Category : Essays
Cicero defined superstition as "Fear of God". In earlier times people looked upon natural pehnomena as particular signs from the gods. Thunder warned of the displeasure of LordIndra and havoc of floods was a sign from Lord Varuna. Today in the age of computers, irrational fear appears to be an anachronism. It is considered holy to bathe in the Ganges especially during Kumbha Mela days, to get rid of one's sins. If sins could be washed by a holy dip, then fish would have the first claim to a place in Heaven, according to Sufi Saint Bulbe Shah.
Our elders observe Shradhs by offering sumptuous meals and Charity (Daan) to Brahmins for the satisfaction of the souls of our forefathers. Does it not amount to pampering the Brahmins whom we are ourselves making divine agents? When one goes for an examination, it is a must to eat sweetened curd or to view a bucket full of water. Students take an examination on the basis of their individual merit, but how many will have the initiative to forego these meaningless practices?
A fashionable young man wearing Ray-Ban, dressed in designer clothes and a black thread tied round the -wrist can be often seen in our midst. Probably, his grandmother made him wear it and the young man, though always had his own choice, he obediently let her tie it. A young aspirant to an interview, who is armed with high qualifications, often return home if a black cat crosses his path. Ignorance alone explains the existence of superstitions. While one fails in an interview after a cat has crossed his path, another may earn a promotion despite a similar experience.
To the Greeks a sneeze was a good sign, while for the Indians it is considered a dreaded omen. A Hindu bride is not allowed to wear black or white but among the Christians, the grooms are married in black and the brides in white.
Women are considered more superstitious. It is their desire to get their husband's future read from their palms. Girls of marriageable age fast on Mondays to get Lord Shiva’s blessings for early marriage with an ideal, handsome guy. In North India, married ladies fast on Karva Chauth from dawn and eat only after sighting the moon for their husband's long life. They dare not take even a drop of water. For many, it is a herculean task, yet the fast is observed. No one can beat our hypocrisy! Scientifically, if a husband's life span were dependent on his wife's fasts, there would not be any w'idow in this land of about ninety millions.
Pandits declare certain periods as inauspicious for mar- riages. Is it not odd to declare a certain span as inauspicious when God has made all days alike? Horoscopes are matched for a marriage to ascertain whether the match will be happy. A marriage cannot take place until the horoscope give the green signal. If a couple decides to do away with the ritual of matching of horoscopes and should their marriage fail for whatever reason, we elders check-cluck : "We told you so! Why don't they understand that there can be different reasons for the break up of a marriage and the fault does not solely lie in skipping the ritual of horoscope matching as the superstitious-minded, in fact, shift the gravity of happiness from here to the hereafter."
Number '13' is considered unlucky. Chandigarh is divided into '47' sectors and sector '13' is absent. This shows even the modern city planners had fear .of the numerical '13'. Ironically my best academic result was declared when my roll number was '13.’
Superstitions inculcate false beliefs which become barriers to both social and intellectual progress. But Shakespeare said in "Hamlet" "There are more things in heaven and earth......Than are dreamt of in your philosophy". This may furnish justification for being superstitious but in real life, superstitions have little or no place. Knowledge is power and ignorance is brutish. It is science which is the saviour and liberator of mankind.
Certain beliefs have scientific connotations. For instance plucking flowers at night will bring bad luck. In reality plants give out carbon dioxide at night which can prove fatal if continuously inhaled. Hence at night cutting of plants is to be avoided.
Superstition is a hydra-headed monster and must be crushed with the heavy blow of education and a positive mind. In this fast changing world, we need to comprehend the essence of our heritage, learn to analyse and modify. Only then can our country excel. This is what scientific temper is all about.
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