In a land full of superstitions, picking only 12 wasn’t easy. Indians are known throughout the world as being one of the most superstitious people around. Many of us follow customs that have no basis in any logical thought, simply because we have seen our elders do it. From breaking coconuts before important occasions to hanging lemons and chillies for good luck, from knocking on wood to eating curd before going out, from not crossing a street if a black cat has crossed our path to not washing hair while pregnant, we have all done some of these. And these are just a few examples to begin with. I’m sure most of us know many, many more.
In any case, here is a list of the top 12 superstitions that Indians swear by-
12- Shagun ka sikka (auspicious coin)
This one is so common it is hardly considered a superstition anymore. In the technical sense of the word though, the belief in an idea without any logical or rational basis, our obsession with one rupee coins is a superstition. The envelope industry thrives on manufacturing envelopes with one rupee coins placed decoratively. It is considered auspicious to add one rupee while gifting money. That is why people receive or gift sums like 101 or 501 on festivals, weddings etc. And I don’t see it ending anytime soon, at least not while Indians continue to get married and receive ‘shagun’.
11- Don’t cut nails at night
This is something that most of our parents and grandparents have told us at some point in our lives. Whether we follow it or not is another story altogether. In India though, cutting nails at night is considered bad luck. Some say that this superstition had a logical basis- the logic being that in earlier times, with no electricity, people avoided sweeping floors at night in the dim light because they might sweep out fallen valuables inadvertently. Consequently, they avoided all activities that would require cleaning up at night. Slowly, this grew into a superstition.
10- Don’t pluck flowers at night
But it is okay to pluck them early in the morning and use them as ‘daan’ or devotional offering for Gods. One superstitious belief in India states that plucking flowers or leaves in the evening or at night is bad luck. It is said that flowers and plants sleep at night, just like humans, and plucking them is therefore immoral. So keep this in mind next time you want to impress your girlfriend with a sweet smelling desi rose from your garden during a night date. She might not appreciate the well meaning gesture. In fact, plucking anything after sunset is considered bad luck.
9- Spotting Peacocks before a journey bring good luck
Now this is a sweet one, different from the usual bad luck for this and that. Many people in India believe that spotting a peacock before leaving on a journey brings good luck. The national bird is more than just a pretty plumage, after all! But with all the urbanization and felling or trees, spotting peacocks is getting harder and harder. In cities, it is all but next to impossible to see a peacock. So value every sighting or go to the zoo before you leave for a journey!
8- Sneezing before going out
Hey! We’re back to bad luck. It is said that if someone sneezes in front of you before you step out of the house, it will bring you bad luck. There’s no way you can help this one. And now that I think about it, it probably explains all the bad days I have during winters. My roommate should really start taking better care of her health so my luck improves. Guys, honestly, the only bad thing that will happen when someone sneezes in front of you is that you will catch germs, not bad luck. It’s a bodily function, and if it really displeased the gods they wouldn’t have invented it in the first place.
7- Periods mean social boycott
Now this is a superstition that is actually sad. While most superstitions on this list don’t really harm anyone, this one does. By saying that women on their periods are unclean and impure, we propagate negative gender stereotypes. Many women are not allowed to wash their hair when they’re ‘down.’ In many homes in India, even today, menstruating women are not allowed to pray, enter religious places, cook or touch their family. In certain tribes, they are even made to leave their homes and live in dirty cottages some distance away without any proper sanitation. It is high time we start viewing periods as the normal phenomenon they are instead of segregating women during their ‘time of the month.’
6- The Story of Number ‘13′
This one needs no explanation. Not only in India, but in a lot of other countries and cultures, the number thirteen is considered very bad luck. In fact, a lot of hotels just skip the 13th floor altogether! They jump from 12 to 14! Multiple movies have been made about the bad luck that number 13 brings. The fear mongering is amazing! In India, along with thirteen, the number 3 is also considered unlucky at times. So avoid going out in groups of thirteen or being the third wheel. Actually, just generally avoid being the third wheel, bad luck or no bad luck.
5- Kala teeka (Black Mark)
You may have had your elder relatives put a smear of kajal on your cheek before you go out. Babies, especially, have ‘kala teeka’ put on them by all their cooing relatives. It is said that putting a black ‘teeka’ or stain, usually just a bit of kajal, protects people from the evil eye. The black mark signifies that you are protected from the jealous and evil glances of others. This is again a very widespread belief with absolutely no basis in scientific reasoning or logic. But it makes you feel better protected, by all means go ahead and blacken your chin or cheeks. This is also called ‘nazar utarna’ or warding off the evil eye.
4- Broken glass
Hindi movies and television serials have used this clichéd scene so many times- a shattering glass and years of bad luck that follow. A lot of cultures believe that a broken mirror signifies seven years of bad luck. In India too, broken glass is symptomatic of bad luck. In fact, even looking into a broken mirror is considered inauspicious. You may have heard your elders say that keeping broken glass in the house can result in quarrels and hostile relations with neighbours and relatives, so get rid of it as soon as possible. You should also because you don’t want to cut yourself on glass. That hurts.
3- Don’t wash hair on Tuesdays or Saturdays.
Or cut your nails. Or shave. Or cut your hair. Basically avoid all hair and nail related activities on Tuesday and Saturday. And in some cases even Thursday. What the basis of this superstition may have been I have absolutely no clue. It seems to have no grounding in any logic of any sort. It also ensures that three out of seven days in a week are completely useless if you want to preen yourself. Sorry, Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday for all the discrimination you face in this country. Know that you’re not alone in that.
If you are born under the influence of planet Mars, you are a maanglik and nobody wants to marry you. Really. One widespread superstition in our country says that ‘maangliks’ or people born under the influence of Mars are unlucky. Especially if they are girls. They often face problems in getting married. Sometimes, they are married to trees before they can marry actual humans to remove the evil influence of the planet. I guess if you are forced to marry a tree it is bad luck for you.
1- Black Cat Crossing Your Path
If a black cat crosses your path, it means bad luck. This is one of the most famous superstitions of India that needlessly victimizes cute black cats everywhere. Though they were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, somewhere along the line black cats came to be associated with bad luck. This belief dates back to the witch hunting craze in Europe in the 16th century, when cats were considered the companions of witches. It was believed that witches could turn themselves into black cats at night and prowl around, spreading back luck. Please stop believing in this superstition, guys. All cats are awesome.