People told me of the mystical old palm-leaf manuscripts preserved in a village in Cuddalore District in Tamilnadu, India. The name of the village is Vaitheeshwarankoil at a distance of about 270 km from Chennai (former name Madras) Literally, it means “the temple of the god who will cure the diseases of the people” – like Lourdes Mary, the Lady of Health worshiped by Catholics the world over. Incidentally, there is a church dedicated to Mary, called Velanganni Church about a hundred Km from this village. The shrine was gifted by the Dutch who were caught in a storm in the sea off the coast of Velankanni. It is also visited by Catholics as well as Hindus from throughout India. This Madha (Mother Mary) is said to have mystical powers to cure the ailments of the people who pray at this church.
Coming back to Vaidheeshwarankoil, the importance of the village is the mystical old palm-leaf manuscripts which are supposed to contain a short life history of the people. I wanted to test the veracity of the claim. I paid visit to the village. There are a few people making predictions on the basis of reading the palm-leaves meant for you for a fee. I had been already instructed by an experienced friend of mine to visit a particular man whose predictions are supposed to be more accurate. I went to him. He took an impression of my thumb ( I have forgotten whether it was my left thumb or the right one) and asked me to go back after an hour. In the mean time, the palm-leaves related to me would be searched for and kept ready. Yes, you heard me right. The palm-leaves related to me are already there. ( I can understand your confusion. It sounds mystical, isn’t it? I’ll come to that later). I went back at the appointed time with an open mind. He had already collected a bunch of leaves which seemed to be very old. By asking me a few questions relating to my life, he eliminated a few leaves and chose the one perfectly matching my life. He told my name and my wife’s name (How mysterious !). Then he made some predictions regarding my life and the gods I must propitiate. There are a few unsolved mysteries. Does every one born in this world has a leaf already written (by the Almighty God) and kept ready? If so, the whole village is not sufficient to hold them. But I was assured that only the people whose leaf is there choose to visit the village. That sounds plausible. Only people like me who believe in mystery and supernatural power visit such places. I’m told that some white men (that probably means Americans. Who else is naive enough to believe such things and ready to spend money on that?) have also paid visit to the palm-leaf readers. Were they convinced? Nobody could throw light on that. The whole affair seems to be mystical.