‘Customs’ Vs ‘Scientific Reasons’.
India is a country that prevails from one of the oldest known civilizations in the world. Located in the southern Asian subcontinent, India has the second largest population in the world. Indian population contains people from diverse backgrounds and customs. India is a secular state, where in every one has a fundamental right to “freedom of religion”. India hosts the world’s largest Muslim and Hindu population. Today India is the world’s largest democratic country. With people from varied backgrounds living in the same country, India customs and traditions are infinite to describe.
I am a proud Indian who has been brought up along with various Indian customs and traditions followed by my family. We are too young to question these customs and traditions early in our childhood days. But as we grow up, we tend to start questioning most of the routine customs and traditions that we are asked to follow. I always believed that “Necessity is mother of Invention”. Nothing could have become a tradition or custom without having significance. My article tries to list down the customs and the possible scientific reasons and significance the customs carry with them.
Most of the Indian customs and traditions are derived from our ancestors. India has a very long history dating back to thousands of years. Education in ancient times was derived from the elders and preceptors of a family. Traditions and customs were taught at a very young age and followed as part of life. Due to colonization of India over a period of time, different customs and traditions had to co-exist with each other. Most of Indian population lived in villages having agriculture as their main profession. Until post independent times when Education became a necessity, customs and traditions were followed strictly by most Indian families.
Education brings about a transformation in every Individual. We learn to question, reason and understand what ever we intend to do. It may be very common experience for today’s young generation to question our elders when we are asked to follow a custom or tradition. But if we try and figure out the real intention behind what we are being asked to do, we would learn that our forefathers were as educated as we are today. Most of the answers can be got from the elders in the family. Try to get your doubts answered by your grandmother or grandfather. You may be thrilled and happy to know the real intention of the customs we follow in our day to day lives.
I have listed down a few Indian Customs/Traditions along with the possible scientific reason with which I got convinced with. All the reasoning used in this article is solely my thoughts and my understanding of the Indian customs. I have no intention in denying any other interpretation of the same custom or tradition discussed in this article.
Custom 1: “Throwing Currency Coins into a River” Many of us would have noticed our co-passengers throwing coins into rivers especially when traveling over river bridges.
Possible Reason: The general reasoning given for this act is that, it brings Good Luck back to us. It is also believed that it will bring back Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi to our households.
Scientific Reason: In the ancient times, most of the currency used was made of copper unlike the stainless steel coins of today. Most of us even know of the ANNAs (made of copper) which were used in the pre-independent times. Copper is a vital metal very useful to the human body. The intake of copper with water is very good for health. Throwing coins in the river was one way our fore-fathers ensured we intake sufficient copper as part of the water. Rivers were the only source of drinking water. Making it a custom by saying it will bring good fortune to us has ensured that all of us follow the good practice.
Custom 2: “Joining both palms together to greet others”
In Hindu culture, I have seen people greeting others by joining their palms together. This is termed as “Namaskar” as per Hindu traditions. This is the most common way of greeting others.
Possible Reason: The general reason that would be given is that greeting elders and others by joining both the palms is the way of respect given to them.
Scientific Reason: While greeting others, we join both the hands together. Joining both hands ensures joining the tips of all the fingers together; which are denoted to the pressure points of eyes, ears, and mind. Pressing them together is said to activate the pressure points. This helps us to remember the person for a long time.
Custom 3: “Applying Tilak on the forehead”
Tilak is a ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing, greeting or auspiciousness. Applying Tilak on the forehead is a very important and mandatory ritual custom followed by the Hindus. Women should always put this tilak at the center of the forehead, the place in between the two eyebrows. Many of the males belonging to the orthodox communities would also put tilak on their foreheads.
Possible Reason: Hinduism is very much concerned about this custom and I myself faced a great opposition from my family members if I have not put tilak by mistake. This is considered as a evil practice if women do not put tilak.
Scientific Reason: The tilak is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration. This spot present in between the eyebrows is said to have the nerve connection to the brain. And putting tilak in this spot regularly would stimulate this spot and helps us to have good concentration and mental concentration.
Custom 4: “Tying Mango and Neem Leaves to the doors on auspicious days”
Possible Reason: The general reason given for this act is that tying mango and neem leaves would not allow the evil powers to enter the house.
Scientific Reason: On auspicious days and on special occasions, all of us gather at one place along with our relatives and friends. Photosynthesis is a process where in plants take in carbon-di-oxide and give out oxygen. This process helps in circulation of oxygen and in turn keeps the room temperature at an optimum level. Mango leaves and neem leaves are very effective in the photosynthesis process comparative to other plants. Neem leaves purify the bacteria too. In order to keep the temperature cool and to circulate air, we tie mango leaves and neem leaves to all the doors.
Custom 5: “Why do women apply turmeric paste to their foot and legs.”
Possible Reason: The general reason that is given for turmeric application is that it is a to be done act by women.
Scientific Reason: Women traditionally used to perform many household duties which involved bringing water from the river, cleaning the house with water, washing clothes, and cooking. Most of the houses were made of mud and clay which were soaked in water at regular intervals for cleaning purposes. All these activities required women step into/on water. In order to prevent their feet and legs from the bacterial and fungus infections; they were advised to apply turmeric paste to their legs. In today’s medicine we all know that turmeric is an very good antiseptic agent. Our forefathers knew this too and therefore they used turmeric extensively in their day to day lives.
Custom 6: “Madi while cooking”
“Madi” is a process in which an individual cleans himself and dresses himself into a traditional costume to perform an activity like cooking or any other religious activities. This custom is still prevalent in many orthodox families. This custom is commonly followed by Brahmin community in India.
Scientific Reason: Madi is a process of purifying the physical body before undergoing any sort of actions like cooking, religious rituals. It is always good to be clean before cooking to avoid any sort of bacteria and germs entering the food. So our ancestors have introduced a custom, called Madi. But in the recent times, it has been noticed that this custom has misinterpreted by treating people who are not in Madi as un-touchables.
Custom 7: “Raangoli in the month of December.”
It is one of the common custom followed by everyone with full of enthusiasm and interest. The home makers and the kids would involve putting rangoli in the month of Deccember, with the mix of rice powder.
Scientific Reason: In India, the month of December, it is a bit cold month comparative to the whole year. And the small insects and ants that live in the soil would not have food for the winter. Indian tradition of India tells us to help others and not to harm, even knowingly or unknowingly. Inorder to help the small insecticides, we would put rangoli on the floor, with rice powder. This would help them in providing food for the winter.
Custom 8: “Women Staying away from rituals during menstrual cycle.”
Women under menstruation are asked to remain indoors and restricted from performing most of their daily activities as a custom in many Indian traditional families.
Scientific Reason: This is probably one of the most misinterpreted customs that prevails in many traditional families. During menstruation women undergo both physical and emotional changes and may not be ready for rituals that required concentration and strength for execution. Women in the ancient times used to do a lot work that required a ritual to be completed. This custom was to ensure that women under menstruation are given rest during rituals. Over time this has been misinterpreted by many that women under menstruation are to stay away from rituals since it brings ill effects to the ritual.
Custom 9: “Why do elders rotate crystal salt, lemon around head?”
Most of the time, I see my maternal grand mother taking crystal salt or lemon and revolve around us, her grand children saying“Drishti”, evil eye. She always does this when I visit her.
Possible Reason: “Dristhi” is stated as an evil eye on the person who feels jealous about others. It is believed that if a person gets “Dristi”, he would be ruined or would fell sick due to the evil eye. As a cure and remedy to this evil eye, elders take dristhi by revolving salt or lemon around the person.
Scientific Reason: Salt can be considered as the first antibiotic. Not only that, the salty and acidic substances would less affect the magnetic field. Keeping these properties if lemon and salt in mind, we revolve salt and lemon around the person.
The salt and lemon when revolved around, it would kill all the bacteria around the person. It forms an aura layer of antibiotics around the person. Not only has this, revolving around the person balance the magnetic field too. This would make the person affected with dristi feel better.
I have stated some of the customs and traditions that have scientific reason. There is no intension to hurt any of the religious believes. These are my personal feelings and views.