In my twenties, I got attracted towards Rationalism. Armed with a medical degree and seeing the prevalence of superstitions in our society, the young doctor in me asked why there was such a lack of scientific temper in our Indian society.
I came across rationalist Basva Premanand – founder of Indian CSICOP- who had been tirelessly working to expose the ‘miracles’ done by Hindu fake babas and gurus. His famous act was waving a hand and producing ash and then would explain to the crowd how babas fake it. Mr. Premamnad is no more, but I admire what he did to educate the public about scientific temperament. In 1999 when Premanand was on a visit to North India, I personally invited him to Hansi where we had a public show organized for him. He delighted the crowd with his witty acts of eating fire, producing ‘sacred ash’ by waving his hand and ‘piercing’ his tongue with a trident.
I also got associated with Haryana Gyan Vigyan Manch (HGVM) which is doing an excellent job to create a scientific temperament in the society. I read a few books by Abraham T Kovoor (1898 -1978) -a well-known rationalist in Indian sub continent who was born in Kerala and later migrated to Sri Lanka. Kovoor was a Botanist by profession and took to the cause of creating scientific temperament in his life time with a missionary zeal. I read with interest the work of atheists like Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (famously known as Gora), founder of Atheist Circle. I remember having organized a seminar on Abraham Kovoor in Sun Flag Hospital in Faridabad where I was working as a resident doctor that time (around 1997).
As I delved more into the circle of rationalists, I came across some other prominent personalities like Narendra Nayak and Sanal Edamaruku. Narendra Dhabolkar of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti was assassinated in 2013 by some unidentified fanatics.
Given my medical education with an in-depth understanding of molecular biology, and genetics, rationalism was a perfect match for me. However, what I noted gradually was that our Indian rationalists had a particular appetite for criticizing everything Hindu, but would not utter a single word against Islam and Christianity. In a country where the large majority is Hindu, naturally, the bulk of irrational or superstitious practices would emanate from Hindu society and it was absolutely justified to educate the public about the fakery. But it became clear that our Indian rationalists and their mission did not want to touch the fakery that Christian preachers would undertake in public meetings. They had a selective affinity to denounce Hinduism. Sanal Edamaruku is surely an exception in this regard. But then he has been chased out of India by Christian fanatics. He is currently in an exile in Finland.
Christian faith healers are suddenly active in Punjab and Haryana states in India trying to win the gullible… https://t.co/itLwCfWGer
Obviously, I left the organized Rationalist movement soon after, even though at heart I am still a rationalist. Today, I come to know that Gauri Lankesh was a rationalist. That explains it all. In India, Rationalists = Left Loonies.
The Bangalore -based Gauri Lankesh who was killed in daylight was a rationalist. As the media reports are coming out, it seems that she was a ‘Comrade’. And she was an open critic of Hindutva.
This is the single most reason why organized rationalism movement has failed to expand in India. The Communists ( famously called Lal Langoors) have infiltrated it. Needless to say, the idea of rational thinking and scientific temper is not the trade mark of this fading tribe.
In my 20s, I was a Rationalist. I figured out that they criticize everything Hindu, but not a single word against Islam & Christianity.
The media reports also quoted her brother Indrajit saying that Gauri Lankesh did not believe in any religion and she was a rationalist. He is quoted as saying that they would not go against her ideologies during her funeral.
And her body was lowered into a grave. This ‘grave’ word surprised me. However, some one messaged me saying Lingayats are buried.
Have you ever seen a witch, dressed in black from head to toe with long glittery nails roaming the streets? Or how about that ghost in tattered clothes and a wooden stick in place of one leg? No, I am not talking about some movie plot, I am talking about all the Halloween things!
Halloween is pretty new to the Indian culture, with the festival garnering interest only in recent years. However, it still is only an attraction only in metro cities wherein you might find people dressed in scary costumes to get into the spirit of Halloween.
Origin of Halloween
The Halloween party culture was never really just that; the origin of Halloween traces its roots in the Festival of Samhain, which was celebrated among the Celts based in ancient Britain and Ireland more than 2000 years ago.
Summers recede by November 1 when in the previous times, the herds from pastures returned and land tenures were renewed. But that was not all that came with the winters. The Celts believed that it was during this time that the dead souls returned to visit their homes and families.
Did you know Halloween is a 2000-year-old festival?
According to tradition, people would visit each other’s houses and beg for ‘soul cakes’ – this is where the tradition of trick or treat came into being. If they were given a ‘soul cake’, they would then pray for the giver’s dead ancestors.
Origin of Halloween has been associated with several superstitions and religious beliefs. Superstitions are a part of common culture, and they grow as traditions and societies grow. Consequently, people began lighting fires and carved faces on turnips and made lanterns out of them to ward off the evil forces that might try to possess them. Furthermore, Celts began the act of guising (the word ‘disguise’ emerged from this); wearing costumes resembling the dead, so that the spirits consider them as one of their own and leave them alone.
In medieval Britain, the culture was to move from door to door asking for food. In return, a prayer was made for the dead. These people would also carry hollowed turnips as a lantern. The candle in the middle was believed to be symbolic of a dead soul trapped in purgatory. Superstitions governed that the candle and its fire was to scare the evil forces away.
It was in North America in the 1800’s when turnips were replaced by pumpkins for the mere reason that they were available in large quantities and were easier to hollow out and carve.
Did you know Halloween was originally the time when dead souls returned to ‘visit’ their homes and families?
The festival gradually entered the American culture in the mid-19th century when an increasing number of European immigrants began settling in the USA. These immigrants that also comprised of people from Ireland brought their local traditions and Halloween costumes that were then adopted by the American population as new customs.
It was by the middle of the 20th century that Halloween became a widely celebrated holiday.
Pumping carving is one of the most common and famous Halloween traditions. The pumpkins with the demonic face carved on it are what is called the ‘Jack-o-lanterns’.
Legend has it that a man named Stingy Jack repeatedly trapped the Devil and allowed to let him go on the condition that Jack would never go to Hell. Upon his death, Jack found that Heaven did not want his soul due to his devilish dealings, upon which he was left on the Earth as a ghost for eternity.
It was then that the Devil gifted Jack a lump of burning coal to light his way, which Jack carried everywhere inside a hollowed out turnip.
Consequently, locals began hollowing out and carving demonic faces on turnips, and consequently pumpkins to guard themselves against evil spirits like Jack of the Lantern.
The Ghost Costumes
Another Halloween traditions that make the festival so unique are the ghostly costumes. Since the dead souls were believed to roam on the Earth during Samhain, the Celts began the act of disguise. They began to dress themselves up in similar ghoulish attire to be mistaken for the spirits themselves and be left alone.
Trick or Treat
There are multiple arguments that trace the rationale behind the popular ‘trick or treat’ Halloween traditions. A popular belief is that the practice stems from the act of guising, also understood as selling. In the middle ages, Celt’s children would go from door to door asking for food and uttered a prayer in return. Eventually, the prayer was replaced by other less-religious activities like a song, joke, poem, etc.
According to some believers, the modern day ‘trick or treat’ tradition traces its roots in belsnickling, a tradition followed in German-American communities where the children would disguise themselves in different attires and have the adults in the neighborhood guess their identities. The children were then rewarded with gifts or food if nobody could identify them.
Cats are unpredictable and have a royal appeal. Their mystical vibe makes them all the more attractive. Black cats are known to have a spooky connotation since the middle ages when they were considered as a symbol and ally of the Devil. Centuries later, alleged witches were often found to house cats, especially the black ones as companions.
This prompted people to think of them as allies, who then believed that cats assist witches in their ‘black magic’ and possessed some mysticism themselves. The two have been linked ever since.
Things To Do On Halloween
Are you an adult to is too old for a trick and treating and wondering what to do on Halloween? Or are you new to the Halloween stuff?
Did you know initially, turnips were hollowed out and used in place of pumpkins?
We have a fun and easy to execute list of things to do on Halloween,
Are you a horror movie geek? Or do you belong to the category who watches horror movies with the lights on? Either way, with or without company, a horror movie marathon will seem like a good idea to spend Halloween. It is going to be all the more fun when you know there are spirits (and people dressed up as spirits) roaming outside.
There is nothing ghostly in this, but there are going to be twists and turns and alleged blood. For those of you who are not into ghost stories, playing a crime-related game would be a good idea! More recently, gaming spaces like the ‘mystery rooms’ have come up in different cities wherein you are locked inside a room with your forced and have to solve a murder mystery to escape. Sounds exciting? Then you must give it a try
Bake A Dessert
Because who doesn’t like desserts? You can always experiment with the designs and the ingredients. How about some blueberry cookies in the shape of a happy face with chocolate oozing out of hollows that look like eyes and strawberry syrup for the mouth?
Or how about some candy cake with a multitude of flavors and colors?
The festival is indeed meant for ghosts and spirits but who can say no to some sweet tooth cravings? How about some sugar coma?