Hanging a nimbu-mirchi outside our house, our shops, or car is a very common Indian ritual. You may find homes with nimbu-mirchi hanging on the door While walking Indian streets. Now, this tradition is centuries old. Today, many people think that it is a mere superstition, While many think it has some significance attached to it.
In this article, we are going to explore multiple dimensions of this tradition. We will try to find both the religious and scientific basis of this practice. So, let's start with the religious explanation first.
Religious description: According to legends, Laxmi, the goddess of wellness and prosperity, has a twin sister named alakshmi. She goes together with laxmi wherever she goes. Contrary to Laxmi, alakshmi brings poverty and deprivation. So, naturally, people want lakshmi to enter their house, but not alakshmi.
Lakshmi likes sweets and similar dishes. That's why in every Indian festival, sweets are definitely a part of the menu. However, alakshmi likes sour and pungent things. So, people put lemon and chillies hanging outside their house. So, when alakshmi comes, She gets satisfied at the door itself and she doesn't enter the house.
That's how people ensured that Lakshmi entered their door but not alakshmi. There's also a legend that is popular in folklore. Once, both the sisters went to a merchant and asked which one of them is more beautiful. The merchant played a very diplomatic trick. He said that lakshmi looked beautiful when she was coming inside from outside, While alakshmi looked beautiful when she was going outside from inside.
That's how the religious legend goes. Now, let us look at some other points of exploration. There are many popular scientific theories that try to give meaning to this tradition. Let's take a look at these scientific explanations as well.
1) A very popular theory that explains this tradition is that in earlier times, people used to walk across forests alone. So, they carried some lemons and chillies with them as some sort of protective measures. Whenever they would get thirsty, they would simply squeeze the lemon into water and drink the juice. Lemon is rich with vitamin C, so it rids oneself of tiredness and makes oneself energetic again. So, lemon is a very handy travel companion.
As for chillies, people used to travel in forests that were full of snakes. So, they got frequently bitten by snakes. They used chillies as a measure to check whether the snake was venomous or not. They would simply bite chillies, and if the chillies tasted bitter, it means the snake wasn't poisonous. Because if the snake was poisonous, the nerves would go numb and the chillies won't taste at all. Although this explanation is very logical, it somehow lacks the depths this tradition is supposed to be based on.
2) One more scientific theory that is quite popular is that lemons and chillies are natural pesticides. So piercing a cotton thread through them, if they are hanged outside the house, it will keep mosquitos and other insects away. The essence of lemon and chillies would simply evaporate in the air through the thread.
Spiritual explanation: There is a spiritual explanation as well. Most of the people hang lemon and chillies outside the house because they think that it protects themselves from evil eyes or negative energies. Spirituality believes that there are both positive and negative energies. So, unless one has advanced spiritually and is capable of protecting himself from negative energies, one can take recourse of such methods.
So, it is thought that lemon and chillies hanging together absorb such negative energies and prevent themselves from entering the house. However, as this explanation is beyond physical, one couldn't verify it using physical instruments.
After all, through recent studies of many ancient Indian customs, we know that most of them are not mere superstition. They have some scientific and spiritual significance to them. However, many of them just couldn't survive the test of time. They just became so distorted with time, that no original significance was left.
Due to the lack of supportive texts to these customs, we may never completely know their essence. We may never know why there are specifically 7 chillies and 1 lemon. Many people use variations of these numbers, such as 5 chillies and 3 lemons. Also, we may not know why we hang it on Saturday and throw it away on Friday.
Most of the people follow this custom, not because they know the reason, but just because they have seen others do it. It is best if one uses these customs taking knowledge from those who really know. One doesn't know what results following these traditions blindly manifests.
So, with proper knowledge and awareness, and by not blindly following things culture can be preserved. After all, the heart of India lies in its culture, its traditions, its spiritual heritage.