Be it getting married to trees, planning when to get married or when to have a kid, many Indians believe in astrology and then take the most crucial decisions which are based on what the astrologer says.
India has one of the oldest astrological systems in the whole world. Many scholars conclude that Jyotisa or the Hindu astrological system dates back o 1200 BCE when the monk Lagadha compiled the Vedanga-Jyotis on the basis of this. As a result, it gets a sacred status. It is often considered akin to Hindu religions, rituals, and traditions which all families compulsorily follow.
A new type of modern astrology became famous in the West in the 20th century led by the growth of newspaper horoscope columns. In India, that made astrology popular in a new way, as a “fun” hobby for the educated urban elite. Astrology is a booming business today in India, with the horoscope market alone being worth 1000 crores. Startups and a range of young astrologers have entered the space cashing in the growth of an astrological culture.
While many young urban millennials might look down on traditional forms of astrology for being aggressive, they are cued into zodiac internet culture, judge people based on their star signs, and even work schedules around “mercury being in retrograde”. So what makes Indian’s turn to astrology in the first place? Scholars point out that individuals turn to astrology primarily because it is a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety and stress. It is a documented fact that astrology becomes more popular during times of mass crisis. For instance, the first astrological columns began appearing in the newspapers in the 1930s, when many were facing financial distress due to the Great Depression. Even during the COVID pandemic, while many sectors have suffered, the astrology business has seen a huge boom.
The popularity of astrology is not harmless. There is no scientific basis for astrology at all. Scientific studies have never found proof of the claims that astrology makes, which links people’s destiny to the positioning of stars. Astrologers and astrology-based businesses make crores of rupees yet out of selling people a range of products, from tarot card reading to soothing, claiming that these are based on rigorous scientific knowledge. But there’s an even more dangerous consequence of this obsession with astrology. By allowing us to give pseudoscience the same status and importance as actual science, it legitimates superstition and illogical thinking. That makes us prone to believing misinformation, and even more likely to oppose rational thinking. In times of crisis and uncertainty, instead of empowering individuals to come up with solutions, it enables to hand over decision-making power to fraudulent ‘gurus’ and ‘babas’ who often exploit that position.
Understanding the reasons behind the popularity of astrology makes it even more crucial for us to review it critically. Maybe it’s time that we start honestly reflecting on our astrological beliefs.