Nadi Jothishyam is the name of an ‘exact science’ by which all details about a person can be told by consulting palm-leaf inscriptions attributed to Agastya Muni, a very famous ancient sage from the South. There is, supposedly, one palm-leaf inscription for every human on this earth, past present and future! Taking into account population explosion, the whole place should be chock full of palm leaves, but miraculously this is not so. This could mean two things- either the ancients had the foresight to know as to who would visit the place and hence only the bio-data of those visitors would be available, or the leaves are preserved in some format wherein terabytes of data could be compressed and stored. The prints would be taken after the candidate arrives on the spot!
Either way it goes to show the remarkable wisdom of our ancients! Anyway, after one arrives at the place their thumb impression is taken along with their date of birth. Then, the palm leaf pertaining to the individual is searched for. This is the source of the name Nadi- search. There are a number of write-ups praising its accuracy and there are blogs testifying to the same. There have been numerous accounts stating that the practitioners of Nadi have an accurate method of telling all about the past, present and future of any individual. All they need for identifying the right leaf is the thumb-print of the person and the date of birth.
On my travels with my friends, we happened to be passing by near where it was supposed that the ‘original’ Nadi leaves were kept- the Vaithishwara Temple near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu. I decided to look into this matter here, along with Rajendran and Murugan from the Tamil Nadu Science Forum. I decided to follow Rajendra’s contact’s advice and look for Shiva Swami of station road who was supposedly the best of the lot and would charge only Rs. 500 per consultation.
When we reached the place at the entrance of the village there were numerous signs inviting us to the ‘original nadi jothishyam’, ‘the one and only Nadi consultant’, ‘beware of touds’ [sic] (touts!) etc. On enquiring further, we found out know that the place was full of Shiva Swamis as it seemed to be the most popular name around. Thinking “a rose by any other name…”, we went to the nearest Shiva Swami. This too was probably already entered in my leaf! It was a toud who ended up taking us to this place despite our caution. On entry, we were told that we had come to the right place as it was the place where Agastya Muni had deposited his original collection of palm leaves. We were also told that it was a holy place, a madam– a hermitage (not to be confused with madam!), and not a commercial enterprise. On enquiry as to how much it cost, we were informed that it depended on what we wanted. If the interpretations were to be made in Tamil then it would be Rs.200 (~ $5, US), if translations were to be made it would be more. It would be fifty rupees extra for audio tape recording. I included the condition that the payment would be made only if what was said was correct, and this was agreed upon.
I was told to write my date of birth on a sheet of paper and two thumb impressions of my right hand were taken. That was all that was needed to look for the palm leaf with my life story written on it. It was, however, subject to availability I was told, as I was asked to sit down in a fixed place while the search for it was on. We declined this invitation and told them that we would go around the place and come later. When we came back after ten minutes, we were told that I was lucky as my leaf had been found, and that it would be read. When I asked the permission of the person reading it for it to be photographed, he declined. When I asked whether he would pose for a picture he was vehement in his refusal. Luckily, I had already managed to take a few pictures of the place and its fixtures.
The standard declaimer was put forth before the reading started. I was told that although all efforts had been made to get the script of my life, there could be some errors in interpretation. So, I had to answer yes or no to statements made about my life.
First I was asked where I came from. When I replied Udupi, he said that had been accurately mentioned in his leaf. The next question was whether I was a Brahmin or not. When I asked what the leaf said, I was told non-brahmin. When I said yes, he made the very earth-shaking declaration that I was a non vegetarian! I asked him to go on and he said that both my parents were alive. Since, both of them are no more, he said that the inference had been probably arrived at, by the presence of their souls on earth! I had made no attempts to send them to heaven by performing the required rituals. I was also informed that my father had been a government servant and had retired. That would have been news to him if he were alive. He had never worked for anyone else in his lifetime. Then I was told that I too had been in government service and ha retired (that last part is not a very difficult conclusion going by my age!) The Pais of Manipal who had been my employers at Manipal University would be glad to hear of this elevation in their status from an influential family to a government organization. The next statement was about the day of my birth and I was told that I had been born on a Monday and under Makara Rashi. When I replied I did not know whether either of them was true or false, I was told that I am a Muslim!
Then I was told the following:
- I owned the house in which I live (true) and so did my father (false).
- I had two wives (I haven’t met the second one yet)
- I had two children from my deceased first wife and for their sake married for the second time. I misled him here saying that my first wife was not deceased, but I had divorced because she had no issue. The children were of my second one. The interpreter of Nadi fell into the trap and agreed with me. He also said that there was a small error in his reading.
- I had two brothers and one sister. This is true but when I said it was wrong he changed it to one brother and one sister.
- My fathers name starts with one of the dozen alphabets listed. When I said no, he followed with a dozen other alphabets. When I replied in the negative again, he was flabbergasted.
About thirty minutes had passed and getting tired of this, I told the Nadi reader that most of what he had said was nonsense. He got angry at this and told me that I should have been honest with him. I replied that he should have known about this because his own Nadi leaf would have contained the information that his powers would be tested on that day. When I asked him whether I had to pay for all the rubbish that he had told, he flounced out of his own establishment with the Nadi leaves pertaining to my life under his arm, leaving us there. After waiting for a few minutes for him to come back, we came out. By then I had gathered how the so called Nadi fortune tellers manage to make ‘accurate predictions’ of the past and future.
The leaves are just a prop for them. They are covered in scribbles which only the Nadi reader can supposedly interpret. The information about the client is gathered by the following methods:
- The client and those accompanying them are asked to wait until the proper leaves are found. During this time they are asked to wait in a room which is wired and the conversation is spied upon.
- The interpreter is a clever ‘cold-reader‘. He notes the reactions of the client and those who accompany them, to check the accuracy of the predictions.
- Pointed questions are asked to ‘predict’ the background of the clients- questions like caste, religion etc.
- Names and other specific details are rooted out by trying to guess the first alphabet of the word followed by the second one and so on by a process of elimination.
- Most of the information is provided by the client from our reactions to yes or no questions or from subconscious body signals.
In my case, since I am quite experienced in providing misleading body signals and since those accompanying me had no knowledge about my personal matters, the reader was not in a position to acquire any knowledge about me by this method, thus playing into the trap. Once the Swami realized that he was being misled and that I was a hard nut to crack, he backed out. So much for the ‘accurate science’ of Nadi Jothishyam.