How Astrology Ruined My RelationshipBy Lavanya Sunkara for YourTango
I was in southern India, the place where I spent my childhood. I had returned to meet my future in-laws. Dressed in traditional garb and with my mother next to me, I walked into their home and was greeted by my partner's sister and mother, with hearty smiles and huge hugs. The older woman, adorned in a crisp banarasi sari and with marigolds in her hair, brought in a plate of coconut sweets that she knew I liked. I looked at my future husband and I couldn't be happier, knowing that his family had wholly accepted me.
Then I woke up. Cool, spring New York air swept through my open window and my dog stirred next to me in her sleep. I awoke to a life in which my lover was gone, simply because my mother had given birth to me in the afternoon instead of the morning.
Like many modern singles, Suman* and I met online a year ago. We had both migrated to the States for higher education in the '90s. As we were both young professionals with a mix of East and West values, we quickly discovered the similarities between us. Having never dated a fellow Indian, I was both excited and hopeful about the prospect of being with someone who shared my language and customs and, more importantly, whose folks lived only blocks away from my kin. Months of getting to know one another through e-mails and marathon telephone conversations led to our finally meeting in person.
A year later, talk of marriage and the possibility of a wedding held on the shores of the Bay of Bengal came up. His calm, conservative Capricorn qualities were a perfect balance to my fiery, impulsive Leo nature. My friends and family approved and couldn't wait for the wedding date to be set. Last December, I made the 8,000-mile trip to the subcontinent to meet his family, hopeful as ever to impress my in-laws-to-be, only to be told that our Vedic horoscopes were not a good match for marriage. ...Read More
Despite India's rapid economic growth and the technological boom, Hindus‚ who comprise a vast majority of its population‚ are traditional folk, and rely on Vedic astrology to help guide their lives. This Eastern horoscopic system is a branch of the Vedas, Hindu scriptures from thousands of years ago. It has a different zodiac than its western counterpart, and predicts the probability of certain events happening based on the prevailing planetary positions at the time and place of birth.
Almost every child gets a horoscope prepared at birth, indicating when important milestones‚ such as the completion of education and the year of marriage‚ may take place. Some ardent believers also consult either an astrologer (called a pandit)‚ the local priest proficient in understanding the system‚ or a Vedic calendar to guide them in their daily lives. There is an auspicious time for everything, from the time a baby is named to the time a corpse is cremated.
Similarly, marriages often go forward only if the astrologer deems the match favorable. The pandit studies the charts and characteristics based on Raasi (the moon signs) of the individuals, and implements a 36-point system in which the higher the compatibility number, the better the match. He further analyzes whether the bride or the groom have a dosha, meaning a negative spell caused by the entrance of either Saturn or Mars in their horoscopes, the two malefics that forebode illness, death or divorce. If such a spell exists, the chart reader either asks the couple to delay marriage until the cycle changes, conduct poojas (prayers) and give offerings to certain Gods, or to avoid the match all together.
My family, despite having moved to the U.S. 15 years ago, has held onto Hindu traditions and astrological beliefs. I too have occasionally succumbed to checking the Vedic calendar for the right time before embarking on long journeys or making expensive purchases (I felt it couldn't hurt to have the planets on my side). But when Suman's family objected to our alliance because of the incompatibility of our Vedic horoscopes, my stubborn Leo side didn't want to accept it. I tried to reason with him that our charts were not so bad. He said there was no way around it; his family was set in their ways. I was perplexed and hurt that after having invested a year in this relationship, he would simply walk away from me because someone, somewhere in rural India predicted we would end up unhappily married or divorced.
When I started sharing this story with my friends, I soon realized that I was not the only Hindu on this side of the globe to have astrological predicaments end a relationship. I found that parents in both the U.S. and India are being especially vigilant, due to fear of divorce.
Astrological matching has reached online dating, too. Popular Indian matrimonial sites such as Shaadi.com and Bharatmatrimony.com have members include an astrosketch on their profiles, a character analysis based upon the sign of the individual. Other sites like Decisioncare.org and Indiastro.com are making Vedic astrology accessible for people living far away from the motherland.
A few months after Suman and I split, my loving mother reminded me that my father's exact date and time of birth are undocumented because of poor record-keeping in his village, and hence no accurate horoscope exists. At the time of their wedding, there was no way of knowing whether their signs matched or if they'd live happily ever after. They recently celebrated their 31st anniversary. Over the past three decades, they've forged ahead as a team as they faced hardships, switched jobs, made a new life for us in the U.S. and put me and my brother through college, all the while being merry in their marriage. Only the heavens know if they are a good astrological match, but what I know is that they deeply love one another and are committed to making their marriage work.
Who knows whether Suman and I would have had a good marriage. Remarkably, despite the hurt and anger, I've not written off astrology completely. Do I put all my faith in it? No... but I am on the lookout for an energetic Aries.
*Name has been changed
Those aren't just stars up in the sky: Constellations can affect our personalities and even our romantic relationships.Thinkstock