India is a land of great diversity, culture, colors, beliefs and science. It makes us proud citizens when we see India send a spacecraft to the moon, or when India’s best brains do us proud and make a name for themselves in the world of academia and research. Unfortunately we also have some of the worst habits regarding the simple things in life like a solar eclipse
Through time immemorial humans have created thousands of legends and tales about the origins of an eclipse. Note that we are talking about theories put forward in an age when the world was flat and if you go too far away from land, you might fall off the edge!
Digressing a bit…..I wonder that it actually might be plausable that Indians took that saying too seriously and in a display of valor never left the shores of the country.
There were several beliefs that were held about an eclipse. The clear winner amongst that was
Pregnant Women should not go outdoors during an eclipse
Amazingly this is also a common superstition…a.k.a “belief” among some Hispanic communities as well. Many Latin American women frequently wear bright red panties / fasten a safety pin under their shirt over the belly, so than the child would not be born with a cleft lip! This practice dates to the Mayan culture who believed that to ward off the “hidden” energy released during an eclipse, women had to wear a red string around their waist with a arrowhead attached to it
I think bad habits transcend all barriers and we in India seem to have caught up with them too… only we have more bizzare and obscure explanations
Here are some of the ingenious things we thought up
1-there is a ‘punya kala’ when the Surya Grahan is visible. And people should observe fasting during this period. If the Grahan is not visible in the particular region, there is no ‘punya kala’ and there are no restriction.
I was thinking again, we typically are a very lazy civilization and we find great excuses not to report to work. Imagine this….you go to work late, and tell your boss that it was all the eclipse’s fault!.. simply brilliant
2- Dont eat, FAST, STARVE, DON’T FEED THE POOR!!!!!
Sure tell that to the pregnant woman as well! (note for the dimwits, That was a sarcastic comment, for heaven’s sake please do not attempt to do that at home)
3- Chant This or that mantra, call your astrologer to decide your stock options and the times of the day you are allowed to use the bathroom etc.
This might just be a proverb used by astrologers
“Make money while the sun doesn’t shine”
Totality shadow on the Earth. Picture Aug 11 1999 taken from the Mir Space Station. That spot is about 100 Km wide
It’s only a Shadow
For those people who think that the eclipse is something mystical, let me tell you once again it’s only a SHADOW. An educated friend of mine had a hard time getting this fact sink into him! How unlucky can a shadow be? Are you afraid of your own shadow?
The list of things not to do is just endless and unfortunately people do take it seriously. There is tons of websites online that are feeding this kind of superstition without any remorse, projecting their claims as if they were disseminating the most intelligent facts ever! Even educated people tend to think that if there is an eclipse, stay inside “Just in case” it is true.
Let me assure you that only evil things attributed to a solar eclipse, scientifically plausible are
– Retinal/corneal burns if you stare at the sun without proper protection, which you know you shouldn’t be doing
– cannot get a sun tan
– cannot read a newspaper without a light bulb
– solar panels stop working temporarily
– you fall off your house’s roof and break some bones because you were mesmerized by the beauty of totality. Pregnant women should also be wary of this and use appropriate caution
But there are good things that can happen too
– You have a new decorative shape of the sun during the partial phase
– Your air conditioning bill comes out slightly lower that usual because of some respite from the sun in Delhi’s heat
– You have something interesting to start a conversation with a stranger
– Nerdy guys can ask nerdy girls out on a date to watch the eclipse together!
– You can sound intellectual to your peers by pretending to actually know everything about the eclipse
– Most importantly you can put astrologers out of work, make them find a real job
On a serious note, a solar eclipse is a beautiful treat to the eyes and should not be missed. Thousands of people travel great distances across continents to chase totality, wherever it makes landfall. On July 22nd 2009, totality comes to India. So go out, take your family out with you, including pregnant women and enjoy the show