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Monday, August 7, 2017

Eclipse or Grahanam (Sanskrit)

This morning I got a call from my Mother in law who has gone to stay with her niece for few days asking me and my family to finish our dinner very early in the evening on account of Chandra Grahanam. This did piqued my thoughts of the blind faith being followed by us Hindus and wanted to know more about the beliefs that are linked to the eclipse throughout the world and I was pleasantly surprised that Hindus are not the only religion having belief that eclipses are inauspicious. Here is what I got to know

As per the Hindu Mythology eclipses is caused by Rahu or Ketu the sworn enemies of the Sun or Moon. The story of this enmity was the consequence of the fight for Nectar or Amruth- a drink of immortality between the gods and the demons. When this nectar was being churned out of the ocean and given to the gods’ one of the demon disguised as a god drank it sitting among gods. The Sun and the Moon came to know of this and informed Lord Vishnu who in a fit of anger severed the head of the demon who was in the form of a snake. As the demon had already tasted the Amruth he became immortal and the head portion became Rahu and the tail portion became Ketu. Since then they vowed that they would extract revenge from the Sun and Moon by swallowing them whenever they come near to them.

Ancient Greeks believed that Solar Eclipse was sign of an angry god and it was the beginning of disasters and destruction. In Vietnam people believed that solar eclipse is caused giant frog eating the sun. In ancient China a celestial dragon swallowing the sun was considered the cause of solar eclipse; similarly in Korean folklore it was considered the mythical dogs trying to steal the sun and in Norse culture it was the wolf eating the sun. Similarly American Indians believed that the bear fought the sun and bit a part of it. As the story goes the bear then resolves its conflict with the sun then goes to the moon and takes a bite of it too…may be a explanation as to solar eclipses occurring two weeks before or after the lunar eclipse. Traditionally people from various cultures would make loud noises by banging pots and pan or drums during eclipse to scare away the demon causing the eclipse.

Various Hindu beliefs of eclipse that are still being followed by Hindus in spite of no scientific proof are listed below
  • As Eclipse are considered inauspicious do not undertake any work during Eclipse
  • Pregnant women should not go out during the eclipse to avoid deformities to the child they are carrying.
  • Pregnant women should not use sharp instruments like knife, scissors needles etc since the child they are carrying can get cleft lips or birthmarks.
  • Do not cook food during the tenure of eclipse and do not consume anything till the eclipse is over.
  • Should not go out of the house during eclipse
  • Avoid sex during Eclipse
  • Do not look at Solar Eclipse with naked eyes for it could blind you.
  • Take bath immediately after the eclipse and purify yourself

I still remember my school days when we used to take a piece of clear glass and darken it with smoke by holding the glass piece over fire to view the sun during eclipse without affecting the eyes.

Fear of Solar Eclipse still exists in the present day modern world as many see it an evil omen that brings death, destruction and disasters. Scientists and astronomers has debunked most of the beliefs of the eclipse but then people still follow the age old traditions in the event of an eclipse.

I need to thank my Mother in law since it was because of her Comment this morning i made it a point to browse the net and get to know more about these age old beliefs of Eclipse or Grahanam ,not just by Hindus but by people from various parts of the world. I know many would know of all that i have written but this note is for the people around me :)