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Logical Explanations Behind Common Indian Superstitions

‘Truth’ or ‘Mumbo Jumbo’, whatever you call it, superstitions have existed for centuries and have affected our lives in one way or the other. With the advancement in science, people began questioning superstitions and began searching for reasonable logic behind them. Here are some explanations for the most common Indian superstitions.

1.Cat crossing your path is bad luck

In olden days, people used to travel in bullock carts with just a kerosene lantern. When passing through the forest at night, the glowing eyes of large carts like leopards, cheetahs and tigers used to scare the domesticated animals and they would start acting chaotic. This is why travelling parties stopped on their path, helped the animals to distress and then only continue their journey. Travelers shared their hard encounters and advised others not to continue travel while the cats are crossing the streets and over the span of time the cat crossings got live and the people forget forest cats and took the domestic cats instead.

2. Don’t sweep the house after sunset

A common superstition in India is that if you sweep your house after sunset Lakshmi—the goddess of wealth—will be swept away from the house. This myth has a logical reason behind its existence. Back in the days, the dim kerosene lamp was not enough to spot gold ornaments that might have fallen on the floor. There was high chance of the ornaments being swept away along with the dust. This is why it was advised that sweeping be done during daylight.

3. Hanging lemon and chillies on entrances

This superstition is followed because Alakshmi, goddess of misfortune, loves sour, pungent and hot food. After eating her favorite delicacy at the door, the goddess will turn away from the shop hence preventing bad luck from entering. But the scientific explanation for this is that the cotton thread used to pierce the lemon and chilies absorb the acid, vitamin c and nutrients from the assortment. The nutrients are then vaporized into the air; it is said to have numerous health benefits from humans.  The odor is also said to keep pest and insects away, making it a natural pesticide.

4. Don’t cut your hair on Tuesdays

In past days, the main occupation of most people in India was farming. Following a week of diligent work on the farm, Monday was their resting day. Typically greater part of them cleaned their homes and trim their hair on that day. So the Barber wouldn’t have much to manage Tuesdays and would close his shop. This training is proceeded till date however the purpose for it is totally overlooked and misguided.

5. Opening an umbrella indoors is inauspicious

If someone tells you not to open an umbrella ‘just because superstition’, know that this belief originated a long time back when umbrellas were built with hard metal spokes and spring triggers, which could be risky to open. Opening an umbrella indoor would result in danger of fragile objects breaking or hurting another person in the room. This evolved into “bad luck” because injuries and broken objects were regularly followed by the umbrella’s opening.

6. Cutting your nails after sunset invites evil spirits to the house

It is believed that evil spirits will attack you in the darkness of night if you cut your nails after sunset. But the real reason behind this is the absence of electricity in the old days. Cutting your nails in the dim kerosene light would lead to cuts.

7. Breaking a mirror brings 7 years of misfortune

In the olden days, mirrors were expensive yet easily defected. To avoid people from being negligent when near mirrors, our ancestors devised a scare tactic saying that breaking a mirror will bring 7 years of bad luck. Why seven years? The length of the prescribed misfortune came from the ancient Roman belief that it took seven years for life to renew itself.

8. Always bathe after attending a funeral

A dead person’s body begins to decompose in a matter of minutes after death. And when you attend a funeral, you are exposed to the germs, bacteria and the chemicals released by the body and present in the air due to decomposition. Taking a bath would prevent the germs from entering the house or your own body.

9. A bat entering the house is a bad omen

An  old myth exists that goes like this: if a bat enters the house or flies around the house for three times or more, death comes upon a member of the household. The real reason bad entering the house is considered a bad omen is because Bats transmitted diseases like Rabies, Nipah, Hendra and, back in the days, were no medicines for these diseases.

10. Lizard falling on someone is unlucky

A lizard falling on a person is considered bad luck because lizards secrete natural poisonous chemicals to protect themselves from predators. If the lizard falls on a body part or in containers used to store food, infection might be spread inside the human body.

11. Twitching of the eye

Depending on the culture, twitching of the eye either a bad or a good omen. It also depends on which side the twitching eye is and sometimes take into account the gender of the person too. Eye twitching or the sudden involuntary movement or spasms in the eyelids is a common condition. However, the twitching of the eye might me an indication of some problem inside the body, which is of course a bad thing. This might be why it is considered bad omen.

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