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A black cat crosses your path!!! Now what?


Do you care if a black cat crosses your road? Would you dare to step on lime and green chillies? Why is a north facing house believed to be lucky? Are these omens just mere imagination? We know that there are no real answers to these superstitions as they are irrational beliefs that defy all known logic.

In this day and age we still hang on to superstitions. Just last month, India’s fill-in captain Virendra Sehwag said he was supporting the opposition team Sri Lanka because of his superstition. “I was not tense at all, because I was supporting Sri Lanka,” Sehwag said after India staved off Sri Lanka’s spirited response to eke out a narrow three-run victory. “I’ve this superstition that whenever I support India, we lose. So I was supporting Sri Lanka here and was never tense,” explained Sehwag. Luckily this is really surprising coming from a fearless swash-bucking batsman. Watch pacer Ishant Sharma doing his run-up to bowl and you will see all sorts of talisman etc swinging round his neck. Not sure if he is able to swing the cricket ball, but his neck-amulets certainly do, without fail every time. I know of some who wouldn’t like to move out of his seat while Sachin Tendulkar is batting and would be out if he leaves his seat, as if Sachin’s batting skills depends on that seat.
Even the Bollywood people have changed the spelling of their names according to numerological beliefs and produce the ‘K’ series TV serials or movies with funny spellings. Remember the famous scene from the movie ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’ where the girl is insisted by her mother to marry a black dog born on a Saturday to ward off a planetary affliction. Where would be our head when we are asked to marry an animal? Somebody once cut a joke to say that it’s better to marry an animal than marry an idiot.

We have all heard of at least one Indian superstition, so do we believe in them? Any personal superstition or do you think all of them is nonsense. Like people the world over, many from our sub-continent can be highly superstitious. In the USA, 90% of US skyscrapers do away with floor number 13, according to reports by the Otis Elevator Company, the world’s largest elevator manufacturers. In Western Europe it is widely believed that if a cat washes over its ears, it is a sign of rain.

Many aspects of our lives are linked to some superstitious belief. A little understanding into the psychology of superstitions could help, but here are some evergreen Indian superstitions.

  • Whatever you dream between 4 am to 6 am is bound to come true
  • Never call one back when the person is leaving the house.
  • Hiccups indicate someone is thinking of you.
  • Stitching cloth after sun set is a bad practice
  • Never sleep with head to the north
  • Its bad luck to have your shoes upside down
  • Nails should not be cut at night for fear of evil spirits
  • Twitching of the eye is highly inauspicious.
  • Having sweet things before going out for some important activities brings success.

Superstitions do have their base in our rural culture. We also confuse astrology and omenology (Shakuna-sh?stra elaborated by Sage Garga) with the superstitions. Astrology has a solid base while superstitions aren’t. Though times have changed, we seldom seem to change our outlook on life. This has been further compounded by the TV serial makers and movie makers, who show ridiculous circumstances like the heroine is doing pooja, when the gust of wind blows off the lamp and then something bad happens.

According to dictionary, superstition is a belief in something not justified by reason or evidence. It means to believe in something blindly without verification. Here are some synonyms for the word ‘superstitious’: Its ‘ridiculous’, ‘gullible’, ‘irrational’, ‘illogical’ etc. It is an unreasonable belief based on ignorance and many a times are a result of a fearful feeble mind with no self confidence.

On the other hand, why shouldn’t one have a personal belief system that brings good luck? The more we get success or failures having a superstition, the more we tend to rationalise them with actual events only to make them stronger or otherwise.

Many of our beliefs would have come about for perfectly valid reasons in the past, but don’t we feel that they are now being followed only as mere rites? Here is an incident narrated by a Vedanta teacher on how superstition creeps into our belief system. A family had a tradition to catch a cat and keep it captive under a straw basket during their yearly pooja havan. This was traced back to once such pooja done by their forefathers, where a stray cat wandered about disturbing the pooja and that they had to keep it captive under a straw basket that was handy. Now what has the cat got to do with worship? Mere superstition???

India and even developed nations have made immense scientific in the recent years but people are still superstitious in nature. Even the silliest of misconceptions continue till date. While in most of the cases these thoughts and beliefs are hardly harmful and many a times are quite hilarious, sometimes they do have serious effects on the society, especially in rural India. But sometimes it’s confusing to admit or negate superstitions because everything in this world seems to be inter-related.

But when in doubt or confusion about some unscientific, it is better to follow the wise. “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom” remarks the English Philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Our own Swami Vivekananda says

“I would rather have every one of you be rank atheists than superstitious fools. There is no mystery in religion. Mystery mongering and superstition are always signs of weakness. These are always signs of degradation and of death. Therefore beware of them; be strong, and stand on your own feet. Be strong, get beyond all superstitions, and be free.”

Someone said it is bad luck to be superstitious. What say to that?

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