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ECLIPSE FICTION
Eclipse is associated with a few items of misconceptions
By Mohan Shenoy
         What I write here is only my reasonable conviction about why many people consider any Eclipse as damage-causing occurrence. It is well known now that eclipses are caused by either the moon coming in between the sun and the earth or the earth coming in between the sun and the moon. Also such crossing of the heavenly bodies is a common thing considering the frequency of movements of these bodies in the sky. It is not a great rarity for two vehicles to block a third vehicle between them on our streets.

        Fortunately the sun, moon and the earth travel in their own lanes and never collide with each other. Yet many people in the world including many educated men and women perform strange rituals and observe fast or undertake purifying chores before, during or after an eclipse, like the one that happened on the 15th January 2010.

        Long long time ago the people were not aware of the mechanics of an eclipse. There were bad effects such as blindness that occurred to people who looked up at the sun that was easier to see during an eclipse. The result was pain in the eye and often blindness. This was considered to be a punishment to the person who looked up at an eclipsed sun. Although no such blindness or pain in the eye arises when one looks at an eclipsed moon, the difference was not considered and all eclipses were treated similarly; that is they are a source of curse to the people who do not perform special rituals to ward off the evils of an eclipse taking place in the sky.

        And since the early man was not aware what really was the mechanism of the eclipse, he began to make up stories. One of the theories he proposed and tried to give it a spiritual basis was that the bad planet Rahu was swallowing up the indefensible sun or the moon. Rahu is a shadowy planet described in the astrological texts and treated like the so-called Saturn in disguise. Saturn is alway quoted in many religious texts as the villain trying to lead the good believer (in God) to the wrong path. It was necessary to prevent any untoward effect by his open attack on good heavenly bodies such as the sun and the moon. He could even cast his malevolent shadow on the poor creatures on the earth and cause unseen damage to his body, mind and soul. It is only an invented story which caught up with the ordinary folks and got stuck in the religious books. When any theory becomes stuck in the religious books then it becomes the word of God. Any word of God has to be respected and followed to the last letter. Thus all that we do to ward off the evil effects of an eclipse got a religious value.

        Hindu astrologers have been predicting the exact time of the eclipses occurring during any year from ancient times. The dates and the exact durations of the eclipses are given in the Panchaanga books. Nobody should try to see at the sun directly. People want to see the solar eclipse because it shows a rare phenomenon of the sun getting totally darkened, or when a ring like figure appears in some eclipses. When a total solar eclipse reaches the point of full eclipse then there is a diamond-ring-like beautiful picture appearing. But none of these should be seen with a naked eye. Looking at the eclipse even for a second can damage the eye permanently. This damage can occur very slowly and take over six months to be noticed.
        But none of these should be seen even for a second can damage the eye permanently. This damage can occur very slowly and take over six months to be noticed.

        How to view the eclipse safely? Make a viewing box as follows: take a long narrow cardboard box and remove one side. One side, not one end. We need the end. When one side is removed you can see the inside of the two ends very well. Paste white paper over the inside of one end. Make a small hole in the center of the other end.

        To get a sharp picture the hole should be neatly cut and measure only one-eighth inch (2 mm.) in diameter. Hold this box against the sun with the holed end facing the sun. You will notice a picture projected on the surface of white paper. If the hole is too small or too large, then the picture will be hazy.Rahu and Ketu are shadows of the earth that occur at the points where the Lunar and Solar paths transect each other. These paths transect at only two points, the one at the northern sphere is Rahu and the one at the southern sphere is Ketu. They are imagined to be a Dragon's head and tail and they are exactly opposite to each other. During an eclipse these shadows disappear and the event is perplexing to the uninformed person. The astrology books explain the event variously but not objectively. One mistake leads to another and so did the interpretation of the disappearance of the Rahu and Ketu shadows. Many astrologers consider that the Rahu is a demon who swallows the sun during a Solar eclipse.

        Actually it should be that Sun swallows the Rahu. But neither occurs. Only the person looking from the earth assumes that the Sun has been mutilated. The God is at his weakest state and needs to be protected from Rahu. Therefore the temple doors are closed. Fortunately always God returns with his original glory, soon after eclipse is over. In fact the moon moves away and the Sun is not blocked anymore.As a precaution the superstitious person becomes himself an untouchable.Food prepared earlier is thrown away. People are advised not to eat during the eclipse and a few minutes after. These are all imaginary fears. A rope is a rope no matter what our mind tells us when we see snake-like immovable dark thing in subdued light. We imagine that the dark thing is a snake. Afterwords we laugh at ourselves for mistaking a rope to be a snake.

        We must reject anything that is untrue even if it is quoted in our ancient scriptures and other works of past saints and sages and correct our actions and deeds according to the latest knowledge that we have; proven beyond any doubts. Any Eclipse can not do us any damage and we must accept this fact in our life. We must stop giving unscientific attributes to the eclipses. We must consider the mythical stories about the bad effects of the eclipses as false. We must stop following the advice given by fake pandits about the malevolent shadows cast on us by the eclipse phenomenon in the sky. We should teach this lesson to our youngsters so that they eliminate one source of anxiety and apprehension in their life.



Concluded.

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