There are a slew of articles recently floating around on the Internet, claiming "Scientific reasons" behind Hindu practices. Here is a link to one of those articles:
Nothing infuriates me more than someone claim to pass off some quackery as science, hence I got down to analyzing each one of the claim. Here are my findings, to each of the claims in the above link:
1. Joining Both Hands to Greet
While it is surely a more hygenic way of greeting someone that shaking hands, there is no scientific basis for the theory of fingertips being pressure points for eyes, ears and mind. The whole concept of pressure points is derived from the chinese practice of acupressure or acupuncture, which in itself is a pseudoscience.
2. Why Indian women wear Toe Ring
Anyone with a basic knowledge of the peripheral nervous system would know that nerves run various parts of the body to the Central nervous system, and not between two organs/limbs. There is no data to prove the existence of any nerve that connects the toe ring and the uterus.
3. Throwing coins into the river
This could be true, however, during the time of copper coins, cooking vessels were also made of copper. It would have just been simpler to eat out of a copper plate rather than throwing coins into the river.
4. Applying Tilak and Kumkum on the forehead
The explanation given has no scientific reasons in it. Rather it relies on vague terms like "..is believed to..", " ..is said to.." etc.
5. Why temples have bells
This one, apart from again being unscientific, is plain wrong. The best ambience to retain concentration is SILENCE, not the noisy clanging of bells. There are no "seven healing centres of the body". Would like to see atleast one scientific study which proves the existence of seven healing centres. Also the part about creating "unity in the left and right parts of the brain" - is just pure hokum.
However, due to being conditioned as such from childhood, most of us associate the ringing of a bell to a temple/church - it is similar to how adults immediately get a feeling of concern when we hear the sound of a crying baby.
6. Why we start with spice and end with sweet
This one seems quite true, however most Indian meal customs require one to serve a small helping of a sweet as the first dish on the plate. Hence while the logic may be true, it doesn't seem prevalent in most cuisines. Also - the concept of dessert after a meal is a western tradition, no Indian cuisine keeps the sweets at the end.
7. Why we apply mehendi on hands and feet
Nerve endings are present across the entire surface of the body, not just the hands and feet. Mehndi is usually darker than skin, hence it would absorb more heat, thus heating the body instead of cooling it. Also, a wedding, even if considered stressful, should be the same for both bride and groom, then why doesn't the groom wear mehendi? Also, why do the rest of the girls in the function wear mehendi? Surely, they are having a party time! Lastly - mehendi is worn only on weddings - does that mean that a wedding is the most stressful part of a woman's life? Why wouldn't you wear mehendi when someone in your family is sick/dead? Surely that is a more stressful situation!
8.Sitting on the floor and Eating
Again this one uses vague terms like "is believed to" rather than any scientific fact. The body position while eating, depends on what a person is habituated to. Westerners usually struggle to eat comfortably while sitting in this position. Moreover - prolonged sitting in this sukhasan position can lead to numbness in the legs.
9. Why you should not sleep with head towards North
First of all, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease are caused due to nerve degeneration, and has nothing to do with iron in blood moving to the brain.
Moreover, the human body has no magnetic properties. This was a hoax that has been perpetrated by a few tricksters. Read this for more details:
10. Why we pierce ear
Yet again, the vague babble of what Indian philosophers "believe", rather than any medical/scientific fact. Enough said. Also, if piercing the ear develops intellect, why is ear piercing done primarily for women, rather than men? Do they think men are born smart?
11. Surya Namaskar
While it is true that exposure to the morning sun is good for the skin, it is utter rubbish that looking at the sun is good for the eyes. In fact, looking at the sun at ANY point of tinme is dangerous for the eyes, due the the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
12. Choti on the male head
Examples quoted from Indian history and religion with emphasis on religious ideas, rather than any medical proof. Als, the scalp and the brain are separated by a strong layer of bone called the CRANIUM, hence there is no connection between the scalp and the brain.
13. Why do we fast
This is probably the only one which sounds sensible, however, this is still a point of intense medical debate as to whether fasting is beneficial for the body.
14. The scientific explanation of touching feet
More religious theories, rather than any medical science. There is no proof for existence of any such "energy" that can flow only from an old person's foot into a younger person's hand.
15. Why women apply sindoor or vermilion
It is true that vermilion contains mercury, however what is also true is that mercury, is in fact HIGHLY TOXIC to humans. Even inhaling mercury vapour or absorption of mercury through skin can be potentially fatal. In fact, mercury-based thermometers are gradually being phased out due to this reason.
16. Why do we worship the Peepal Tree
No, the peepal tree does not produce oxygen at night! It is true that some plants intake CO2 during the night through a process called Crassulacean acid metabolism, but very few of them actually give out oxygen. A list of plants that do so, are in the link below:
The peepal, also known as the sacred fig tree, is not one of them.
17. Why we worship Tulsi plant
Yes, this was an obvious one - Indian Ayurveda makes multiple uses of this plant as a medicine. (Note the stress on AYURVEDA here, not modern medicine)
18. Why we worship idol
Would like to see which researchers said this. I couldn't find a single scientific paper which said this. Moreover, a true worshipper or person practicing meditation would usually close his eyes, hence this logic sounds very dubious to me.
19. Why we wear bangles
Bangles have been wrn since the 6th Century BC. Bio-electricity (concept of electrical signals passing through human nerves) was discovered in 1776. Case Closed.
20. Why we visit temples
For one, copper is non-magnetic. See below:
Also: How can an object both ABSORB magnetic waves AND RADIATE it? Surely that isn't physics, or even science for that matter!
I am not opposed to Hindu traditions and customs. However, I am strongly against the practice of back-fitting bogus scientific claims to religious practices in order to gain credibility. In fact such hoaxes merely serve to even further downgrade the rationale behind these practices, as it gives the indication that those who started these practices had all their concepts wrong.