Scientific explanations behind few religious customs

By on October 8, 2013

It is that time of the year again. Numerous festivals and religious occasions are just around the corner. Though I am not a particularly religious person myself and like so many people tend to put it these days, prefer to think of myself as spiritual rather than religious, I still believe in the sanctity of traditional beliefs and customs that have been practiced for generations. And hence this article that tries to explore a few common religious customs and rituals and the scientific reasons behind them.

  • Chanting Mantras

 religious customs and scientific explanations

Mantras and shloks are intrinsic elements of our religious customs. Chanting mantras help to induce the body into ‘relaxing’, says Jonathan Goodman, a world-famous expert on sound healing and harmonics. A decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, synchronization of right and left hemispheres of the brain, calming down brainwave activity, reducing anxiety and insomnia are a few other benefits that chanting can bring about in your body.

  • Fasting

religious customs and scientific explanations

Almost all mainstream religions advocate fasting on certain days or at certain times during the year. According to an article published in the ScientificAmerican, periodic or intermittent fasting may provide the same benefits that continuous calorie restriction can give you. Supposedly, this belief gained strength in 1945 when a group of researchers in Chicago conducted experiments on rats and concluded that intermittent fasting appeared to delay the development of several disorders that led to death, including degenerative brain diseases.

  • Lighting lamps

religious customs and scientific explanations

In India, many Hindus light lamps twice every day, once in the morning and once in the evening after sunset. Lighting lamps, especially using certain types of oil or ghee, are beneficial in warding off negative energies and planetary rays, says a blogpost. Apparently, the fumes from the lamp enhance the body’s bio-magnetic field and channelize energy centers in addition to destroying harmful microbial organisms in the environment.

  • Placing a ‘teeka’ on forehead

religious customs and scientific explanations

Millions of Hindu devotees apply a ‘teeka’ made of vermillon paste, sandalwood or ‘bhasma’ on the forehead between the eyebrows. Many consider it a mark of divine blessing but it is also said that the application of the sandalwood paste or bhasma cools down the vital spot between the eyebrows, which is said to produce heat during times of stress and anxiety, and prevents energy loss.

  • Blowing a conch shell

religious customs and scientific explanations

The conch shell or the ‘shankh’ is blown during many Hindu festivals. People also store holy water in it to be used during pujas. The gentle sound of the ocean which can be heard if you place a conch close to your ear is believed to be the natural vibration of the earth which is magnified on entering the conch shell.

While the conch occupies a place of pride in Hindu religious customs and is believed to be the most auspicious objects that emerged during ‘Samudra Manthan’, blowing a conch is also supposed to have certain medical and psychological benefits.  The AUM (or OM) sound is believed to enhance positive psychological vibrations such as courage, determination, hope, optimism and willpower in the listeners and the blower. Reportedly, it aids the cure of speech and respiratory disorders, asthma, cough, liver and spleen diseases.

Can you think of other religious customs which has a scientific explanation? Write in comments below.

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Amrita Nandagopal

A passion for the written word drew Amrita to the world of freelance writing. She loves writing about current affairs, movies, books, relationships, parenting and the joys and tribulations of being a work-at-home mom.

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