There are so many religions, communities, faiths, cults and sects in this world. Added to these, there are a number of nationalities and races. Equally diverse are the customs, traditions, rituals, beliefs and superstitions. They have come from time immemorial, passed on from generations to generations.
Whereas some of the customs and traditions are harmless, there are many which can be considered to be pernicious, inhuman, immoral and against human dignity. Let us not forget that Sati was practised in India less than two centuries back.
Only rational thinking, without any prejudice, can help one to properly understand the prevailing beliefs, customs etc. One can believe in God and still be rational in thoughts. Isaac Asimov, for example, was neither a believer nor an atheist. One important yardstick for judging the beliefs is to test their universality. As it happens, none of the religious practices are universally true.
I am a Vadagalai Iyengar (a sub sect of the South Indian Brahmin community, incidentally one of a great many) by birth. There are a few practices which are unique to our community. What is true for us should be true for other Brahmin communities as well. What is true for Brahmins must be true for non-Brahmins too and thus for all Hindus. What is true for Hindus must be true for other religious people too. Finally what is true for Indians must hold good for other nationalities too.
Consider, for instance, the concept of Rahukalam. As per the prevailing belief in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka there are prefixed time span of one and half hours at different times on different week days (1.30 PM to 3.00 PM on Thursdays, 4.30 PM to 6.00 PM on Sundays etc.). Such times are considered to be inauspicious. Should it not be inauspicious for all human being? But people in North India have not even heard of the so-called Rahukalam.
In Andhra, people have firm belief in VASTU. VASTU sets some guidelines for house construction. The belief is that if the Vastu rules are adhered to, nothing bad will happen to the owners. One of the Vastu rule is that the kitchen shall be located at the south east corner. Another rule is that ther will be even number of doors in the house excluding ten. Thus the total number of doors can be six, eight, twelve, fourteen etc. Vastu, however, is unheard of outside Andhra.
For most of the Christians, the number thirteen is unlucky. This is a superstition originating from the fact that there were thirteen persons sitting at the dining table during the last supper. This superstition may sound harmless, but there is the fear factor associated with it which is dangerous.
Scientific facts, on the other hand, happen to be universally true. Acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 metres per square second irrespective of one’s nationality or religion. Likewise, the speed of light remains to be 300000 kilometres per second over the entire universe.
All are born equal and there no birthmarks of religion or sect. This is the central message of the movie PK.
Finally I want to quote Mahatma Gandhi who said “I reject any religious doctrine that doesn’t appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality”.