Dr. Ashaq Hussain
Superstition is an evil tree under the shadow of which all sorts of counterfeit thrive to which only fools and charlatans can lend a value
Superstition in the modern era is less likely to be contrasted with true religion and more likely to be viewed as the opposite of science, reason, or modernity. Although there is no single definition of superstition, it generally means a belief in supernatural forces, such as fate, the desire to influence unpredictable factors and a need to resolve uncertainty. In this scientific era of many discoveries and inventions, science making the impossible possible with the blink of an eye, there’s no place for superstition. Science and superstitions are poles apart. Yet they are the two sides of the same coin unknown of their interdependence. Superstitions are self-imposed selfish beliefs, something imaginary yet unimaginable disbelief, or mere beliefs. But science – the most well-known and popular word of this era is believed to be something realistic which even makes the unreal real; the unachievable achievable
From the time we were born, many things have been moving from chest to chest or we have been hearing that we should not do such things, or if we will do such things, then this will happen and so on and so forth. And many kinds of fears are placed in the hearts even from the very beginning and we grow up for the same fears and anxieties. For example: Do not go on the roof in the evening, don't comb at night; especially women, don't look in the mirror, don't sweep and so on is the custom of most of our house. All of the above are things that are commonly heard in our society. Although gradually with the development of modern science, it has decreased to some extent, but still many people have also been born believers. For example, look at the situation of fake saints and peers, where many people do not believe in them, but there are many people who support them because of which their business is running and humanity is being robbed with both hands. On the one hand, our media, realizing its responsibility, has exposed many such criminals and tried to make the public aware from all these fraudsters, but the people who are benefited from these tyrants still follow them blindly. Fake Babas still continue to fool the people with fabricated stories as a result many innocents get trapped in their net.
Even today almost every person we came across is in one or the other way trapped in superstitions. Even if you don’t consider yourself a particularly superstitious person, still you probably say “bless you” when someone sneezes, just in case the devil should decide to steal their soul; as our ancestors thought possible during a sneeze. The number 13, black cats, breaking mirrors, or walking under ladders, may all be the things you actively avoid if you’re anything like most of the people in the India who consider themselves superstitious. It is again the superstition which explains why many buildings do not have a 13th floor and preferring to label it 14, 14A 12B or M (the 13th letter of the alphabet) on elevator button panels because of concerns about superstitious tenants. Indeed, majority of people in surveys indicated that staying on the 13th floor of a hotel would bother them and majority would ask for a different room. On top of all this is that some airlines such as Air France do not have a 13th row because of the typical unlucky number 13.
Just while analysing daily routine of most of us eating curd and sugar before stepping out for something new and important is still considered to be good luck but the real scientific fact is that the consumption of curd has a cooling effect on the stomach and sugar which is added provides instant glucose which makes your work easier and successful. This combination is indispensable for Indians and its consumption was slowly linked to good luck. Another well-known superstition is cutting hairs on certain days like on Tuesdays or Thursdays which is considered to be bad luck but there’s no truth in this as it was one of the water management practices of the past and also barbers got a holiday on those days. So, just to give them a holiday people don’t cut hairs on those days. Earlier bathing was necessary after attending a funeral ceremony but today it’s not like past as our ancestors didn’t have vaccinations against smallpox, hepatitis and other deadly diseases. So, they came up with this ritual of bathing so as to prevent themselves from infection from the dead body.
Menstruating women are considered impure and unclean is another rubbish superstition. In a country like India, it is very prevalent and this gave rise to many other superstitious beliefs. At that time women were not allowed inside the kitchen, temples, mosques, and other religious spots. They are not allowed to perform any household duties. The reason is not the women is impure but the fact is that at that point of time women are comparatively weak because of a lot of blood loss, so, they need to be given complete rest. Wo at present is away from using lemons and green chillies to avoid bad luck (buri nazar). The nimboo-mirchi tootka is one of the commonly visible superstitions among the society, but for me as a science student its use is often encouraged due to the qualities of lemon and chillies as they both are rich in different vitamins and create certain acidic odour which helps to keep away the insects. Thus, our ancestors used this as a symbol during ceremonies which now turned into a tootka and business for some also. Another famous myth is Ghosts residing in peepal trees. This myth continues to prevail even today. But the scientific reason behind this is that the trees use carbon dioxide during the day and releases oxygen but at night, it is the other way around. So, when you sleep under the tree, the excess carbon dioxide level can make you feel heavy in the fist and suffocated which is associated with the feeling of being possessed by some spirits. Throwing coins in fountains and rivers bring good is another superstition which still has its roots in many places. The fact behind this is that most currencies in ancient times were made of copper and by throwing copper coins into rivers, our forefathers apparently ensured that they were consuming pure water. Science has it that copper has antimicrobial property and it can kill 99.9% of infection causing bacteria. However, today neither do we use copper coins nor do we drink water directly from the river. This belief has brought in more pollution than good luck.
Just to conclude, although in postmodern society superstitions don’t have much of a place, for most of history they have a played a huge role in shaping culture and society. Whether they are old tales, urban legends, or just scary stories every group has their share of them. What may be the reason the man started to believe in superstitions when he got a feeling that humans are at the mercy of natural elements. Similarly, some superstitions were also created because of social values. As a result, people worship forces of nature for a long time. The Greeks and Pagans used to worship elements of nature in the form of Gods and Goddesses. Same is the case with Indian tradition. People continue to worship the sun, moon, stars, planets, plants and more believing these things have the power to influence our lives. In this way then, individual beliefs and experiences drive superstitions, which explains why they are generally irrational and often defy current scientific wisdom. For many people, engaging with superstitious behaviours provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety, which is why levels of superstition increase at times of stress and angst. This is particularly the case during times of economic crisis or social uncertainty notably during wars and conflicts. If we look at it closely, there is no logic as such behind the beliefs in superstitions. However, they have grown age-old and despite all the scientific advancement, they are not going anywhere soon. Thus, it is better to subject ourselves less to them otherwise each moment of our life will be on the edge.
Dr. Ashaq Hussain is Assistant Professor (Selection Grade) At Govt. Degree College Chatroo
and can be reached at [email protected]