Saturday, October 06, 2007

Desperately Seeking Thubstan

Astrologers Anonymous
Leh, Ladakh

Finding Ladakh's only Government-recognized Tibetan astrologer isn't easy. He's almost never in either one of the two stores that are named for him (either Thubstan Sanfan Stationer or Thubstan Sanfan Shopkeeper Now Shar Leh, which sells fabric for Buddhist thangka hangings and printed photos of Buddhist deities. I had to ask around and finally found him in yet a third store on the block. He doesn't look like an esoteric ritual specialist - just an elder Ladakhi man with a grey crew-cut, wearing a cheap navy-blue parka. But he is the man who has determined the dates and timings of all Buddhist festivals in Ladakh - which is quite a few - for the next five years.

Traditionally, each monastery has its own annual festival at a date determined by their own monks, by consulting placement of the moon and so on. But this was inconvenient for the growing number of tourists to Ladakh, who come from far away and need to plan ahead. The Jammu and Kashmir Tourist Board needed concrete dates to "fix" the festivities.

Who you gonna call? Thubsten Sanfan is the man.

Thubsten speaks not a word of English, and in my broken Hindi ("mere jyotish mandala milega? mere janam samaya, janam bhoomi chahiye?" or "is my astrological chart possible? do you need my birth time and place?) we established my request.

Fortunately, Tashi from the District Commissioner's office happened to be passing by. I had met Tashi just Thursday, when I visited the DC to establish the date of the BonoNah Festival in Dha-Hanu (that's another post).

Tashi speaks decent English and generously translated. Thubsten says my jyotish will be ready on "Dawa" (Ladakhi for Monday) .

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