Essay on some Popular Indian Superstitions

''Superstitions are based on ignorance and there is no place for superstitions but in the darkness. The best way to remove superstitions is to educate the people and given them light of reason.
A true knowledge of Nature and God will take the place of blind beliefs and false traditions and this only can should the death-knell of superstitions. —Samuel Smiles.

Superstitions are unreasoned and irrational beliefs of the people living in the past or in the present age. When certain happenings cannot be rationally explained, people assign mysterious and in­explicable reasons for their operation. This faith of the people in irrational things takes the form of superstitions. Superstitions are, therefore, unreasoned beliefs which have a chronic kind of intensity in their evil.

In old primitive times, superstitions governed the majority of people. Those days were such that it favored the growth of supersti­tions. Superstitions enjoyed their hey-day of glory when the civiliza­tion and science had not lighted the darkness of the ignorance of the primitive people. Lack of scientific advancement is another cause of the growth of superstitions. They find a rich soil for ger­mination at a time and in a country where science and philosophy have not had their hold on the masses. Unenlightened people always tend to be superstitions. Undue reverence for traditions and customs prevailing in a particular society also make people super­stitions in their ideas. This belief in the sacredness of time and old traditions of ancestors, keep people in the pale of superstitious thought. The tricks of the priests also exercise their unhealthy effect and people with a religious orthodoxy are prove to fall an easy prey to these superstitious agencies.

Superstitions have continued to exercise their sway on all classes of people all over the world. There are certain common superstitions which are shared by all the people in the world. Belief in spirits, ghosts, and witches is a common superstition among all the people of the world. Even today belief in witches is present in India, Scotland, England, France and many other countries. People, especially in India and other countries of the East, still believe in ghosts. The cries of certain birds like owl and ravenes and mewing of cats are regarded with superstitions all over the globe. There is a very common belief that when comets are seen, they portend the death of kings or great men.

"When beggars die there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes."

In India, every activity of life is associated with some sort of superstition. It is supposed to be bad if somebody sneezes behind or calls back a man who is leaving his home for a journey. He must stop for a while to let the ill-luck pass. It is again ominous if he sees an empty vessel or a broom right in front of the house. The story of Ram Chandra, coming across a snake on the left hand side and a jackal on the right hand side while he was coming back to his hut in the jungle is widely known. He at once guessed that some misfortune had befallen Sita. The sight of a dead body or a cow feeding her calf or a full pitcher is considered as auspicious while one is on a journey. Stories of ghosts and evil spirits are very com­mon in all the countries of the world and especially in India. After death, a person changes into a ghost. Sometimes, a ghost molests the other members of the family generally, a 'pipal' tree is supposed to be the haunt of ghosts. The fear of ghosts is so great that some people worship them in their homes without giving them any shape and form. The ghosts are offered sweets, cakes, clothes and many such Other articles to please them and bribe them against doing any kind of harm to the people.

Generally, the illiterate and ignorant people believe in super­stitions. In villages, the people believe that small-pox, cholera and some fevers all are caused by the displeasure of he-ghosts and she-ghosts. The small pox, whenever it spreads in the form of epidemic, is supposed to be the result of the wrath of the Goddess Shitaladevi. Numerous beliefs of this type are prevalent in villages. Sometimes, such miracles take place in the cure of such diseases that one is surprised at and compelled to believe in these superstitions. Indians have a blind belief in, Sadhus though the cases of cheating by the Sadhus are generally heard. The ashes given by the Sadhus to their devotees are considered as something extraordinarily holy. The tradition of observing 'Terahvi' in Indian families is another super­stition. Hindus believe that souls of the dead persons exist in some form or the other for about eleven days in the family. The family becomes free form the impurity of death on the twelfth day. On this day Brahmins are fed and given charities to give peace to departed soul. These acts of giving charities to the Brahmins and feeding them or repeated every year in the month of 'Kwar'. This observance is called 'Shradha'. People have a great faith in palmistry, astrology and horoscope. There may be some experts in them here and there but generally, we come across, cheats, who exploit innocent persons and befool them.

Superstitions differ from place to place and caste to caste. In South India, the sight of a black cat, crossing the way in front of one is considered to be very inauspicious. In Punjab, the sight of a Brahmin right in the morning is supposed to bring one misfortune for the whole day. But a Brahmin is not looked upon as inauspicious elsewhere. The sight of a cobbler, oilmen or washer man bring ill-lack to one in U.P. but not in Punjab, It should not be surprising that some of English superstitions are very similar to certain superstitions prevalent in India. But in England and India the following of a dog at night without any apparent cause is supposed to indicate the presence of a spirit nearby. As in Indian villages, people believe in witches, so do the people of England and Wales who live in remote villages.

The only panacea for all the social evils like superstitions is education. To make the backward and superstition minded Indians enlightened, education should be spread widely. Education cultiva­tes reasoning and thinking in a human being and as soon as a per­son comes under the shelter of reason and scientific outlook, he or she, becomes free from blind beliefs. Indians by nature are fatalists and they do not apply their energy to work for the better­ment of their lot. This is the greatest superstition which has undermined and is still undermining the real prosperity of India. People should be properly educated and should be inspired to be hard working and honest. Then, we should judge everything by the strong light of reason, having firm faith in God.