Monday, 8 October 2012
I was amused, and interested to see an entry on Kovoor. I recall reading his entertaining book entitled Begone Godmen! I notably re-called his "snide" references to Shivabala Yogi who I met many moons ago in London. RS
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Abraham Thomas Kovoor
Born (1898-04-10)April 10, 1898
Died September 18, 1978(1978-09-18)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Abraham Thomas Kovoor (April 10, 1898 – September 18, 1978) was an Sri Lankan professor and rationalist who gained prominence after retirement for his campaign to expose as frauds various Indian and Sri Lankan "god-men" and so-called paranormal phenomena. His direct, trenchant criticism of spiritual frauds and organized religions were enthusiastically received by audiences, initiating a new dynamism in the Rationalist movement, especially in Sri Lanka and India.
 Life and careerBorn at Thiruvalla in Kerala, Kovoor was the son of Rev. Kovoor Eipe Thomma Katthanar, Vicar General of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. He was educated at Bangabasi College, Calcutta. After working briefly as a junior professor in Kerala, he spent the rest of his life in Sri Lanka, teaching botany in several colleges before retiring in 1959 as a teacher at Thurstan College, Colombo. He also practiced hypnotherapy and applied psychology.
 As a rationalistAfter retirement Kovoor devoted his life to the rationalist movement. He spent most of his time building up the Ceylon Rationalist Association, and was elected in 1960 as its president, a title he retained until his death. He edited an annual journal, The Ceylon Rationalist Ambassador. In 1961 he traveled in Europe and established contact with the World Union of Freethinkers. Under the pseudonym Narcissus, he wrote newspaper and magazine articles about his encounters with the paranormal. These articles were translated and published in India, initially in Malayalam by Joseph Edamaruku (Kovoor’s pseudonym ‘Narcissus’ was no longer used), and later in other Indian languages.
A controversy arose when Kovoor was awarded an honorary doctorate by the obscure (and now defunct) Minnesota Institute of Philosophy, calling itself the theological seminary of a "Church of Materialism." Kovoor had never visited the US. A strong critic of fake diplomas and doctorates used by charlatans, he later returned the honorary doctorate.
Abraham Thomas Kovoor died on September 18, 1978. "I am not afraid of death and life after death"[this quote needs a citation], he wrote in his will. "To set an example, I don't want a burial."[this quote needs a citation] He donated his eyes to an eye bank and his corpse to a medical college for anatomical study, with instructions that his skeleton eventually be given to the science laboratory of Thurstan College. All of these wishes were honored.
 His publications and challengeMain article: Abraham Kovoor's challenge
After his numerous encounters with god-men, astrologers, and other people who claimed to have psychic powers, he came to the conclusion that there was no objective truth behind such claims. He wrote, "Nobody has and nobody ever had supernatural powers. They exist only in the pages of scriptures and sensation-mongering newspapers." His books Begone Godmen and Gods, Demons and Spirits, about his encounters with people claiming psychic powers, are still best-sellers in India.
In 1963, Dr Kovoor announced an award of Rs. 100,000 for anyone who could demonstrate supernatural or miraculous powers under foolproof and fraud-proof conditions. The challenge listed 23 miracles or feats that godmen (and some western mystics and performers such as Uri Geller and Jeane Dixon) were claimed to perform, such as reading the serial numbers from currency in sealed envelopes, materializing objects, predicting future events, converting liquids from one kind to another, and walking on water. Some sought publicity by taking on his challenge, but forfeited the initial deposit amount. The Sri Lankan Rationalist Association, led by Professor Carlo Fonseka renewed the challenge in 2012 and increased the reward to Rs. 1 Million. (Similar challenges have been posed by Basava Premanand and James Randi.)
 Focus on Sathya Sai BabaOne of the main targets during his miracle exposure campaign was Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, India. Sathya Sai Baba (who died in April 2011) is perhaps the most prominent god-man in India today, and most probably was during Kovoor's time. Sai Baba was observed to materialize vibuthi or holy ash, among numerous other documented miracles. Kovoor believed that the Baba performed materialization through sleight of hand. As a demonstration Dr Kovoor would produce holy ash seemingly from nowhere and distributed it amongst the audience. He would then demonstrate to his audience the sleight of hand, explaining that, after some practice, anybody could perform the feat.
To his death he remained convinced that all holy men used this manner of showmanship. He had yet to provide any natural explanation for any of Sai Baba's other reported miracles, including materialization of large objects, bilocation, appearance of vibhuti and amrita on images in devotees houses, and healing of the sick and wounded.
Kovoor wrote repeatedly to Sai Baba, requesting a meeting to discuss the Baba's miraculous powers, but felt he was not taken in any serious light. Upon receiving no response, Kovoor communicated his intention to come to one of Sathya Sai Baba's ashrams, at Whitefield near Bangalore, and again received no response. When Kovoor arrived at Whitefield, Sathya Sai Baba had left for his main ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam in Puttaparthi, by that time.
 LegacyThe Malayalam movie "Punarjanmam" (1972), Tamil movie "Maru piravi" (1973) and Telugu film "ninthakatha" were made on the basis of his case diary.
Bharathiya Yuktivadi Sangam declared a national award called 'A. T. Kovoor Award for the secular artist'. The first recipient was the legendary Indian film star Kamal Haasan in acknowledgment of his humanist activities and secular life.
His work remains controversial in India. In 2008 Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal (leader of Shiromani Akali Dal) imposed an "immediate ban" on Kovoor's renowned 'God, Demons and Spirits', translated into Punjabi by Megh Raj Mitter. Basava Premanand is regarded as Kovoor's spiritual successor, at least in India.
 Books by and on Kovoor In English1.Begone Godmen - Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, India.
2.Gods, Demons and Spirits - Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, India.
3.Selected Works of A T Kovoor- Indian Atheist Publishers, New Delhi, India.
4.Exposing Paranormal Claims - Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu, India
5.Soul, Spiril, Rebirth & Possession - Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu, India
6.On Christianity - Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu, India
7.On Buddhism - Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu, India
8.Astrology & Hinduism - Indian CSICOP, Podannur, Tamil Nadu, India
 In Hindi1.Te Dev Purush Har Gaye - Tarakbharti Parkashan, Barnala, Punjab, India.
2.Dev, Daint Te Ruhan - Tarakbharti Parkashan
 In Malayalam1.Kovoorinte Sampoorna Kruthikal (Complete Works of Kovoor) - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku.
2.Kovoorinte Thiranjetutha Kruthikal (Selected Works of Kovoor) - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku. Prabhat Book House, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.
3.Samsarikkunna Kuthira (The Talking Horse) - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku. Current Books, Thrissur, Kerala, India.
4.Yukthivadam(Rationalism) - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku. Current Books, Thrissur, Kerala, India.
5.Anamarutha - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku. D C Books, Kottayam, Kerala, India.
6.Indriyatheetha Jnanavum Parapsychologiyum - Translated by Joseph Edamaruku. Indian Atheist Publishers, New Delhi, India.
7.Yukthichintha(Rational Thought) - Translated by Johnson Eyeroor. Current Books, Kottayam, Kerala, India. http://www.puzha.com/malayalam/bookstore/cgi-bin/book-detail.cgi?code=157
 In Punjabi1.Tey Dev Pursh Har Gaye - Tarakbharti Parkashan, Barnala, Punjab
2.Pret Atma Puner Janam Te Kasran - Tarakbharti Parkashan
3.Kramatan Da Pardan Phash - Tarakbharti Parkashan
4.Dev, Daint te Ruhan - Tarakbharti Parkashan
 In Tamil1.Kora Iravukal, Veerakesari Publications,, Colombo
2.ManakolangkaL, Veerakesari Publications, Colombo
 In Kannada1.Kovoor Kannda vaigynanika sathyaGalu, Anuvaada (K.Maie Gowda, Govt of Karnataka publications).
 References1.^ "Dr Abraham T. Kovoor: The Rationalist of Indian Subcontinent". Die Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. 1998-01-30. http://www.uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/kovoor.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
2.^ "Punjab bans rationalist literature". International Humanist and Ethical Union. 22 March, 2008. http://www.iheu.org/node/3119.
3.^ Rahul Singh (1997). "Magic Realism,". In Satya Pal Ruhela. Sri Sathya Sai Baba and the Press, 1972-1996. M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd.. pp. 141–142. ISBN 978-81-7533-041-2. http://books.google.com/books?id=U4ldAqBuIpwC&pg=PA40. republished article from The Times of India - The Sunday Review of 27 Aug. 1995
Johannes Quack (2011). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. Oxford University Press. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. http://books.google.com/books?id=TNbxUwhS5RUC&pg=PA96.
 External linksSelected Writings of Abraham Kovoor
The Rationalist of the Indian Subcontinent
The Miracle of the Ganga Water: Essay by Abraham Kovoor
Dr. Bhagavantham and Sai Baba
Challenge of James Randi
"Kovoor" in Rationalism, Humanism and Atheism in Twentieth Century Indian Thought
Tamil (Vedic) Astrology Predictions for 2012
[hide]v ·t ·eSathya Sai Baba
Sathya Sai Baba Movement ·Sathya Sai Organisation ·Super Speciality Hospital ·Sri Sathya Sai University ·Prema Sai Baba
Devotees Bill Aitken ·Joan Brown ·Alice Coltrane ·Maynard Ferguson ·Dana Gillespie ·Najma Heptulla ·Narayana Kasturi ·Girija Prasad Koirala ·Howard Murphet ·Sachin Tendulkar ·Shivraj Patil ·Isaac Tigrett
Critics Abraham Kovoor ·H. Narasimhaiah ·Basava Premanand ·P. C. Sorcar, Jr.
Related articles Bibliography of Sathya Sai Baba ·Prasanthi Nilayam ·Puttaparthi ·Sai Global Harmony ·Sanathana Sarathi ·Walk for Values ·Shrinivas Sugandhalaya
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Name Kovoor, Abraham
Date of birth April 10, 1898
Place of birth Thiruvalla, Kerala
Date of death September 18, 1978
Place of death Colombo, Sri Lanka
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