2020 Jan 28
How many times have you heard the term ‘handahana’ being present in your Amma’s everyday vocabulary? It’s safe to say that most of us are no stranger to astrology creeping into our lives in one way or the other. Astrology, in simple terms, is the belief that the position of the celestial bodies at the time and the place of a person’s birth determines the structure and the function of their body, mind, personality, behavior and destiny. Astrology has prevailed in the Sri Lankan culture for centuries, even during King Dutugemunu’s regime. It is believed that King Dutugemunu considered astrology to be so important, that he provided a doctor, an astrologer and a priest for each group of 16 villagers throughout his kingdom. To this date, the tradition is still carried on as a part of Sri Lankan culture.
Here are a few ways in which astrology still influences our lives in an exceptional manner.
1. Child Birth
As soon as a child is born, it is common and also considered essential by Sri Lankan parents to prepare a horoscope or ‘Handahana’ for the baby. The parents would visit the astrologer and convey the date, place and the precise time of the birth of their child. The astrologer will then provide the parents with a set of letters that the parents can choose from in order to name the baby. The letters are obtained by the astrologer according to the alignment of the celestial bodies, at the time of the child’s birth. Once the baby is named, the astrologer will proceed to create a horoscope for the child. The astrologer is not only consulted at the time of the child’s birth but even during milestones like the first time the child is fed solid food (“Indul Kata Ganawa”) and also the first time the child learns the alphabet (“Ath Poth Thiyanawa”). The astrologer will advise parents on the auspicious times that these ceremonies should be held, with the belief of bringing good luck for the child’s upbringing.
2. Child’s Education
It’s a no brainer that Sri Lankan parents value their children’s education tremendously. A parent’s biggest dream is to see their children achieving great heights in their careers, so that they can proudly boast about their child to every snobby relative who finds each and every topic gossip-worthy. The child’s horoscope is taken to an astrologer in hopes of getting advice on education and careers that might be fruitful. The astrologer will then make predictions based on the horoscope on which career path the child might blossom in. During exam seasons, when the child is facing important examinations such as O levels and A levels, parents would consult an astrologer in order to gather an auspicious time that the child should step out of the house on the exam day, with the belief of good luck beaming upon their child.
Attaining of age or the commencement of a girl’s first period is considered a pivotal part of a girl’s upbringing. And a pubertal bathing ritual is performed in most households a certain number of days after a girl’s first period. In earlier days, this ritual was performed in order to let the village people know that there is a woman of marital age in that particular household. The ritual still continues to current day to keep the tradition alive. In order to perform this ritual, the girl’s mother is expected to provide the astrologer with information like the time and place of the event, as well as the color of the attire that the girl was wearing when it happened. The astrologer will then predict certain details of the girl’s future and also provide the mother with the auspicious time and date to hold the ritual. Some astrologers will also advice the mother on what color the daughter’s attire should be after the ritual.
4. General Advice
There are certain periods of time, where the stars are not aligned in our favor and might bring us times of bad luck; potentially affecting our happiness, health and prosperity. Most people usually take their horoscopes to the astrologist in order to get an opinion on the time periods that bring people good luck and bad luck. These astrological predictions don’t apply just to children, but to everyone else as well. The astrologists will predict a forecast on the crisis time periods (“Apala Kalaya”) and advice people on different deeds that they can do, with hopes of negating the negative energy that might be present during that time. Some examples of deeds that are conducted during this time is to conduct “Bodhi Pooja” at temples or to offer food to animals, particularly dogs and crows.
Marriage is one of the milestones in a person’s life where astrology is mostly associated with. Before a couple gets married, both their horoscopes are shown to an astrologer, who reads them and informs the couple and their parents if their personalities are compatible with each other. If the horoscopes don’t match, parents usually will be against the couple going ahead with the marriage. The astrologer will also suggest an auspicious date and time for the couple to start the Poruwa ceremony, the time that the couple should exchange rings as well as the time that the couple should enter and exit the venue where the wedding ceremony is held.
When people decide to construct a house or a building for their workplace, the astrologer will advise an auspicious time to lay the cornerstone that will form the foundation for the building (“Mul Gala Thiyanawa”). Once the architect lays out the plan for the building, the astrologer will advise on which direction and where to place the front door of the building, with hopes of bringing prosperity to the property that is being constructed. The astrologer will also recommend an auspicious time to conduct the house-warming ceremony, once the house is completed and furnished.
While it is obvious that astrology plays a striking role in our lives, it is also evident that most of these astrological beliefs and predictions do exist in hopes of making our complicated lives a little bit better. So next time, if Amma takes you to get your horoscope checked, it might be a good thing after all!