9 Indian Superstitions and the Scientific Reasons Behind Them

Superstitions are self-imposed beliefs, or sometimes widely believed blind notions of being. In practicality, most superstitions are nothing but rules and customs that were devised by our ancestors, who imparted ideas through the knowledge of their experiences. As a warning, or as a way of instilling a habit for the welfare of the community, these superstitions found a place in the day-to-day lives of people. Consequently, with time, these scientific and practical logics were twisted to make unwanted social norms.

Below are 9 such beliefs with their scientific explanation:

1.Hanging lemon and chillies at the entrance of shops or new establishments

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Subhash Chatterji's World

Have you noticed a bunch of lemon and chillies hung by a cotton thread at the entrance of shops or homes? It is believed that the lemon and chillies ward off ‘the evil eye.’


Scientifically, the cotton thread which is pierced through the citrus lemon and the chillies forms a combination of chemicals which prevents insects and pesticides entering a space.


Also See | Bharud


2. Menstruating women are impure!

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Quora

In the year 2019, the Supreme Court of India gave a historic judgement of letting women inside the Sabrimala temple of Kerala. It smashed the age-old superstition that menstruating women should not be allowed to enter temples or auspicious physical spaces.


The reason behind this popular belief was most probably out of concern for the women of the household who had to travel long distances to visit the temple or were too much in pain to work in the kitchen. Somehow over time, it is considered as a mandatory custom in many homes, a clear misinterpretation.


3. Cutting fingernails or sweeping floors after sunset is not recommended

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Dharam Vigyaan

Dusting off shelves or walls, sweeping the floors or cutting finger nails after sunset is frowned upon by most Indian parents or grandparents. While getting yelled at for throwing away the wealth of our homes with the dust, we realise the science behind this blind belief.


In the time when there was no electricity, there were high chances of someone accidentally throwing away valuables while dusting or sweeping floors,. Therefore it was advised to clean the houses in daylight. Also, because of the same reason, it was feared hurting oneself with sharp objects while cutting nails, it was advised to finish off the chore before sunset.

4. Having curd and sugar before heading out

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Indian Express

Remember how before any important exam, test, or interview our mothers come with a small bowl of ‘dahi shakar’ (Curd with sugar)? The underlying motive of our mother’s belief is that curd brings luck for the day.


Though scientifically, in earlier times, important work required long journeys and with the atmospheric conditions of India, which are largely hot and humid, having a bowl full of curd kept the stomach cool. Further, sugar has glucose that provides the required energy to go through the day without feeling low or uneasy.


Also See | Lord Kamadeva


5. Sleeping with the head towards the north direction is not recommended

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Unsplash

Sleeping with the head towards the north brings mental illness or death! At least that's what our ancestors believe.


Astronomy explains that the symmetry of the magnetic fields of earth’s north pole and our body leads to erratic blood pressure levels and other internal issues. Therefore, it is advised to sleep with our heads in the southward direction.


6. Broken glass brings bad luck

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Unsplash

We are really careful while carrying things made of glass as we have heard that breaking of glass brings seven years of bad luck. This superstition has been borrowed from the Romans.

Earlier, glass was expensive and therefore as a way of caution a blind notion was circulated. Also, glass is a brittle object, and broken glass can lead to cuts in the body. Thus, for the same reason, breaking of glass must be avoided by any chance.

7. Not going out during solar eclipse

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: Unsplash

There are so many superstitions related to this occurring. From mystical happenings, getting blind to bringing death, solar eclipse is believed to cause all kinds of mishaps. Some people believe that this is because the Sun is swallowed by a demon during this time. Many Indians don’t even prefer to cook or eat during a solar eclipse. Pregnant women are especially advised to not step out during this phenomenon to protect their yet to be born babies from getting any skin diseases.


The only logical explanation to this very scientific occurrence is that the Ultraviolet rays from the Sun are the strongest during this time and are extremely harmful for the body. Thus, should be avoided.


Also See | Poems by Bahadur Shah Zafar


8. Adding one rupee extra in the gift amount

Indian Superstitions
Image Source: India Mart

As a blessing, gifts in the form of money are given to friends and relatives. It is a popular practice to add one rupee extra to the amount we are gifting which are mostly amounts ending with zeroes in the unit digit.


This superstition must have had a mathematical genius behind it. The numbers whose unit digit ends with 1 are indivisible and therefore, it is wished that the gift amount never returns us with the value zero. Interesting, isn’t it!


9. Avoiding Peepal tree at night

Indian-Superstitions
Image Source: India Today

Peepal trees provide shade to passers-by. However, in most rural areas, Peepal tree is still considered to attract evil spirits around it, especially at night. Hence, it is advised not to rest or even go near a Peepal tree after sunset.


The scientific reason behind it is that trees, unlike in the day, give out carbon dioxide at night. Inhaling the same can cause breathing problems, suffocation etc. Therefore, we can say that it is advisable to avoid all trees and not just Peepal at night.

Most superstitions in India and the world have scientific reasoning hidden behind layers of interpretations that have changed with time. This change in interpretations has resulted in various social atrocities in the society, like witch-hunting, ostracising people, confining women in small and dingy rooms during their menstrual period, etc.


Throughout history and continuing to contemporary times, there are innumerable examples of social evils being practised widely. Hence, spreading awareness and scientific knowledge is essential in influencing change in the society and more importantly the perspectives of people.


Also See | Thiba Palace


Pratha Shailaja Sarangi

Author

Shailaja Sarangi

Pratha Content Writing Intern