Saturday, 3 November 2012

Science versus Miracles: Breaking coconuts on the head

B Premanand

In the 1980's a godman from Jaffna in Sri Lank came to Kerala, broke 101 coconuts on his head, and distributed the coconut water as prasad to devotees.  He claimed that he lived only on coconut water Mathrubhumi Weekly published a cover page article with pictures of this godman and challenged our committee to come to reason and believe in miracles. They said that the Jaffna Siddhan - as he was called - was demonstrating this miracle to prove there is a god and miracles do happen. Also, he never collected money. I was wondering how breaking coconuts on the head had anything to do with gods and how this could be a miracle. Later, even our national television showed him breaking coconuts. Some of my friends were asked to observe him.

It was found that he was not breaking ripe coconuts but very tender ones where the shell had not hardened. These coconuts were so tender that when they are dropped from the hand they would break. He himself climbed the trees and collected the coconuts for the feat.

Having discovered his secret, our friends exchanged his bag of coconuts with some ripe hard coconuts. The first bag was his and he broke them on his head. The second bag was ours. He took one coconut and hit it on his head. It did not break. He tried another but that did not break either. Like-wise, half a dozen coconuts were tried. But they would not break. H knew something had gone wrong. He informed the audience that there were some hurdles at the Morning Prayer and that was why he had failed to show the miracle. He said he would come again the next day. The next day he was missing as he knew from the newspapers that our committee had exposed his trick.

I trained half a dozen people to break coconuts on their heads. We demon­strated the feat in every district in Kerala, which gave our committee national recognition since every newspaper published the exposure. Some even made fun of us. Mathrubhumi published the exposure stating that the godman broke the coconuts for his livelihood, while we exposed him for fame! By this time he had pocketed more than a million rupees.

Experiment: 76

Effect: Breaking coconuts on the head.

Props: Tender coconuts without the fibre removed.

Method: This is not a trick. Hit the tender coconut on your head at the portion where the shell has three eyes. It will break.

Experiment: 77

Effect: Breaking hard coconuts on head without fibre.

The oracle hits his forehead with a ripe coconut without fibre and it breaks.

Props: One coconut without fibre and a tree-cutting knife.

Method: Beforehand, clean the coconut, removing the fibre completely except at the top. Then gently strike it around middle with the knife until there is a crack in the shell, but it does not separate. Dry it in the sun for three days when the pulp will separate from the shell. Now you are ready. Apply kumkum or sandal paste etc., on the coconut to hide the crack on the shell. Then hit it on your forehead. It will break into two.

Experiment: 78

Effect: Breaking a coconut by sprinkling water.

The oracle sprinkles water on a coconut chanting incantations. The coconut cracks and a ghost disappears.

Props: One ripe coconut cleaned of its fibre.

Method: Keep the coconut in a lime kiln and remove it when the kiln is opened. If water falls on it, the coconut cracks.

Hundreds take part in coconut breaking ritual at Mettumahadanapuram

The Hindu, Chennai

(accessed on November 3, 2012)

August 6, 2010

Ritual of breaking coconuts on head observed

The Aadi festival of the Sri Mahalakshmi Amman Temple at Mettumahadanapuram in Karur district was celebrated on Wednesday with the important ritual of devotees having coconut broken on their head as a mark of thanksgiving or fulfilment of a vow. Some sustained simple bleeding injuries but for many it was pretty normal.
The ritual is part of the two-day annual festival at the temple revered by the ‘kudipaadu' comprising the Kurumba community and sections of the 24 Manai Telugu Chettiars community.

Earlier in the day, the Amman returned to the temple after a ‘thiruveedhi ula' and the chief priest, A. Periasamy, performed the abishekam with sanctified waters from River Cauvery.

Then a traditional lamp was lit atop the temple flag mast.

Even as more than 560 men and women devotees sat in rows with bated breath, a perked up Mr. Periasamy in a trance, stood on a shoe of nails and broke coconuts first on the head of seven elders each from the two main communities.

Then he went around the main enclosure breaking coconuts on the head of devotees who undertook the ritual as part of fulfilment of vows. The authorities had stipulated that only those above 20 years of age could take part in the ritual and as per the directive the participants were screened and admitted.

A medical unit with ambulance and paramedics was at hand to attend to emergency needs and the five devotees who suffered injuries were treated.

Kulithalai Revenue Divisional Officer Balasubramanian, Revenue Department officials, including Krishnarayapuram tahsildar Krishnakumar, Kulithalai DSP R. Manoharan, as also Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments executive officers Srinivasan and Ramalingam, had made the arrangements.

The usual teeming crowds that used to come to the ritual every year were conspicuously missing this year as the run-up to the festival was smooth with no irritant lighting up any controversies as had been the case during the years before.


Couldn't someone with enough training break even the really hard coconuts on their head?

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