A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/Nadigranthams and their Interpreters


For some time past I have been hearing of Nadigranthams and their predictions. But the reports that reached me from various quarters regarding these marvellous books and the answers diocovered therein to a variety of questions put by different people, gave me little or no information regarding their real origin and the plan on which they were constructed. Some said that they were written by Brahma himself, while others attributed their authorship to Vyasa; a third account says that they were written by the presiding deities of the various planets by whose names they are called, while those that have no connection with individual planets are supposed to be the production of a variety of authors, human and divine. Putting together all the various accounts received, it appears there are fifteen different kinds of Nadigranthams:—viz. (1) Suryanadi, (2) Chandranadi, (3) Kujanadi, (4) Budhanadi, (5) Sukranadi, (6) Gurunadi, (7) Saminadi, (8) Rahunadi, (9) Ketunadi, (10) Sarvasangrahanadi, (11) Bhavanadi, (12) Dhruvanadi, (13) Sarvanadi, (14) Sukanadi, and (15) Devinadi. There may be perhaps one or two more nadis, bat all those generally referred to are included in the foregoing first. I may mention in this connection that the books attributed to the celebrated Bheemakavi of Vegidesa (Godavery District) may also be considered as another variety of Nadigranthams. It is not possible to say how many volumes of palm-leaf manuscript books are included under each heading as the possessors of these granthams are unwilling to give precise information on this point, but I have not actually seen with them more than one book of each class. It seems incredible, however, that fifteen palm-leaf books of ordinary size should contain detailed information regarding the horoscopes and the lives of every man and woman on this planet for any length of time, or give answers to any question that may be asked regarding events past, present and future. I attempted therefore to ascertain whether the contents of these strange books have anything like limits with reference to time and space. Different astrologers have given me different answers. Those who professed to find in these books answers to any question that might be asked by calculation made with reference to the time of questioning, or "Arudhalagnam" as it is generally called, and other circumstances connected with the question and the incidents appertaining to the act of questioning, found it difficult to assign any reasonable limits to the range of information contained in their books. One of them said that the books referred to the occurrences during four yugas and that there were certain signs given therein to indicate the yuga in which any particular question was asked. Apparently any person coming from any part of the world may have access to the astrologer and ask him any questions he pleases. The authors of these works could not have written the books for the special use and benefit of any particular astrologer and confined their answers to the questions which would be put to him during his lifetime. But it is not admitted by these astrologers that the whole history of the human race for a period of 4,320,000 years is contained in these volumes.

We must therefore assume that the authors foresaw into whose hands their books would come during the four yugas, and knew perfectly well beforehand the circumstances connected with the persons who would put questions to these people, and that they therefore give just so much information in their books as would be actually utilized by the human race. Even if any such achievement were possible, one would naturally expect to find millions of volumes in the hands of these astrologers, as many of them are deriving a pretty large income every month from the fees paid by a large number of questioners during these few years of Kaliyuga. Even if we suppose that all the books which satisfied the requirements of past generations have been destroyed already, there must be a considerable number left for the benefit of future generations that Kaliyuga has yet to run on for nearly 427,000 years more. But these lakhs of volumes are nowhere to be found though stern logic sometimes compels these astrologers to admit that they ought to exist. It so happens, however, that each of these men has in his possession just the number of volumes required to meet the demands of enquirers that flock to him and does not trouble himself about the rest.

The astrologers who profess to find in these Nadigranthams the horoscopes of any people that choose to come to them and the predictions based thereupon, have now and then attempted to set a limit to the pretensions of their granthams, especially when the extravagance of such pretensions appeared to disturb the minds of enquirers and make them assume a sceptical attitude of mind. Some said that the horoscopes of caste people only would be found in these books, while others asserted that only the horoscopes of distinguished men would find a place in their mysterious volumes. One of them is of opinion that only a pious orthodox Hindu can expect to find his horoscope in their leaves, while another hinted that the horoscope defined in these books related to a period of one hundred years, of which a considerable portion had already elapsed. Practically, however, I have ascertained, that every man who can pay handsomely for the search can expect to find his horoscope or some kind of description of it, whether intelligible or otherwise, in these volumes.*[1]

I may farther state here that the language used in these books is Sanskrit and that the technical phraseology of Hindu astrology is to be found in almost every Sloka. They are written in every variety of character, Nagri, Telugu, Grantha, Kanarese and Malyalam characters are employed indiscriminately in transcribing these books. Judging from appearance many of these books seem to be very old; but this fact is of no importance whatsoever. Even if the book is a new one it will always be asserted that it was copied from some old manuscript and no importance whatever is attached to any particular book.

From the foregoing description of the Nadigranthams it is clearly not a very easy thing to account for their existence and examine their foundation to see if they have anything like a scientific basis. A thorough knowledge of all the existing systems of astrology does not enable a person to find out the process by which they could have been written, much less to produce similar works on any limited scale. It is not alleged by these astrologers that they have any occult basis or that any occult powers are needed to interpret them. There is not even room for the supposition that by some mysterious occult process, these so-called astrologers ascertain the horoscope of an enquirer and the past, present and future incidents of his life and only use these Nadigranthams as a veil to hide their real secret and mystify the public. And moreover all the circumstances connected with them are calculated to create distrust in the mind of an honest enquirer. However, by a reason of a few exaggerated and incorrect accounts of successful predictions the belief in these books is gradually gaining ground. In an article written by Mr. Chidambaram Iyer, and published in the issue of the Theosophist for June 1883, it was stated that these Nadigranthams were of considerable scientific importance and that it would be possible by their help, to fix the first point of Aries from which the Aryanamsam is calculated. Nothing more has been heard since then regarding Mr. Chidambaram Iyer's investigations in this direction. These books have again been prominently brought to the notice of the public by an article on "Indian Sibylline Books," published in the May issue of the Theosophist, and some fresh reports of wonderful predictions that have been circulated. I therefore thought it necessary to examine carefully one or two of these astrologers and ascertain the real value of these books—a determination strengthened by the request of my friend, Col. Olcott. The result of my inquiries is given for what it is worth in the following paragraphs.

It will be unnecessary for me to say anything about astrology in general in this connection; and I do not intend to advance now any theoretical considerations to show that these Nadigranthams cannot be genuine and that such books can by no possible means be composed. No such theoretical reasoning, however sound and convincing from a scientific point of view, will produce any impression on an ordinary mind which believes the statements made regarding these books on the strength of the marvellous reports of their predictions. So long as such reports are believed on hearsay evidence, all such considerations will be set aside on the ground that nothing would be impossible for a divine being or a Rishi like Vyasa. The following account will, however, show that these Nadigranthams are not always trustworthy and that a strict investigation is absolutely necessary before they can be relied upon and recommended to the public as authentic sources of information. If these books are the spurious concoctions of men who are trying to derive some anvantage from the credulity and superstition of the uneducated mass of people, every effort must be made to disclose their real nature to the public.

Before proceeding further I may mention here that the Telugu Brahmin astrologer alluded to in the article on "The Indian Sibylline Books" has not yet given me an opportunity of consulting his Bheemakavi's book or his Nadigranthams although I have made several attempts to obtain an interviews.

The other astrologer with whom I had an interview on the 16th day of May is known by the name of Auritavak Balakrishnagyosulu and is at present residing in the Mint Street in Black Town. He has been living here for the last four or five years deriving a very good income by means of his Nadigranthams and is reputed to be one of the most celebrated and learned astrologers of Southern India. Hearing of some of his predictions I expected to find out the real truth about these Nadigranthams by visiting him, and proposed to a well-known and respectable native gentleman here that we should both go to the astrologer in question on the date above-mentioned to consult his book. My friend sent an intimation to the astrologer that he would come and see him on the next day. We accordingly went to the astrologer's house and requested him to give us an opportunity of putting to him certain questions on payment of the fee usually charged. Not expecting me there with my friend, the astrologer immediately made some enquiries about me and made the necessary preparations for giving us a sitting. The walls of the room in which we sat were covered with pictures of gods and goddesses and a box full of Nadigranthams was placed on the left side of the astrologer. He began his discourse by complimenting us and pointing out the importance of his sacred Nadigranthams. He explained to us that an astrologer had to get by heart and retain in his memory thousands of signs and symbols and several thousands of Sanskrit verses before he could become a competent interpreter of these mysterious books. After favouring us with these remarks he proposed to send away all his servants to ensure privacy except a boy who required to take down our questions. He then enquired about the offerings brought by us which consisted of betel-leafs, areca nuts, bits of saffron and plantains. After counting the number of things brought, with a great show of accuracy and explaining to us the method of selecting the nadi applicable to the enquiry in hand, he ordered the boy above mentioned to enter in a book the address of the questioner, the number of things brought by him and the questions proposed, after answering himself, however, that a currency note of 5 Rupees was placed in his hands which he was pleased to call an "Asurapatram" (paper of the Raksham or demons). He appeared to be very particular about the point of time when the questions were declared though it did not appear what use was made of this fact in finding out the nadi or interrupting the same. He then asked me if I had any questions to put, and when I told him that I would propose my questions after seeing the result of my friend's enquiries he appeared to be dissatisfied and said that it would be very convenient for him if I were to ask my questions also immediately and pay down my fees. I did so and the same process of calculation was gone through in my case. After these preliminary preparations were finisned two books were taken out of the box and placed on a stand called Vyasapeetham. One of these books which appeared to be old was then opened; after looking at it for a while, the astrologer opened his box and took out a third book which appeared to be new, saying that the account in the old book began with the answers, but that the preface required had to be read from another book. My readers will be pleased to notice here that no calculation was needed to select this new book and that in all probability this single book contains the prefatory remarks to every answer given to every enquirer, as no attempt was made by the astrologer to select one book from a number of such books.

When the astrologer began to read from this new book we found that the scene opened in Vykuntham with Narayana sitting there with his three wives and a host of Rishis. A considerable portion of the account was devoted to the description of the dancing of Apsaras and planetary deities. I may here mention that in reply to one of my questions, the astrologer informed me that Yyasa was the author of the book from which he was reading. But Vyasa knew nothing about the third wife of Narayana who was introduced, as is well-known, into the Hindu Pantheon by the Vaishnavite writers of Southern India in later times. The dancing or nrityam of Grahams or Planetary deities is a new idea which does not appear in any other Hindu book.

The account then proceeded to state that in the present year of Kaliyuga on the very date on which my friend's questions were asked, certain would be asked by a Madhava Brahmin. The astrologer went on giving lengthy explanations of the meaning of the Sanskrit text until he came to the description of the questioner and the enumeration of the questions. After arriving at this stage he began to propose explanations and tried to discuss the subject with us for the purpose of ascertaining the real meaning of his text. My friend hastily produced his horoscope and placed it before the astrologer for his guidance. Seeing, however, the real difficulties of the astrologer's situation, and estimating at its true worth his anxiety to get his interpretation confirmed and cleared of all its ambiguities by the light of our statements, I requested him to go on reading the text to its end without taking the trouble to explain its meaning to us as we could understand it ourselves. This proposal was not quite agreeable to him, he, however, proceeded to describe my friend and his antecedents. The description was extremely meagre and contained nothing more than what was known about him to a considerable number of people in Madras. The description was wrong, however, in stating that my friend was a follower of Vysarayamatham, while he was a follower of Raghavendaswamy's matham. It was also wrong in stating that his father was married thrice. I found that in four or five distinct and unambiguous statements made two were clearly wrong, and one of the mistakes committed was just the sort of mistake which a hasty enquirer would commit. As the majority of Madhavas are the followers of Vysarayamatham, Vyasa seems to have made a shrewd guess that the questioner would be a follower of the same matham. When he came to that part of the account which described my friend's horoscope, the astrologer had the advantage of having before him the diagram of the same and squeezed out of the senseless Sanskrit text some statements applicable to the horoscope under consideration. But it would be interesting to notice in this connection that nothing was stated which was not clearly visible on the very face of the diagram, and that whenever a word or phrase was detected by me in the obscure text which indicated a reference to the horoscope in question, I found disturbance of the metre ot the Sanskrit verse. I then asked him in what metre the text was composed; the reply given is significant. He told me that the verses had no settled metre, but that they were so composed that it would be impossible for even the greatest Pundit to substitute one syllable for another, and that this fact was proved by him in an Assembly of Pundits at Sringeri. I need hardly say that this explanation is more damaging to the Nadigranthams than anything else connected with this interview. After thus defining the questioner in a very unsatisfactory, ambiguous and suspicious manner, Vyasa took the trouble to point out at great length the articles brought by my friend and notice the additional articles which he ought to have brought, but which he had omitted to bring. Vyasa also stated that my friend would bring Rakshasapatram (the same as Ausurapatram), thus showing that he clearly anticipated, five thousand years ago, the introduction of paper currency into India by the British Government, though the name given by him to an English currency note was not quite appropriate. It was further stated in this book that a boy would take down the question proposed by my friend. It is astonishing to find that, while dealing with the history of the human race for several millions of years, the author of these books took the trouble to record such unnecessary details and trifling events.

When we approached expected answers, the old book was opened and the verses therein found were read. The first question related to the Theosophical Society. But unfortunately the astrologer was unable to understand the meaning of the expression. As might be expected under such circumstances, he was not very eager to give lucid explanations and comment upon the text as he did when dealing with the articles brought and the dancing in Vykuntham, in spite of my request that he should proceed with text and not waste his time on such trivial things. The text was the most ridiculous rigmarole that I ever heard. Each verse contained three or four contradictory verbs of various meanings and a number of other words which seemed to refer to a puzzling variety of subjects. Their combination conveyed no meaning whatever and might be made to mean anything and everything, provided the interpreter was allowed to have his own way in the matter. But how could the astrologer interpret it in a manner that would connect his explanation with the question when he was unable to understand the question, though we allowed him a Sanskrit dictionary and grammar of his own choise? He tried his best to catch any remark that we might make and proceeded in a very cautions and guarded manner. I requested my friend, therefore, in English, not to make any remark which would, in the slightest degree, help him. The result, as might be anticipated under such circumstances, was a ridiculous failure. For a few more minutes the astrologer went on reading, now and then catching a word and looking at our faces to see if we would be foolish enough to suggest a meaning and soon dropping his eyes when his expectations were disappointed. I may notice in this connection an interesting incident that occurred. In one of the verses my friend noticed the phrase "Mayasakti" and expecting to find something in it, asked the astrologer what it meant. He interpreted it in the usual manner, but my friend said that it had no connection with his question. The clever astrologer then said that it might have some other meaning in his books; so saying he suddenly opened his box, took out another palm-leaf book, appeared to find the expression in question in the twinkling of an eye and announced to us that it meant something else. He then threw the book aside and I found that it was neither a dictionary nor a glossary and that the pretended search for the proper meaning was merely intended to have a dramatic effect.

Thoroughly disappointed with the answers given, my friend hoped that we might be more fortunate in eliciting answers to my questions. When it came to my turn to get my difficulties solved, I requested the astrologer to omit that portion of the account which related to dancing in Vykuntham or Kailyasam and forthwith begin to read the answers to my questions. He, however, began his account with what appeared to be a description of the question and the position of the planets at the time of questioning. The astrologer said that I must first be assured that the answers related to the very questions proposed by me by the help of the description given of myself and my circumstances. I thanked him for his kind advice so frankly given and waited for the preferred assurance. I was, however, dismayed to find that the account related to somebody else, as it did not at all harmonize with my environment. I pointed this out to the astrologer and suggested that he might not have selected the right portion of the book. He readily accepted the suggestion and after turning over a few more leaves, began to read again. But it appeared to me that so far as the astrologer was concerned the difficulty of getting at my horoscope remained as great as ever. I was asked whether I had my horoscope with me; but I was not willing to repeat my friend's blunder and consequently informed him that I had not my horoscope with me. In sheer despair, the astrologer wanted to get over the difficulty by a bold and fearless asscertion. He then began to read a verse which stated that I was born when Leo was ascending, that my future career would be prosperous, and that I would be a very shrewd and discriminative man or something to that effect. But here again the Nadigrantham was found to be blundering hopelessly. Leo was not in my ascendant and consequently I informed the astrologer again that he was probably reading from the wrong page. My suggestion was again accepted and a few more leaves were turned over. The time the astrologer did not venture to meddle witch my horoscope, but read something which pretended to indicate the time when I put my questions. He informed me that the horoscope of the questioner would not be given in every case and that, because the time of questioning was properly defined, I must infer that the answers which followed were intended to be replies to my questions. But a fresh difficulty presented itself to my mind. In two separate places in his book, the astrologer appeared to have found an indication of the time when my questions were made known to him, but it was clear that, at that particular instant, I was the only person that questioned him. Why was the same moment noticed, then, in two different places in the Nadigrautham and apparently in connection with two distinct personalities? If it should be asserted that at that very moment, some other person might be proposing questions to a Nadigrantham astrologer at some other place, and that consequently the second account might refer to him, then, it would be necessary to find a correct indication of time as well as a proper description of the questioner to assure one's self that answers were being searched for in the right place. If so, the description of the horoscope would be indispensably necessary in every case; if, on the other hand, it should be admitted that there could be but one questioner at a time, the discovery in two different places of the description of the same moment or Arudhalagnam would be altogether inexplicable and exceedingly suspicious. I plainly pointed out my difficulties to the astrologer and asked him for a satisfactory explanation. He was mute for a few seconds, then grew passionate and told my friend that I had spoiled the whole business. I expected that the affair would come to a disagreeable close if I should insist upon getting an explanation which, from the astrologer's standpoint, was clearly impossible. I therefore mildly told him that in putting such questions to him I was acting in conformity with his own advice and that he might proceed to read the answers without troubling himself about the matter. He then read some gibberish which had no meaning and which he was unable to explain. Fully convinced that we ought not to waste any more time with him and wishing to bring the matter to a speedy conclusion, I asked him to explain the last verse that he had read. He went on saying that the word "lokadhya" meant the people of the world or those who have the world and so forth. I was again obliged to point out to him that the verse had nothing to do with my question. He then looked at my question and found that it had something to do with Shankaracharya. Turning round he said that the word in question meant Shankaracharya; my friend contended that it would be absurd to force such a meaning into the context in an arbitrary manner after looking at the question, and suggested that in the following verses some unequivocal reference might probably be found to that great teacher; of course such reference was immediately found in the very next verse, into which an appropriate expression was introduced in defiance of grammar, logic and metre. When we came to this point even my friend lost all his confidence and was waiting for an opportunity to bring the interview to a decent close. For a few more seconds we had to wait during which time I could hardly suppress my laughter on finding the astrologer inform my friend that I knew "Vatarayana Yogam" and that I was a "Sakya" at heart, as the second question had something to do with Yoga. These words of course have no sense whatever. We prepared finally to depart and the astrologer noticing, our state of mind, offered to act according to our wishes. We did not however claim back the fee paid by us, but quietly took leave of him with our mind freed from all doubts regarding these notorious Nadigranthams.

  1. * I am told that one trick of roguish astrologers is to insert in a Nadi extra leaves, specially prepared with reference to the expected client; such facts about his history as are accessible being etched on the leaves and an appearance of age given them by steeping them in muddy-water.