Superstitions and Customs Relating to Indian Culture

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Even in this modern day age, culture within India continues to uphold beliefs and values passed down through generations. There is a strong respect for their gods, the family and elders.

Astrology is as popular as ever and many superstitions linked with luck and timing can be traced to the planets ruling over that period. Weddings continue to be arranged by astrology, the weekend at the start of October 2009, for instance, saw almost 10,000 couples in India exchanging vows.

Popular astrologer Madan Gupta Spatu had forecast this as a rare and auspicious period, the 3rd and 4th October 2009 having been the best days to get married. “Apart from these,” he predicted, “December 2nd and 9th would also be favourable for exchanging vows.” What’s more, astrologer Kanhaiya Vyas warned of a “lack of lucky days” between December 9th 2009 and April 2010 because “the strong Venus and Jupiter, 2009 had 128 mahurats,” a number which hasn’t been seen in the past few years and is not expected to repeat in the near future.

Horoscopes of brides and grooms are compared when a marriage is being arranged and lucky dates decided on before moving into a new home or conducting auspicious ceremonies. Some periods of the year are considered to be favourable for weddings throughout India and this is typically known as the ‘wedding season’. These are the ‘uttarayana’ – the period between winter and summer solstices and the Hindu month of Vaishakha which falls between April and May. (Hindu months are based on lunar phases and the waxing and waning of the moon.) No matter how educated or logical, most people in India believe in the power of astrology and will consult the stars before venturing on any new project.

Whereas the Chinese have Feng Shui, in India, their love for their homes is reflected in the ancient belief of Vestu Shastra. This incorporates the five elements: fire, earth, water, air and space with the influence of the planets. The aim of Vastu Shastra is to create harmony and balance between man, his environment and his home to attract happiness and good fortune.

Customs within the household include people removing footwear at the entrance. Rice flour is sprinkled on the floor on which is drawn lucky symbols. A bride, on first entering a new home should turn over a cup of rice as a symbol of the luck she brings with her. This ancient belief which has evolved over thousands of years divides the house into eight sections, each governed by a particular direction. The kitchen, for instance, should be in the south east corner of the house (governed by the god of fire and hearth, Agni ).

A kitchen facing east suggests the lady of the house will be unhappy, according to this superstition while this room facing south suggests family quarrels. Other beliefs within this system are very similar to the Chinese Feng Shui, such as if there are rocks or dying plants at the front of the house, the family will endure a period of hardship. A beautiful, well-maintained front door will invite luck into the household.

Symbols are important in India, not only as a way to decorate their environment but many have traditional spiritual meaning. The tree of life, for instance is believed to enhance good fortune in the family. Tree of Life patterns flourished under the Mogul rule. Inspiration came from the flower-laden valleys of Kashmir. The Tree of Life is often embellished with intertwined creepers, cones, leaves and flowers.

One way to attract good fortune, according to India superstitions, is to enhance the bond of love between brother and sister. The sister will tie a decorative thread on her brother’s right wrist. This ritual has its own festival, Raksha Bandhan undertaken in the monsoon season as the rain creates a background to dance to. Ritual folk dances form a large part of their heritage and according to Edwin Radford’s ‘Encyclopedia of Superstitions’, ‘In the Central Provinces of India, the “dance” is traced either to the possession of a demon, or to the shadow of an enemy.” Dates of events and ceremonies are selected according to the muhurtas.

These are a set of auspicious times that can occur at any time during the day and last for almost fifty minutes. They are recorded in an almanac and many people will link important activities with the muhurta of the day. Whereas four days of the year are always considered to be lucky, according to India superstion and these are: * First day of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Chaitra (or March) *Third day of the waxing moon in the Hindu month of Vaishakh (latter half of April) * Tenth day of the bright half of the Hindu month of Ashwin (late October) * First day of the bright half of the Hindu month of Kartik (November)

Sources

Bharadwaj Monisha “The Indian Luck Book” KHL Printing Co. (2002) Times of India

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