Superstitions are irrational. They have their roots in ignorance, blind faith, fear of the unknown, lack of scientific spirit and complexes. They reflect the weak side of mankind. Superstitions are found everywhere. They have a stronghold on man in spite of rapid advancement of modern science, technology and knowledge. They have been there from times immemorial.
Superstitions can be defined as beliefs based on ignorance and fear. They are always against the known laws of science and reasoning. They are found in various forms and practices. They can be seen in the forms of various charms, magic, means, worship of and beliefs in supernatural powers. What is mysterious, unknown, unintelligible and inexplicable generates awe and fear. The fear in its turn gives rise to blind faith, complexes and superstitions. They have caused much havoc and harm. The sense of some insecurity, fear of ill luck and the dread of the unknown forces in the universe are ingrained in human nature. Even the educated persons are not free from these. They have failed to eradicate this fear from their minds. They are educated but not enlightened and so rationality has been marginalized.
The vested narrow interests of the priests, religious leaders, astrologers, magicians, charlatans etc., have helped the spread and perpetuation of superstitions. They exploit the credulous and gullible people and thrive at their cost. They have a good business especially among the illiterate, uneducated, ignorant and simple men and women. Poor, backward and weak sections of the society are the main victims of these unscrupulous classes of merchants of superstitions. Ignorant villagers, farmers, labourers, petty traders, women-folk, craftsmen etc, have their set religious beliefs. They go to magicians and priests to consult about auspicious and inauspicious moments, hours and days. In rural India no work is undertaken, no ceremony is performed unless a priest or astrologer is consulted. It is the priest or the astrologer who decides when to start a construction work, open a new business, contract, marriage, wear new clothes, start on a journey or name a new-born child. They are in a strong grip of these men. They cast horoscopes and forecast future events, decide events and virtually guide the destiny of the people as they would. Even in large cities and towns these people have a very large following. Even film-makers and producers, with a budget of crores of rupees and a team of scores of men and artists, do not start the production of their films until unless a priest or astrologer gives a green signal and decided an auspicious moment called ‘Mahurat’.
In India superstitions are in plenty and everywhere. For example, the crossing of a cat is considered very ominous and a sign of an ill-luck. And is that cat happens to be black, it is considered most disastrous. Similarly there are auspicious and inauspicious days. Many diseases are still considered to be the cause of the anger of supernatural spirits or local gods. To cure them, the people resort to bhopas, priests and magicians. They have strong faith in incantations, magic formulas, talismans and such other non-sensible objects and things. For them, the modern science and medicine are of no use. They worship stones, trees, quaint and strange objects. People resort to priests, god men, occultists, palmists, and those who practice magic and witchcraft to get solutions to their problems and remedies of disease. The cry of many animals like that of a cat, jackal etc are regarded as bringer of ill-luck and evil. Too many people the braying of the ass, the barking of a dog, the hooting of the owl are ominous. Likewise if a person sneezes as one goes out or undertakes some important work, it is presumed to end of in failure or disaster. Similarly, there are good omens. Winking and twitching of the right eye-lid in men, a path crossed by a sweeper or a women bearing water-filled pot are considered good omens.
The eclipses of the sun and the moon, the sight of shooting star and comets again bode ill. They mean natural calamity and disaster to superstitious people. Such people believe that ruins, deserted places, graveyards, cremation grounds, certain walls and trees are hunted by evil spirits, ghosts, witches and goblins, always bent upon mischief to human beings. They believe the only protections against these are incantations, talismans or worship of evil-spirits. These superstitions have become almost synonymous with religion, customs and rituals. In the guise of religion many superstitions are practiced. Not long ago small-pox was regarded as the result of the wrath of a goddess. There is no end to blind beliefs and superstitions. They can also be seen in the worship of snakes, animals, stones, trees, practice of black magic and witchcraft. Such people do not hesitate even making a sacrifice of a human being to propitiate gods and evil spirits. Sometimes a superstitious man or woman would sacrifice his or her own child to gratify the evil-disposed super natural powers. Many a time woman is lynched, stoned to death or burnt alive as a witch of sorcerer.
Rumours also add to the cut of superstitions. Superstitions are not confined to a particular cast, community or nation. They are almost universal but among the advanced, educated and well-off societies and families, the superstitions are gradually losing ground. In the west the number “13” is still regarded as unlucky. People try to avoid it at any cost because they think the number fatalistic and ominous. It is a taboo for them. This particular superstition has its origin in the last supper of Jesus Christ. When Christ supped last he had 13 disciples and soon after that he was arrested and crucified.
These god men are in plenty in India. They are having a roaring business. Many political leaders, businessmen, heavy weights and so-called elite throng around these god men. They produce ashes, watches. Jewels etc. from nowhere to dupe and influence the people. They also indulge in many kinds of anti-social and criminal activities as they easily get political protection and patronage.
The ignorance, fear of the unknown, mystery and religion make the fertile soil for superstitions. The rationalists and enlightened people should come forward and challenge these god men. They should be exposed and public opinion be created against such practices. The cultivation of scientific spirit spread of education and rationality can go a long way to check and eradicate superstitions. Superstitions have caused us much harm and ruination. They should be fought against tooth and nail. The less a community is educated and enlightened the more it tends to be superstitious.