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Narendra Nayak

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Narendra Nayak
Born (1951-02-05) 5 February 1951 (age 73)
Occupation(s)Rationalist, sceptic, columnist and biochemistry professor
SpouseAsha Nayak
Nayak during a miracle-exposure program conducted at Ayodhya on 5 November 2007 during the First All India Conference of Arjak Sangh, an affiliate of FIRA

Narendra Nayak (born 5 February 1951) is a rationalist, sceptic, and godman debunker from Mangalore, Karnataka, India.[1] Nayak is the current president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA). He founded the Dakshina Kannada Rationalist Association in 1976 and has been its secretary since then.[1] He also founded an NGO called Aid Without Religion in July 2011.[2] He tours the country conducting workshops to promote scientific temper and showing people how to debunk godmen and frauds. He has conducted over 2000 such demonstrations in India, including some in Australia, Greece, England, Norway, Denmark, Sri Lanka and Nepal.[3] He is also a polyglot who speaks 9 languages fluently, which helps him when he is giving talks in various parts of the country.[4]

Life and work[edit]

Nayak was named after Swami Vivekananda (born Narendra Nath Datta). He has stated that seeing his father's business premises being repossessed by the bank and his father buying a lottery ticket on the advice of an astrologer to pay off the loan with the total confidence that it would get the first prize made him turn to rationalism.[5] He married Asha Nayak, a lawyer in Mangaluru in a non-religious ceremony. Nayak started out working as a lecturer in the Department of biochemistry in the Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore in 1978.[6][7] In 1982, he met Basava Premanand, a notable rationalist from Kerala, and was influenced by him.[5]

Karnataka State Police withdrew his security wherein Nayak was quoted to say that it was an open invitation by forces to finish him. [8]


Nayak decided to take on full-time anti-superstition activism in 2004 when he heard that a girl had been sacrificed in Gulbarga in Karnataka.[3] He was an assistant professor of biochemistry when he took voluntary retirement on 25 November 2006,[1] after working there for 28 years.[6][7]

Before the general election in 2009, Nayak laid an open challenge to any soothsayer to answer 25 questions correctly about the forthcoming elections. The prize was set at 1,000,000[9] (about US$15,000). About 450 responses were mailed to him, but none were found to be correct.[10][11] The Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations has been conducting such challenges since 1991.[12] During May 2013 Karnataka state assembly election, disappointed at the challenge being one-sided, Nayak had decided against the idea of challenging astrologers this time. But when a Bengaluru-based astrologer Shankar Hegde made claims to predict the election results accurately, he received the challenge. Nayak offered to hand over a cheque of Rs.10 lakh (after deducting taxes as applicable under income Tax Act), if 19 out of the 20 results were proven right.[13] However, later on astrologer Hegde did not turn up.

Through the organisation named Aid Without Religion which was registered in July 2011, he has been helping people and institutions where there are no religious rituals, superstitious practices, unscientific systems of medicine and such supernatural beliefs. The registration was done at Rahu Kalam, a time of the day which is the most inauspicious – so it was a double rather a triple whammy, a Saturday, new moon day that too in the month of Ati which is considered to be the most unlucky time and at Rahu Kalam![2]

He has been featured on National Geographic's television show Is it real?.[14] He has also appeared on the Discovery Channel.[5] He has been a regular columnist at the newspaper Mangalore Today since its inception.[7] He also serves on the editorial board of the Folks Magazine.[15]

He has admitted to have been attacked for his activism a few times.[16] He also has stated that his scooter's brake wires were once found severed, after an astrologer predicted his death or injury.[10] He was a close associate to Gauri Lankesh, M. M. Kalburgi, and Narendra Dabholkar; all three like-minded and were assassinated in a more-or-less similar fashion.[17]

He was also involved in fighting against Midbrain activation, an alleged modern technique that enables students to see objects despite being blindfolded.[18] In March 2017, there was an attempt on Narendra Nayak's life. During the early morning hours, while on his way to the Mangala swimming pool in his car, he was approached by two unidentified men in a bike wearing helmets and hinted that his tyres were punctured. An unfazed Nayak suspected foul play and with a great presence of mind drove all the way to a nearby gas station and saw that everything was in order. He immediately filed a Police Complain. Nayak suspected that this attempt on his life could possibly be the repercussions to his fight for the justice of the slain RTI activist Vinayak Baliga, who was murdered exactly a year previous to this episode. Nayak's personal gunman was on holidays. Nayak continues to have personal gunman handed over by Mangalore Police till date. [19]

Narendra presented at the first Global Congress on Scientific Thinking and Action which was held on March 17–20, 2021. During Session III on Alternative Medicine, he talked about the wide use of alternative medicines in India, including homeopathy, and said that various alternative treatments are often claimed to be Indian in origin. In addition, he states that the relatively low death rate from COVID in India has been falsely attributed to the use of homeopathic medicines as preventative. When asked what should be done about the use of alternative medicines in India, he said, flatly, “They should be banned.”[20][21]


Nayak advocates that more people should be taught to perform the so-called miracles of godmen.[citation needed] He also advocates that people should be trained to recognize pseudoscience and demand scientific evidence. He holds the opinion that well-known scientists should be convinced to join the cause and form pressure groups against pseudoscience.[22] He is also lobbying for a bill for the separation of state and religion to be introduced in the Indian parliament.[23][24] After the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar and enactment of the anti-superstition ordinance in Maharashtra state, Nayak expressed the need of a similar law in Karnataka.[25] Regarding fellow Mangalorean George Fernandes, Nayak said the "You can hate George Fernandes, You can love Fernandes, but you cannot ignore him".[26] Nayak was the guest of honour during the launch event of the book Bandh Samrat - Tales of Eternal Rebel written on George Fernandes's early trade union activities in Mangalore and Bombay [27]


  • 2011 "Distinguished Service to Humanism Award" from the International Humanist and Ethical Union[4][28]
  • 2015 "Lawrence Pinto Human Rights Award" from the Friends of Lawry[29]
  • 2017 "Academy Honorary Award" Karnataka Balavikas Academy, Directorate of Women and Child Development Department, Government of Karnataka[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us: Narendra Nayak". Indian CSICOP. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b "'Aid Without Religion' Trust Endeavours to Spread Rationality". 30 July 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Literacy doesn't make us educated". The Times of India. 10 December 2011. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b "IHEU Awards for 2011". International Humanist and Ethical Union. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Gawd! You can do it too". The Hindu. 21 June 2004. Archived from the original on 28 July 2004. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Extra Mural Lecture By Narendra Nayak: The Need for Rational Thinking". IIT Madras. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b c "60th Birthday Celebration of Narendra Nayak" (PDF). Indian Sceptic. March 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  8. ^ Bureau, The Hindu (30 March 2023). "Withdrawal of police security an open invitation to forces which want to finish me: Narendra Nayak". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  9. ^ "Predict results and win Rs10 lakh". Daily News & Analysis (DNA). 26 April 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2017. ...said Narendra Nayak, national president of the FIRA. "There was a similar offer in 2009 too, but no astrologer came even five percent near to accuracy. There were some counter challenges also but, they withdrew at the last minute proving that astrology can not predict election results," he said.
  10. ^ a b "There is no such thing as scientific astrology". DNA India. 11 May 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Rationalist chief's Rs 10 lakh safe". The Times of India. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Predictions fail to match mandate, reward money has no takers". The Times of India. 18 May 2009. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Predict and collect Rs.10 lakh, Astrologer told, Says Narendra Nayak". 7 May 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Exorcism". Is It Real?. Season 1. 25 August 2005. National Geographic.
  15. ^ "Folks Magazine: Editorial Board". Folks Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  16. ^ "Rationalists fight superstition with dignity and nunchakus". The Times of India. 22 August 2013. Archived from the original on 25 August 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  17. ^ Nagarajan, Kedar. "Karnataka is a Lab for Reactionary and Hindutva Groups: Noted Rationalist Narendra Nayak On the Murder of Gauri Lankesh". The Caravan. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  18. ^ "Debunking 'midbrain activation' of children". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Prof. Narendra Nayak escapes assault attempt through great presence of mind". Mangalore Today. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  20. ^ Vyse, Stuart (April 2021). "Aspen Global Congress on Scientific Thinking and Action". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 11 June 2022. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  21. ^ "Aspen Global Congress on Scientific Thinking & Action". Aspen Institute. Archived from the original on 12 June 2022. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  22. ^ Johannes Quack (22 November 2011). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Activists seek early enactment of law separating state, religion". The Times of India. 21 August 2013. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  24. ^ "Separate religion from politics: FIRA president". DNA India. 13 February 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  25. ^ "Rationalists demand anti-superstition law". The New Indian Express. 22 August 2013. Archived from the original on 14 March 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  26. ^ "A book on iconic leader, George Fernandes titled 'Bandh Samrat' released". Mangalore Today. 10 August 2022. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  27. ^ "Mangaluru: Student capacity building programme held at Milagres College". Daijiworlddate=29 August 2022. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  28. ^ "Humanism award for anti-superstition activist". The Times of India. 26 August 2011. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  29. ^ "Lawrence Pinto Human Rights Award for Prof Narendra Nayak". The Hindu. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  30. ^ Release, Press (24 February 2021). "Prof. Narendra Nayak Chosen for Balavikas Academy Honorary Award". Mangalorean.com. Retrieved 3 September 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]