Indian Rationalist Association

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The Indian Rationalist Association is a voluntary organisation in India whose 100,000 members[1] promote scientific skepticism and critique supernatural claims. It publishes books and magazines, organises seminars and lectures and its representatives regularly appear in television and print media exposing superstitions. The present president of Indian Rationalist Association Sanal Edamaruku was elected in 2005. He was the General Secretary of the association from 1984 till 2005.

The earlier name of Indian Rationalist Association was "Rationalist Association of India", and the founding president was R. P. Paranjpye. The organisation published a journal "Reason". The organisation and journal ceased to exist after a few years. Later in 1949, the organisation was re-organised in Madras (present Chennai)in 1949[2] at Chennai (then Madras). The founding president was R. P. Paranjpye (later High Commissioner of India in Australia and vice-chancellor of Bombay University). S. Ramanathan was the Secretary and he edited and published The Indian Rationalist. After the demise of S. Ramanathan, Prof.R.S. Yadav from Meerut became the President of the Association. When he became the vice-chancellor of Meerut university, Ellen Roy from Dehradun, wife of M.N.Roy, was elected the new president. Upon her death in 1960, the headquarters of Indian Rationalist Association was once again moved to Madras, and was revived by Dr. G.N.Jyothi Sankar. He also established a Ramanathan memorial rationalist library in Chennai. This library was later moved to Hyderabad when M.V Ramamurthy was the General Secretary of the Association.

Dr G.N Jyothi Sankar organised All-India Miracle Exposure campaigns four times with legendary Sri Lankan Rationalist Abraham Kovoor, starting in 1975.

The Indian Rationalist Association has branches in different states of India, with the headquarters of the association located in New Delhi. The Indian Rationalist Association took the initiative to form the Rationalist International in 1995, which organised many International Rationalist Conferences in co-operation with Indian Rationalist Association. Sanal Edamaruku is the founding president of Rationalist International.

History and office-bearers[edit]

The present Indian Rationalist Association was founded in 1949 by S. Ramanathan, M. N. Roy and C. N. Annadurai; the president was R. P. Paranjpye.

The Rationalist, edited by S. Ramanathan; Freethought, edited by G.N. Jyothi Sankar; and Modern Freethinker, edited by Sanal Edamaruku were the prominent journals published by Indian Rationalist Association.[citation needed]

Indian Rationalist Association organised two major all-India campaigns, Divine Miracle Exposure lectures by Abraham Kovoor (1975-1978), and an all-India miracle exposure tour campaign under the leadership of Sanal Edamaruku 1994-1995. The campaign led by Sanal Edamaruku covered 100 districts in India and took 18 months to complete. This campaign was featured in the British documentary Guru Busters.

The regular participation and public challenges of Sanal Edamaruku against the Indian Gurus, and his campaigns to explain miracles and superstitions scientifically brought the Indian Rationalist association to national prominence. BBC and many Indian newspapers have featured the campaigns of Sanal Edamaruku.

The office bearers of Indian Rationalist Association:

Presidents: R.P. Paranjpye (1949 to 1957), R.S. Yadav (1957 to 1959), Ellen Roy (1959 to 1960), R.P.Paranjpye (1960 to 1966), Gora (1966 to 1975), Y.A Lokhandwala (1975 to 1982), M.V. Ramamurthy (1982 to 1983), Dr H. Narasimhaiah (1983 to 1985), M.V. Ramamurthy (1985 - 1994), Ravipudi Venkatadri (1994 to 1995), Malladi Subbamma (1995-1996), Joseph Edamaruku (1996 - 2005), Sanal Edamaruku (2005 - ).

General secretaries: S. Ramanathan (1949 to 1970), Dr G.N. Jyothi Sankar (1970 to 1979), A. Suryanarayana (1979 to 1981), M.V.Ramamurthy (1981 to 1983), Sanal Edamaruku (1983 to 2005), K.G. Gopal (2005 to 2011), Ajoy Roy (2011 to 2018). K.G Gopal (2018 - ).

Indian Atheist Publishers, a publishing house jointly started by Indian Rationalist Association and Sanal Edamaruku in New Delhi in 1982 published many original rationalist books and translations of hundreds of world rationalist classics in Indian languages.

The Divine Miracle Exposure Campaign conducted across India under the leadership of Abraham Kovoor, the All-India Miracle Exposure Campaign of Sanal Edamaruku during 1994-95, Several popular books written by Joseph Edamaruku, and hundreds of TV presentations of Sanal Edamaruku gave unprecedented popularity for the rationalist movement. Organised rationalist associations came up in each and every State and each of the State units got affiliated to Indian Rationalist Association as parent body of rationalists and atheists in the country.


The Indian Rationalist Association attempts to oppose superstition and pseudoscience in India. It has led media and educational campaigns debunking the Monkey-man of Delhi monster hysteria,[3] godmen,[1][4][5] claims of miraculous milk-drinking statues,[6] superstitions related to solar eclipses,[7] and even the beliefs behind ritual human sacrifices.[8]

Sometimes referred to as "guru busters",[9] the group critiques India's culturally influential godmen. Performing magic demonstrations that replicate the purportedly miraculous feats of the godmen, such as walking on coals,[10] producing sacred ash from thin air, exploding stones with "mental power", levitating, or turning water into blood.[4][11] Thousands of volunteers assist with these demonstrations throughout India.[1]

Similarly, the Indian Rationalist Association demonstrates on television how ordinary statues can appear to drink milk and other fluids.[12]

Working with the Dakshina Kannada Rationalist Association, the Indian Rationalist Association opposed a 2009 proposal to make yoga a compulsory subject for high school and primary school students in Mangalore.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The Australian writer Greg Egan has featured the Indian Rationalist Association and Sanal Edamaruku in his novel Teranesia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bedi, Rahul. "Rationalists seek to prove holy men's power not so 'divine' after all." The Irish Times. 2009-07-13. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  2. ^ "13-19 May; Fear Itself" The New York Times, 2001-05-20. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  3. ^ "13-19 May; Fear Itself." The New York Times. 2001-05-20. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  4. ^ a b Bedi, Rahul (14 July 2009). "Rationalists expose miracle men to villagers". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  5. ^ Ward Anderson, John. "India's 'Godmen;' Saviors or Scams?." Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. 1995-04-08. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  6. ^ "Magic Milk: Indian Hindus, Muslims find miracles, but some sceptical Archived 7 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine." Lanka Business Online. 2006-08-24. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  7. ^ Blakely, Rhys. "Taregna attracts thousands for the best solar eclipse this century." The Times. 2009-07-22. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  8. ^ McDougall, Dan. "Indian cult kills children for goddess." The Observer. 2006-03-05. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  9. ^ Burns, John F. India's 'Guru Busters' Debunk All That's Mystical." New York Times. 1995-10-10.
  10. ^ "Fire walkers for science." Oelwein Register. 1985-09-14.
  11. ^ Shenoy, Jaideep. "Tricks revealed[Usurped!]." The Hindu. 2003-05-31. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  12. ^ "Miracle or mechanics." Taipei Times. 2006-08-31. Retrieved 15 August 2009
  13. ^ "Move to introduce yoga education opposed." The Hindu. 2009-01-10. Retrieved 15 August 2009