Sanal Edamaruku

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Sanal Edamaruku
Sanal Edamaruku in Finland
Born (1955-05-26) 26 May 1955 (age 68)
Alma materJawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Known forPresident of the Indian Rationalist Association and founder-President of Rationalist International
Parent(s)Joseph Edamaruku
Soley Edamaruku

Sanal Edamaruku (born 26 May 1955) is an Indian author and rationalist. He is the founder-president and editor of Rationalist International,[1] the president of the Indian Rationalist Association and the author of 25 books and other articles.[2] In 2012, after examining an alleged miracle at a local church in Mumbai,[3] he was charged under India's blasphemy law, causing him to voluntarily exile to Finland.[4]

Early life[edit]

Edamaruku was born in 1955 in Thodupuzha, Kerala, India to Joseph Edamaruku, an Indian scholar and author, and Soley Edamaruku.[5] Born in a Christian-Hindu mixed marriage, he was brought up without any specific religious influence. At his parents' insistence, he was the first student in India whose official school records listed "no religion".[6]

He became a rationalist-atheist activist at the age of 15, after seeing a neighbourhood athlete's death when her family refused medical treatment because they believed in faith healing.[7]

Rationalist activism[edit]

Edamaruku has been active in the Indian Rationalist Association (IRA) from the age of 15. Before becoming the president in 2005, he served as the General Secretary beginning in 1983,[8] and has been the editor of its publication Modern Freethinker. His many books and articles deal mainly with rationalistic thoughts and against superstition in India. His writings in Rationalist International are translated into English, French, German, Spanish, and Finnish.[9]

In February 2011, Edamaruku was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[10] (USA) and is an Honorary Associate of New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and Rationalist Association of UK (formerly Rationalist Press Association).[11]

Edamaruku conducted investigation and campaigns in Indian villages, targeting mystics, god men and practices he deems superstitious.[5] He refers to this as "Rationalist Reality Theatre."[5] The documentary film Guru Busters shows Edamaruku and a team of rationalist campaigners on the road in Kerala demonstrations of how to perform supposedly supernatural stunts.[12] He has helped in building Indian Atheist Publishers, which is now Asia's largest atheist publishing house. He convened the three International Rationalist Conferences held in 1995, 2000 and 2002.[9] In December 2013, Edamaruku launched a new quarterly English language magazine The Rationalist on his blog.[13]

The Great Tantra Challenge[edit]

On 3 March 2008, while appearing on a panel TV show, Edamaruku challenged a tantrik to demonstrate his powers by killing him using only magic.[5] The live show on India TV where the tantrik chanted mantras and performed a ceremony received a large boost in ratings. After his attempts failed, the tantrik reported that Edamaruku must be under the protection of a powerful god, to which Edamaruku responded that he is an atheist.[14][15]

Weeping crucifix investigation[edit]

In March 2012, Sanal Edamaruku investigated a report that a crucifix at Our Lady of Velankanni church in Mumbai was dripping water from the feet.[5] This incident, though not recognised by the Catholic Church as a miracle,[16] was believed by locals to be one. Sanal Edamaruku was invited to investigate by TV9 of Mumbai with the consent of the church authorities. He went with an engineer to the site where the alleged miracle had happened, and traced the source of the drip to the rear side. Edamaruku found that the water was seeping through the feet because of capillary action and faulty plumbing.[17][18] Moisture on the wall where the statue was mounted seemed to be coming from an overflowing drain, which was in turn fed by a pipe that issued from a nearby toilet.[19]

Comments and aftermath[edit]

During a television show held to discuss the investigation, Edamaruku accused Christian priests of regularly scamming devotees and defrauding miracles to make money, and build bigger and newer churches and convents,[20] and the Pope of being "anti-science" and scoffed at Christians for worshipping the cross.[21] A Catholic lawyer asked Edamaruku to apologise whilst on television, which he refused to do. Such defamatory statements lead to the Catholic Secular Forum filing First information reports under Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code in April 2012.[21][22][5][23]

The All India Catholic Union said the law was being applied incorrectly.[24] Colin Gonsalves, the founder of the India Center for Human Rights and Law, stated his opinion that no criminal offence had been committed.[25] Vishal Dadlani,[26] and James Randi publicly spoke in Edamaraku's defense[27] while others accused Edamaruku of being "as much of a missionary seeking converts for his particular “ism” as the Church is for its own belief."[21] The Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay, which was not associated with the criminal charges, called for Edamaruku to apologise and for the prosecution to drop the charges.[15][28] Edamaruku refused[15] and on 31 July 2012 moved to Finland.[28]


Edamaruku is a frequent critic of Hindu astrology and other practices he deems superstititious.[29] He also has accused Indian Godmen of mostly being charlatans amassing wealth and property from supposed miracles.[30]

Edamaruku also has been a critic of Mother Teresa, publicly attacking her legacy in Kolkata.[31] He has spoken out against the Catholic Church's veneration of Mother Teresa and the miracle cure of Monica Besra, who was reportedly cured after a medallion was placed on her by nuns. Edamaruku said that her cure could be reasonably ascribed to the treatment she received in a government hospital in Balurghat and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. After investigating her care record the former health minister of West Bengal, Partho De, has agreed her recovery was attributable to her months of medical care. Edamaruku describes the miracle as an "obvious fraud."[32]

Edamaruku considers the Indian rationalist movement an "inspiring example for many western rationalists to awaken, activate and rejuvenate their own organisations", with India's rationalists being "on the frontline of the battle between science and superstition".[33]

Edamaruku has been critical of India's blasphemy laws, describing them as "relics of colonial legislation" which have been abused to "hound and silence" intellectuals and artists who question religious beliefs. He considers it dangerous that any person may register a complaint of blasphemy against another, leading to an arrest and prolonged imprisonment until the suspect is acquitted by a court of law. Edamaruku argues that the real danger here is less the verdict and more the "pre-trial punishment".[34]


  1. ^ "Rationalist International".
  2. ^ Pinter, Andras; Levin, Jelena; Bockman, Pontus (13 May 2016). "Episode #22, Featuring Sanal Edamaruku". The European Skeptics Podcast. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Jesus wept … oh, it's bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets 'miracles'". the Guardian. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  4. ^ Dissanayake, Samanthi (2 June 2014). "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". BBC. BBC.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Shaffer, R (March–April 2013). "Blasphemy, Free Speech, and Rationalism: An Interview with Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist. Retrieved 23 February 2013."Blasfemia, libertad de expresión, y el racionalismo: Una entrevista con Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist/Europa Laicismo. March 2013. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
  6. ^ Kumar, Shikha. "I thought Jesus was Cinderella's brother". DNA India. Diligent Media Corporation. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  7. ^ Lad, Vrushali (6 May 2012). "Batting for reason in a land of faith". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  8. ^ Quack, Johannes (2012). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8.
  9. ^ a b Zuckerman, Phil (2010). Atheism and Secularity. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-313-35181-5.
  10. ^ "CSI announces new Fellows". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Rationalist Association (UK) Board of Directors and Supporters". Archived from the original on 8 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Eagle & Eagle".
  13. ^ Edamaruku, Sanal. "Embarking on a Great Journey". Blogspot. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  14. ^ "The Great Tantra Challenge". Archived from the original on 18 March 2008. Retrieved 25 March 2008.
  15. ^ a b c "India TV's Great Tantra Challenge". National Public Radio. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  17. ^ White, Jon. "Miracle buster: Why I traced holy water to leaky drain". New Scientist. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Why Jesus wept in Mumbai: The church versus the rationalist". Firstpost. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  19. ^ McDonald, Henry (23 November 2012). "Jesus wept … oh, it's bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets 'miracles'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  20. ^ "INDIA Water from the cross of Irla. Indian atheist accuses Church of "manufacturing" miracles for money". Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  21. ^ a b c "Why Jesus wept in Mumbai: The church versus the rationalist - Firstpost". 28 November 2012. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019.
  22. ^ Dissanayake, Samanthi. "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". BBC. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  23. ^ Ashley D'Mello & Vijay V Singh (16 April 2012). "FIR against rationalist, cops call him for questioning". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  24. ^ A Rationalist Fights to Disprove Miracles in India (Audio file). Public Radio International. 23 November 2012.
  25. ^ Dube, Priyanka (4 December 2012). "Indian rationalist stays in Finland fearing arrest for hurting religious sentiments". IBNLive. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  26. ^ Ghose, Sagarika. "Support pours in for Indian rationalist forced to live in Finland fearing arrest". CNN-IBN. Archived from the original on 22 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  27. ^ Randi, James. "A Matter of Very Great Concern". JREF. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  28. ^ a b Dissanayake, Samanthi (2 June 2014). "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  29. ^ Guttormson, Joel. "Meet the Amazing TAMers: Sanal Edamaruku Part 2". TAM 2013 James Randi Educational Foundation. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 28 February 2014 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ Sarkar, Sonia. "Gods of Bad Things". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  31. ^ Henry McDonald (23 November 2012). "Jesus wept … oh, it's bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets 'miracles'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  32. ^ Edamaruku, Sanal. "Catholic Church manufactured an ovarian miracle for Mother Teresa". Church and State. Archived from the original on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  33. ^ Edamaruku, Sanal (28 May 2006). "Why Rationalism?". Indian Rationalist Association. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
  34. ^ Shaffer, Ryan (15 February 2013). "Blasphemy, Free Speech, and Rationalism: An Interview with Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist. Retrieved 2 November 2015.

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