-Dhriti Murthy

Do not open an umbrella in the house, do not trim your nails at night, and do not walk under a ladder! No, your grandparents didn’t write this. Since time immemorial, superstitions have been passed down from generation to generation with an improvisation that suits them best. Superstitious beliefs or behaviors arising from an environment derived stimulus of fear, uncertainty, or unpredictable situations help us to overcome such situations. Although superstition is not founded on scientific judgments, it exists in almost every human culture. They were ploys to get wilful kids and adults to follow rules. But on close observation, you can see that some of them are based on science and sheer common sense. Don’t open umbrellas at night because lack of light might hurt someone while opening it; so will trimming nails at night and walking under a ladder. See, they weren’t wrong! So what if we told you that our ancestors’ superstitions also covered sustainability even before it became an official thing. Yes, it is true. Much before the concept of sustainability was known to millennials, our ancestors took care of it and made sure that they were religiously followed. Here are 7 superstitions to blow your mind – 7 for you know, good luck?

  1. Worshipping cows: Cow, river, and the soil are termed as Devi (Female Deity) and are endowed the status of a mother in the Hindu scriptures, which is religiously followed till today. Cow’s milk is a good source of protein and calcium, as well as nutrients including vitamin B12 and iodine whereas, the addition of cow dung increases the mineral status of soil, enhances the resistance of plant against pests and diseases; stimulate plant growth and other beneficial activities such as sulfur oxidation and phosphorus solubilization. Cow’s urine increases the nitrogen content of the soil, for better rearing of honey bees, hasten the pubertal age of the heifers exposed to bull’s urine, and as pesticide and larvicide for the fodder crops. 
  2. Tulsi: Holy Basil or Tulsi is a sacred plant grown in almost every Hindu household for good luck. But ingesting Basil can be used to cure fever, reduce weight, treat asthma,  headaches, and many other ailments. Tulsi gives out oxygen for 20 hours and ozone for four hours a day along with the formation of nascent oxygen which absorbs harmful gases like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide from the environment.
  3. Fasting: This boosts cognitive performance, protects from obesity and associated chronic diseases, reduces inflammation, and in general improves overall fitness. Happier intestines, here we come.
  4. Skipping meat: Meat-eating is looked down upon in religious households till today as it is believed to be against nature to hunt. But skipping meat intake lowers our carbon footprint and reduces the load on your stomach to break down complex carbs and proteins. It also lowers the risk of heart diseases and hypertension to a large extent. Skipping meat twice a week also results in the same benefits in smaller magnitudes. We got you, meat lovers!
  5. Charcoal powder and neem sticks: This is still practiced in rural areas. In the early 70s, scientists claimed that charcoal is abrasive on teeth and that its usage must be prohibited. But recent studies have completely negated the former claim by introducing charcoal-based toothpaste. Charcoal removes plaque and has antibacterial properties respectively. Using these as alternatives to toothbrushes and paste not only saves money but also keeps non-biodegradable waste in check. Plus, who doesn’t want to look like Ross?
  6. Coconut trees: Coconut trees are still believed to be auspicious. The raw materials derived from it serve numerous purposes; from their fibers being woven into ropes to their fruits being savored as a snack. Talk about multi-functional. 
  7. Reusing old clothes: It is an ancient belief that using items/clothes of our ancestors brings us good luck and prosperity they had. But practically speaking, this reduces the generation of waste, saves money, cuts back on vital energy spent, and reduces greenhouse gases. Seems like vintage style is the new black. 

Superstitions are a legacy that may differ from place to place, community to community, and country to country, yet have common origins. Some of them overwhelm us with unnecessary anxiety and fear and often end up clouding our judgment while some of them may be beneficial. Of late they are gradually losing ground with the advancement of rationality, scientific approach to things, and globalization of the world, yet, they may not be eradicated for a long time. The purpose of education is to reduce the area of darkness and instill among people courage, self-confidence, and thereby free the society from the tyranny of superstitions. What about you, are you superstitious or just a little stitious like our dear Michael Scott? 

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