THE CHALLENGER
Portrait of Dr. Abraham Thomas Kovoor, Oil on Canvas, 36"X48"- 2012

Born and educated in India, Abraham Thomas Kovoor (1898 – 1978) was a Sri Lankan professor and rationalist who gained prominence after retirement for his campaign to expose the frauds of 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.

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 the 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 Rupees 1 Million. (Curtsy: Wikipedia.org)

The scenario of Dr. Kovoor challenging India’s leading god-man (and the “Guru” of all political forces in the country, who was known for showing miracles in public), symbolically shown in the form of arm-wrestling, has served as prominent element of the Portrait, where the rationalist is just going to win the ‘bet’!
-Kanwal Dhaliwal

THE VALIANT ONES