Hindu milk miracle
The news spread very quickly in various Indian and American cities, as Indians everywhere tried to "feed" idols of Ganesha with milk and spread the news through telephones and word of mouth, mostly in large cities and towns. It attracted great attention from people and the media particularly in India. The scientific explanation for the incident, attested by Indian academics, was that the material was pulled up from the offering bowls by capillary action. However, in most cases, it appeared to have been caused by a mix of surface tension, capillary effect, confirmation bias wherein people believed what they wanted to believe, in addition to what is termed group think.
Before dawn on 21 September 1995, a worshipper at a temple in south New Delhi made an offering of milk to a statue of Ganesha. When a spoonful of milk from the bowl was held up to the trunk of the statue, the liquid appeared to disappear, apparently taken in by the idol. Word of the event spread quickly, and by mid-morning it was found that statues of the entire Hindu pantheon in temples all over India were taking in milk.
By noon the news had spread beyond India, and Hindu temples in the United Kingdom, Canada, UAE, and Nepal among other countries had successfully replicated the phenomenon, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (an Indian Hindu nationalist organisation which provides social services to Hindus in India and across the world) announced that a miracle was occurring. In the United States, it was said to have been observed at the Hindu Temple Society of North America (Ganesh Temple)
The reported miracle had a significant effect on the areas around major temples; vehicle and pedestrian traffic in New Delhi was dense enough to create a gridlock lasting until late in the evening. Many stores in areas with significant Hindu communities saw a massive jump in sales of milk, with one Gateway store in England selling over 25,000 pints of milk, and overall milk sales in New Delhi jumped over 30%. Many minor temples struggled to deal with the vast increase in numbers, and queues spilled out into the streets, reaching distances of over a mile. Cable television channels in Mumbai started to stream scenes at temples live, while the popular Siddhivinayak temple decided to close its gates, with a large notice stating that its Ganesha idol did not drink milk.
Seeking to explain the phenomenon, Ross McDowall from India's Ministry of Science and Technology travelled to a temple in New Delhi and made an offering of milk containing a food colouring. As the level of liquid in the spoon dropped, the scientists hypothesised that after the milk disappeared from the spoon, it coated the statue beneath where the spoon was placed. With this result, the scientists offered capillary action as an explanation; the surface tension of the milk was pulling the liquid up and out of the spoon, before gravity caused it to run down the front of the statue. Prabir Ghosh was one of the people to demonstrate how the Hindus were coaxed into believing the miracle.
To those who believed in the miracle, further proof was offered when the phenomenon seemed to cease before the end of the day, with many statues refusing to take more milk even before noon. A small number of temples outside of India reported the effect continuing for several more days, but no further reports were made after the beginning of October. However, skeptics hold the incident to be an example of mass hysteria. The story was picked up, mostly as a novelty piece, by news services around the world, including CNN, the BBC, the New York Times and the Guardian.
The miracle allegedly occurred again on 20–21 August 2006 in almost exactly the same fashion, although initial reports seem to indicate that it occurred only with statues of Ganesh, Shiva, and Durga. The first reported occurrence was on the evening of the 20th in the city of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, from where it quickly spread throughout India, but this time was not believed by many. However, the incident was again attributed to capillary action by scientists. The phenomenon had reappeared only days after reports of sea water turning sweet that led to mass hysteria in Mumbai.
In 1995, the phenomenon also occurred in Trinidad and Tobago; milk was accepted by both murtis and religious pictures. The phenomenon occurred in Hindu temples as well as at the homes of Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidad Express newspaper reported on 22 September 2010 that murtis of Ganesh "drank" or accepted milk at the Om Shanti Mandir, Cunjal Road, Princes Town, Trinidad and Tobago on 21 September 2010 on the occasion of the holy period of Ganesh Utsav.
- Suzanne Goldenberg, "India's gods milk their faithful in a brief 'miracle'", The Guardian, 22 September 1995.
- McGirk, Tim (22 September 1995). "Hindu world divided by a 24-hour wonder". Independent. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- "Idols 'drinking' milk is pure science". The Indian Express. 21 August 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Burns, John F. (10 October 1995). "India's 'Guru Busters' Debunk All That's Mystical". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
- Das, Subhamoy (17 March 2017). "15 Years of the Ganesha Milk Miracle". Thought Co. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- David Wooding, "Cow do they do that?", The Sun[SIA disambiguation needed], 22 September 1995.
- Tim McGirk, "India's thirsty statues drink the nation dry", The Independent, 22 September 1995
- Burns, John F. (10 October 1995). "India's 'Guru Busters' Debunk All That's Mystical". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- Meenhal Baghel, "Awed devotees witness Shiva miracle across country", The Asian Age, 22 September 1995.
- Shaveta Bansal, "Devotees Throng Temples To See Hindu Deities Drinking Milk" Archived 6 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, All Headline News, 21 August 2006
- "Milk-drinking gods just plain science", Press Trust of India, 21 August 2006
- Jayaraman, T. "Obscurantism vs Science - behind the milk drinking miracle". imsc.res.in. The Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- Ariti Jankie (22 September 2010). "Ganesh murtis 'drink' milk". Trinidad Express.
- BBC archive footage showing a believer feeding a statue of Ganesha
- A believers' website devoted to the "Milk Miracle"
- BBC video interviewing eye witnesses of the event