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We believe in ghosts, heaven and hell

A sizeable number of Indians believe in heaven and hell, ghosts and rebirth. The findings of the HT-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) revealed that 57 per cent of those sampled believe in heaven and hell; as many as 46 per cent believe in ghosts.

india Updated: Jan 25, 2007 11:07 IST

A sizeable number of Indians believe in heaven and hell, ghosts and rebirth. The findings of the HT-CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) revealed that 57 per cent of those sampled believe in heaven and hell; as many as 46 per cent believe in ghosts.

Sociologist Dipankar Gupta is not surprised. “There are certain questions in life nobody can answer, only religion tries to answer them. As German philosopher Immanuel Kant put it, noumenal knowledge is about things you can’t feel, see and touch. Religion tries to answer these questions. Modernity and religion need not be contradictory either,” he said.

Tarot card reader Ma Prem Usha agreed. “We are limited in our thinking and perceptions. What you don’t know is always more fascinating. There is so much mystery in this world. For instance, everybody goes has had a déjà vu experience.”
Half the people polled followed sun signs; and 44 per cent believed in reincarnation.

Diana Taylor, 48, a high-flying American executive, left a career in food retail in California to head for India after she read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. Today, in her new avatar as Daya, she propagates the message of Yogananda at the Ananda Sangha ashram in Gurgaon.

“At the turn of the century, scientists discovered that matter was energy. There is so much that science has not yet discovered. And reincarnation could be one of those things,” she said.

Indian Rationalist Association president Sanal Edamaruku, 51, said heaven and hell have become mainstream popular myths. “What has astonished me is that despite all the ghosts on television and the irrational, occult programming which is high on sensationalism, 56 per cent still don’t believe in it. That is reason for hope.”
aasheesh.sharma@hindustantimes.com