is found in Sangam Tamil literature. The most famous poem of Sangam Literature “yaathum uure, yaavarum kelir” in Puranaanuru (verse 192) is by Kaniyan Punkundran.




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