Horoscopes of contemporary people, Asian and non-Asian, written on ancient palm (ola) leaves have been known for decades in both Sri Lanka and in southern India, especially Tamil Nadu. They have been discussed in many issues of Indian astrological magazines, though mainly in the context of the subject of astrology but not on their history, or on why they were written or even with studies on their authenticity. One South Indian reader of these leaves who had dealt with these for over forty years in Sri Lanka told me they were originally written on goat skins, later transcribed on copper plaques, and then on ola leaves which are now claimed to be. hundreds of years old. If this is correct, the possibility of errors in transcription cannot be excluded. On why they were written, it has been surmised that they were tutorial exercises set by the ancient sages (rishis) to their pupils who were set the task of composing the horoscopes of persons yet to be born in a series of dates and times, or that the sages made these writings for the guidance of people, There were apparently seven (saptha) rishis (saptharishi) who authored these horoscopes individually or in conference of all seven (saprha-rishi vaakyam, seven -rishi stanzas). Since these writings relate to ordinary people, it does not appear that the authors were concerned only with important persons whose life histories could make vivid stories. Some clients are told that there are no leaves pertaining to them.

These leaves are claimed to have been in ancient Hindu temples in South India from where they were either stolen or bought during the British occupation of India. The British, it is said, took away the manuscripts of utilitarian value to them, such as traditional medicinal and alchemical texts. The remainder were the horoscopes. Since they apparently dealt with the lives of contemporary people, the present owners of the manuscripts have made a lucrative practice of reading them for their subjects in Asian countries. An occasional non-Asian has also found his leaf.

The following cornmentary is based on data from 14 case histories.


Leaves are identified as belonging to a given subject through his/her thumb prints which probably serve as indispensable 'indexes' or codes; birth date and time are insufficient. Four main groups of thumb print patterns have been identified. The reader generally takes a few days or even a week to locate the respective leaf (leaves) in bundles which the reader has brought over from India. In one case (case No.1) narrated to me, and in which the readings were accurate, the reading was made an hour after the thumb print was supplied. In my case (case No.2), in South India, the reading was begun about 2 hours after the reader took my thumb print. This short interval, in addition to the fact that I was a stranger in South India, would have excluded fraud through the reader seeking out information about me from outside sources. Final identification is done by the matching of birth date, names of the subject and his/her parents as a prelude to the reading. The distribution of 'planets' in the natal horoscope as stated in the leaf which is described during the definitive reading and not revealed earlier by the subject, is an important verification of the correspondence of the reading with the subject. It is important to state that this correspondence is not used for the selection of the leaf. Beginning with the first chapter (corresponding to the 'house' of an astrological chart) which confirms the identity of the leaf the subject may choose for reading, any of the remaining 11 houses which deal with various aspects of his life, eg. 2nd dealing with his assets, 3rd with his brothers and sisters, 4th his home, vehicles, mother, 10th with profession and status in life and so on. Although the time of birth is not used for identifying the leaf the exact horoscope (distribution of the planets, birth star, rulership periods) is given on the reading. This indicates that the client's time of birth is implied in the leaf-reading, because an accurate horoscope cannot be drafted without the exact time of birth. This suggests that the reader is not using a chart drafted by him on the occasion of the consultation for his reading, excluding this device as one possibility of fraud.


On the appointed day, the leaf is read, while a tape recording is made. In one centre (of the case documented below) there were several readers and translators, one pair dealing with a given leaf. After each sentence or part of it, the reading is translated (if the subject so wishes) into his own language by a translator; the translation is recorded at the same time. The reading covers not only the subject's present life (its past, present and future), but also his/her previous birth and the next birth. The leaf has often been known to state that the subject will have the reading only at the age (and year) at which he seeks the reading. Indeed I personally know of one case (case No.3) in which the subject was told that at the time of reading, his wife would be abroad; in fact his wife was abroad on a 3 month holiday. It is remarkable that over an age-span of 60 odd years of this subject, this period of 3 months when his was away, was his 'appointed' time for having his leaf read.

There is no discussion between reader and subject except initially when the subject is asked to verify that the leaf is indeed his, from his date of birih, and names of the subject and of his parents, and on occasion from key facts of his life, eg. number of siblings. The absence of such a discussion excludes the possibility of the reader 'fishing out' information from the client.

The reading states all significant facts from the time he was born including where be was born (eg. public hospital, major city), the date, day of the week, the natal horoscope, parents' names, subject's name, number of siblings (male, female), number of children (male, female), profession, events in the subject's life and a full description of the natal chart. It is again to be emphasised that, although the subject does not initially state his time of birth, the horoscope that is described necessarily entails a 'knowledge' of the time of birth because the natal horoscope depends on it for its accuracy.

The events are related to astrologically determined 'periods'; under the rulership and sub-rulership of specific 'planets'. In my fathers' reading (case No.4) which he obtained in the 1930s, the periods were listed from the year of his birth (1889) till only 1960, as if to mean 'that; 1989-1960, is his life span'; indeed he 4ied in 1960, a correct prediction for a 30 year period.


Tamil subjects who have had their readings and who have seen the writing on the leaves are of the opinion that the language was not modern Tamil. Indeed one subject (case No.5) had to have his leaf translated into contemporary modem Tamil by a Professor of Tamil who was an expert in Tamil linguistics, and could understand ancient Tamil. Translations might involve a distortion or obscurity of original meanings. In this (case No.5) related to me, the subject was told that his father was in an occupation that dealt with transport and that he had to work with "iron and fire". It is not unexpected that the writing which was probably made centuries before the invention of railways, failed to identity "iron and fire" as having referred to a steam locomotive in which his father was an engine driver. In my father's (case No.4), his leaf stated that he, in his profession, would be concerned with "wheeled conveyance"; he was employed in the railways. In another case (case No.6), the subject heard the word "upadeshana" mentioned in relation to her profession. At her first reading the translator gave it as 'teacher' which was correct, but after retirement she was indeed a counsellor in a different line of work. The word 'counsellor' was a better translation of the Sanskrit word "upadeshana )'. In this reading, the subject was told she had 'high blood pressure and cholesterol', which are terms in modern medicine and certainly could not have featured in an ancient script. In the latter instance, the interpretation by the reader or translator might explain the use of modern terms.


It is invariably so that the past, up to the time of reading, has been entirely and uncannily accurate, down to the details of personal names. In my instance o.2) with an Indian reader in Madras, I wrote my father's name as 'Patrick' for the use of the translator in identifying the leaf as mine. The reader however read the selected leaf and said my father's name was 'Don Patrick', which was correct. My father had seldom used the name Don, and I did not mention or write that name during tins session. Having been a South Indian reader whom I had not met before, and having had my reading made 2 hours after giving my thumb print, it was not possible for him to have fraudulently ascertained the name Don.

What does seem to go wrong m some cases is the future, Why this is so is controversial and hypotheses abound. One suggests 'that, as much as the events described in the writings are based on the idea of karma (cumulative consequences of one's past deeds), a person's future depends not only on his past karma especially from deeds committed in his previous lives, 'but also on his deeds (and consequent karma) in his present life, which can modify his karmic account, modifying in turn the events of the future. It is relevant that a current view on the perennial debate on free-will versus determinism is that the answer probably lies in the idea of 'compatibilism' (Searle 1984) which accommodates both determinism and free-will, just as much as Radhakrishnan, the Indian philosopher-statesman compared the situation to a game of cards in which the predetermined (determinism) pack of cards is dealt out as a hand to each player, who can then use the cards as it pleases him (free-will).

The meticulous performance of propitiatory rites or poojas (as correctives for 'bad' karmic effects) as prescribed in the readings as a determinant of the fruition of the predictions could also be another basis of the explanation of why the future, as described on the leaf, is not always correct. In these instances, perhaps the poojas were not done as prescribed.


It is apparent that the phenomenon of the ola leaves cannot be studied 'objectively' or by quantitative, controlled experiments, as one would do in normal science or even with other putative psi phenomena - eg. GESP with Zener cards under controlled, experimental conditions, statistics etc. The approach that seems possible with the ola leaves is that used by Ian Stevenson in his analysis of cases suggestive of re4ncarnation, or the legal approach to gathering what could be circumstantial evidence, with corroboration from independent sources, and certainly the elimination of fraud. In this respect, another parallel is the validation of ideas in astro-physics and theoretical physics: " . . it is not easy to measure the mass and spin of something as dark and far away as a neutron Star or a black hole. These things have to be deduced from circumstantial evidence (especially hard for black holes) which by their nature reveal little about themselves" (General Relativity. The Economist, 1997, Nov 8th) Yet it is possible to make some investigations such as whether the readings are off a written script. In this case re-reading at a later date, of the same leaf, should give an identical reading. If it is not identical, then some telepathic event at the time of reading might account for its accuracy,


One possible source of fraud is a tracing of the antecedents of the subject through his/her name, address or other personal details (if given), during the week or more that elapses between the initial meeting at which the thumb print of the subject is supplied, and the reading. That this does not seem to occur is suggested by the fact that the subjects who have had correct readings did not give their correct name, nor address nor other relevant personal details. Such a source of fraud is also discounted on the facts that (1) the gap between the giving of the thumb print and the actual reading after the selection of the leaf has been as short as one or two hours, making it impossible for the reader to do 'research' on the subject's background; (2) confidential details pertaining to the subject, but which have not been known to anyone else, or not documented, have been read or commented on with great accuracy; (3) specific predictions, borne out as correct by subsequent events, have been recorded. In one case (case No.7), the transcript of which I have, the subject (a Sinhalese) was told that he will marry a girl of a different face, with a specified surname. Indeed, years later, he did get married to a Tamil girl, but her surname differed from what was predicted. On checking with her parents after marriage, it was revealed that their family name had indeed been changed many years before, and the original name was in fact what was stated on the subject's leaf Neither the subject nor the girl was aware of the original name. Other examples of accurate predictions made for periods of up to several years in the future, would also exclude fraud of this type, and are recorded below.

Another obvious type of fraud could occur when the reader by skilful questioning, draws out the information from the subject himself in the guise of needing that information for verification of the ownership of the leaf. In my personal experience and that of others, such 'fishing' did not occur. The only questioning by the reader was solely for verification of the identity of the leaf from basic facts (date of birth, names of subject and family members) related to the subject, before the actual reading.

Each session covers only 2 or 3 chapters and when the subject returns, days or weeks later on appointment, the same leaf (identified by a shrewd subject by its physical appearances such as tears and marks) is taken up again to continue the reading. Further evidence in refutation of the possibility of fraud (as pertaining to an instant astrological reading instead) is that when a person who once had a reading went back for re-reading of the same leaf, a near-identical reading was made on the second occasion, as described below. The investigator was herself proficient in astrology. She had readings (her son's) (case No.8) made on two different occasions, 8 months apart. The facts and the sequence of the facts given in the four chapters thus tested, were closely similar. If the reading were a concoction or all instant reading from a chart made at the session by the reader from his knowledge of astrology, successive readings on widely separated occasions could scarcely have been identical. In case No.3 the subject who once had a reading, went back for a re-reading of the same leaf, six years later, and was told that after the original reading, his leaf has been sent back to India and that he will have to await the reader's return from India with that leaf On his re-visit he was told that the original leaf was not available but that another lea{ also pertaining to this subject, will be read; this reading was also correct, but this particular case could not produce a confirmation of actual written documentation of the original reading, as two different leaves and different chapters were read.

It is a less stringent refutation of the possibility of fraud that the reader was a visiting South Indian while the subjects were from many different parts of Sri Lanka or even from other countries, who had not known the reader until their consultation with him.


Reader - a south Indian, resident in Sri Lanka for over forty years.
Readings - in Tamil, with English translation, both tape recorded
Personnae - F =, C's father who had a son from his 1st wife W1
AL = his second wife and mother of C
C = daughter of F from his 2nd wife AL

F's ola reading (case No.9) (describing his present and past lives) were given by the reader in 1956, a year before C was born (1957). C was told of her father's reading by her mother AL.

C's reading ~o. 10) (describing her present and past lives) was also given by the same reader but 24 years later in 1980, after her father had died many years earlier.

The reader was unaware of the relationship between C and F at the time of C's reading, nor did he have cause to remember that he gave her father's (F's) reading 24 years before. Moreover since F had died, there was no possibility of getting his thumb print for retrieval of his leaf for a second time. Later the reader 'was told of the father's death. The remarkable coincidence of the facts stated on the two leaves, and described below, could thus not have been attributed to a knowledge on the part of the reader that the leaves belonged to two related subjects.

F's present life
F was very keen to study medicine and he sat one examination but he did not continue as his parents wanted him to work towards the examination for the Civil Service. He always regretted that he did not study medicine. In his professional life, F was in employment as a senior government official in the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service, and held an important posting in a state ministry.

F was married to W1 from whom he had a son (S). After S's birth, F's marriage had foundered and they were divorced. The son S was taken by W1. F then married AL and C was born in 1957. W1 died in 1958, and then her son S was brought up by F's 2nd wife AL, who cared for the son as if he were her own son. F's marriage to AL was a successful and happy marriage.

F's former life
(as stated on his ola horoscope. Italicised parts occurred in the reading, bold initials and words, author's) You had been a King in Nepal and though having had a Queen; you also had an affair with a minister's daughter (MD), and she conceived. The Queen had the pregnancy aborted and the mother (MD) too died. Before her death, the minister's daughter (MD) cursed you (the King) that in a future birth you will never be a King but will merely be an advisor to a King, that you will want to become a doctor but you won 't succeed, and that you will be married to a reincarnation of herself the Queen. The unborn child of the minister's daughter (MD) aborted on the order of the Queen will be re-born as your child and the Queen of your former birth, as your 1st wife. This child will bring trouble to you, the parents, and your marriage wan't succeed You will be divorced and later she will die.

You (the former King, now F) will marry the former minister 'S daughter (MD) with whom you had an affair (now AL) and the aborted child will come back to your second wife (AL) who will look after him, lovingly as her own son.
Your second child chased you away from your throne.

Possible parallels between F's former life and his present life

His former Queen is the 1st wife (W 1) in his present life. F is now the former King. The child (of the minister's daughter who conceived after her affair with the former King) that died in the abortion in the previous life, is the son (S) who is now the step-brother of C and who was cared for by F's 2nd wife AL, who was the minister's daughter in the previous life The affinity between the former King and the minister's daughter in the previous life, now continues in the present life as an affinity (and marriage) between F (the former King) and AL (the former minister's daughter MD). MD's aborted child is now her (AL's) step-son for whom she cares as if he were her own.

C's present life
C's reading (case No.9) was taken 24 years later in 1980 at her age of 23, also from the same reader. C's father F died when she was 15 years of age. C married when she was 27. @Lanka Chronicle

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