Superstition can be described as a belief that is illogical or irrational, or believing a certain phenomenon as it is without attempting to know its origin. This also includes believing in omens, curses, ghosts, witches, futile rituals and supernatural being life. Superstitions are often the result of prejudice, obsolete and unjustified biases and retrogression. In this era of rational thought, rationality, and development, superstition yet clouds a common man's mind.
Influence of the West
Although Western influence – to some degree – has been effective in erasing superstitious beliefs through the dissemination of education and public awareness, yet superstitions have a great hold overall developing countries, including the Orient, i.e., the East has always been synonymous with exotic environments, remote locations, and odd events. Africa's forests were believed to have a hypnotizing and intoxicating nature, and people in Africa were accused of changing and transforming. For a long time, even India was considered by the westerners to be a place of snake-charmers, magicians, witches and mysterious sights.
In the modern age, Indian culture, still rooted in ignorance and lack of education, has sunk deeply into the superstition drain. Just a small percentage of the educated and open-minded population is to some degree free from the clutches of superstitions. The condition of rural class or uneducated masses is the worst and they do not want to improve.
Various Prevalent Superstitions
- If someone sneezes or sees a man with an empty pot, or if a cat crosses the path and heaven protects if the cat is black, one should not leave home — these are supposed to be early signs of failed attempts in venture or ill-luck.
- Seeing a one-eyed person early in the morning or seeing a widow bring a bad day.
- An owl's hooting and a dog's howling are both signs of ill-luck or death.
- The crowing of a crow or the dropping of a comb shows the guests would visit.
- While entering a cemetery or walking under a peepal tree during the afternoons, one should not wear perfumes or eat sweets and go through a graveyard, otherwise, one will certainly be visited by ghosts.
- One should not walk across cross-roads from right into the middle as ghosts could catch you.
- If one drinks a domesticated cow's milk, one should never stand and drink milk, as the cow's milk production might be reduced.
- Itching the right palm indicates good luck and ill-luck on the left hand. The twitching of the eyes credits a related aspect.
- Itching the sole of the foot means that in the near future, a journey must be undertaken.
- The list of these superstitions is infinite, and they all are entertaining in their own ways. Belief in the evil eye, tabeez wearing and charms to fend off ill-luck or bring good luck are different kinds of superstitions found in India.
Group or Class of People in Favour of Superstition
It's discouraging to see that many times educated people are used to believing superstitions just as much as the less illiterate ones. Beliefs about spirits, evil eyes, curses etc. are nothing but manifestations of human shortcomings, weak minds cling to these things in the event of inability to attribute their share of blame rather than accepting their faults and working hard to eradicate them.
Generally speaking, women are found to be more vulnerable to superstitions, possibly because it was the female portions of society that for years remained uneducated and ignorant. Today, women aspire to break free from superstition's non-progressive shackles. Education, awareness and the development of scientific attitude, as well as aptitude, are the only effective weapon against the cobwebs of superstitions. Firstly, there is a need to educate mothers who are responsible for the entire family's education. Besides, nothing without any logical evidence should be acknowledged. Only then can we shake off the profound and age-old roots of superstitions that have become part of our tradition, ritual, culture and religion now.
Impact on Society
- Beliefs that demonize and dehumanize a group of people are much more subtle and dangerous based on their gender, colour of their skin etc.
- This is because it runs counter to our obligation to foster scientific temper (referred to in Article 51A(h) in The Constitution of India "to cultivate the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform").
- It also leaves the person vulnerable to other harmful ideas such as misinformation against anti-vaccines, rumours about marginalized groups such as minorities etc.
- It also makes people more vulnerable to fake news affecting the free flow of real, verifiable facts.
- It is also a matter of great concern that there are no clear provisions on the IPC to counter this threat.
Roadmap to Liberalisation
- Government of Maharashtra passed the 2013 Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Cruel, Evil and Aghori Practices and the Black Magic Act. Similar legislation must be passed at the national level through relevant changes to the IPC.
- In the case of false doctors and quacks/faith healers in the case of a patient accident due to unscientific care, arrangements must be made to sue him/her for medical negligence or manslaughter in the event of the death of the patient.
- Special courses must be implemented in all schools and colleges which teach rationalism, critical thinking, tools to recognize fake news, etc. For, eg, the Kannur district administration scheme, "Satyameva Jayate."
- Tackling superstition by legislating is just half the battle. Mass media, street-plays, social media campaigns are needed to educate the masses. Our modern method of education must also be prepared to deal with the scourge of superstition.
Experts point to lack of understanding as to the primary cause of superstition. But both the educated and the living uneducated people in the community have a deep belief in such superstitions.
Our ancestors gave us superstitions and many people follow strictly the same without thinking of the reasons hidden behind it. If a family has a strong belief in any superstition, then it is clear that half of the children of the next generation will also follow and blindly believe the same.
With advancements in science and the legal system, while we have been successful in evading superstitions to some degree, we do need a little more effort to eradicate them from our everyday lives fully.
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