Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
A fine summer morning in Rome a 69 year old man, in a pitiable state of bodily indisposition,was put on trial at the Inquisition Headquarters; and under threat of torture , imprisonment and even burning at the stake, was being forced on his knees to “abjure, curse and detest “ a lifetime of brilliant and dedicated thought and labour . The book which bore testimony to his excellence , “ THE DIALOGUE CONCERNING THE TWO CHIEF WORLD SYSTEMS” which was at the heart of the trial , found its place in the INDEX LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM, the index of banned books, maintained by the Inquisition.
It was 22 June , 1633 and the famous Italian astronomer , physicist ,engineer, philosopher and mathematician Galileo Galilei was being charged with “vehement suspicion of heresay “ by the Catholic Church . He had to renounce “with sincere heart and unfeigned faith “ his support of “ heliocentric theory” put forward by Nicholas Copernicus in the 16th century, who himself had narrowly escaped a disastrous fate due to his death before his book got published but the book could not be saved from the brutalities of the orthodox church.
Back in 21st Century a young unmarried lady with her mother, a married woman accompanied by her an aged lady probably mother or MIL,a pregnant lady basking in the glory of impending motherhood, a young bereft lad queue up outside a posh office as a man adorning a saffron robe with a rudraksh neckpiece makes his grand entry and the entire crowd stands up in reverence.
The young unmarried lady cannot find herself a respectable groom, might be the planets are playing havoc; the married woman is unable to step into motherhood as her stars are faulty; the pregnant lady needs assurance of a male heir, hence needs to reposition the constellations; the young lad is jobless, a little twitch of in his planetary alignments would be welcome. Riddled with their problems they deposit the dakshina at the counter and enter the auspicious room one by one only to come back with a prescription of colourful stones like sapphire, coral, cat’s eye, emerald etc in specific weights that needed to be worn to ward off their troubles.
As one hears the cry of a newborn , the date and time are noted and a run is made to the astrologer’s office to decide the child’s future and try and modify it if needed. The gynaecologist is requested to make the cut for C-section at that auspicious moment as directed by panditji. A mangalik girl is married off to an elderly man or an abusive husband as all other suitors have rejected her citing her inauspicious horoscope, or is being married off to a tree or animal to get rid of the faults in her stars.
We still stop if a black cat passes our way, consider Friday 13th as inauspicious, believe in good omen and bad omen.
As we stand in the 3rd millennium, we have reached the moon, placed the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit, we are looking for life in Mars, India has its own Mars Orbiter Mangalayan , NASA has sent Juno to Jupiter and yet we believe in” Mangal Dosa “.We have cloned mammals, Stem cell research may change the face of modern medicine as we will be building human body parts in the laboratories, we have mastered the technology of invitro fertilisation, Test Tube Baby and yet we live in fear Shani mangal yuti.
Superstition, is it not one of the biggest evils the society had to overcome to move forward? Was it not the cause of humiliation of a great man like Galileo Galilei?
My problem is not with religion. Religion to me is equivalent to faith. When life is riddled with troubles we tend to look upto a greater power than ourselves to find solace, to regain our lost courage and fight back. We do so in the form of visit to places of worship or chanting of hymns. It calms us down and we are ready to take on our troubles with renewed vigor.
But how can bejeweling oneself with colorful stones and belief in auspicious and inauspicious moments change our fate and lives. We know better , we understand better yet we chose to stay back in the darkness that mankind has been fighting to get out of for ages. When are we going to turn to our analytical left brain before putting our faith in all this hokum?