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  ‼  Aum, Asato maa sadgamaya, Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya  ‼  
     

 

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 deity.

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 farming.

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, Jesus’ betrayer.

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 amongst Gods.

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 nail growth.

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 earth.

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 easier.

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 person.

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 spiritual.

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.

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