We will be witnessing a marvellous natural phenomenon today, the partial solar eclipse. It happens when the moon comes in between the earth and the sun and its shadow partially covers the sun making it appear dark. All celestial events fascinate humans from centuries and so it is with the eclipse.
Numerous traditions and rituals are associated with the eclipse in India. Instead of ridiculing all of them or blindly following them, knowing the scientific reasons behind these rituals helps us to observe the celestial event peacefully.
The partial solar eclipse happens on a new moon day when there is no moon visible in the sky. Back then, when humans did not know the science behind such phenomena, they attached myths to it so that people remained alert. Not just in India, but across the world, every culture, including the Greeks, Inuit, Chinese, Romans and Native Americans, has its own myths and stories about the eclipse.
As a psychologist, I can connect the dots behind the traditions and the reality. The truth behind the eclipse is that the sun is a mighty universal force in our lives that rules our days and nights that propels the growth of plants and animals in many ways. So when this force is hidden for some time, all living beings get disturbed mentally. The mind governs our body and well being and hence it is important to stay calm and composed during such times. Why, even grown- ups feel scared when it rains heavily, when the earth shatters during an earthquake or when lightning strikes the ground. So it is with eclipse. Our ancestors knew that it was only through a set of rules that people can feel calm and composed which is the sole objective of all the customs and traditions.
– The solar eclipse is considered a bad omen, mainly because when the sun is hidden by the small moon, it disturbs our minds. That’s why we are asked to stay home, avoid any risky tasks like using the knives or making any key decisions, lest we put ourselves in some danger with a disturbed mind.
– Birds, animals and humans all feel confused and overwhelmed when it turns dark in the day. We must remember that bright sunlight keeps us happy and active and controls our sleep patterns. Countries where there is no sunlight for months together (the polar regions) experience great depression among its people.
– Our happy mind makes the food we eat more nutritious. When we’re sad, angry or disturbed, it affects our gut health. That’s why we refrain from eating anything during the eclipse. The same is true with cooking. Food cooked by a person with a happy mind turns out delicious and fulfilling and not otherwise.
– Pregnant women are more susceptible to mood swings and changes in the environment which can affect the health of the foetus and hence they are advised to stay indoors.
– Donating clothes, money, grains and other things is recommended during and after the eclipse. That is mainly because giving instantly makes us feel good about ourselves. It puts us in a positive mood and uplifts our spirits. And the world needs more givers even today.
– Chanting, praying, meditating before and during the eclipse puts us in a calm and peaceful frame of mind and reduces all anxiety and fear of the natural phenomenon. It also allows us to feel close to the power of the divine and feel strong within.
– The gravitational force of the moon has a profound impact on the human mind and behaviour. During a solar eclipse, the gravitational forces of both the sun and the moon line up and hence it has a double impact on our minds. Since human brain is made up of 99% water, it is easily dictated by the pull of the moon.
– Above everything else, a person should NEVER watch the solar eclipse with naked eyes since it causes solar retinopathy or burning of the retina leading to blindness. Always use the special eclipse glasses or better, watch it online or on TV.
– When we follow tradition and stay at home, it keeps us safe from viewing the sun directly and saving our eyes.
Belagavi has a very peculiar tradition during the eclipse when hordes of people go about asking for donations of clothes, money, food and grain saying ‘Giraan lagle daan kara’. We all have known that numerous people make these donations. Temples have special chanting and prayers throughout the duration – before and after the eclipse. Having a bath after the eclipse is over makes us feel fresh and happy instantly.
In modern times, we must understand the reasons why certain rules were made and use our rationale to keep ourselves safe and happy.