Asmita Bhattarai, a native of Bhaktapur, wasted the first few months of 2022 thinking about whether she should go to Australia to pursue her higher education. As soon as she completed high school, her mind was virtually divided over the idea of abroad education. One day, she would think she should go abroad to get better options for career development. The next day, she feared she would be homesick.
She was restless and undecided for months.
Then, someone suggested she consult some astrologers in Kathmandu to know how her time abroad would be. She heeded that idea.
“You will have a good future and get a good job in Australia,” she remembers an astrologer she had consulted telling her, “Don’t get stuck here. Sharpen your wings to fly.”
She followed him and applied for a visa. But, she realised the process was not as smooth as she had thought. It took quite a long time to get her application approved. Restless, she visited the same astrologer, who suggested performing a puja for nine days. She thinks it was not only a coincidence that she was granted the visa as soon as the puja was over.
“It’s surprising as all predictions by the astrologers in Kathmandu regarding my life were correct. After moving to Australia, I immediately got a job here that pays me a handsome salary,” she says.
Many believe astrology is a traditional science, but there are people who think it is just a superstition. The debate is universal and timeless. But, as much as Nepali society is progressing towards globalisation, astrologers in Kathmandu say their business is thriving. They say science and technology have not affected the footfall of their clients. Not just Nepali people, but foreigners also seem to be equally interested in it.
The charm of knowing the future
There are many people like Bhattarai who visit astrologers in Kathmandu to find out the solutions to their problems. Samir Ghimire of Kathmandu says he visits his astrologer more than two times a week.
“Before starting anything or whenever I get in a dilemma about my career, I visit the astrologer,” he says, claiming his astrologer foretells so accurately that he cannot afford to ignore him.
“My astrologer once said that I would have a toxic relationship and it came true.”
Astrologer Shiva Raj Regmi, also the managing director of the Nepal Vedic Astrology Centre, informs that around 70 astrologers in Kathmandu that are in his contact serve around 5,000 clients–Nepalis and foreigners included–every day. He says he provides consultation and counselling to around 150 people every day.
Until some five years ago, the number of visitors was low in comparison to these days, Regmi, who is in the 17th year of his career, says adding social media have given a boost to their business.
According to astrologers in Kathmandu, people of all ages visit them. Most young people are curious about the possibilities of travelling and living abroad for work or education.
Even some parents of newborn children ask whether their children fare well abroad, says astrologer Suneel Sitaula, who says he takes just five to 10 people every day although over 20 people will be waiting for an appointment with him.
“If it were a free service, the number would be even higher,” Regmi says.
Regmi and Sitaula both say that many clients come repeatedly to astrologers in Kathmandu.
“Visiting the astrologer is also a kind of addiction,” says Regmi, “Moreover, it is also associated with the age-old culture, which cannot be easily detached from people’s lives.”
The big business
The charm of astrologers in Kathmandu is not limited to common people as big political leaders and businesspersons frequent them. As reported by the media, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal consulted his astrologer to find an appropriate time to move to the prime minister’s official residence in Baluwatar. It is interesting to note that Dahal claims to be a leader of the communists, and believing that your life will be controlled by planetary objects is apparently unnatural for the communists.
Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is also well known for believing in his astrologer. He made his astrologer decide the date of the 2022 parliamentary elections. Deuba, the five-time prime minister, has publicly claimed his astrologer has told him that he would be the prime minister seven times.
The charge of superstition or fraud
But, there are many individuals who believe astrologers in Kathmandu or elsewhere are just fraudsters as they play with people’s insecurities.
Seema Khanal of Lalitpur has lost all her faith in astrologers. She has gone to many astrologers to know about her career, but none of their predictions was accurate. She now considers astrologers as someone who plays with people’s minds.
However, astrologer Regmi says that if the astrologer is well qualified and has the right information about the clients’ birth chart, 90 per cent of the prediction will be accurate. “Remaining 10 per cent will depend upon their karma,” he says.
According to Regmi, the other reason that is making people lose their faith in astrology is a large number of pseudo-astrologers in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.
He warns everyone to be aware of such astrologers.
“Before visiting any astrologer, do proper research about them,” he urges, suggesting they should not visit astrologers just by watching their social media posts.
He also appeals to the government to make astrology a licence-based profession. “This will help distinguish genuine and pseudo-astrologers.”