Vedic ritual Athirathram in Panjal, Kerala, Pseudoscientific claims
#1
http://www.zeenews.com/myearth/story.aspx?aid=680260

New Delhi: Can ancient mantras induce rains? Do Vedic chants impact the surrounding environment? A team of scientists will attempt to find out the answers when they descend on the ancient village of Panjal in Kerala to study the 3,100-year-old Vedic ritual called Athirathram in April.

A team of Vedic scholars from Panjal village, home to the Namboothiri Brahmins, say "vedic rites are known to impact environment and human beings positively".

Panjal is located in Thrissur bordering Palakkad district of Kerala close to the Nila river. The ritual to invoke the god of fire, to be held from April 4 to 14, will be conducted by 18 priests led by the head priest called `yajaman` and his wife in the precincts of a Lakshmi Narayana shrine.

The village had played host to Athirathram 35 years ago and it was supported by the Helsinki, Harvard and Berkeley universities. But this is the first time the ritual will be held with people`s support to promote world peace by the Varthathe Trust, a religious forum that promotes Vedic knowledge and spiritual systems.

A team of scientists led by VPM Nampoori, former director of the International School of Photonics, Cochin University (CUSAT), will conduct research into the impact of Vedic chants and the fire ritual on the atmosphere.

The 12-day ritual will present the opportunity to explore the "scientific implications on nature, mankind and all other living creatures", the scientist said in a statement.

Nampoori said the "chanting of mantras and the worshipping of Agni with medicinal herbs energise and protect the environment".

"The application of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy is evident in every aspect of this performance."

The scientist said he would conduct "elaborate experiments in the areas of atmospheric changes in temperature, humidity and pressure level during the ritual".

"Studies will be conducted on the implications on micro-organisms in the soil and variation in the yield from plants and animals," he said.

The research will also include the "physiological and psychological effects on human beings, especially on those who meditate or are under medication ..."

Sivakaran Namboodiri, a trustee of the Varthathe Trust and a Vedic scholar and healer, said: "The three previous editions of Athirathram had brought rain - to Panjal 35 years ago, to Kundoor where it was held in 1990 and to Kizhakkencherry in 2006".

"We want to find out whether it brings rain and increases the yield of the soil and milch cattle, which will be exposed to chanting," Sivakaran said.

The 2006 ritual was supported by the Smithsonian School and the Rock Foundation, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and several scholars from Japan and Europe.

Sivakaran said the "yajaman Ramanujan Somayaji of the Athirathram 2011 is training a team of young Vedic priests to chant the mantras in the right pitch for the maximum positive impact on those present at the ritual and on the environment".

The ritual of Athirathram was first recorded in the 10th century BC. It survives in a few Brahmin and spiritual pockets.

Indologist Frits Staal from US, who authored a book, "Agni", in two volumes after the first ritual in April 1975, said the "ritual was a triumph of the human spirit over the limitations of matter and the physical body."

The ritual, which revolves around a sacrificial fire, offering of medicinal herbs and constant chanting, involves practitioners and scholars of Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Yajur Veda.

The healing power of the Vedic chant is said to lie in its positive vibrations.

Scholars of the Divya Jyoti Ved Mandir, a wing of the capital-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan which promotes Vedic knowledge, say chanting in the right tone can produce sound waves and sonic vibrations of high potential that charge the atmosphere with positive energy.

"Also, the sound waves, by enveloping the atmosphere, impact the surroundings positively. Hence, this is an effective tool for preservation of environment," a Vedic scholar associated with the Divya Jyoti Ved Mandir said.

Vedic chants are also said to impact expecting mothers positively.

According to scholar Tatwamasi Dixit: "Listening to Vedic mantras has a profound impact on the expecting mother`s emotions.... It helps a mother establish communication between the mother and the child."

IANS


We know that this is bad science but what do you tell people who equate this so called experiment to the Michelson Morley experiment?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
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#2
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no interest in the science behind this nonsense, because there isn't any. These people, including the "scientist" are not interested in sincerely evaluating the claims using the scientific method and joining the stream of ideas, but in drumming up propaganda towards promoting this stagnant pool of rituals that have been largely forgotten by mainstream culture. What does interest me is the science behind how people can believe this nonsense for centuries, continue to brainwash their kids generation after another, and go so far as to appropriate scientific language in order to justify their stone-age superstitions.

I am interested in the cultural questions, and hope we can address them using science. For instance, these rituals are certainly very powerful in their effect on these people. Whether that is due to their ignorance or not, there is something to be said for a system of belief that is so compelling to people that they devote so much time and resources to it. IMO, if we are to truly deal with such questions and apply science to solving them, we must focus on understanding the psychology and sociology behind these behaviors and attempt to provide reason-based alternatives to satisfy any emotional needs in ourselves that need satisfying.


But that having said, let me comment a bit on why I think the people here have no intentions of doing science.

This is a fishing expedition of the worst kind.

There will be one 11-day ritual: "The ritual to invoke the god of fire, to be held from April 4 to 14, will be conducted by 18 priests led by the head priest " This is essentially one experiment, with no controls and a sample size of 1.

Now, just read what the scientists will be working on:
Quote:1. the impact of Vedic chants and the fire ritual on the atmosphere
2. explore the "scientific implications on nature, mankind and all other living creatures", the scientist said in a statement.
3. "chanting of mantras and the worshipping of Agni with medicinal herbs energise and protect the environment".
4. conduct "elaborate experiments in the areas of atmospheric changes in temperature, humidity and pressure level during the ritual".
5. "Studies will be conducted on the implications on micro-organisms in the soil and variation in the yield from plants and animals,"
6. "physiological and psychological effects on human beings, especially on those who meditate or are under medication ..."
7. training a team of young Vedic priests to chant the mantras in the right pitch for the maximum positive impact on those present at the ritual and on the environment".
8. "We want to find out whether it brings rain and increases the yield of the soil and milch cattle, which will be exposed to chanting," Sivakaran said.
9. training a team of young Vedic priests to chant the mantras in the right pitch for the maximum positive impact on those present at the ritual and on the environment".
10. chanting in the right tone can produce sound waves and sonic vibrations of high potential that charge the atmosphere with positive energy.
11. "Also, the sound waves, by enveloping the atmosphere, impact the surroundings positively. Hence, this is an effective tool for preservation of environment,
12. "Listening to Vedic mantras has a profound impact on the expecting mother`s emotions.... It helps a mother establish communication between the mother and the child."

Do these fools realize how much work and time real science takes?

I did find it amusing that some of the claims in the article are designed to be plausible, intended to convince the reader that the outrageous claims are not so absurd. For example yes chanting something in a certain monotone over and over again, or being exposed to such chanting, while allowing oneself to be taken away by fantasy, can have a profound impact on one's emotions, even if one is not an "expecting mother". But in what way can such subjective self-delusion "establish communication between the mother and the child"?
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#3
I agree with Ajita completely. The concerned person is not a scientist at all. If he claims that he is, I challenge him to get his data published in a peer-reviewed and respected journal of science.
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#4
Ajita thanks for posting that video! what a mish mash of utter nonsense and it looks like child abuse at about 2:35 morons.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
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#5
(06-Apr-2011, 04:32 PM)Vinod Wadhawan Wrote: I agree with Ajita completely. The concerned person is not a scientist at all. If he claims that he is, I challenge him to get his data published in a peer-reviewed and respected journal of science.
Dr Wadhawan We know that this is bad science but what do you tell people who equate this so called experiment to the Michelson Morley experiment?


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
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#6
It is sad to see that even in 2011, the age of technology that science and reason has given us, people worship fire as god.Sad

EDIT: Thanks for the video, Ajita.
From the video:
"there is a lot of presence of "nano materials" [in thanka bhasma] whose work is so strong that it affects the curing of human systems"

"similarly the infinitesimal dilution of homeopathic medicine also been studied by this technique and found that heavy metals are present in a "nano material" form where the nano materials are more effective in curing systems."

Huh
How the hell did that guy get a phd?
I am going to jump of a cliff now.

"Life is but a momentary glimpse into the wonder of this astonishing universe, and it makes me sad to see so many people dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy." - Carl Sagan
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#7
(09-Apr-2011, 10:33 PM)holyshitbatman Wrote: It is sad to see that even in 2011, the age of technology that science and reason has given us, people worship fire as god.Sad

EDIT: Thanks for the video, Ajita.
From the video:
"there is a lot of presence of "nano materials" [in thanka bhasma] whose work is so strong that it affects the curing of human systems"

"similarly the infinitesimal dilution of homeopathic medicine also been studied by this technique and found that heavy metals are present in a "nano material" form where the nano materials are more effective in curing systems."

Huh
How the hell did that guy get a phd?
I am going to jump of a cliff now.

PHD = Passed with highest difficulty Lol

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
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#8
^ LOL Lol
"Life is but a momentary glimpse into the wonder of this astonishing universe, and it makes me sad to see so many people dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy." - Carl Sagan
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#9
"You can fool some of the people all pf the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time" _ Abraham Lincoln.
"The crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves."_ Robert Green Ingersoll.
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#10
As discussed on facebook, The Hindu has posted a ludicrous article on the conclusions of these "scientists". The entire article follows:

Quote:A 4,000 year old fire ritual conducted in the remote village in Kerala in April this year has a positive impact on the atmosphere, soil and other environment effects, according to scientists who are now ready with their findings.

The “Athirathram” ritual held on April 4— 15 at Panjal village in Thrissur district was the focus of a detailed study by a team of scientists led by Prof V P N Nampoori, former director of the International School of Photonics, Cochin University of Science and Technology.

The scientists had focused on the fire ritual’s scientific dimensions and impact on the atmosphere, soil and its micro—organisms and other potential environmental effects.

The yagna seems to have accelerated the process of seed germination and also the microbial presence in air, water and soil in and around the region of the fire ritual is vastly diminished, according to a statement released by the Varthathe Trust, who organised the ritual.

The team had planted three types of seeds — cowpea, green gram and Bengal gram — on all four sides of the ritual venue at varying distances. They found that the growth was better in case of pots kept closer to the fire altar.

This effect, the study says, was more pronounced in the case of Bengal gram with growth about 2,000 times faster than in other places.

According to Nampoori, sound is a vibration and continuous positive vibrations through chanting, accelerates the process of germination.

“The findings would not only help dispel superstitious notions associated with Vedic rituals but also help in continuation of such tradition for the betterment of nature and the environment,” says Nampoori.

He added that further research on the phenomenon were on which could prove that some bio—amplifier generated in the atmosphere because of the ritual, had a selective effect on Bengal gram.

The study focused on counting bacterial colonies at three locations — within the yagnashala, 500 metres and 1.5 kilometres from the yagnasala. Microbial analysis made before, during and four days after the yagna revealed that the air in the vicinity of the yagnashala was pure and had very low count of microbe colonies.

The research team also found that microbial activities in the soil and water around the yagnashala were remarkably less compared to normal ground.

The “Athirathram” ritual which literally means “building up of the fireplace and performed overnight” and usually held to propagate universal peace and harmony, was first documented 35 years ago by US—based Indologist Frits Staal.

Staal, currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley had in 1975 organised and recorded the ritual in detail with the help of grants and donations from the Universities of Havard, Berkely and Finland”s Helsinki University.

The research team conducted tests near the fire altars of the 1918 and 1956 Athirathram, still preserved in the backyards of Namboothiri homes, reveal that the bricks continue to be free of microbial presence.

“It’s an indication that the effect of the ritual is long—lasting. Studies are on to find out if other positive changes on the atmosphere are transitional or permanent,” say researchers.

An analysis conducted on the dimensions of temperature from the flames of the pravargya by Prof A K Saxena, head of photonics division, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, found that the fire ball that formed during the ritual had a particular wavelength with an unusually high intensity similar to what is observed in typical laser beams at about 3,870 degree centigrade.

It may be possible to have stimulated emission at this wavelength (700 nm) and gain from plasma recombination. It needs to be studied further, he says.

The members of the team of scientists’ team at the Panjal Athirathram 2011 included experts from various disciplines and included Dr Rajalakshmy Subrahmanian (Cusat), Dr Parvathi Menon (M G College, Thiruvanathapuram), Dr Maya R Nair (Pattambi Government College), Prof Saxena ( Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore) and Prof. Rao (Andhra University).

The scientific team members were supported by Zarina (Research Scholar, CUSAT), Ramkumar (Biotechnologist), Asulabha (Biotechnologist) and a number of postgraduate, graduate and school students.


"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#11
My letter to the editor of The Hindu:

Quote:Dear Editor,

Having grown up reading The Hindu's Science and Technology section, it was with considerable pain that I read article titled 'Ancient fire ritual has positive impact on environment: Scientists' in the online version here:
http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/article2103881.ece

The article does not qualify as science reporting. It is too uninformed, lazy and uncharacteristically credulous to pass for anything that can be considered science reporting. Its only value is that it serves as an excellent case study for demonstrating practically all the mistakes that science reporters should be wary of making. The nature of the scientific enterprise requires that a reporter check up on the sources, evaluate the credibility of the scientists, seek out any peer-reviewed references and, if presenting a controversial and/or fringe idea, present current scientific consensus on the issue.

In the West the scientific community worries about false equivalence, where the media creates and perpetuates false scientific controversies in popular culture by presenting two sides as equally credible when one is pseudoscience, endorsed only by a fringe segment, often with ideological motivations, and the other is the mainstream scientific view. In the Indian media often we don't even get false equivalence. Often we get just the pseudoscience.

I desperately want to believe that The Hindu is above printing pseudoscientific gibberish, especially in the Science and Technology section. In the interests of reclaiming your credentials as a newspaper that the public can count on for accurate science reporting, I request that you publish a retraction of the article and an apology for publishing it in the first place.

Best Regards

--
Ajita Kamal
Editor
Nirmukta.com
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#12
@ Ajita

Did you receive any follow-up from The Hindu?
Also, since some investigators happen to be from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, it will be interesting to hear what Prof. Ravinder Banyal has to say about the matter, especially the stuff on stimulated emission.

@ All

Here's a draft I wrote up to be sent to the Hindu editors, which I am putting up here for your vetting before I send it to them.


Quote:Dear Editor,

This is with reference to the article entitled 'Ancient fire ritual has a positive influence on environment:Scientists' dated 14th June 2011, appearing in the online edition here: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/article2103881.ece

The article seems insufficiently critical of obvious methodological limitations in the reported study, as can be summarized in the following questions:

1. Were the conditions to which the germination-pots were subject to in terms of sunlight, water-supply etc equal in all respects, but for the closeness to the altar?
For instance, if the pots close to the altar were in open-air and the distant pots happened to be in an enclosure, then it calls into question the reported conclusion.

2. Were the microbial samples obtained for comparison, obtained from locations with similar human footfall and exposure to organic matter?
This is important because rituals are typically preceded by elaborate purificatory procedures which may explain why the altar grounds seem more 'disinfected' that other places which did not receive such treatment.

Since the claims are about the effect of chants, experiments of the following sort maybe needed if the claims made by the investigators are to be taken seriously :

(a) Repeat the germination-pot experiment with the same number and spacing of pots with the same altars, but without the chanting.
(b) Compare microbial activity in bricks from old altars with microbial activity of similarly dated-bricks from non-altar sources.
© Compare the emission spectra (especially presence of stimulated emission at 700 nm) of two altars identical in all respects, except the presence of chanting.
In all three of the above, the null hypothesis is that chanting makes no difference to the effect. It is only when such a null hypothesis is shown to be violated that conclusions such as the ones the investigators report will pass muster.

I will be grateful if you could provide contacts and pointers that would help address some of the concerns I raise above, which if left unaddressed will have an adverse impact on the perceived credibility of your esteemed publication.

Yours sincerely,
Arvind Iyer
Department of Biomedical Engineering,
University of Southern California
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