HINDU CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS
- WHAT THEY
DENOTE Page Two
We Hindus have so many
Gods to choose from and that to a lot of people is confusing.
I, however, believe that
each God appeals to a certain characteristic in a person. Hence If your
personality is inclined towards Duty as the main requisite for spiritual
advancement your deity would probably be Sri Rama or if you are playful yet
intellectual and loving who but Lord Krishna? To a warrior Durga Mata would
appeal and to an ascetic, Lord Siva.
Each day of the week is
consecrated to a certain God or Deity. Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Tuesday to Ganapathy, Thursday to Goddess Laxmi, Friday to Santoshi Mata and
Lalsai, Saturday to Hanuman.
Different families observe
different days to fast and say their prayers depending upon their personal
During medieval times even
the Northern Europeans had consecrated each day of the week to a certain God.
Sunday as the name itself
states was dedicated to the Sun.
Northern Europeans’ name
for the moon was ‘Mona’ hence Monday. Tuesday was dedicated to the God of
war Tiw, Wednesday to the God Woden. Hence Wednesday is spelt with ‘D’
silent. Thursday for the God ‘Thor’ who the northern Europeans believed was
responsible for lightning and thunder. Friday was dedicated to the Gentle
Goddess "Frigg’ who had a control over nature, love and marriage.
Saturday was the day of Saturn, which the Romans believed was the god of
Not so long ago, amongst
the Hindus it was part of the early morning spiritual to give water to the Sun.
The ladies would raise their cupped hands full of water and quench the sun’s
thirst, so to speak. Needless to say the earth’s gravitational pull would
prove stronger and the earth would get the water instead. However, in the
process the ladies eyes benefited. Looking at the sun’s early morning rays
through the film of water which would fall from their cupped hands, their eyes
would become stronger and brighter.
Our elders repeatedly tell
us not to cut our nails at night. During the old days there used to be no
electricity. If you cut your nails you might just hurt yourself.
We were also told not to
sweep at night as otherwise Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) would leave! How literally
true that is Again because of no electricity, chances are that you might just
sweep off something of tremendous value that may have been dropped during the
day, and would you not call that Laxmi leaving?
There are two beliefs to
what happens when you jingle keys. One is that thieves will come. True, since
you are tempting them. Another is that you will probably have a fight-again
true-if you don’t believe it, try jingling keys and making a racket while
somebody in your family is trying to rest!
Superstition finds a place
not only within Indian culture, but also within the western world.
Amongst the western
superstitions the most common is the no. 13. In its original form it was
considered unlucky to seat 13 at a table because of its association with the
last supper when Christ and his apostles were present including Judas Iscariot,
13 at a table had proved
unlucky earlier than Christianity. In Norse mythology, 13 Gods were at the table
when the spirit of strife appeared, fought and killed Baldur who was a favourite
Touching wood for luck
originates from the early belief that every tree was inhabited by a certain God.
They would touch the tree for luck or protection. Now, since there are no trees
in easy reach the people touch wood and some even touch their head, considering
in good humour, that their brain is a block of wood!
It has been considered
unlucky to walk under ladders for fear that a tool or a pot of paint may fall
upon your head. Some Christians considered it a blasphemy, as they believed that
the person was breaking the triangle (Christian symbol of Trinity).
Yet others were reminded
of the gallows, when the person convicted would drop from the ladder to the
ropes and to their death.
Spilling salt has always
been considered unlucky because it was used for preserving meat during winter.
We have from times
immemorial been interested in trying to tap the unknown and we have tried to
dolt through palmistry, Astrology etc.
Each person has an
exclusive pattern in his hands consisting of loops and arches and according to
palmists it is scientifically explainable.
Nerves terminate in the
dermis layer of the skin, so whenever our hand touches fire, an automatic nerve
activity is produced. Warning is then sent to the brain and the brain sends back
a split instant order to remove the hand from danger.
Similarly in the hand
there are millions of nerve endings. Each nerve ending corresponding nerve fibre
ends in some part of the brain.
In the case of shock or
excessive joy a disturbance is caused in the cerebral cells. The nerve fibres in
that particular portion of the brain react and so do the corresponding nerve
endings in the hand by contracting or expanding and causing a minute indentation
caused by the violent emotion.
Thus lines are formed. The
emotional impulses are shown in the formation of the heart line and the logical
abilities in those of the head line.
The health of the subject
can also be determined by a look at the hand.
The distribution of the
ridges is determined by the arrangement of nerve endings and sweat glands.
Certain toxins will cause abnormal opening of the sweat glands and so may cause
alterations in the actual formation of the ridges.
Chemical deficiency is the
fundamental cause of most diseases and these produce various malformations of
Besides, doctors now
believe that there is a very close connection between most skin diseases (like
acne, dermatitis, warts) and mental states.
Astrology is based on the
presumption that celestial bodies have an effect on life and events here on
I have mentioned earlier
that the moon has an effect on the fluid in our bodies there by having an effect
on our emotions.
Similarly we also tend to
respond to changes the sun produces in the earth’s magnetic field.
Certain critics are forced
to admit that the position of certain planets in our solar system at the time of
birth has something to do with the profession of the child follows in future.
It is possible that at the
moment of our birth the position of different planets does have an impact on us,
forming our character, mode of behavior and thereby our destiny.
The position of the
planets, maybe symbolic of some much larger cosmic pattern of energy in the
cosmos, of which the planets and the earth are just parts.
There are some people who
are able to tell a person’s character just by looking at his face or physical
structure. This is called physiognomy.
We all know that the
physical attributes of a man are related to the climate in which he lives.
People who live near the equator are dark skinned so that their pigment protects
the deeper layers of their skin from the scorching sun. Whereas people living in
colder climates have a fairer skin so that they may take full advantage of the
sun to form vitamin D in their skins.
The Eskimos are short and
fat to conserve heat since they live in the colder regions of the earth whereas
the Africans are tall and thin as this gives them more body area to lose heat
It is however also
reasonable to deduce that just like the physique of a man is related to the
environment in which he lives so certain features are formed denoting his
characteristics. Emotions do play a part in the formation of the features of a
Generalisations have been
made in which it is claimed that a dimple in the chin indicates a friendly and
warm disposition, thick eyebrows indicate a person who can be trusted, etc..
The above is debatable:
however the beauticians tell us that to keep our skin young and away from
wrinkles we ought to massage our face with an upward motion.
A cheerful disposition and
an optimistic attitude does that to your face naturally. Sulking and being
resentful has the opposite effect as the chin muscles sag and frowning brings
wrinkles near the forehead.
Indians have always been
inclined towards people with psychic powers like clairvoyance. Intuition,
telepathy etc., and devout Hindus tend to worship such characters as divine
human beings with God-given gifts.
The scientists are doing
research into the reasons why and the manners by which these feats are
accomplished but they have not been able to reach any conclusive deduction;
however they agree that the above qualities stem from the subconscious mind and
it is proven that we use only a minute part of the enormous brain of unlimited
capacity that we possess.
As a matter of fact,
according to Lyall Watson ‘We are like a small family of squatters who have
taken over a vast place but find no need to move beyond the comfortable,
serviced apartment in one corner of the basement."
Coming back to the psychic
powers, though these may be gifts, achieved due to spiritual advancement and the
practice of yoga, more often than not, they are just techniques which have been practiced
diligently and acquired, and may have nothing to do with spiritual advancement.
As a matter of fact,
though these people with miraculous powers may have learned something of amazing
scientific and psychological interest they may have even regressed in the path
of love, if ego has come in with the performance of these extraordinary feats.
These people forget the
greatest miracle that life itself is, and tend to make spiritual things
material; while a truly spiritual man always looks at material things as
Coleridge states that in
everything spiritual there is an element of beauty which is truth, and which we
find in faith but which is lacking in fanaticism and superstition.
Besides the beliefs that
have been mentioned already, there seem to be other superstitions that seemingly
make no sense. Those customs, I believe, do not stem from the Vedic period but
have been relatively recent additions with no scientific foundation whatsoever.