Indian astrologers weigh up incursion into Saturn

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, July 4:

As man takes giant strides into exploring Saturn — deified and demonised in world myths — Indian astrologers are wondering if it is a welcome incursion into that "evil-eyed" planet.

Saturn — or Shani in Indian astrological parlance — is considered a powerful influence by Hindu astrologers. Soothsayers, palmists and pundits are busy poring over their theories to gauge what the consequences could be, with some predicting a catastrophe. "Saturn is even more powerful than the sun," said astrologer Ajay Gautam. "Man will never reach there. He will be destroyed before that. He should not even attempt to build such enmity with nature and, least of all, with such powerful planets."

He was referring to the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft firing its engine into Saturn’s atmosphere. He said many disasters around the world were linked to man’s such efforts.

However, other soothsayers are not so sure. "There won’t be any serious impact," Pandit Laxmi Narayan Shastri, head priest at the Birla Temple, said. "The rocket is like a small pebble falling into a mighty ocean. Nothing will happen to the ocean or the people who depend on it. But the pebble will definitely be drowned." He said there would not be any impact of the probe on people who worship Saturn. "But those monitoring the spacecraft will definitely be affected. The effect could be positive or negative, depending on their own planetary positions."

The planet has for long fascinated mankind. The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft launched on October 15, 1997, is to post itself at the planet for four years, clicking pictures and collecting detailed data on the gas giant, its rings and 30 known moons. Yet, can science triumph over belief and faith? Astrologer Ranjit Jha believes "man himself will not reach anywhere near Saturn now." But he said: "It is faith that is propelling man to make such attempts. Perhaps he will benefit because he is putting in so much hard work and perseverance just to get near Saturn." Astrologer Ajay Bhambi, however, believes the marvels of planet Saturn will be unravelled one day. "Man will definitely benefit from this attempt. He will discover new chemicals, will expand his existing knowledge and thus develop whole mankind in the process." "Anyone who predicts anything else is bluffing," he said.