The title is given for meritorious service to Sri Lanka. Astrology holds significant sway among most Buddhist and Hindu Sri Lankans. The practice has been part of Sri Lankan culture since the pre-Buddhist era, says Premakumara De Silva, professor in sociology at the Department of Sociology at the University of Colombo. Interest in it deepened in the s, when tabloids began to publish astrological predictions.
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Today, astrology plays a vital role in the lives of Buddhists and Hindus, as both a protective and productive measure, De Silva says. There is no record of the number of current astrologers in Sri Lanka, De Silva says, but he estimates it is in the thousands.
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Astrologers with a record of accurate predictions are revered. Rajapaksa was defeated in the January elections. The result was a major blow to Abeygunawardena, who, like other astrologers, builds his credibility on accurate predictions. Keerthi, despite his success as an astrologer, makes his living as a gem merchant.
He buys and sells gems mined from his hometown, Ratnapura, famed for its mining of precious and semi-precious gemstones. His knowledge of gems complements his astrology, he says.
Hindus believe there are nine gemstones representing nine planets, and Keerthi helps people select which gems to wear to avoid malefic periods. Keerthi also uses Ayurvedic knowledge to prescribe herbal remedies and diet and lifestyle changes. Keerthi says he does about two chart readings per day because they require focused attention.
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In , Keerthi predicted that Madduma Bandara would have bad health, but Madduma Bandara ignored the warning. Six months later, he went to the hospital to be treated for heart failure.
Madduma Bandara says he sees Keerthi once or twice a year but more often if a malefic or ominous period is detected. He says he also occasionally consults with other astrologers. Keerthi says he has a client base of more than 5, people, including high-profile clients in politics, the military and diplomatic service. People travel to Sri Lanka to consult with him, he says.
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Some clients visit him every few weeks, while others come once a year or even less. The majority of his clients want him to read their horoscopes and birth charts to find auspicious times for events in their lives or to identify upcoming malefic periods and get advice on how to avoid malefic influences.
Some readings can be difficult, Keerthi says, recalling a horoscope reading several years ago when he predicted that the couple consulting with him would be involved in a fatal event. They died in a road accident a few months later, Keerthi says. He is the only person who has been investigated, though the government did not say if he was thought to have acted alone.
Wijemuni served two and a half years in prison for attacking Gandhi with his rifle as the Indian premier inspected a naval guard of honour in Colombo. After being released from jail, Wijemuni turned to politics and contested for parliamentary elections in , before becoming an astrologer.
Most Sri Lankans follow astrology to identify auspicious times for occasions such as marriage, building houses and signing important documents. Death, which Al Qaida denies, took place during raid on compound in Helmand province.see url
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