- Dr.K.Veeramanin

Human initiative is the basic tool to sculpture the society to tread in progressive path, attain prosperity and derive happiness.   But naturally certain hurdles have been created since time immemorial to inhibit such constructive efforts because of superstition.   Majority of the population are tuned to the mindset that adhering to superstitious beliefs is for the common good.

Irrespective of the intellect-acumen one possesses, the irrational adherence to superstitious beliefs in the normal day to day affairs remains in abundance.   Superstitions date back to early man’s attempt to explain nature, surroundings and his own existence.   There was a deep belief that animals, nature and objects held a connection to spirits and the spirit world.

In order to have a feeling of appeasing these forces different behaviours and customs arose which were presumed to bring a favourable fate and good fortune.  These customs were flavoured with holy gilt and they were converted as rituals with religious sanctity.  Superstitions have come from mythology where omens were common.

Superstition is a pejorative term for belief in supernatural casualty; one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events such as astrology, religion, omens, witchcraft etc. It contradicts natural science. Superstitions survive beyond the generations through successive passing for its benevolent adherence. 

Today direct evidences and scientific facts out weigh superstitious beliefs.  But only very few people categorically deny that they do not atleast secretly harbour a slight belief in one or two superstition.   The adherence to superstitious belief does not remain as  an affair of individuals.   Such beliefs are institutionalized and it affects human functioning individually as well as society collectively. It has become a forceful impediment to many constructive initiatives. It has belittled the nobility of human efforts.  It breeds laziness in humans. It has made the preciousness of human efforts meaningless.   

Common superstitions can be described as beliefs that have no rational basis.  Some superstitions may be just for fun, while others may affect one deeply enough to affect his / her choices in life.  None is based in fact, but many have deep routes in tradition and history. People have been adhering  to beliefs without application of mind.

The most common beliefs that prevail among many people – thirteen is an unlucky number, if a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck, our fate is written in stars, a bird that comes in your window brings bad luck, toads cause warts, when a dog howls death is nearer, the wedding veil protects the bride from the evil eye, to give someone a purse or wallet without money in it will bring that person bad luck – are imbibed by humans in every generation.  Even many prudent persons of high intellectual calibre behave far below the rational approach.

They do not feel ashamed  to practise such deeds which add further strength to superstitious beliefs. As far as the adherence to superstitious beliefs are concerned there is no difference between the educated and uneducated. There is no difference among the people dwelling in remote rural, rural ,urban and metropolitan areas.

In Chennai, a metropolitan city, an educated woman has recently killed  four year old boy who was  the son of her own sister as deed of sacrifice to appease the evil forces. The adherence to superstitious beliefs remains as stumbling block to lead a healthy, hygienic life  in the society. These beliefs are strong to decry the decent living in the society.

The recent happenings in     the rural areas of Namakkal district have proved that construction of toilets became an uphill task owing to superstition. Religious sentiments and vasthu shastra were  the reasons to stop construction of toilet  resulting in the  filling  up the newly-dug leach pit with debris.

Consequent to the visit of an astrologer to the village, the house owners were made to believe that had they dug any pit , their five year old boy would have  had a bad time. A carpenter in another village  demolished the toilet that he had built at the cost of Rs 6000 and rebuilt one, spending Rs 25000 to match the specifications given by his vasthu consultants. Villagers also halted construction of toilets at the time of temple festivals as it is considered inauspicious.

Superstitious beliefs and practices are not the incidents of the past but still an enduring menace. They have got a direct bearing on the individual life style as well as the common inhabiting pattern in the society. The religious clergies are also adamant in adding fuel to  the proliferation of the menace.

With all these development inhibiting factors , how  could a society or a country be evaluated as developed one? In fact, for real development, superstitions and religious sentiments are the major impediments. Had such hurdles got eliminated , the development could  have been marvellous.

In the development process and indexing the development, only economic parameters responsible for the prosperity are reckoned. Even for arriving Human Development Index (HDI) along with economic factors, health facilities, hygienic environment, educational infrastructure are taken into consideration.

But the genuine impediment for human development i.e superstition goes unnoticed for reckoning. Accurate and meaningful  indexing is possible if only rational life and mindset of the people are given due importance in the process. ‘Rational Index’ may be an addition while arriving at ‘ development status’ of a state. Many parameters like belief in astrology, periodicity of religious festivals, associating women in social and public life, prevalence of scientific temper and its level in the society can be some  of the parameters to measure the real development.

The international bodies who are involved in the enumeration  exercise of development status must explore the provisions to include the level of rational life style  of the respective population in the society  or state. A collective effort to appeal must emerge from the  humanist  and rationalist fraternity from all parts of  the world.

The process may be slow and a little bit difficult too; but it is a must for humanity for its meaningful progress and civilization. The existing  development indexing must be altered. The current development paradox has to be eliminated. The real development has to be nurtured and enumerated accordingly.

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