Eclipsing the Eclipse

January 12, 2010
Suresh Naig

Solar and lunar eclipses are usual occurrences and so also are the controversies surrounding them. Astrologers claim certain untoward incidents attached to these celestial events and rationalists dispute the same. Certainly eclipses are eclipsed by these people.

It is quite common for religious Hindus to abstain from eating food two hours before and after the onset of eclipses. Equally, it is a common occurrence for the rationalists to distribute freshly cooked food during the eclipses, to dispel the myth. Eclipses are certainly eclipsed.

Many people belonging to the IT sector in Bangalore worked on 9th January, a Saturday, to take a compensatory off on 15th Jan on account of annular solar eclipse. I was wondering why the well informed people from the IT sector were becoming gullible to the religious or scientific myth. Then I realized 14th being a declared holiday on account of Sankranti, these people could avail an extended weekend and the solar "Grahana" came handy. The hype created by the scientific community towards the annular solar eclipse has surpassed the religious fervor and the well informed IT guys have taken an informed decision, to have a long week end.

I remember the last significant solar eclipse in the 80s where it was such a rare event. The media created a hype about it, warning people about the dos and don'ts during the eclipse. The media hype was something similar to the Skylab crash, wherein some Newspapers used to print on their first page the countdown for the crash, 7 days to go, 6 days to go etc. Some villagers in India had vacated their dwellings and moved to faraway places, because it was declared by the media as a probable Skylab crash site and many public transport drivers abstained from duty on the solar eclipse day, fearing untoward consequences. Our group of friends enjoyed the solar eclipse with chilled beer and playing cards staying indoors. Skylab crashed and the solar eclipse occurred without any perceptible damage. Now the next one is around the corner with two consecutive lunar and solar eclipses in quick succession.

I was intrigued by the raging controversy between the religious zealots and the vociferous rationalists and wondered why the Hindu religious practices are always the easy targets for these people. Religious practices such as fasting are common to all religions and why only Hindu practices are mocked at? Is it because the Hindu religion is a soft target making them vulnerable, while all other religious practices are untouched.

Perhaps in all other religions, a religious practice remains as a religious practice and only the Hindus attempt to give a scientific perspective to their practices, irking the scientific community. As long as Darwin's theory of evolution is disputed in the closed walls of Sunday schools in Churches, replaced by the Genesis theory, scientific community is not bothered. If abstaining food, taking bath after eclipses etc are going to remain only as strict religious practices, I am sure the scientific community will ignore it.

A marketing professional, yet believes in talking only the truth. An optimistic maverick remains a puzzle, puzzling others.
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