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(Below) Detail from the uppermost section of scroll, the first diagram represents a lagna bhava.This interprets personality, temperament, and also a person reacts to the external world, and has the ability to influence potential for success and prosperity in life. The second diagram includes short forms for 'su' for Surya (the Sun), 'chan' for chandra ( the Moon), 'man' for mangal (Mars) etc., followed by numbers. Words like raashiphal (lit. fruits of the zodiac), and references to laabh (gain, benefit) occur frequently throughout the text.

References are made to 8 planets in total, followed - as is usual - by textual references to wealth, gajaashvahemaambara (elephants, horses and clothes made of golden fabric) and bhavana (a palace or a large house). There are lines about how the particular planetary configuration would lead to an increase in fortunes. This is consistent with the modern Indian janmapatri (birth chart) and raashiphal. Most orthodox Hindus still have their charts made in the old manner- scroll and all, written by hand- in order to maximize their laabh. They make it a point to 'worship' these charts on Diwali. Family pandits make quite a ceremony out of the unrolling of such scrolls, with much chanting that heightens the recipient's expectations and the general atmosphere of religious thrill.

In the following part of the scroll the diagrams represent (from the top)- surya kalanalam chakra, chandra kalanalam chakra and saravatobhadra chakra. In Surya kalanalam chakra the relationship of the birth-day to the phase of the sun gives the postions in the chart which are inauspicious - placement at the bottom of any trident indicates worries, obstacles or death. Placement in either of the 'horns' flanking the three tridents indicates apprehensions and illnesses. If positioned at the tip of any trident then possible death is indicated. The middle chakra used to determine gains and losses, comforts and victory or subjugation on a given day. Auspicious results are gained when the relation of the birth-day to the phase of the moon is charted to fall within any of the tridents or else within the central 'womb'. The lowermost Sarvato bhadra chakra (lit. the diagram that is equal on all sides) is a chess-board pattern that is frequently used in Tantric and astrological works. It is famous for being believed to give strikingly accurate predictions from the convergence of signs, stars, tithis or lunar days, even the first sound in the client's name.

The lowest section first has an illustration with the label nadi vedha chakra. According to the late Philip Rawson, this symbol is the serpent-headed cosmic river of time and reality.

Scroll with astrological birth chart and manual for conducting death rituals. Rajasthan, circa 19th century. Opaque watercolour on warqa. 312cm x 13.6cm

I would like to exprees my gratitude to Tarun Pant who kindly translated text excerpts and provided information in the captions above.

Ref: Rajasthan scroll 14112

Price: £220 SOLD

(Image above) On the reverse of the scroll is text making reference to Shraadha Karma, concerning rituals to be performed for recently deceased or ancestors. There are the words preta (spirit) and pinda (balls of rice offered to spirits). The tenor of the text seems deeply entrenched in karma kanda (ritual and ceremony). Some parts of the text have what appear to be marks to aid pronunciation, indicating that it was supposed to be recited aloud by a brahmin suggesting this side of the scroll has a specific didactic function meant for Brahmins. Also mentioned is Punardakshinasankalpa (punar - again, dakshina - literally 'of the right-hand', sankalpa - resolution) for his services. This fee must always be presented from the right hand of the patron into the right hand of the priest. Every karma kanda text begins with a sankalpa, which may be interpreted as an 'oath'.

Images and text © Peter Blohm