Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D
Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India
Early in the fifties in India most ministers and members of Parliament subjected themselves to the influence of astrologers and fortune-tellers in varying degrees. The astrologers and other fortune-tellers had their field day on several occasions when harvesting was plentiful — the time of distributing party tickets, election time, the time of formation of governments, and reshuffles of government — apart from the never-ending continuous process. Government officials were not immune from the influence of astrology. Apart from astrologers and other fortune-tellers, there exists in at least three places — Madras, Meerut and Hoshiarpur — Nadis containing a large number of significant horoscopes and their readings inscribed on very old palmyrah leaves which are frequently consulted by believers.
Two men, who were abject slaves to astrology, palmistry and even black-magic, were President Rajendra Prasad and Minister Gulzarilal Nanda. Rajendra Prasad’s favorite astrologers predicted emphatically that he would step down from the Presidency and become the Prime Minister.. Nanda, who wasted much time on havans pujas and other futilities, was told by his astrologers that be would become the Prime Minister. In a sense the prediction came true when he act as the Prime Minister for a few days, each time twice — alter the death of Nehru and after the death of Lai Bahadur.
T.T. Krishnamachari was somewhat of an amateur astrologer; the great scientist. Dr K S. Krishnan, who was soft-spoken, erudite, cultured and a delightful person, whom I knew well and admired, was a believer in astrology even though he never went to an astrologer for predictions about himself. His interest was largely intellectual. To the end he had an inquiring mind.
During the time of the Chinese aggression, astrologers and sooth- sayers were working overtime. All kinds of rumours were set afloat about the government and the fate of Nehru. At that time there appeared on the scene a weird man from Bihar with his black magic.
Rajendra Prasad used to be one of his customers. This time he was brought to Delhi in great secrecy by another Bihari who had retired as the Governor of a state and was staying in Delhi where he possessed a house. The late Maharaja Yadavendra Singh of Patiala became the patron of the weird man with the help of the former Governor. One item of black-magic was that a pencil would get up in the dark and write answers to questions. Most of the questions happened to be about Nehru and the answers were to suit the predilections of the questioners. After one sitting the Maharaja, who always had foolish political ambitions which, he thought, could be achieved in an under hand manner and with the help of money, decided to invite a care- fully selected group of top army brass and expose them to this black- magic. I received authentic information about it. I went to Nehru and suggested that Home Minister Lai Bahadur might be asked to get rid of the black-magic man from Delhi at once. I disclosed to him the source of my information. Nehru sent for Lai Bahadur and, in my presence, conveyed the information to him. Lai Bahadur had to act swiftly, and he did. At the appointed time Maharaja Yadvendra Singh, his army friends and the former Governor could find no trace of the black-magic man. Little did they know at that time that their man was in a train, under police escort, bound for Patna with instructions to keep off Delhi for six months.
Indira always believed in astrology. One evening in the mid-fifties Nehru left office rather early and drove straight to Maulana Azad’s house where he told me that I might go home and send back the car for him within half an’ hour. When I arrived in the Prime Minister’s House, Indira happened to be downstairs. Noticing that I had arrived alone, she stopped the car. She looked somewhat agitated and told me-
“The whole day I had been worried about what Papu’s horoscope says — that one of his legs will be disabled. I am troubled about the possi- bility of a minor car accident. Your being with him is a comfort for me. Now you have left him and come back. I wish you would go back to him.” Without any argument 1 left and waited in the Maulana’s house. Nehru was annoyed at my wasting time waiting for him. On the drive back to the Prime Minister’s house, I had to tell him the rea- son why he found me in the Maulana’s house. He asked me: “Why did you listen to her bilge? You should have laughed it away.” Incidentally, the prediction proved right. One of Nehru’s legs was disabled, and he had to drag on one foot; but it was not due to any accident but the result of a stroke.
On 6 August 1967, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit wrote to me from Dehra Dun enclosing a newspaper clipping containing a report of some predictions about Indira by the amateur astrologer K.G. Datta, The predictions were inferences drawn from the interaction of the personal horoscopes of the “dramatis personae.” They were:
(1) V,V, Giri would emerge as India’s man of the people to win the election for Presidentship.
(2) Indira Gandhi would endure several threats to her position for the next 18 months (from August 1967) and would remain at the helm of affairs till May 1982.
(3) Friction within the political structure would cause it to dis- integrate during the next 12 months (from August 1967). Many heads of those above 55 years would roll before stability is finally attained.
The prediction about Indira being at the helm of affairs till May 1982 disturbed Vijaya Lakshmi. Considerable credence was attached to this prediction because K.G. Datta had, in November 1961, correctly predicted the fall of the Labour Government in Britain, landslides in Chile, and bloodshed in NEFA; he had also foretold Nehru’s death “before 30 May 1964” and also Lai Bahadur’s death. Vijaya Lakshmi must have heaved a sigh of relief in March/April 1977 at Datta’s prediction going wrong about Indira. Astrologers have the peculiar capacity to unsettle people temporarily. Sometimes they give the credulous temporary hope too.
In 1963 a Tamil Christian, known to me personally, met Indira in New Delhi. He, like Cheiro, is an astrologer-palmist. He was in Ceylon for some time and had correctly predicted the assassination of Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandarnaike. This pre- diction was known to several people. Immediately after the assassination, he feared for his life and managed to leave Ceylon. The Madras friend, who renounced his religion, but not the booze, and reverted to Hinduism for the sake of his trade, showed me the note book in which the impression of Indira’s autograph at the bottom of the page. His prediction was that within three years Indira would be the Prime Minister. From then on the astrologer-palmist was a frequent visitor to Delhi. He soon got on to L.N. Misbra who was a pathetic victim of any astrologer who passed by. Gradually the astrologer-palmist began to wield considerable influence over Mishra who would bend low to touch his feet. And the astrologer-palmist became a contact man for several businessmen and was constantly in Delhi living in expensive hotels and imbibing more than was good for him. The astrologer- palmist had a roaring time financially until the death of Mishra. He also kept in touch with Indira.
In the spring of 1970, egged on by L.N. Mishra and Dinesh Singh, Indira frantically sent for the astrologer-palmist from Madras. On arrival in Delhi, he saw everyone perturbed at reports of several astro- logers who had predicted dire things for Indira and had given publici- ty for them. The astrologer-palmist consulted his note book and gave a bold prediction that Indira would remain firmly in power till 1977. Mishra and Dinesh Singh called several newsmen to meet the astro- loger-palmist who broke the good news to them. The prediction was prominently published by newspapers all over India. I saw it in the Hindustan Times and the Statesman in New Delhi in their issues of 10 May 1970. The stock of the astrologer-palmist rose sky-high with those “who mattered” in Delhi. And his income through various sources also went up beyond his expectations. It did not take long for him to build a large house in Madras and to set up a printing press for his son. He deserved a]] these because of his successive predic- tions about Indira both of which came true. Indira’s long-distance contact with the Madras astrologer-palmist was MaragathamChandrashekhar. She was the first Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.
The marriage of the astrologer-palmist’s daughter took place in Madras in May 1972. At the functions Indira was represented by the ubiquitous Yashpal Kapoor. The Governor of Madras and his Cabi- net were dutifully present. The same evening Indira landed at the Meenambakkam airport where she greeted the newly married couple and gave the astrologer-palmist a present of Rs 10,000. L.N. Mishra sent a much bigger amount.
The astrologer-palmist accompanied Indira twice to the ancient Devi Temple at Kanya Kumari. It was at his instance that Indira sent through L.N. Mishra a golden crown studded with precious stones for the Devi at the Kanya Kumari Temple. The astrologer-palmist is a devotee of the Kanya Kumari Temple and also the Tirupali Temple which has also been visited by Indira more than once.
During the Emergency the astrologer-palmist lost touch with Indira. Her entourage put him off whenever he tried to see her. He was to discover later that an astrologer called Shastri had appeared on the scence.
After the death of Mishra the stars of the astrologer-palmist were not on the “ascendant.” Bussinessmen slowly deserted him. Once he was arrested in Madras by the police on a complaint from a Delhi hotel for non-payment of bills. What happened was that the business- man concerned refused to pay the bills because the astrologer- palmist failed to fulfill his promise of getting his business done.
The last time the astrologer-palmist met Indira was in April 1977 after her defeat at the elections. He found her shattered and desolate. She complained that he had not seen her for a long time. He explained to her that her staff had thwarted his many attempts to meet her.
She said that what had happened was totally unexpected and that no- body had predicted it. He reminded her of his prediction in 1970 that she would be Prime Minister till 1977 and showed her the relevant newspaper clippings. She asked him to visit the house at 12 Willingdon Crescent, to which she was going to shift, and do some puja and say some prayers in the room in which she was going to stay. He did it dutifully and returned to Madras.
Now the astrologer-palmist sits in Madras complaining that Indira discarded him and took the advice of the astrologer called Shastn and ordered election. According to the Madras astrologer-palmist, Shastn,who is a hoax, assured Indira that she would get 350 seats in Parliament. The astrologer palmist chants two things now;
(1) Vinasa Kalay Viparita Biidln, and
(2) “when God decides to destroy a woman, He first makes her mad.”
Wearing of rudraksha mala and visiting the temples by Indira werea part of her faith in astrology. When she said some time ago publicly that she was wearing the riidraksha mala on the advice of V.K.Krishna Menon. Any way she had lost credibility in 1958 in so far as I am concerned. Apart from that, I doubt if Krishna Menon knew what a rudraksha mala was.
MY DAYS WITH NEHRU
M O MATHAI – M.O. Mathai (1909–1981) was the Private Secretary to India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.