From education to marriage, from career to travel, there is very little that Indians don’t decide on the basis of their horoscopes; if not decide then the horoscopes and predictions based on it are a major influence on people’s actions. Thus, it is imperative to understand what a horoscope is and how it is made. Also called birth chart or chart, it is a diagram or an astrological chart representing the position of planets, sun, moon, etc. at sensitive moments in a person’s life, mostly birth. Although this is the technical definition, in common parlance it generally refers to the predictions made by an astrologer based on the said astrological chart about the person’s future. It’s an old phenomenon that finds mention in not only the Atharva-Veda (which describes the science behind this chart) but as a part of the story in several epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Such was the pivotal role of a horoscope in Vedic India that the painful married life and eventual separation of Ram and Sita in Ramayana is explained by the matching of all 36 guns (the optimum number is somewhere between 19 and 35 out of a total of 36 of them), I.e. the root of the story is in the birth chart.
The question still remains whether horoscopes are scientific or not. Not too much of modern research has gone into testing the veracity of the claims that astrologers base on natal charts. Most commentators and even practitioners cannot say anything about the preciseness of the predictions and the presence of a large number of fraudulent experts undermine the credibility of the limited number of experts that are actually practicing this science with the right approach. Tests conducted in controlled conditions have failed to come up with any correlation between the positioning of stars in time and space and a person’s behavior. Also as per Barnum effect, it is possible to construct personality descriptions that are generic enough to fit and satisfy a large group at the same time. This effect proven by psychological tests, further casts a shadow of doubt over the entire pseudoscience of horoscopes and astrological predictions.
Most people today have a hard time reconciling this historical importance of natal charts with the shadow of doubt that the advent of modern science has cast on its legitimacy. Despite of this, predictive art makes for good business. Most TV channels run morning and brunch shows where callers’ problems are solved based on their chart. Columns with a similar bottom-line are not hard to find in Newspapers and Magazines. World famous personalities like Dr.Rupa Batra and K. N. Rao have emerged solely due to this predictive science.
The major constituents of a chart are:
1. NATIVE: person in question
2. CELESTIAL SPHERE: imaginary projection sphere of zodiac, planets and constellations
3. PLANE OF EQUATOR: Earth’s equator projected into space
4. PLANE OF ECLIPTIC: orbits of sun and earth, taken at 23.5 degrees inclination to the equator
5. PLANE OF HORIZON: tangential to the earth at the point where it is centered on the native; this is to simplify the geometry of the chart
These complications in construction alone, make gaining an expertise in astrological predictions based on the chart, a very difficult task. And as discussed, the credibility of the expertise is also under question. In any case, predictions based on horoscopes are here to stay. With all the uncertainty that humans face in life, a crutch of somewhat knowing the future is required and what better than our own birth charts to do so!