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 Indian Rationalist Association was founded 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). Sanal Edamaruku, well-known broadcaster and author, became its president in 2005.

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 and organised three International Rationalist Conferences in co-operation with it.


The association was founded in 1949[2] by R.P. Paranjpye.

The Divine Miracle Exposure Campaign conducted across India during the period 1975-76 had given unprecedented popularity for the rationalist movement. Organized rationalist associations came up in each and every State and each of the State units got affiliated to IRA as parent body of rationalists and atheists in the Country.

Jyothi Shankar dedicated his work for more than three decades to build IRA as a powerful movement to spread scientific attitude and to live life freed from superstitious belief. He left for Canada on domestic and personal grounds around the time that Joseph Edamaruku, a staunch rationalist activist and writer of atheist literature, was made one of the Vice-Presidents of IRA. Edamaruku along with his family had already shifted from his home town at Kottayam in Kerala to New Delhi and settled there. Edamaruku vented his strong desire to shift the headquarters of IRA to New Delhi, the capital city of India. Since there were no responsible activists available in Madras at that point of time to look after the affairs of IRA, his request was conceded and the headquarters of IRA thus became the residence of Edamaurku clan at Delhi.

Soon after the event, Joseph Edamaruku came down to Madras and shifted the Ramanathan Library with its precious collection of books and periodicals to his residential house in Delhi.

Joseph Edamaruku became the President of the Association. After his death in 2005, his son Sanal Edamaruku took over the role.


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 demonstrate 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 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 on 15 August 2009
  2. ^ a b "13-19 May; Fear Itself" The New York Times, 2001-05-20. Retrieved on 15 August 2009
  3. ^ "13-19 May; Fear Itself." The New York Times. 2001-05-20. Retrieved on 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 on 15 August 2009
  6. ^ "Magic Milk: Indian Hindus, Muslims find miracles, but some sceptical." Lanka Business Online. 2006-08-24. Retrieved on 15 August 2009
  7. ^ Blakely, Rhys. "Taregna attracts thousands for the best solar eclipse this century." The Times. 2009-07-22. Retrieved on 15 August 2009
  8. ^ McDougall, Dan. "Indian cult kills children for goddess." The Observer. 2006-03-05. Retrieved on 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." The Hindu. 2003-05-31. Retrieved on 15 August 2009
  12. ^ "Miracle or mechanics." Taipei Times. 2006-08-31. Retrieved on 15 August 2009
  13. ^ "Move to introduce yoga education opposed." The Hindu. 2009-01-10. Retrieved on 15 August 2009