May 152010

Literally taboo means “under prohibition”, “not allowed”, or “forbidden” and sacred. About the origin of the word a group of scholars says that it is related to places in the bush where holy spirits live. This area is not disturbed until some rituals are performed. Taboo is an ingrained public proscription of some thing related to any area of human life. It is often a public norm acknowledged as sacrosanct and prohibited. The individual that breaks it is generally disliked and hated by society.

The term taboo came from the Tongan language and is more apparent in Polynesian cultures. It has often a religious background in the Polynesian cultures. The word was introduced by the voyagers and brought to English language by Captain James Cook in 1777. An action or practice when declared as taboo is banned and banning is executed strictly. Some taboos are even forbidden under law and defiance call for harsh sentence. Social taboos result in humiliation, indignity, and infamy. The opponents of taboos are obliged to keep at mum due to social pressure. There are a lot of taboos in the world irrespective of the developed or communities. There are many eatables that are considered taboos if not for the whole year for particular days or season. A valuable concierge of the mind does not call concentration to it but makes a psychological mechanism active about the preconceived notions that are called taboos. Taboos are acknowledged by their repugnance or avoidance and a negative response from the public if some body is found involved in them. A taboo is ingrained in the thoughts of the people and it is almost impossible to evade it .It is commonly believed that a taboo is thousand times better than a valid and clever argument. In this connection Hardin’s law says that it takes five years to change the mind of a person who is willing himself to scratch out a taboo. Taboos include nutritional limits as ‘halal’ and acceptable diets, religious vegetarianism, cannibalism), limits on sexual affairs and extra marital relationships. Infidelity in love affairs, intermarriages,, homosexuality , incest, sex with animal, sex with children and the dead, restrictions of some physical functions and  use of some  drugs, circumcision , disclosure of body parts, limitations on the use of disgusting language are some subjects of taboos. Taboos are mostly local in nature but a few are observed all over the world as the cannibalism and incest. These are followed blindly in ignorant societies of the east.

There are a few religions that mostly consist of certain kind of taboos of all occasions. There are many tribes in Africa and many areas in Asia especially in Indian sub-continent that are the strict followers of the taboos. Taboos are not mere notions avoided by societies but have some historical causes behind them. Taboos are followed more blindly in closed societies. It was the case with the west but now different issues as alcoholism, depression, divorce, income disparity, personal relationships, pregnancy and childbirth and teen rebellion are discussed openly and without hesitation. Fatal diseases like cancer, polio, AIDS and suicide are not taboos as these were in the recent past. Taboos vary from society to society and even person to person. Some people would not like to discuss age, height, weight and strength in the public. Incest is customarily related with child abuse and its terrible, enduring and irrevocable upshot. In some societies as in the Native American and the Chinese same family name which means the same clan forbids the members to intermarry.

Food taboos:

Food taboos are often cultural and religious in nature. Hamburger is forbidden in Muslim and Hindu cultures but a favorite for Americans. Pork is preferred by Jews and Hindus .many African Asian, Australian and Latin American people eat insects of almost 14 hundred kinds but they can not find place in the American kitchens. Many nations abhor rats as food but in Africa and chins they are sold openly in markets.

Some social taboos

Chinese are followers of such kind of taboos. They clean their homes on the eve of New Year and they do it must as good omen. All the cleaning is done before the day; the Chinese do not dust on the day fearing that fortune would fly away with dust. All the dust is collected and kept in the corners till the fifth day and is taken out from the back door. Debts are paid before this day, nothing is lent or borrowed. Foul language words about bad luck are taboo words. Death is not mentioned and past events are also forbidden that day. It is believed that the activities of the first day would haunt whole the remaining year so such activities as are not beneficial or good are always avoided on the first day or the on the eve of the new year. Hair is not washed, and red color is preferred on the day. Such taboos and suppressions are prevalent in all parts of the world. The African tribes are more superstitious and taboos are there in abundance. We can conclude our discussion by saying that taboos are the signs of past and can not be eliminated altogether from the face of the earth.

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