India witnessed the rare celestial spectacle, the annular solar eclipse, the last one for the decade today morning.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, totally or partly obscuring the Sun for a viewer on Earth. An annular solar eclipse takes place when the moon’s apparent diameter is smaller than that of the Sun’s, blocking most of the Sun’s light. This causes the Sun to look like a ‘ring of fire’.
Eclipse, solar or lunar are natural phenomena, but in a country like India with a majority population still bereft of basic education, there are many blind and superstitious beliefs that surround such natural events. But its not just the uneducated, it’s also the upper class educated who also indulge in such superstitious practices.
Among the most common practices are fasting, not taking bath and not stepping out of the house during the eclipse. Traditionally, many of the big temples like Thirupathi Balaji temple and Sabrimala temple also shut down and reopen only after purification rituals.
Most of these practices do not have any scientific basis.
Height of Superstition in Kalaburgi- Special abled children buried in the ground to ‘cure’ them
In kalaburgi district, many accounts have come where parents bury their special abled children in the ground with only their heads outside during the eclipse. The incident took place in Taj Sultanpur. Parents said they would remove the children out of the ground once the eclipse is over.
Children don’t seem very happy with this exercise but parents think this practice will cure their disabilities. This is a clear example of a lack of access to health facilities and education, things that make parents believe such superstitions than a qualified doctor.
Anti- Superstition protest at Town Hall, Bengaluru
Concerned with such prevalent superstitions in the society, several citizen groups and concerned individuals took out a unique awareness program at the town hall, Bengaluru during the solar eclipse.
These protestors at town hall consumed fruits and proved that there is no harm in consuming food during the eclipse.
Talking to Gauri lankesh news team- Mr. Mallappa, a transgender activist who was part of the team organizing the program said- “Commonly people believe that one is not supposed to come out of the house, should not consume food or water, etc which is applied to Pregnant ladies also, which is harmful,”
Mallappa also added that people must function on the basis of science and not superstition; condemning the wrongdoings that has been propagated by priests and others which cannot be proven scientifically. He also said that these practices bring more harm to the lower class people who easily tend to believe the superstitions because of a lack of education and knowledge.
“No consumption of food or water, not stepping out of the house, etc during an eclipse is all false beliefs held by superstition and only that one should not see the sun through naked eyes is true scientifically which should be followed,” said Narasimha Murthy, an advocate who was one of the people eating at the protest site to show the myths surrounds the eclipse.
Do’s and Dont’s during the eclipse
In India, people from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu were able to see the annular solar eclipse, while the rest of the country could see a partial solar eclipse. The solar eclipse was initially visible as a partial eclipse and was viewed first from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
In India, the maximum duration of the annular solar eclipse will be just over 3 minutes.
The moon covers the sun in a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse as seen from Mumbai.
Ahead of the solar eclipse, astronomers issued a set of dos and don’ts for safe viewing.
PTI report says- Skywatchers are advised to use safe viewing equipment and proper techniques to view the celestial event as the infrared and ultraviolet rays of the Sun can cause severe retinal damage, a senior astronomer was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying.
“One should not look at the Sun directly for even a little period without proper protection. Even when 99 per cent of the surface of the Sun is covered by the moon during partial eclipse, the remaining light is still intense enough to damage the eye,” Debiprosad Duari, the director of MP Birla Planetarium told PTI.
“Proper solar filters with certified appropriate optical density against radiation which are safe to the eyes should be used in front optical devices and the naked eye,” he said.
According to experts, the best way to view the solar eclipse is a pinhole camera or a telescopic projection used on a suitable surface.
The author is a journalism student based in Bangalore