Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Abraham Thomas Kovoor (1898-1978) was a Sri Lankan professor of Indian origin who gained prominence after his retirement for his campaign to expose various Indian "god-men" and so-called paranormal phenomena as frauds.
Dr. Kovoor was born at Tiruvalla in Kerala, India on 10 April, 1898 in a Christian family. His father was Rev. Kovoor Eipe Thomma Katthanar, the Vicar General of the Mar Thomma Syrian Church of Malabar. He completed his basic education at the Syrian Christian Seminary in Kerala and received his higher education at the Bengabasi College, Calcutta, where he specialised in botany and zoology. He was awarded a doctorate for his research by the Minnesota Institute of Philosophy, after writing a thesis on psychic and para-psychic phenomena. After completing his education he migrated to Sri Lanka where he spent the rest of his life. He became a Professor of Botany at Thurston College, Colombo, and was the president of the Rationalist Association of Sri Lanka.
Exposing the famous guru Sathya Sai Baba
One of the main targets during his miracle exposure campaign was Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, India. Sathya Sai Baba is perhaps the most prominent godman in India today as it was during Kovoor's time. This self-proclaimed godman claimed and still claims to materialize vibuthi or holy ash. Kovoor believed that the Baba did this alleged materialization through sleight of hand. There is a tendency among gullible Indian masses to throng to the ashrams of holy men who performs such miracles. To expose this godman and others of his ilk, Dr. Kovoor produced holy ash from nowhere and distributed it amongst the audience. He would explain to the audience later that it was just a sleight of hand and anybody with some rudimentary knowledge of magic could perform it.
Once he wrote to Sai Baba to have an audience to discuss on his miraculous powers. When there was no response from his side in spite of numerous reminders, Dr. Kovoor decided to meet him in person and communicated this to him. When Dr. Kovoor reached one of Sathya Sai Baba's ashrams at Whitefield, near Bangalore, Sathya Sai Baba escaped to his other ashram at Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh.
His publications and challenge
After his numerous encouters with godmen, 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 fool-proof and fraud-proof conditions. The challenge listed some 23 miracles or feats that godmen (and some western mystics and performers such as Uri Geller and Jeane Dixon) were known to perfom, such as reading the serial numbers from sealed up currency, materializing objects, predicting future events, converting liquids from one kind to another, and walking on water. Some of those who sought publicity by taking on his challenge had to forefeit the initial deposit amount.
Kovoor died on September 18, 1978 in Colombo at the age of 80. After his death, his eyes were donated to two blind persons in Tamil Nadu, India and his body to a Colombo medical college. After the death of Dr. Kovoor, Basava Premanand continued his challenge by offering Rs.100,000 (One Hundred Thousand Indian Rupees), and a similar challenge, One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, from James Randi of James Randi Educational Foundation also is in force.
Books By Dr. Kovoor
- Begone Godmen - Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, India
- Gods, Demons and Spirits - Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, India
- Exposing Paranormal Claims- Publisher: B.Premanand
- Te Dev Purush Har Gaye - Tarakbharti Parkashan, Barnala, Punjab, India.
- Dev, Daint Te Ruhan - Tarakbharti Parkashan
- Kovoorinte Sampoorna Kruthikal (Complete Works of Kovoor) - Indian Atheist Publishers, New Delhi, India.
- Yukthichintha - Editor: Johnson Eyeroor,(http://www.hypnotradition.com/director.html) Current Books, Kottayam, Kerala, India.
- Kovoorinte Thiranjetutha Kruthikal (Selected Works of Kovoor) - Prabhat Book House, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
- Tey Dev Pursh Har Gaye - Tarakbharti Parkashan, Barnala, Punjab
- Pret Atma Puner Janam Te Kasran - Tarakbharti Parkashan
- Kramatan Da Pardan Phash - Tarakbharti Parkashan
- Dev, Daint te Ruhan - Tarakbharti Parkashan
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