Science is the prerogative of the educated, while superstition is the domain of those illiterate. Though science appeals to our sense of logic and reasoning, even the most educated among us often practice rituals or beliefs that stem out of the fear of the unknown or out of tradition.

It is a known fact that ancient India had made remarkable progress in science and technology, but most of these studies were restricted to the sages and the learned. Thus, in order to protect the common man from any untoward harm arising out of natural events, which could not be explained in simple terms, they made rules and regulations for the general public to follow. That is how we have superstitious beliefs that say one should not carry bananas or pickles while travelling or that it isn’t safe to sit under a tree at night or that it is not wise to venture out during a solar eclipse.

The reason behind such diktats is simple, carrying banana or pickle can get messy during travelling, trees emit carbon dioxide at night while certain harmful rays may affect human bodies during an eclipse. However, gradually as these beliefs were passed down from one generation to another, the reasons were forgotten and only the practice remained.

However, even as some of these superstitions have a scientific background, several others grew out of the fear of the unknown, out of unexplained mysteries or out of simple observation of certain trends and happenings. For instance, to believe that a black cat crossing your way can cause you harm could only have arisen out of somebody’s bad luck that he may have connected to the incident of a black cat crossing his path.

Superstitions are not common among Indians alone; even other countries have their own set of superstitious beliefs like many Christians from all over the world consider the number 13 as inauspicious.

Even though people are getting more and more educated, they at times continue to practice old ways of doing things out of habit or out of fear. For instance, in India, even as we inaugurate the most sophisticated scientific research centres, the opening ceremony takes place only at an ‘auspicious hour’ by breaking open a coconut.

How much ever progress science makes, certain mysteries of nature that science cannot explain will always make man superstitious. Even in the 21st century, we hear of unexplained incidents like the statues of the Hindu God Ganesha actually drinking milk from his devotees or the image of Virgin Mary appearing on a wall. Besides we sometimes can find no reason why certain bad things happen to good people, or why even the most obnoxious person gets the best of things in life. All these frustrate the logic in man, and he then tends to believe in a scheme of things that we call superstition.

As long as superstitious beliefs do not harm anyone, they seem fine, but where beliefs make people commit crimes, it requires serious reconsideration. We have incidents of children being sacrificed in the belief that it will help beget children to childless couples. Similarly, we have women being beaten, ostracized and killed because people believe they are witches. Such ill-gotten superstitions must be got rid of through spread of education and awareness, by changing social beliefs and restructuring the status of women and underprivileged people in the society.