Ashtamangala Deva Prashna
Examining the Swarna Lagna
The position of the Swarna Lagna was then examined. The piece of gold was located in the middle of the square designating Virgo, however it was face down, on top of the aksata and flowers, it was also tilted and slanted toward the South. The astrologers declared this to be another bad omen indicative of death and other evils (if it actually meant death would have to be judged according to the whole picture).
Analysing the Ashtamangala Number
In the mean time, while the Swarna Lagna was being chosen the head astrologer of the group, Krishnan Potti, did the first part of the Ashtamangala numerology. This requires a little explanation: a major instrument for divination in Kerala are cowry shells which have been specially selected, cleaned, sanctified (generally by chanting of mantras and bathing in the waters of the Ganges or other sacred rivers) and used only for divination. In less complex types of Prashna, that is, other than Deva Prashna, the Arudha lagna is often found by manipulation of the cowries alone. For divination 108 cowries are used. To do the first part of the Ashtamangala the astrologer first touches the cowries while meditating on his mantra and asking for spiritual guidance. Then the astrologer arbitrarily divides the shells into three piles, one to his left, one in front of him and one to the right. After examining the Swarna Lagna Krishnan Potti did the second part of the Ashtamangala by going to each pile of cowries and counting off multiples of eight (asta) and keeping the remainder, if the remainder is zero then let it be eight. You will now have a three digit number in which no digit is greater than eight. The digits represent past, present and future respectfully from left to right. 1=Sun, 2=Mars, 3=Jupiter, 4=Mercury, 5=Venus, 6=Saturn, 7=Moon, 8=Rahu. (This is very simplified, they also represent other things as well.) Odd numbers are considered good, even numbers bad. The Ashtamangala number that was obtained for the Prashna was 8-3-1 ruled by Rahu, Jupiter and the Sun respectfully. Though it seemed clear to me that 8-3-1 indicated that the past was bad, the present and future looked good. However the assembled scholars claimed that this was not actually the case. They said that because the numbers were in a descending order from left to right and other special circumstances, this indicated that the past was good, the present was bad and the future would be worse. Other parts of the reading seemed to confirm this observation on their part.
Shyamasundara Dasa and his teacher Krishnan Potti in Thiruvananthapuram 1982. On the table in front of them are arrayed some cowrie shells that are used in doing Asthamangala Prashna.
Observing the Flame
After this the ghee lamp was lit and the flame was observed to lean toward the South, this was again declared to be an evil omen. Just then one of the astrologers stated that the deity must have been moved at least twice before being established in the present temple. The temple managers replied that this was true and wanted to know why he had said that? The astrologer said this was so because he had noted that the ghee lamp had been placed near the worship area but then picked up and moved twice before the Prasna started.
Examining the Tambula
The astrologers then examined the Tambula (Pan leaves) that was offered for worship. These Tambula represent the 12 houses of the Deva Prasna chart and the conditions of these houses can be determined by the condition of the leaves. Before we interpret the meaning of the leaves we will take opportunity to give, in synopsis, the special meaning of the 12 houses in Deva Prashna:
1: Temple building, murti (likeness of the deity ), and divine presence of the deity in the murti.
2: Wealth, income, temple treasures and guardians.
3: The naivedya (offerings made) and servants.
4: All buildings and land connected with the temple as well as temple vehicles.
5: Murti and divine presence (again).
6: Pollution of the temple, enemies and thieves.
7: The people (congregation) and deity ornaments.
8: Divine presence, offerings, servants, and good and evil matters.
9: Nature of the temple authorities and the state of merit and piety.
10: Daily ceremonies (puja), special festivals and devalakas-persons involved in making garlands, and performance of musical entertainment, etc.
11: Piety, merit, prosperity and income.
12: Nature of the priests, expenditure and waste.
In this case since there were only three "Pan leaves" only the first three houses of the Deva Prasna chart could be examined by this method. The first representing the lagna had marks and cuts thus things have not been good up till now. The second was smaller than the others and had cuts, thus there were financial problems. The third was in much better shape so it declared those who served the temple were capable of doing good.