I have been flooded with congratulatory messages about the success of India’s chandrayaan-3 mission, whose goal was to soft-land a lander on the moon. The mission was a resounding success, achieving a soft landing on the lunar south pole on 23rd August, 2023. This is undoubtedly a crowning moment for the Indian space program. Read more here:
I have also been receiving messages from bhaktas who are disturbed by hateful messages directed toward the Indian space research organization (ISRO) from members of a Gauḍiya sect. These people claim that the chandrayaan-3 mission was a conspiracy driven by greed. They argue that the landings could not have taken place because according to the Bhāgavata, the moon is farther from the earth than the sun. In their view, the original moon landings by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were a conspiracy, and so is the chandrayaan-3 mission. I have written about this type of denial of the moon landings here. Some others jump through all types of amusing hoops to prove that travel to the moon is not possible- including invoking a ‘second moon’, a ‘Vedic moon’ that is inaccessible to humans.
I therefore became curious about the reaction of normal Hindus to the chandrayaan-3 mission. A simple search for ‘chandrayaan-3 and religious’ brought up this article, which is essentially repeated in numerous other news sites.
Basically, Hindus prayed for the success of chandrayaan-3 (and so did Indian Muslims and Christians). The average Hindu was not out to criticize the government for greed for resources (from the moon!), or rejecting the idea of going to the moon as impossible. In fact, the ISRO chief himself appears to have visited the Tirupati temple on the day before the launch:
As we can see, typical Hindu attitudes are far from the extremist ideas of some that moon landings are impossible for humans.
The average Hindu is able to maintain belief in the supernatural, as well as in science, without any problem. This has been certainly true historically, but it seems that things are changing in India. I have become alarmed by recent news that the Indian government has removed teaching of evolutionary theory from the curriculum as reported here:
Confusingly though, the government appears to have denied this claim here:
Rejections of evolutionary theory, and other scientific theories like the big bang theory, and of course the moon landings, are popular in some Gaudiya sects. I often wonder about the impact of this kind of extremism – fueled by the preaching spirit- on the collective consciousness of Hindus in India. It is one thing to believe in bhakti and bhakti-scriptures, and an entirely different thing to deny scientific evidence. Such an attitude is a closing of the mind to experiential possibilities and to observable facts of the universe around us.