Everyday so many of us try to catch a quick glance at our horoscope, be it in the newspapers or on our social media feeds. A lot of us do it purely out of curiosity, without having a firm belief in it.
But, there’s also something about astrology that offers us as a sort of consolation—a way to cope up with the “unknown” that lies ahead. Prediction about the future gives an individual a way to prepare for it.
However, like all other things, astrology does not exist in isolation to social realities.
Prediction of fate implies that one’s destiny is mapped out before they even have a say in it. While it is a comforting idea, when institutionalised, it can be used as a tool for oppression.
Astrology, backed by religion, attempts to create boundaries for individuals in the Indian context. These are societal boundaries that the individuals have zero agency in.
Be it the act of kundali (horoscope) matching during marriage or prediction of one’s fate at birth, astrology has connections with religious doctrines. In the name of universal “divinity”, often ends up prescribing to the limitations set up by these doctrines.
Often, so many couples are denied the right to marry because their kundalis don’t match. Personally, I’ve seen a cousin get demeaned in the family only because she was a “maanglik” and so, her parents weren’t able to find a perfect groom for her.
Even in popular culture, these ideas are viewed as “tradition” and aren’t objected to… Especially in the way weddings are portrayed in films we have grown up hearing about, like “Hum Saath Saath Hain”. It is clear how institutions like patriarchy and caste gain legitimacy here.
The division of caste is often legitimised by astrology when it claims for such divisions to be connected with cosmic movements. This way, it often ends up romanticising these strict divisions.
In spite of its social implications, why is it that the idea of astrology appeals to the youth so much? The consolation of certainty can be one reason why. In these utterly uncertain times, holding on to some certainty… Be it false or true, it can be very comforting.
It reassures humans that a better (and at times, worse) time is on its way. Often, looking at one’s horoscope for the day offers them a purpose to keep going. It is interesting to observe a person looking at their horoscope and the string of thoughts they have after doing so.
Ankita Das, a law student and a friend of mine, when asked about their tendency to check the weekly horoscope, said that it helps them connect the daily, ordinary tasks of their life to something greater—like the movements of planets. It offers them a sense of belonging to the universe.
The alienation that comes with living in a consumerist world is immense. As a society, we often tend to lose out on personal connections. Our existence, collectively, turns individualistic and ahistorical. In times like these, it can be sensed that astrology is used by people as a way to find a higher purpose—to escape this alienation and feel that they are a part of the grander scheme of things.
Another friend, Mow Roy, a sociology student, when asked about her belief in astrology, talked about the way her grandmother influenced her thoughts on the same.
Certain incidents in her life turned out the way they were predicted, and so the prediction made by her grandmother using tools of astrology helped her navigate her life accordingly.
Mow said that some of her relationships turned out the way her grandmother predicted they would. This helped her affirm her belief. Now, she turns to horoscopes in the hope that it will stop her from making the same mistakes again.
It gives one a certain sense of direction, like this. In psychology, there is a bias that is defined as one that comes with predicting things before they take place and clinging on to that preconceived notion i.e, the “anchor bias”.
The predicted thought becomes an anchor which with its weight, dominates the way we act after the prediction is made. Astrology happens to be a very good example of it.
It is possible that after these predictions are made, they become such a huge part of our thought process that we ourselves, in some way or the other, strive to make them come true.
This entire procedure is something that keeps the human occupied—making us feel that it is a larger force in play making us do these actions. While, in reality, this larger space might not be separate from our very own selves.
Now, a time has come where we are drifting off from conventional ties of astrology with religion- where astrology has become a means for self enlightenment and liberation. It has become an accepting space with many young people on the Internet practising astrology.
This is not the case in traditional setups. Astrology continues to be largely brahmanical in such spaces. Brahmins hijacked all spaces related to spirituality and positioned themselves as THE authority on all such matters.
But, in recent years, an alternative movement has emerged where different kinds of people(to whom the space wasn’t accessible before) have started to explore astrology. Young women and people from the queer community are now claiming their space in it.
Individual relationships with astrology have significantly progressed and it has become a safe haven for many young people.
The question that remains, however, is what happens when these social and individual implications meet? Often, as individuals, we choose not to look at things from an all-encompassing perspective.
There is nothing to lose when it comes to reading predictions about one’s day—perhaps, except the amusement that comes with uncertainty, which complements the fact that we are alive.
It is, however, important to know what any form of belief system brings with itself. It can bring liberation to some and oppression to others, and if not questioned, the line between the two can get blurry.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.