On 22nd July morning (today); starting from 6:24 AM there was a total eclipse of the Sun along a corridor of India. Starting from Surat, the solar eclipse could be seen in and around Vadodara, Bhopal, Varanasi, Patna, Darjeeling and Dibrugarh. Along this corridor a bright morning turned into night for almost four minutes. From rest of India the eclipse appeared as; close to total and partial eclipse. However it was not visible in Hyderabad and many more places due to dark rain carrying clouds. This long duration; total eclipse was of great scientific and historic importance because the next one is going to occur only after 123 years!
There are many common traditions and superstitions followed by millions of Indians during and after an eclipse. We should not eat during an eclipse. Food prepared before an eclipse should be discarded or if it is to be compulsorily preserved the food should be covered with a lid and on it fine short grass called ‘Garkha’ in Telugu should be placed. During the eclipse, pregnant women are not to go out. They should not hold sharp items like scissors, knives, needles, keys etc., because of the fear of children being born with cleft lips and deformities. They are to lie down and remain still during the duration of the eclipse. After the eclipse; the flooring in the house is washed, everyone takes bath, Pooja room is cleaned, all the photos and idols of Gods are washed, decorated and lamps lit before the images of Gods. Lakhs of people who may find it convenient go and take a dip in holy rivers to cleanse themselves from the ill effects of the eclipse. Only after bathing and pooja, fresh food is prepared for the day.
All the temples in the area of the eclipse are closed. After the eclipse the temple premises are cleaned and special poojas are performed for the well being of everyone. In case the eclipse coincides with the school and office commencement timings, the reporting time is rescheduled to suit the fulfillment of eclipse related traditions and superstitions.
Interestingly, most elders in the family believe that a Lunar eclipse left a physical mark on me. I was born by Caesarean operation and with a pink Crescent mark on my forehead. When my maternal grandmother saw this she began to weep and quarrel with the doctors and staff stating that they have injured the baby. The doctors convinced her and everyone that it has nothing to do with the operation. They said that it is neither a bleeding cut nor a superficial scar but a fine soft Crescent-shape growth and it is a sort of birthmark. Then my grandmother started blaming my mother for this mark. I was born on November 16th and three months prior to my birth in August there was a Lunar eclipse when my mother was asked to lie still as per superstitions explained above. Even as my grandmother was protesting my brother who is elder to me by 4 years went to my mother crying and asked her to make a Train using empty match boxes like the one in the above picture. My mother made a Train by arranging the match boxes on her stomach. So my grandmother believed that this mark on my forehead is because of my mother’s Train making activity during the eclipse. My grandmother totally believed in this theory and told everyone in the family and outside about it for decades. So everyone in the family thought so! This is a prominent Crescent mark, 60mm long and similar to a two days old waxing moon! It was much more prominent during my younger days. It is my birthmark in all known records.
Hope this blog post doesn't catch the attention of Indian TV channels or non-believers of these eclipse related traditions and superstitions, there would be infinite debates, condemnations and assents!