Some Popular Superstitions:
Superstitions are common all over the world. However advanced a country may be, superstitions in one form or another still cling to it. Even so great Greek Philosophers as Plato and Socrates were affected by superstitions. The English still believe in magic and witchcraft.
India is a land of superstitions. From sneezing to an eclipse all things and actions are full of superstitions. It is commonly believed that fate, kismet or stars play an important part in human life.
Superstitions are of various types. Horoscopes are prepared at the births of children and they are supposed to map out their future. Certain dates, days and hours are auspicious, while others are inauspicious. The shaking caused by earthquakes and the bursting of volcanoes is explained away in a superstitious way. A large number of religious theories are current to justify the ways of God to man. Some superstitions are born out of the fear of Nature or God.
The progress of science and the advancement of learning has certainly helped in removing the clouds of superstitions to some extent. But superstitions have not been completely uprooted. Despite the spread of education superstitions still grow. The blind belief continues to co-exist along with scientific knowledge. All great men are guided by stars. Their desire to gain wealth, prosperity and fame makes them superstitious.
There are many sights and sounds that are lucky or unlucky depending upon the time or the circumstances of their observation. The sight of a full pitcher brings success while that of an empty one involves a man in difficulties. The sight of a monkey, a cat or a Brahmin early in the morning is considered most unlucky. To sneeze when a man is going to start some work or to call him back while he is going out, compels him to take a rest for some time in order to avoid ill luck. The sight of a sweeper or a corpse is a sure indication of success. For one going on a journey, the appearance of a water carrier is auspicious, while that of a naked head forbids evil.
Superstitions vary in their import and significance in different parts of India. The sight of a barber, a cobbler or an oilman is regarded auspicious in the U.P. but not in Punjab. On the other hand, the sight of a jackal is bad all over India. But if it turns back to look at you, it indicates good luck in Bengal. The sight of a brahmin, a monkey or a black cat does not bring ill luck in the South as it does in the North.
There are some superstitions that are common both in India and other parts of the world. The shooting of stars, the barking of dogs and the hooting of owls at night are ominous. Belief in ghosts and omens are also very common with this difference that Indian ghosts and witches have twisted feet and do not cast any shadow, and that Indian magicians can exorcise them from ruined building and old trees which are their favourite haunts.
The chief peculiarity of Indian superstitions is that they are closely allied to religion. The worship of trees, serpents, the sun, water and innumerable other animate and inanimate objects still persist here.
Superstitions have done great harm to us. They have warped our judgement and married our reasoning faculty. They have checked our material and moral progress. Indians have more faith in quacks than in doctors and medicines. The result is the loss of many valuable lives. Superstitions have their toil. Superstitions often excite excessive cruelty. Time was when many widows in India were burnt alive as Satis. Superstitions encourage fatalism (belief in fate) and destroy self-confidence.
Lastly, it may be pointed out that there are various other factors that promote superstitions. Undue reverence for tradition, too much credulity, judging divine things by human standards at the time of distress and calamities- all these favour superstitions. Ignorance feeds and nourishes them. Science and education remove them.