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Debunking superstitions

A die-hard rationalist, Prof Narendra Nayak has dedicated more than three decades of his life spearheading a crusade against superstitions, writes Sandhya C DíSouza

Prof Narendra Nayak dipping his hand in boiling oil. Stretch your hand. It is the media who first needs to be convinced, said Federation of Indian Rationalists Association (FIRA) President Professor Narendra Nayak to the City Herald correspondent at a Divine Miracle Exposure Campaign.

Prof Nayak then took a small stick which was covered with a piece of cloth. Then he gave her a bottle and told her to confirm if it was kerosene to which she replied in affirmative.
He lit the torch and rolled it on her hand. To the correspondent’s surprise, her hand was not burnt. “You see, I am no god man,” smiled Prof Nayak.

Explaining the rationale, he reveals that it is simple physics. “Moving fire does not burn. Kerosene does not stick to the body as in the case of cooking oil. Plus a layer of water vapour protects the skin from burning called ‘leidenfrost effect’. The same principle is applicable to the walking on fire or keeping burning camphor on tongue. However, there are many so called ‘god men’ who cheat people by claiming that they can drive out demons with these tricks,” he says.


Prof Narendra Nayak, a die-hard rationalist has dedicated more than three decades of his life spearheading a crusade against superstitions. Debunking many myths and miracles, he has publicly exposed the outrageous claims of the ‘Miracle men’ and ‘Godmen’.
Explaining some of the famous ‘so called miracles,’ Prof Nayak easily pierced a sharp trishul through his tongue. After removing the trishul, he revealed a ‘U’ shaped bend in it through which the tongue is pushed. To the audience it appears that the instrument is pierced through the tongue.

In another case, a swamiji is shown levitating in mid air, with only a thin rod which acts as his armrest. When many devotees are astounded with this act, little do they know that the armrest has another thin rod which runs horizontally from the middle, just like a horizontal alphabet ‘T’. The person sits on this rod with his legs folded up, making it look to the audience that he is levitating.

When pictures of child’s feet being dipped in hot oil made rounds in media, the nation was shocked. “This is also a simple trick where oil is poured over a layer of lemon juice and set on low flame. When the juice heats up, it comes to the top and goes to the bottom when it cools down. This makes it look boiling. However, the oil is not hot,” said Prof Nayak and added that the person who dipped the child’s feet knew this phenomenon but there are many who may try doing the same in actual boiling oil.

When the correspondent asked Nayak on how Satya Sai Baba produced ash from midair, Nayak waved his hand and ash flew from his fingers. “People’s brain is conditioned to think that it is difficult to hide ash in the hand. However, ash in form of tiny pellets is carefully hidden. When the person rotates his hand in the air, he crushes the pellet hence powdering the ash into an unending flow,” he says and adds that ash flies from photographs as the picture is coated with a layer of ash and liquid. When the liquid dries up, the ash starts falling down.

As for producing gold trinkets, it is purely palming which is performed even by an amateur magician, he reveals.

“I would spell astrology with two ‘s’. People are made asses. The Nadi Jyothisyas who claim to predict your future are only good reaction readers. As for people who go by reading their daily horoscope on papers, I advise them to buy different newspapers and tally the versions,” he laughs.

Prof Nayak has given over 5,000 demonstrations about the so called ‘miracles’. “I have travelled in the remotest corners of India. I specially give these programmes in school as children are going to be an instrument of change in society,” said Nayak. Speaking on one of his memorable moments, he said a little girl came and hugged him tight in Cherrapunji. “Uncle, I will never forget you as you made me walk on fire”.

“I was 25 years old when I took up the cause. I was inspired by Abhraham T Kavoor from Sri Lanka and his miracle exposure programme in 1976. Today, I have been invited by his associates to build up the association in Sri Lanka,” says Prof Nayak.

“Threat calls are usual to me. People have attempted to kill me by cutting off the brake wires of my scooter. Some have even stoned me. But this has not weakened me and has increased my focus towards my goal even more.
“There is no turning back,” he says.


About the rationalist


Prof Narendra Nayak is a well known  from . He is the founder of  and has been its Secretary since 1976. He is also the national president of the  (FIRA), an apex body of more than 65 ,  and  groups in  and a member of Folks Magazine’s Editorial Board since August 2011.

As part of his campaign to expose the so-called  and to  , he has conducted demonstrations all over India as well as in , , and . He has been featured in many  programs including the one on physical feats by the , Is It Real? By , The Secret Swami by the  and many others.

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