Indian Beliefs and Superstitions

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1. Cats Crossing Your Path

cat crossing

In ancient times, during night people used to travel through forests in bullock carts with a light of kerosene lantern. The carriage animals get past big cats like leopards, hyenas and jackals foxes. These animals have glowing eyes and scare the cows, horses or the bulls that pull the carts. That is why the travelling party halts nearby and help the animals refresh themselves before they pull the carts for the long journey ahead without any stress. Travelers shared their hard experiences and told other travelers not to proceed travel while the cats crossing the roads and in the course of time changing, the cat crossings got live and the people forget forest cats and took the domestic cats instead.

2. Hair Cut On Tuesday

baby-haircut-cry

In past days a large portion of the Indians were farmers. After a week of hard work, Monday was their resting day. Characteristically majority of them cleaned their homes and cut their hair on that day. So the Barber wouldn’t have much deal with Tuesdays and would close his shop. This practice is continued till date but the reason behind it is completely forgotten and lot misconceptions revolve around this.

3. Opening An Umbrella Inside The House

umbrella

Restriction of opening umbrella inside house had a sensible reason back in the days. The umbrellas were built with hard metal spokes and spring triggers, which could be dangerous to open. In fact, opening one indoors could pose a danger to people and fragile objects nearby.

Warning people not to open an umbrella indoors served to protect the health and safety of people and property indoors. Later this was considered as “bad luck” considering the injuries and broken objects, which often coincided with the umbrella’s opening.

4. Hanging Lemon And 7 Green Chillies In Shops And Business Places.

9chillies

Superstitious belief goes like this: Alakshmi, god of misfortune brings bad luck to the shop owners or business. In order not to allow her entering the shops they hang these 7 chilies and lemon. Alakshmi likes sour, pungent and hot things. Therefore at the door, Alakshmi will only come up to the door and eat her favorite food and satisfy her hunger and leave without entering the shop. It is believed that after consuming lemon and green chillies, Alakshmi loses her urge to enter the house or shop. She will turn around without casting her vicious eye.

Scientific Reason:  The cotton thread which is used to pierce the chillies and lemon absorbs the acid from the fruit whilst it is fresh. This smell keeps the pests and insects away from the shops. This is a simple pesticide which came into practice from ancient times, which is mislead now superstitiously as explained above.

 

5. Breaking Mirror Brings 7 Years Bad Luck

mirror-2

During old times, mirrors were not cheap and they were low quality and easily defected. In order to avoid negligence it was told that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. That was simple scare tactic. Romans were the one who tagged to the broken mirror a sign of seven years bad luck. The length of the prescribed misfortune came from the ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself. If the person looking into the mirror were not of good health, their image would break the mirror and the run of bad luck would continue for the period of seven years, at the end of which their life would be renewed, their body would be physically rejuvenated, and the curse would be ended.

 

6. Cutting Nails And Shaving After Sunset

cutting nail

In the olden days there was no electricity and shaving or cutting nails would result in cuts after sunset because of darkness. Hence our ancestors advised not to cut nails or shave after sunset. In Later days it was believed that the night spirits will be awaken and come in the search of flesh. People have been warned to get attacked by these evil spirits in the darkness of night if people cut nails or shave hair after sunset which continues as a superstition.

 

7. Lighting 3 Cigarettes With One Matchstick

3-cig_desinema

‘Three on a match rule’ apparently was a tale told to the young ones after the World War 1. When it was night and you lit a pipe or cigarette if you lit three people off the same match a sniper would have time to zero in and he would kill the third man. Would you want the enemy knowing exactly where to lob a grenade because you lit the pathway for him? This story was twisted around as the time passed by and considered to be bad luck.

So folks, as long as you are not in war zone you are safe to light three cigarettes. Oh, hang on you are not safe until you quit smoking technically.

 

8. Pregnant Women Not Allowed To Go Out During Eclipse

In India it is believed that during an eclipse one must not wander out, since it is believed that the Sun is swallowed up by the demon. Pregnant women, especially, must stay indoors in order to ensure that their babies are not born with any deformities. In fact, pregnant women are often not allowed to sew or cut vegetables during an eclipse. Some families avoid cooking and eating altogether during an eclipse. However, the reason behind some of these superstitions can be scientific. For example, one should actually avoid going out during an eclipse in order to keep away from the harmful UV rays

 

9. Menstruating Women Are Considered Impure And Unclean

Menstruating women

In India, menstruating women are considered impure and unclean. This, of course, gives rise to many superstitious beliefs. Women who are menstruating are not allowed to enter the kitchen. They are also supposed to stay away from temples, mosques and all religious spots in the house itself. A woman on her period is not allowed to perform regular household duties like cooking food. Some might argue that the reason behind this superstition is scientific, and that a woman menstruating loses a lot of blood and thus becomes weak and must refrain from strenuous activities. Others claim that there is nothing scientific in this belief and it is just another superstition created to subordinate the position of women in society

 

10. Do Not Leave A Dead Person’s Eye Open

death

This is a very common superstitious belief in India,  if a dead person’s eyes is left open it is believed that the other soul around the dead body will be taken away with him through his eyes. But the real reason behind this is to make the dead person look as if he is sleeping peacefully and nothing more or less.

 

11. Bats Entering The House Brings Death

bat

The fact that few species of bat drinks blood does not help to the superstitious beliefs revolving around them. There is an old myth that if a bat enters the house or flies around the hose for three times or more then death is waiting for someone in the family. There are many different myths associated with the bats in different countries and culture which adds up to bats being an bad omen.

The real reason behind the bats entering the hose brings death is because of the disease transmitted by bats were deadly back in the days when there was no medicines for these disease. Rabies, Nipah, Hendra, Ebola and Marburg are all viruses carried by bats that can cause serious disease in humans. Marburg virus and some strains of Ebola virus can kill up to 80-90% of humans infected.

 

12. Lizard Falling On Human Is Bad Luck

liz on porch

Every movement of the wall lizard holds some significance according to Gowli Shastra in India. The colour, spots, stripes, chirping or twittering of the lizard and where it falls on a person’s body are said to indicate future happenings. However the fact is that, lizards that are poisonous in nature release poisonous chemicals from their body in order to protect them from their enemies. If such lizard comes in contact of a person’s body or falls in a food item like milk etc. then is bound to make it contaminated. One should wash that particular spot and area to avoid infectious disease.

 

13. Friday The 13th And The Number 13 Is Unlucky

`friday

The number 13 is considered an unlucky number in some countries. The superstitious sufferers try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labelling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples (thirteenth floor). It is also considered unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table. Friday the 13th has been considered the unluckiest day of the month.

One major reason is that, at Jesus Christ’s last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles. Some believe this unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ. Another major reason for Friday the 13, On Friday 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar, and most of the knights were tortured and killed.

 

14. Fallen Hair Around The House Will Bring Fight In Your Family

hair

The myth is that if you throw fallen hair inside the house instead of binning it, soon you will see a fight within your family. Well, who would like to pick up a quarrel at home?

But the real reason behind this superstition is if you leave the fallen hair inside the house it may end up falling inside the food when the wind blows.

 

15. Twitching Of The Eye Is Inauspicious

Twitching of the eye

Twitching of the left eye is considered to be either a bad or a good omen, depending upon which culture we are referring to. These superstitions take into account the gender and the part of the eye in which the twitching is observed as well. Eye twitching or the sudden involuntary movement or spasms in the eyelids is a common condition. Although there is an established explanation for these constant or intermittent involuntary muscle twitches, including various medical reasons behind them. Apparently, these twitches are nature’s way of warning a person about some impending problem or indicative of some good news on the way.

 

16. Adding One Rupee To A Gift Sum Is Auspicious

one-rupee

It is common in India to give money for weddings and auspicious occasions. It is considered auspicious to add a rupee to the sum total.

There are various reasons, for some, it is a blessing, a token of love and luck. For some it is the beginning of a new cycle. For some it makes the sum an odd number and indivisible which is a good omen for the married couple. If the rupee is not added the sum total will be separable or it will end in zero which indicates the end, so adding the rupee will make the number odd hence assuring continuity.

 

17. Walking Under A Ladder Is Bad Luck

 

ladderThere are a couple of theories about this superstitious belief. Many Christians are believers in the Trinity—that God is made up of three parts, the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). A ladder leaning up against a building was seen as a triangle of these three. To walk through this triangle was seen as breaking the Trinity and hence considered as bad luck. Another origin of the superstition was a bit less specific, and had to do with the similarities between a ladder leaning against a wall and a gallows. However the fact is that, it is simply unsafe to walk under the ladder and you may get hurt or might hurt someone around by knocking the ladder down.

 

18. Crows Are Referred As Our Ancestors

crow

 

Crow is the vahana of shani who represents the karmas of past. We are indebted to our ancestors who have given us birth. So offering food to crow is regards as pacifying the hunger of ancestors where ever and whichever form they are reborn. It is believed that crows are being related to our ancestors since the ‘treta yuga’.

As per this popular legend, once Jayant the Son of God Indra, disguised in the form of crow and hurt Sita. In turn God Rama took hay and used it as an arrow and parted one of the eyes of Jayant. After realizing his mistake, Jayant asked for God Rama’s forgiveness. Then Rama forgave him and blessed him with a boon that when food is offered to the crows that will reach the ancestors.

 

19. Do Not Sweep The House After Sunset

sweeping

This is another common myth in India. If you sweep your house after sunset Lakshmi will walk out of the house and hence inviting poverty.

But the real reason behind this is back in the days when there was no electricity, light of lamp was not enough to spot any small gold ornaments while sweeping and hence chances of sweeping them away with the dust is high. Hence it was not advised to sweep after dark.

20. Sacrifice Of Goats To God

goat

 

In all the ancient religions of the world, the ritual of animal sacrifice has remained a great means of attaining the nearness of the Almighty. In India, Goddess Kali is known to favor animal sacrifices—goats in particular. Killing a goat in her name is believed to relieve one of negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy.

India Beliefs

Indian beliefs and superstitions are passed down from generation to generation.These faiths have sprung with an objective to protect from evil spirits, but some were based on scientific reasoning. Astrology is an integral part of Indian culture. Even today many people prefer to do good things such as entering a newly made home (Gruhapravesha) , fixing a marriage proposal, fixing a marriage date, entry of a bride to her new home, starting a new business etc, according to their astrological belief.

3718411 f520 - Indian Beliefs and Superstitions

What is superstition?

According to dictionary, superstition is a belief in something not justified by reason or evidence. It means to believe in something blindly without verification.

Though the Indian society is fast progressing, there are many people who are still superstitious and have a strong faith in these local beliefs. Superstitions are deemed as pertinent in India because these, generally, hint at future occurrences and can be either good or bad.Though we try to believe these are baseless beliefs, somewhere deep inside our hearts, we are stuck to our roots and still believe in some of the superstitions, if not all.

Superstitions considered Good in India

These are some of the superstitions which are considered as good omen.

  • While one is going out of the house and see a married lady with flowers on her head and kumkum on her forehead it is believed that the trip will be successful.
  • If you see an elephant on your way while going somewhere, your purpose of going will be fruitful. It is believed that Lord Ganesh, the elephant God of Indian mythology, removes all the obstacles on the way.
  • Seeing a peacock on a journey is also considered lucky.
  • If you notice a crow cowing near your house you are likely to get visitors to your house.
  • Eating sweet curd before exams brings good luck.
  • If the girl’s horoscope is matching well with the boy’s horoscope, when they get married, they will have a successful married life.
  • When a discussion is going on if you hear a lizard making a noise on the ceiling or on the wall, it is a good omen to let you know that it is true.
  • There is also a strong belief in the power of dreams, as divine warnings. Dreaming of gods, demons, auspicious animals or any other auspicious thing is good.
  • Continuous hiccups are considered a sign of someone close badly remembering you.
  • Mirror, a pot full of water, flag, light, a pair of fish and turmeric are auspicious articles. On getting up from the bed in the early morning, if a person is lucky to see any of these auspicious articles it will bring him good luck . He is also fortunate if he sees first a lotus flower, gold, the ruler, light, the sun, fire, the sea, a temple tower, a hill with signs of rain a cow and a calf, his own right hand, a lunatic, a black monkey, an elephant or a percussion instrument called Mridanga. Seeing his wife’s face is also considered a good omen.
  • To avoid seeing anything unpleasant in the morning, many people look at the palms of their hands as soon as they awaken and recite this invocation: “In the tips of the fingers resides Goddess Lakshmi; in the middle, Goddess Saraswathi; in the palm of the hand resides Goddess Parvathi; looking at my hands, I begin my day.”
  • The colour, spots, stripes, chirping or twittering of the lizard and where it falls on a person’s body are said to indicate future happenings.

Superstitions considered Bad in India

There are several superstitions considered as bad omen in Indian society. Many people even these days avoid these as much as possible, whether they believe in it or not, for they are not prepared to take the risk.

  • If you are going somewhere and see a cat, especially black, is considered as a very bad omen.
  • While a serious discussion is going on, a black cat comes that way. It is considered as a bad omen.
  • While leaving home, sighting a widow or a barren woman is not lucky.
  • Nails should not be cut in the night for fear of evil spirits.
  • While leaving your house, hearing the shrill sound of a peacock is considered bad.
  • Sweeping the house at night is not good.
  • The sitting of an owl over the house-top is a sure sign of approaching ruin and destruction.
  • When there is a birth or death in the family, the members are not supposed to go to a temple or light a lamp at home, for 15 days.
  • If a female’s right hand is scratching it is not good. It is an indication that she is going to get some bad news On the other hand, if it is left hand it is good. But, if a male’s left hand is scratching it is not good. It shows that he is going to cry soon. He is lucky if his right hand is scratching.
  • If the left eye of a woman twitches it is not good, and the right eye twitching for a man is also not good.
  • If you see a family member leaving the house for some purpose, and happen to ask him or her “where are you going?” the individual won’t like it because asking such a question is considered a bad omen.
  • A number of activities are avoided after sunset such as – cutting of one’s hair or nails, giving of dirty linen to the dhobi, mention of words to denote snake or the barber, lending or giving needles, salt ,butter, milk or white articles, lending a matchbox or fire.
  • After a man’s death, his widow should not wear colorful sarees or bindis on her forehead. (This practice is rapidly changing in almost all cities of India today.)
  • If somebody is leaving home for the day’s work and you sneeze thrice, it’s a bad omen.
  • Footwears keeping upside down brings fights in family.
  • In some parts of the country, it is believed that Monday is not an auspicious day for shaving and cutting hair.
  • Thursdays and Saturdays are not good for washing hair.
  • Tuesday is believed to be not good to reach any body’s home from a journey.
  • Saturday is considered bad for purchasing metal or leather, as it brings bad luck in terms of financial prosperity.
  • Wearing of white clothes by a married woman is considered inauspicious.
  • If you hear a dog whining at night it will bring bad luck, especially when some one in your family or neighbourhood is sick.
  • Many people do not make payments on Fridays, except giving small coins to beggars.
  • Food is not cooked in a house where death has occurred.

Why do Indians still follow these beliefs?

It is an interesting question. With the progress of science and popular awakening, many of the superstitions have already lost their hold on the minds of the people. But many of them are so deeply rooted that no amount of knowledge or science can weaken their hold or fully shake them off.

When I discussed this question with some of my friends, the response was amazing. They belong to both the present generation of youngsters and the older generation. Though most of them don’t want to believe them, they are not prepared to take the risk of ignoring them. Those who had ventured to ignore them had already faced some serious problems, which made them stick to the age-old beliefs again.

What is your opinion? Do we still have to follow, or not?

Are the superstitions still prevalent in other countries? Please share your views.

Superstitions in other countries

Superstitions exist not only in India, they are all over the world. Every culture and every country has their own share of beliefs. Some of them are funny and some are logical. Some believe in these superstitions and follow them diligently, but some others do not believe them, and just ignore them. Watch the two videos to know about some of the superstitions exist in other culture.

Logical Indian

There are various traditions and beliefs that have been followed by Hindu Indians since ancient times. Most of these beliefs, it is argued nowadays, are superstitions which people follow blindly for the fear of being cursed or harmed by supernatural powers or God. However, research studies have shown now that some of these beliefs or superstitions have scientific reasons associated with them. Sounds strange, isn’ it? Let us check out some of these with their scientific explanations:

 Why do we throw coins into wells and rivers?

Usually, the belief is that it brings luck. Nowadays, coins are made of stainless steel. In ancient times, most of the coins were made of copper and intake of copper was helpful for the human body. Copper and silver have anti-bacterial properties. Our forefathers threw copper coins in the water, so that when they take bath using that water, they can have sufficient intake of copper. It was made a custom so that we follow it.

Why do we greet people with a “Namaskar”?

It is an age old Hindu culture when people greet each other with a “Namaskar” or joining both the palms of their hands. The Namaskar tradition is associated with paying respect to the other person. But, scientifically explained, it means that when the palms are joined, the tips of all the fingers also join, which are in fact the pressure points of eyes, ears and mind. Pressing them means you can remember that person for a long time as it activates the pressure points.

Why do women wear silver toe rings?

There is science behind wearing a silver toe ring by a married Indian woman. It is worn on the second toe. A nerve from the second toe connects the uterus and then to the heart. Wearing silver toe ring strengthens and keeps the uterus healthy by regulating the menstrual cycle.

Why do we apply red tilak on our foreheads?

As a custom, women put on a bindi to display that they are married and men put on a tilak on religious occasions. However, scientifically, it is said that the spot between the two eyebrows is a major nerve point in human body. The ancient concept is to prevent loss of “energy”; the red ‘kumkum’ retains energy and controls the various levels of concentration.

Why do married Indian women apply sindoor or vermillion?

Though sindoor, since ancient times is associated with married women, studies have shown that it has scientific reason behind it. It is to be noted that sindoor is a mixture of turmeric, lime and the metal mercury, which have their intrinsic properties. Mercury helps in controlling blood pressure, removing stress and strain and it also stimulates sexual drive. That is why sindoor is prohibited for the widows.

Why do we ring bells in the temples?

As soon as we enter the temple, before entering the main shrine, we always ring the metal bells hanging at the entrance. As a tradition, we believe that the sound of the bell keeps evil forces away and it is pleasant to God. However, the scientific reason is that when we ring the bell, it clears our mind, help us to focus and stay sharp on our devotion to God. These sounds produced by the bells create a harmony between the left and right sides of our brain and the sounds last for minimum of 7 seconds in echo mode. This echo sound activates all the seven healing centres in our body and helps our mind to get rid of all negative thoughts.

Why do we worship the peepal tree?

Logically seen, except the shade, peepal tree is usually a useless tree as it does not bear any fruit nor is the wood strong for any purpose. Even then, since ancient times, we have shown deep reverence for this tree and we worship it. Why? According to scientific research this is the only tree that produces oxygen even at night. Our forefathers knew about it. So in order to save the tree from being cut, they related it to God or religion.

Why can’t we sleep with our head towards north?

The superstition is that it invites ghost or death. But, according to science, human body has its own magnetic field and earth is also a giant magnet. It is said that if we sleep with our head in the north direction, our body’s magnetic field becomes completely asymmetrical to the magnetic field of the earth, which can cause health problems and the heart needs to work harder to get rid of this asymmetry of magnetic fields.

Why do we keep fasts on Navratris?

Have you ever thought why we have Navratris twice a year and why do we keep fasts? No doubt, we keep fasts on Navratris, as it has been associated with invoking the blessings of Maa Shakti. Scientific reason for this is that both the months of Navratris are the months of changing seasons. The nine days of fast give our body enough time to adjust to the changing season and also help in detoxifying the body.

Why do we touch feet of others?

Usually we touch the feet of our elders or the pious ones. To bow down and touch someone’s feet means our ego is reduced and when the other person accepts our respect, it means that his heart emits positive thoughts and energy, which reaches us through his hands and toes. The entire completed circuit helps in the flow of energy, creating a quick connect between two minds and hearts. The same explanation can be given for hugs.


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