Sunday, April 10, 2016

H is for Horoscopes

Picture this: You are madly in love. You know he's the one. He makes you laugh. He has a job. He comes from the same geographical area in India as your grandfather. You want to marry him. He wants to make you his wife. It should be easy, right?


His mother may love you and you may find his mother adorable. NOTHING is of importance unless your horoscope matches his. NOTHING.

I grew up in a household brimming with cousins and aunts and uncles. Snippets of chatter caught betwixt homework and housework, between my aunts and sundry elders about arranging marriages of eligible bachelors among our cousins, neighbours, neighbour's cousins or, for that matter, even the poor unsuspecting visitors who happened to be single, had convinced me that this piece of paper, your birth chart (horoscope), also called 'kundali' or 'janam patri' was as important as my school leaving certificate (if not more) to secure a decent future. Many middle-class Dehradun dwellers in the 1970s believed that girls secured their future by securing a good husband. That was that. Don't go all feminist on me. I did say 'many' not 'all'. And it was the seventies. Things are SO different these days, right?

Back to the horoscopes of my childhood then.

Here's how to find a suitable match for any person of marriageable age in 1970's small town India.
Note: I use 'he' and 'boy' here but you can replace it with 'she' and 'girl' if the match is for a boy.

Step 1: Spot a good looking boy at any sundry wedding you happen to be attending and make inquiries.

Step 2: Discreetly employ the auntie brigade to do a more than thorough background check. Discretion is of utmost importance. You don't want a good 'murga' i.e. prospective groom to be headhunted by some other family, now do you?
Note: background check must include the following: health, wealth, number of family members, his eating habits, his drinking habits, his degrees, his mother's fashion sense (Ah! you caught me).That would be a bit much even for the khatris of Punjab (the proud warrior caste I belong to).

Step 3: Use a middleman (an elder, local priest or the matchmaker - yes, that's their job title and they existed then and still do) to send word of your interest in the boy to his family and ask for his horoscope.

Step 4: After receiving the document, wait for the astrologer or priest to give you his report. This would mean matching the boy's and the girl's guna or qualities-- not unlike modern dating sites.

Less than 18NOT COMPATIBLE. This marriage may not succeed.
18 to 24AVERAGE SCORE. Wedding match is acceptable.
25 to 32VERY GOOD MATCH. Marriage should be a success.
33 to 36EXCELLENT MATCH. Marriage should be a success
For a more detailed analysis, check out: 

Step 5:
Scenario A:  If the guna matching score is above 25, start thinking of 'how to finance the wedding'.
Scenario B:  If it's near 36, start shopping for the wedding.
Scenario C:  If it's below 25, spread the word that the boy has body odour issues or that the girl falls short of your minimum height requirement by half an inch.

Step 6: Announce the engagement (only in scenarios A and B). In case it's scenario C, go back to 'step 1' and start again.

p.s. If you think this is the end, think again. The journey from announcing the engagement to enjoying wedding bliss is a long and eventful one (for another day, another post, I think!)

More than twenty-three years ago, I squeezed inside a tiny phone booth in Chennai (then Madras), sticking my ear close to the phone when my boyfriend (currently husband) called his father to tell him that we were planning to get married.

'What's her day and date and place of birth?' was the first question my soon to be father-in-law asked after expressing his happiness and giving us his blessings.

Luckily, we scored pretty high and live to tell the tale.

If the gunas hadn't matched, I would've entrapped him into an elopement and then written about it in 'E is for Eloping'. Remember, I belong to the proud warrior caste? We don't take no for an answer.

These days, however, the daily horoscope published in the local daily comes home in the evening when my husband gets back home after work. We each pour over our star signs, reading the prediction for the day that is almost over and ask each other, "How was your day?"


  1. While I'm a firm believer in horoscopes, I usually take them with a grain of salt. I found this really interesting, that a marriage could be based on favorable horoscopes. I can't help but think it might save a lot of grief in the long run.

    1. As I've grown older, I've grown more accepting of the ways of my elders and also more appreciative. At 16, I sneered at such practices. At 21, I revolted and found my own man. At 45, I think it's foolish to turn your nose up at a practice that goes back to the Greeks and the Vedas. So today I'd agree with you, when you say,"I can't help but think it might save a lot of grief in the long run."

  2. I've never heard of this before and find it very interesting! How much do horoscopes play into current day dating in India? What's the divorce rate in India?

    I'd like to find out if my husband and I are compatible. Lol we've been married for over 20 years so I know we are but I'm just curious. Are there automatic calculators that'll tell me that you know of?

    Years ago, we used to subscribe to a printed newspaper and I would read the horoscopes daily. By reading my Mother-in-Laws horoscope I could always tell when she was getting ready to do a surprise visit on us. I kid you not, her horoscope never failed me.

    Shelly @

    1. Your Mother-in-law's story made me chuckle.
      Matching the horoscopes still plays a big role in many Indian alliances. However, it's a lot more liberal now. Here's something to think about: the divorce rate in India has gone up- way up- along with the percentage of 'love marriages'...that's when you choose your own partner as opposed to an 'arranged marriage'. Makes one wonder. But this has also coincided with more economic freedom for women and more women in the work force--so there are a lot of socio-economic forces at play.
      I'm sure there are on-line instant horoscope checks available these days. Google it and tell me if you do:)

    2. My Mother-in-law's horoscope thing was crazy accurate, it never failed me.. not even once! I did google for an instant Indian horoscope but I didn't' find anything. I don't know what terminology to use.

      Very interesting about the divorce rate in India. That makes sense that it would go up if a woman could support herself.

      Shelly @

    3. Yes, you are right Shelly. A lot of women in 'unhappy' marriages carry on because of financial dependence on their spouses. After the A to Z, I'll try to find a 'matching' service and let you know:)

  3. Absolutely right! Many still believe in them.....even in present times going to the T!! :) Lovely blog. Keep writing!!

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Yvonne.

  5. In mostof punjabi families this holds true even today....In fact the belief on horoscopes for match making has grown manifold...

    1. Thanks for stopping by Lalit jijaji. This is news to me. I had thought the practice was getting diluted with more and more young couples choosing to get married without the 'janam patri' matching.

  6. Fascinating... I knew some of this, but definitely not in detail. My students always ask me how marriage works in other eras/cultures - it is something a lot of people are curious about!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary

    1. Thanks for visiting. My family tells me it's still the same in many parts of India. I guess,this way if things don't work out, you can always blame the stars;)


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