Monday, June 4, 2012

Hindus Take A Shot At Making It Rain.

It doesn't matter how many arms this guy has,
 he can't make it rain.

I like reading the India Times, because it's always nice to be reminded that America does not have a monopoly on faith-based crazy. Today's dose of heavenly delusion comes from the article Keonjhar women 'steal' water to appease rain god.
It is that time of the year when a spell of heavy downpour tops everybody's wish list. People of Telkoi are not only wishing for it, but also doing their bit to appease lord Indra. Following an age-old ritual, groups of woman on Saturday marched to the sound of drums and crackers to neighboring villages and "stole" water.
It would be natural to think that this ritual is some quaint bit of superstition that no one really thinks is going to work. I mean, outside of the American South (Texas et al) who thinks that elfin magic is going to make it rain?
This, they firmly belief, [sic] will bring showers by appeasing the gods.
Oh, my.

On Saturday, hundreds of woman of village Bimala in Telkoi block of Keonjhar district went to Karadakhamasa village in Dhenkanal's Kankadahada block to steal water. The women, all of them on a fast throughout the day, went in a procession across the district and brought water to Bimala. Before going to steal water, they worshipped the village deity following traditional rituals. They took some water from the village in a small container and marched to Karadakhamsa village. Village priests accompanied them. Rebati Naik of village Bimala village said, "This is an age-old tradition and people of this area firmly believe in it. When there is no rain for a long period, women from different villages steal water from the villages of neighboring district to appease the rain god."
What I find interesting -- I'm sure you haven't missed this not so subtle point -- is that the women have been given the privilege of doing the grunt work while being supervised by priests who are undoubtedly men. It reminds me of this saying from the sub-continent: Having a daughter is like watering your neighbor's lawn.
I assumed that this rain ritual originated in ancient times before modern science had the opportunity  to dispel this nonsense. Sadly, I was wrong.
According to village priest Gopal Nayak, the tradition goes back to half a century. Villages in neighbouring districts also observe the ritual. "People of this area have strong faith in this tradition, he said." 
As Jerry Coyne pointed out in his recent paper, desperate people with little to no social safety net typically have strong faith in traditions that make no sense.

Here is a bit of wisdom that a commentor to the story made:

Rituals and age-old traditions need not be tested on logic ! Otherwise all rationalists become atheist.

This is Purgatory.


  1. To "appease the rain god" sounds positively primitive to Western ears, but in truth it's no more implausible than the belief that petitioning God in a more "civilized" manner, in church or synagogue, will have any "effect" whatsoever in the world (meaning aside from psychological effects).

    1. I agree - "he says praying, she says appeasing, let's call the whole thing off...."


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