Narendra Dabholkar, the rationalist who took up the battle against superstition in Maharashtra, was murdered on 20 August 2013 by two gunmen in Pune. He was the founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti and was trying to get an anti-superstition bill passed in his fight against dubious Godmen that perform miracles and superstitious rites and have many followers. He was criticized vehemently by the right wing Hindu parties such as BJP and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and was labeled a ‘Devil’. His murder is a blow to rationality in a country full of superstitions.
While some people say that all these superstitions have been in our culture because of some scientific reason, I’d like to know why those reasons can’t be explained while teaching children about these things instead of teaching them to just blindly follow their elders. Besides there are a lot of superstitions that clearly can’t have a scientific reason at all. This is a simple case of a society refusing to change and grow by holding on to old rituals that don’t make any sense. Let’s take a look at some of the more bizarre and clearly wrong superstitions that still hold sway in Indian society.
7. Widows Are Considered Inauspicious
What could be the scientific reasoning behind widows becoming inauspicious. How is their wearing white clothes and not wearing jewelry and not remarrying and not living a full life going to help anyone? Is it supposed to help the deceased husband in the afterlife? Clearly this is just a case of our extremely patriarchal society finding one more way to subjugate women. Thankfully this superstition is starting to change at least in the big cities.
6. The Evil Eye
Another silly superstition is of the whole evil eye or “buri nazar” concept. How can someone set bad luck on us by just looking at us? If this was so everyone in India would have nothing but bad luck because we all go around wishing our neighbors didn’t do better than us in any way. And what’s even more bizarre is that the whole problem can be solved by putting a black mark on your face. Such superstitions still hold strong in our society and they make us think that our failures are not because of our lack of effort but rather due to bad luck brought on by the evil eye. Instead of trying to figure out our mistakes we go to holy men and “tantrics” and waste our time, money and energy.
5. Lemon & Chili Totem
One great way to avoid the evil eye, especially for houses and shops is to hang a totem made of lemon and chilies. It’s the black spot for buildings. Apparently it captures all the evil eyes before they set bad luck on you. Some people even hang them in the cars. If you find some lying on the road then you are not supposed to cross over it otherwise all the evil eyes that were captured by the totem will upload on to you. Do I even have to explain why this is complete crap?
Another superstition is related to the menstruation of women. When women are menstruating they supposedly become unclean and impure. So they can’t enter temples and can’t enter the kitchen and cook food. They say the scientific reason behind this is that blood loss during menstruation causes weakness and this is a way to ensure proper rest for the women. I find it hard to believe that our extremely misogynistic forefathers had this reason in mind while forming this superstition. To me it’s just another way to make women feel guilty every month for being unclean and impure and is merely a psychological subjugation technique.
3. The Comings and Goings of Laxmi
Our Indian families are very religious and holy but they also are very greedy and materialistic. That’s why everyone’s favorite Goddess is Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth. There are many rules that need to be followed to ensure that Laxmi comes to your home and stays there. One of these is to not sweep the house at night as that is the time Laxmi comes and if you are sweeping then all the dust will land on her and she’ll get angry and leave. You must also turn on the light in all the rooms as Laxmi likes bright rooms. I don’t know how a high electricity bill brings wealth? The only thing it brings is global warming.
2. Animal Sacrifice
Animals are sacrificed daily to appease one or the other of the billions of Gods that we have. I guess all our Gods and Goddesses are non-vegetarians. This superstition used to enrage me a lot but I guess it is no different than being a non-vegetarian. Whether you kill an animal for appeasing a God or for appeasing your appetite it’s the same thing. We first need to try and encourage vegetarianism and then tackle the issue of animal sacrifice.
1. The Holy Dip
The silliest superstition for me is the thought that a dip in the river Ganges can wash away all your sin. Now scientists have studied the water of the river Ganges and found that it is very oxygen rich and contains bacteria that feed on waste. These factors mean that despite of being highly polluted it can still support life. Taking a dip in this water might even be beneficial for the skin but my problem comes from the way this superstition has been misused by us to justify our actions. It is a simple way of countering the law of Karma. Do whatever you have to do to get ahead in the world and become wealthy and then just come to take a dip in the Ganges and all your sins will be washed away. The implication of this superstition is what makes it perhaps the most harmful superstition in India. It gives every Indian the right to lie, cheat, manipulate and deceive and makes every Indian who believes in this superstition a hypocrite.