Tamil’s Strong Belief in Astrology

Written by London Swaminathan
Post No. 1082; 3rd June 2014.

Sangam Tamil literature in its 2389 poems sung by 461 poets give us voluminous information about their beliefs in supernatural and paranormal things. All these poets lived in the first three centuries of modern era. They believed in different types of predictions. Though they have some specialised techniques to read the future of any person, most of them are same like North India. This not only debunks the Aryan – Dravidian Racist theory, but also belies the atheist propaganda about an ancient rationalist Tamil society.

Tamil literature has got encyclopaedic information on astrology. For want of space, I give below some of the popular beliefs: this is not an exhaustive list—

The oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam mentions that the Royal umbrella and the Royal sword should be moved in the direction of travel on an auspicious day. Tamil weddings took place on the day of Rohini’s (Star Aldebaran) alignment with the moon (Agam 86 and 136). What Tolkappiar said nearly 2000 years ago is still followed by the Hindus. If they book plane tickets for some auspicious functions such as weddings abroad and the travel date is not auspicious, they simply move their luggage to the next door or a neighbour or do a Puja at an auspicious time .

I have written an article about Rohini star and the Tamil weddings. The references are at the end of this post.

Meteors: Kudalur Kizar (Puram 229) described the effect of a meteor he and his colleagues saw in the sky. They predicted that the Chera King Mantharan Ceral Irumporai would die in seven days time and it came true.

Indian stamps on Zodiac signs.

The connection between Venus and Rain are seen in many of the Sangam verses:– Puram 117 by Kapilar, Puram. 35,41,384, 385,386, 388, 390, 398; Maduraikanchi Lines 106-109; Pattinappalai 1and 2. Depending upon the movement or position of the planet they predicted floods and drought. This is a new field for research. Modern scientists or astronomers have not yet found any link between rain and Venus. But Tamil and Sanskrit books are very clear about this link. Future research would prove that the Hindus are the first to discover this link.

Zodiac signs
Lot of people suspected Greek influence in Indian astronomy. For instance the 12 zodiac signs did not exist in Indian astrology before the Greek occupation of North West India, they say. Hindus divided the path of moon in the sky into 27 constellations from the Vedic days. But ‘’Nedunal Vadai’’ (lines 160–161 ) sung by Nakkirar and Pura. 229 by Kudalur Kizar mention Mesha Rasi (Aries).

I doubt about Hindus borrowing these signs from the Greek. If we believe that Nakkirar and other 460 Sangam poets lived in the first three centuries of modern era, the Greek knowledge would not have spread that fast to Tamil Nadu from the North Western corners of India or Tamil’s direct contacts with the Yavanas. It will take hundreds of years to absorb foreign ideas and use them in popular poetry. Sometimes people start using certain terms in certain ages. This doesn’t mean that they learnt it late from other sources. Lord Ganesh is not mentioned by any Sangam poet or Manikkavasagar. Inspite of their knowledge about Lord Siva, the word SIVA was not used by any of the Sangam poets. So I will take all these as trends in literature.
Israel Stamps onZodiac signs

27 Stars
Amazing thing about the Tamil astronomy is that they have lot of pure Tamil names for 27 stars in the sky, even during Sangam period. Star Anuradha is called Mudapanaiyam (stunted Palmyra tree) and Punarvasu a Kadaikulam (Pond). We don’t know why they named the stars so. But we know the same star clusters are seen by different cultures as different shapes. For instance, what we see as Saptarishi Mandalam (seven sages) is seen as Ursa Major (Great Bear) by the Greeks. Other cultures described it as a kite, a chariot etc.
Tamils must have observed the stars from very early times which is known from the way they named the star clusters/ constellations. At the same time they did not hesitate to use the Sanskrit words in Tamilized form as well. Kudalur Kizar in Puram.229 used the words Panguni (falguna), Uusi (Udichyai for North in Sanskrit), Paasi (Prachyai for East) etc.

Like their northern counterparts Tamils also worshipped the Saptarishi/Seven Stars, Arundhati (alcor)and Pole Star. All these are referred to in Sangam poems.

maldive stamps
Eclipse: Though ancient Hindus knew very well that the eclipses are caused by the shadows of earth and moon, they told the laymen a story about a snake devouring the sun and the moon. Tamils also reflected this Puranic story in their ancient verses. (Puram 260, Agam 114 & 313. They have calculated the days of eclipse well in advance.

Bird signs
Details are in the verses of Puram. 204, 124, 68,41.
I have given the details in my four posts : 1)Etruscan- Hindu Tamil Link, 2)Kapinjala Bird Mystery in Rig Veda, 3)OWLS: Are they Good or Bad Omens? 4)Can Birds Predict Your Future? See the links at the bottom of this article.

The sound made by the lizards served as omens for the Tamils. Kavan mullai putanar says,” the lizard on the Kalli tree makes its characteristic tickling sound and is taken as predicting the events to the wayfarers (Agam 151). Another poet says that the travellers paused a while hearing the tickling sound of the lizard (Agam 387). Even wild animals followed lizard sounds! A boar was just about to enter a millet field, but it went back on hearing the tickling sound of the lizard (Agam 186).
More references:–Agam 9, 151, 289, 387; Narrinai 98, 169,3 33, 9.

canada zodiac

Comets: Like any ancient community Tamils were also afraid of the comets. They used the Sanskrit word ( Dhuma ketu) and Tamil word (Pukai Kodi) for it. Reference: Puram 117. Also in post- Sangam Tamil epic Manimekalai 6-64, 7-74, Silappadikaram 10-102

Extinct Astrology
Virichi (Mullaippaattu 6-11,Pura 280), Unnam (Pathirrupathu 7th decad), Dark Bird Karik Kuruvi, Kurathi, Veri Atal are special techniques used by the Tamils to find about good and bad that is going to happen. The techniques are almost extinct now.

Virichi is hearing good or auspicious words before embarking on a task. Maravars sought Virichi before entering another country to ‘capture’ the cattle. This was the first step in waging a war. Tolkappiar also mentioned it.
Unnam is a tree. If it is very green it is considered positive and good. If it is wilted it is no good.
Veri Aatal is asking about the impending wedding of a daughter from a fortune teller. Sometimes the girls who had clandestine love affair were laughing at their mothers secretly about the futility of the task.

Nadi Jothidam
No reference of Nadi Jothidam is available in Sangam Literature: But it is prevalent from the olden days. It is about giving predictions with the help of old palm leaf manuscripts in which already one’s life predictions are written by the sages in verse form. Please read my article What India could teach the NASA scientists? (Link is at the end of this post).

There are many more beliefs about sneezing, twitching of eyes, blossoming of the Venkai trees, dreams etc.

star chart
My earlier posts related to this topic
Post No.1062.OWLS: Are they Good or Bad Omens? 24-5-14
Post No.1065.ஆந்தைகள் அலறல்: நல்ல சகுனமா? கெட்ட சகுனமா? பகுதி-1(26-5-14)
Post No.1067. ஆந்தைகள் அலறல்: நல்ல சகுனமா? கெட்ட சகுனமா? பகுதி-2(27-5-14)
1058.Ode to Skylark:Shelley,Kalidasa and Vedic poet Grtsamada 22/5
1059.ரிக்வேதத்தில் ஒரு பறவைப் பாட்டு23-5-14
1060.Kapinjala Bird Mystery in Rig Veda 23-5-14
1061. வேதத்தில் கபிஞ்ஜலா பறவை மர்மம்! 24-5-14
1054.Why did Sangam Tamils marry on Rohini star?20/5
1055.ரோகிணி நட்சத்திர மர்மம்: தமிழர்கள் திருமணம் நடத்தியது ஏன்?21-5-14
1003. வெள்ளி கிரகம்—மழை தொடர்பு பற்றி உபநிஷத்! 26th April, 2014.
967.What Hindus know that Scientists don’t know, 9-4-14
Can Birds Predict your Future? (July 22, 2012)
Tamil Astrology :Rope Trick for Predictions (Feb.27, 2013)
What India could teach NASA Scientists? (May 5, 2014)
1021.நாடி ஜோதிட ரகசியங்கள்: நாஸா விஞ்ஞானிகள் கவனிக்க, 5-5-14
Hindus Future Predictions- Part 1 (May 20, 2012)
Etruscan- Hindu/Tamil Link (July 28, 2012)
Do our Dreams have Meaning? (29 December 2011)
புறநானூற்றில் சூரிய கிரஹணம் (2 9 December 2011)
rk narayan

Three Beautiful Tamil Hindu Weddings

Tamil Actress Sneha on her wedding day

By London swaminathan

How did the ancient Tamil Hindus celebrate their weddings? There are three beautiful wedding scenes in Tamil literature: Akananauru, Silappadikaram and Divyaprabandham.

Two thousand year old Sangam Tamil literature describes Tamil Hindu weddings in two beautiful verses in Akananauru (verses 86 and 136). The poets bring the wedding ceremony in front of our eyes. Anyone who reads those poems can visualise that day. It is like a live running commentary.

In the first verse (86), poet Nallavur Kizar describes the food and the dress. There was a huge heap of rice cooked with black gram (Pongal). There was a wooden shed (pandal) with fresh sand from the river banks spread. Since they believed in astrology and auspicious days ,it was celebrated on the day when Rohini star was with the moon. Since they were orthodox Hindus they lighted lamps even though it was celebrated in the day time. Bridegroom and bride were adorned with flower garlands. Some women were carrying the pots on their head, others bearing new, broad bowls, handed them one after another, while fair elderly dames were making noise. Mothers of sons, with bellies marked with beauty spots, wearing beautiful ornaments, poured water on the bride, so that her black hair shone bright with cool petals of flowers and rice grains (probably yellow rice called Akshatai). They blessed her saying ,’do not swerve from the path of chastity, be serviceable in various ways to your husband who loves you and live with him as his wife. They greeted her ‘Dirgha Sumangali Bhava: in Tamil– Per Il Kizaththi Aguka’–.On the night after the marriage ceremony was over, the neighbouring ladies assembled and sent her to the arms of her lover, to which she went with trepidation ( This is the Shanti Muhurtham alias First Night).

Picture shows Soundarya Rajinikant’s wedding

In another verse136, poet Vitrutru Mutheyinanar says, white rice well cooked with plenty of ghee was served generously to the elders. Since Tamils believed in astrology, the poet remarks, the omens shown by the birds were propitious. It was a bright morning. The moon was in faultless conjunction with the Rohini star. The marriage house was decorated. They worshiped God. The big drums sounded with wedding tunes. Excited women were peeping without a wink with their flower like eyes at the bride who had been bathed. The image (to be worshiped) was made of big flower petals. Clear like a gem that has been well washed, was placed on the soft Vagai flower with the double leaf and the Arukam grass. It was decked with cool, sweet flower buds and white thread clothed with holy cloth, so as to look grand. The bride was seated on the fresh sand under the Pandal ( A thatched shed made over a row of wooden poles). The bride was perspiring with loads of ornaments. They fanned her to dry the wet.( I have used the translations given in History of the Tamils by  PT Srinivasa Iyengar).

Though tying the knot (Thaali=sacred yellow thread around the neck of the bride) is not mentioned  a few other verses hint at it. But no priests, no fire ceremony or no circumambulation of the sacred Fire were mentioned. One can understand it when one understands the caste differences that existed in those days. Since the Tamil epic Silapadikaram mentions the fire ceremony etc we can’t conclude it was never done. Most of the scholars put Silappadikaram event in the Sangam age. But the writing of the epic was dated between 3rd century and 7th century.

What is very clear in the above two Sangam Tamil verses is the Tamils believed in God and astrology. They used lot of vegetarian food and flowers during weddings. Ornaments and decorations, respect for elders are all like modern day weddings. The bride wore a thread (protective Kaappu) and new dress after a shower. Music was part of Tamil Hindu weddings.

(In part 2 Wedding Scenes of Kannaki and Andal are discussed).

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