Ancient Hindu and Buddhist India

Indian handreaders tend to place the origination of chiromancy and other such divinatory arts with pre-historic or mythic figures or deities. In India, chirology is known as Samudrika, after King Samudra who flourished in pre-historic times, but the origin of the study of the hand is usually attributed to Lord Shiva who taught it to the wife of Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe. In modern times, Indian palmists are often at pains to assert the ancient origins of their art and many claim that in ancient times there were thousands of books on handreading in India. These claims cannot now be substantiated, as very few (if any) of these original texts now remain.  This assertion is made all the more unlikely due to the fact that most modern Indian palmists seem to follow the traditions of Western Victorian palmistry rather than any indigenous tradition of their own!

Mythology and apocraphyl tales aside, the earliest known historical certainty concerning the origins of handreading within the Indian sub-continent dates from about 2000BC, for there is a reference to the practice of handreading in the ancient Vedic literature of India. In the Code of Manu and in the Vasishtha Rules, a list of rules are given to guide the ascetic in the correct way to lead the religious life; and here we find prohibitions which are specifically formulated to forbid the ascetic from earning a living through 'explaining prodigies and omens or by skill in astrology or palmistry'. This is possibly the earliest written mentions of the practice of handreading from anywhere in the world.

As with Hindu sacred literature, so the Brahmajala Sutta 1:21 of the Buddhist Vinaya Pitaka, dating from around the third century BC, also prohibits monks from earning a living from prognostication and divination from the hands or by other such means.   The continuity of this 'rule' within the different ascetic traditions of India over so many hundreds of years is suggestive of the prevalence of handreading throughout all this time and lends supports to the widely held assertion that all traditions of handreading stemmed originally from India.


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