Decoding Superstitions in India: Logic-Based Rituals or Symbol of Ignorance?


Author – Shivalik Raha

Decoding Superstitions in India
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India – a huge country situated in the heart of Asia and endowed with a diverse terrain right from the Himalayas to the sea coastline. A country with a population of 1.3 billion, with its huge cauldron of myriad cultural landscapes and numerous languages spoken. When foreigners hear the word ‘India’, the images that comes up in their mind are – “Country of billion gods”, “Place where you can find nirvana”, “Country of spicy foods”, “Nation of simple living”, etc. While these are the positive perceptions of our country, there are some darker images as well. Some people find India to be a “Nation of poor people”, “Land of Black magic”, “Country of too many people” and finally, a “Land of Superstitions”.

What exactly is Superstition? Dictionary defines it as a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences that could lead to good or bad luck. However, is superstition really a bad thing? Trust me, not all superstition rituals are bad, some of them are backed by scientific and logical explanations.
I would like to shine light on some of the widely believed superstitions in India and try to explain the logic behind them:

  • Using lemon and chillies to avert negative energy or ‘Buri nazar’ – This is the mostly followed superstition in country, where people believe that hanging a lemon and a few chillies in front of the house will keep the house safe from any kind negative energy. Actually, lemon and chillies do produce some anti-bacterial chemicals that are quite effective against them. So, the logic is placing such things on the front door will keep the house safe from bacteria and will help in preventing any bacterial diseases.
  • Eat sugar and curd before going out for any important work – Another widely believed ritual that signifies good luck. In the tropical climate of India, consumption of curd is expected cool your body and sugar will provide you an instant glucose that energizes you for best output. So the reality matches the belief in superstitions.
  • Fasting on a specific day – Everyone has done once in their lifetime, while some of us do it regularly. Fasting is done either to seek blessings from a particular god or to detoxify our body. Science can explain it better. If our body is starved, the natural process of ‘Autophagy’ starts which forces our body to eat its own dying cells and unused protein to create energy. Fasting also helps to fight against cancer and control the bacteria and viruses that have entered into our body. However, there is no relation with any particular auspicious day, you can do it any day you want, just do it on a regular basis.
  • Don’t cut nails after sunset – Some might feel, “My life, my nail – I will do whatever I want”. This is a very old ritual practised much before the discovery of electricity, when dim oil lamps were the only light source available. So, cutting your nails with blade in such low light was a serious issue and there were high chances of getting hurt. To prevent this, elders advised against cutting nails after sunset. However, there is no such restriction!
  • Swallow Tulsi leaves but never chew it – Tulsi or holy basil is considered as avatar of Goddess Lakshmi and one should never chew it but only swallow it. The ‘Raaz’ is having chemicals that actually helps our body in healthier way, since it contains a little amount of Arsenic, which results in degradation of enamel in our teeth.

Now you must be thinking if all these superstitions in India are backed by pure science and logic, then why people consider them as superstitions but not as normal way in their life style. Well, there are many ways it can be explained. Maybe, those intellectuals who created these rituals found it hard to explain to the common man who lacked scientific knowledge. So, they tried to implement these things by linking them with the fear of the unknown and evil. Another possible explanation is that, if they were instructed to follow these rituals, people would tend to avoid those things. These rituals were created so that people can lead a healthy life, since during medieval ages, people were less health conscious.

So now we can conclude that some of the superstitious rituals are good and they do have beneficial effects for us. And if you find any other such ritual then first sit, then try to understand the logic behind that. If you found a good one, then try to implement it. And if you didn’t then put that thing in garbage and move on.
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