Superstitions mean false beliefs or the beliefs which do not have any scientific base. Superstitions are there since ancient times. They are found in every society, country, culture, and religion. Hinduism is no exception to it. In fact, as Hinduism is one of the oldest cultures on the earth and the literacy rate in India is low, there are quite a number of superstitions.
What I have noticed is not all the superstitions are baseless. Some do have some point in them or are purposefully spread in order to keep people away from danger. These superstitions have been given the cover of the religion so that ordinary people would follow them and keep out of danger. Critics say that Hindus are the most superstitious but this is partially true. Even people in America, which has a 100% literacy rate, are superstitious and do not get out of the homes on Friday 13th. If you study different cultures, you would find that many of them are more superstitions than Hindu culture. Hence, it is pointless to say that Hindus are most superstitious.
In this article, we will discuss about superstitions that are related to Hinduism and those which are prevalent in India and try to find out whether these beliefs really have any meaning. This article does not claim that it is 100% correct. There could be some point in those superstitious, which I am unaware of.
1. Planet Shani (Saturn): Since ancient times, Hindus have knowledge of stars and planets. Hindus believe that planets affect the happenings in our lives. Saturn has been considered as a villain planet amongst all the planets. Saturday is considered as the day of Saturn. It is believed that if Saturn is upset with you, you would have a lot of problems in life and there are different reasons that this would happen. Following are some of the reasons:
A. Position of Saturn at the time of birth: Position of Saturn at the time of birth is described in Janma Kundali. Janma Kundali is a very controversial topic. Though the use of it has not been proved scientifically, lots of people have very positive experiences. Therefore, lots of people still use Janma Kundali to solve their problems.
B. Cutting nails and hair on Saturday: This thing really seems to have no meaning. The hair and nails are living parts of our body. Therefore, this thing must have been spread.
C. Eating non-vegetarian food on Saturday: This has been done in particular to control the amount of non-veg food intake. Eating excessive non-veg food is not good for our health. Therefore, this superstition is there and it really helps control the intake of non-veg food.
2. Planet Mars: Position of planet Mars at the time of birth has been given a lot of importance, especially when it comes to marriage. If a girl or a boy has Mars in a specific position in Janma Kundali, it is considered very bad and that boy/girl needs to marry the boy/girl who has the same position of Mars in Janma Kundali. It is believed that if they do not do so, their spouse would die in the near future.
Because of this, some people do not find their partner and remain unmarried for the whole life. It is a really sad thing that just because of the position of a planet, somebody is not able to get married. There are thousands of people who die immediately after marriage even if they do not have Mars in Janma Patrika, then why should one worry about this thing.
3. No-moon Phase (Amavasya): The day of no-moon phase is considered as very inauspicious by Hindus. Some people avoid going to work on this day. People avoid starting new projects or buying new things on this day. They tie a lemon with seven chilies to their vehicles on this day. It is believed that evil forces are stronger on this day. Therefore, people avoid going out at night on this day.
We can see the influence of moon on sea in terms of tides. Therefore, it is quite possible that moon has some influence on human body also. It is observed that psychic people behave weirdly on this day. Moon certainly has some influence on these people. Even it is observed that crime rate increases on this day. So, I do not think this is a mere superstition and this needs to be studied further.
4. Running on burning coals: some people run on burning coals and claim that they are able to do so because of some supernatural powers. Actually, an average person can also do this if he knows the trick. Getting burnt or not depends on the time of contact between the skin and the heat. If you come in contact with heat for a very short period of time, you would not get burnt.
5. Body Piercing: some people pierce their bodies with long nails and needles and metal rods and claim to have divine powers. This is just a superstition and a normal person can do this with some practice and tricks.
6. Black Cat Crossing the Way: Actually, this superstition is not related to Hinduism in any way but it is a common superstition in India. If you are going for a particular work and if a black cat crosses your road horizontally, it is believed that the work would not get done at that time. Some people even abandon that work and decide to do it afterwards.
Many cultures believe that cats and dogs possess some kind of supernatural powers and can sense the danger in advance. But it has nothing to do with work. It is quite possible that they can sense something like earthquake or death of a person, but in relation to the work, I could not find any scientific base to it. It is just a superstition.
7. Eclipse: The solar and lunar eclipses are the natural phenomenon but Hindus believe this time as inauspicious time. People do not get out of their houses and prefer not to do any work during solar eclipse. Pregnant women are advised to not to do any work or even sleep during this time. It is believed that if you donate money, clothes, and/or grains during this time, it nullifies the effect of eclipse on our lives.
The possible explanation could be that in the ancient times, people were not aware about the scientific facts about eclipses. Hence, they were scared of this phenomenon. But as people have become aware of it, they now go out to watch the eclipses.
8. Sneezing: If you are going for an important work and someone sneezes near you, it is considered as an omen.
Sneezing is a natural thing and it is very hard to stop it voluntarily. So, I think it is just a superstition and there is no science in it. Actually, Hinduism has nothing to do with it but it is a common superstition in India.
9. Menstruation: In some Hindu families if a woman is menstruating, she is not allowed to do regular duties like cooking, worshiping, or to even touch the things where others would come in contact with. She has to spend the four to five days in a corner of the house doing little work like washing clothes and utensils or outside work. She is also not allowed to enter the temple.
This is not actually a superstition. The scientific reason behind this lies in Ayurveda. When a woman is menstruating, she bleeds a lot and becomes weaker. A lot of stress comes upon her uterus. In old days and now also, women used to do a lot of heavy work. If they continue to do heavy work during menstruation, it would cause extra stress on their uteri resulting in uterine cancer. Hence, they are not allowed to do much work during this time.
The reason behind not allowing women inside the temple is because this period is unhygienic for them. Hindus worship God in the form of an idol. These idols are believed to possess supernatural powers and extra care is taken to maintain their sacredness. If a menstruating woman comes in contact with it, its power decreases because of the lack of hygiene, as in ancient time, women used to wear clothes instead of sanitary napkins.
Some people would argue against this but this is what I think must have been the reason.
10. Cutting the nails at night and/or in home: Cutting the nails at night and/or in home is supposed to bring destitution on the person.
This superstition is not baseless. In the ancient times, there was no electricity and advanced instruments like nailcutters were not available. So, if someone cuts the nails at night, there were higher chances of cutting his/her finger. Therefore, it is not good to cut the nails at night.
If you cut the nails inside the house, there are chances that those broken nails might fall in the food and go in the stomach of the persons living in that house. It is also unhygienic to cut the nails inside the house as the nails are generally dirty. Hence, this superstition should be followed by everybody.
11. Entering the house after getting a haircut without having a bath:
If you enter the house without getting a bath after having a haircut, there would be more cockroaches in the house.
There is no connection between hair and cockroaches, so it is a superstition but if you do not have a bath and enter the house after having a haircut, the small hair on your body would fall in the house and may contaminate the water and/or food in your house. So, it is a good superstition.
If someone is having hiccups, it is believed that someone is remembering him/her. It is a general superstition and not related to Hinduism in any way.
Hiccup is a natural process which happens due to some problem in the digestive system. It can be cured with things found in the home like sugar, water, or with medications. Therefore, I think it is just a superstition.
13. Sweeping the house after the evening:
Sweeping the house in or after the evening is supposed to bring destitution.
The reason behind not sweeping the house in or after the evening is that in old days, there was no electricity. The light of a lamp was not good enough to see minute things on the floor. If any valuable is fallen on the ground, the chances were more for it to be swept along with the dust. Hence, it is advised to not to sweep house in the evening or at night.