The tragic incident that took place on Saturday in Gokarella where a ten-month-old baby was trampled to death by an elephant, when a relative attempted to carry the baby under the belly of the animal, occurred during a festival at the Medagama Devalaya.
The parents had taken the baby to attend the festival and one of their relatives had attempted to carry the baby under the elephant’s belly. However, the man who had allegedly been under the influence of liquor stumbled and fell on the ground with the child and the elephant that was excited by the incident had turned round and trampled the infant, according to a news item published in several newspapers on Monday.
"In spite of the fact that these superstitions represent extreme idealistic notions, one should not go to the extent of suggesting to totally divorce from idealistic ideals and to resort to a materialistic life in order to prevent such unfortunate incidents"
It is said that the man’s action had been prompted by the belief that the evil planetary influence could be avoided by creeping under the belly of an elephant.
This was not the only incident of this nature that had occurred in Sri Lanka or in any other country. Recently a sorcerer had reportedly interned a youth for weeks without food or water to perform a superstitious ritual which ended up in the death of the youth. The relatives of the youth who had accused the sorcerer for the internment of the former after the death, had not done anything tangible to release the young man even when he was in a critical condition at the end of the ritual, according to newspapers. Had they not believed in such treatments they could have used force against the sorcerer or complained to the police about the internment.
Last month a father and a daughter from Seeduwa died after a sorcerer allegedly performed a layavirekaya (therapeutic vomiting) spell on them, according to a news item published in the Daily Mirror.The two victims, along with their family members had met the sorcerer complaining about various difficulties in their family-life and he had given them water from two king coconuts mixed with various medicinal drugs, to drink in order to remove the evil forces from their premises.Both the father and the daughter had fallen ill after drinking the king coconut water and later died after admission to the hospital.
Soon after all such stories are published in the media there would be an outcry against superstitions, but soon it would fade away and interestingly the accusers themselves resort to similar practices in their ordinary lives. The media that threw sarcasm at superstitions during such incidents do not hesitate to promote them in the form of advertisements.
In spite of the fact that these superstitions represent extreme idealistic notions, one should not go to the extent of suggesting to totally divorce from idealistic ideals and to resort to a materialistic life in order to prevent such unfortunate incidents. Everything cannot be explained and decided upon on a materialistic basis. In fact none of the great religions, especially the four major religions practised in Sri Lanka, preach or promote this kind of dangerous superstitions, in spite of them being idealistic and practised side-by-side with the superstitions, and sometimes being mixed with superstitions.
Religions on the other hand, have a role to play in the face of mounting crimes such as rape, murder and drug-related malpractices. Also one would not resort to superstitions if one understood his or her religion properly and followed it.
However, religion is increasingly being politicized and also its image is being tarnished by its followers as well as even its preachers. When people lose trust on their religion while they are deprived of proper education and means of livelihood by the social system, there is a possibility of them going astray and resorting to this kind of dangerous superstitions. It is the government’s responsibility to provide the people with proper education and means to solve their basic problems on the one hand, while the religious leaders on the other, have to build a trust on the religion by way of living exemplary lives and guiding the people on the basic tenets of the respective religions.